Model 1835 6-pdr Field Gun

Continuing my discussion of the American 6-pdr field gun, I move on to the first of the “bronze age” guns – the Model 1835.  As noted in the previous post, in the first decades of the 19th century, the Army preferred iron field guns due to economy and raw material supply.  But the iron guns proved troublesome in service.  Not waiting for further experiments, the Army shifted to bronze for field gun production.

One factor that probably bolstered the Army’s decision was an opening of domestic raw materials.  Bronze is generally 90% copper and 10% tin.  Prospectors re-discovered copper in Michigan during the 1830s.  This fueled a copper mining boom in the 1840s.  While the U.S. still lacked significant domestic tin sources, the copper from the Upper Peninsula more than satisfied the major component for the guns.

In 1834, the Army designed a new bronze 6-pdr concurrent with similar 9- and 12-pdr field guns and 12- and 24-pdr howitzer designs – all in bronze.  Designated, somewhat retroactively, “Model of 1835,” the new design echoed some of the simplicity seen in the Model 1819 “Walking Sticks.”  The external form included a raised base ring, a reinforce shoulder, and a chase ring, finished off with a moderate muzzle swell and muzzle face ornamentation.

Manassas 19 July 068
Model 1835 6-pdr at Manassas

Looking at the breech, this particular example has tap holes which might be for the lock piece used around that time period. The lock consisted of a hammer, which when propelled forward by a pull on the lanyard, would impact a quill priming tube with cap placed on the vent.  Sort of an early form of percussion cap before the friction primer arrived.

Manassas 19 July 069
Breech of Model 1835

As mentioned the muzzle area of the Model 1835 incorporated a chase ring and swell.  The muzzle face consisted of a cavetto and a fillet.

Manassas 19 July 072
Muzzle of Model 1835

Yes, the Model 1835 is not much different externally than the more familiar Model 1841 6-pdr.  Where it did differ from that later gun was with dimensions and weight.  The chart below compares particulars of the four pre-war production bronze 6-pdr guns.

(NOTE:  The standard source I use for gun particulars are the Army ordnance manuals.  In this case, the Models 1835, 1838, and 1840 lack full listings in the published manuals.  Instead of those primary sources, for this chart I’ve used secondary sources and field measurements.)

The Model 1835 had a 9.8 inch diameter base ring and was 66 inches long overall.  It weighed 743 pounds, giving it a weight ratio (wight of gun compared to weight of solid shot) of 123.8 pounds.  In comparison five years later the Model 1841 was slightly shorter, with a wider base ring, and weighed over 100 pounds more.  At face, such figures indicate even the bronze designs needed more metal than at first anticipated.

For production of the new model, the Army turned to new vendors.  These were the first of many, many guns produced by the Massachusetts firms of Cyrus Alger & Company and N.P. Ames Manufacturing.  Alger delivered 26 guns while Ames produced 31.  Evidence exists, in the form of Ames registry number 32, that the companies produced additional guns, possibly for state or private requirements.

At the same time Alger produced the bronze guns, the Army also contracted with the firm for 13 “malleable iron” guns of the same pattern, but retroactively designated “Pattern of 1836.”  The iron guns weighed about fifty pounds more than the bronze types.  Likely used for testing, three of these guns survive today.  But their service history, if any, is unknown.

With the bronze Model 1835, the Army established a good pattern, even if that needed some improvements.  One would think those improvements would progress with some linear developments.  But as we shall see next, the Model 1838 was a step back in some measures.


Aside from on site notes and links provided above, sources consulted for this post were:

Birkhimer, William, Historical Sketch of the Organization, Administration, Material and Tactics of the Artillery, United States Army.  Washington:  James J. Chapman, 1884.  Particularly pages 275-9 discussing the evolution of the American systems of artillery.

Hazlett, James C., Edwin Olmstead, and M. Hume Parks. Field Artillery Weapons of the Civil War, Revised Edition. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2004.

Ripley, Warren. Artillery and Ammunition of the Civil War, 4th Edition. Charleston, S.C.: The Battery Press, 1984.

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