Confederate 6-pdr Field Guns

In my discussion of 6-pdr field guns, thus far I’ve focused on the Federal side with only a couple of posts citing the Confederate wartime production.  Not to slight southern manufacturing, but chronologically the “story” doesn’t fit until after the Federal designs.  As the northern armies phased the 6-pdr out of service in favor of rifled guns and 12-pdr Napoleons, the southerners continued to produce a substantial numbers, in relation to overall field gun production, of the 6-pdr class.  And as with Federal designs, the Confederate 6-pdrs offer some overlap with rifled field guns produced later.

As the war started, Confederate ordnance officers and gunmakers turned first to established design patterns and practices.  To some degree, the story of the Confederate 6-pdrs parallels that of the 12-pdr field howitzers, which I discussed at length for both bronze and iron types in earlier posts.  The manuals of the day called for 6-pdr guns and 12-pdr howitzers for the light field batteries.  So the Confederacy received batches of bronze cannons from each of those classes which generally conformed to the Model 1841 patterns.  As the war progressed, the southerners had less bronze to work with, so gunmakers turned to iron (or I should say, at least those gunmakers who’s facilities were not overrun by 1863).  And of course, by mid-war experience on the battlefield indicated the 6-pdr guns and 12-pdr howitzer lacked the performance needed to counter the Federal guns.   So production of the smaller smoothbore cannons dropped off by mid-war in favor of other types.

In the early months of the war Tredegar cast bronze Model 1841 types for southern orders.  As noted in an earlier post, Tredegar lacked previous government contracts for such bronze field pieces, but had access to the patterns.  Setting aside some slight deviations from the exterior form, the Tredegar guns followed the pattern faithfully.

Lexington 181 28 May 11
Tredegar 6-pdr Model 1841, #1443, at V.M.I.

Tredegar produced around 30 of these weapons during the sixteen months of the war.  Augmenting the Tredegar production, several new-comers to the ordnance business produced 6-pdrs for Confederate requirements.  These vendors generally followed the Model 1841 pattern, although some survivors exhibit notable variations in external form:

  •   John Clarke & Company, Leeds & Company, Bennett & Lurges, and Samuel Wolff & Company of New Orleans contributed around twenty-five bronze 6-pdrs before the city fell to Federals in 1862.
  • Quinby & Robinson delivered a dozen bronze 6-pdrs before the fall of Memphis, Tennessee.
  • A.M. Paxton, of Vicksburg, Mississippi completed some of the Quinby & Robinson guns, adding fourteen all told.
  • Also in Vicksburg, A.B. REading & Brother delivered thirty-five, making the firm among the most active 6-pdr sources for the Confederacy.
  • Skates & Company of Mobile, Alabama produced at least one Model 1841 bronze type, but this gun was rifled to the James system.
  • Congaree Foundry in Columbia, South Carolina produced a handful of bronze 6-pdrs.

In addition to the Model 1841 pattern types, several Confederate vendors delivered 6-pdrs cast to simplified designs.  Generally conforming to the “ordnance shape” these guns resemble the Federal Model 1861 bronze guns.  Noble Brothers & Company of Rome, Georgia cast at least seven of this form.  The Brierfield Arsenal, working from Selma, Alabama, may have cast some of their own, in addition to completing unfinished Noble Brothers guns.  One of the Brierfield guns survives today at Petersburg.

Brierfield 6-pdr

With a shortage of bronze, Confederate gunmakers turned to iron.  Tredegar, as the case with most Confederate production, dominated this field with cited quantities ranging from 40 to 70 guns delivered.  Three of these stand today near the Brawner Farm at Manassas, representing Confederate batteries from the second great battle at that location. Two of the guns have muzzle swells.

Manassas 079
Tredegar Iron 6-pdr, #1450, at Manassas

The third lacks the muzzle swell.

Manassas 094
Tredegar Iron 6-pdr, #1466, at Manassas

Note the rough dorsal seam on this gun, indicating Tredegar dispensed with machining to smooth the exterior.  All three guns exhibit a thick, bulbous reinforce over the breech.

T.M. Brennan of Nashville, Tennessee delivered thirty iron 6-pdrs before that city fell in early 1862.  These guns also resembled the “ordnance shape” with a smooth exterior.  Another Nashville firm, Ellis & Moore, delivered four iron 6-pdrs for the state of Tennessee.

Fort Donelson 264
Brennan 6-pdr at Fort Donelson

Before falling into disfavor with the Confederates, the Noble brothers delivered over a dozen iron 6-pdrs, in addition to nearly two dozen iron 3-inch rifles cast to the same form.  As with Noble’s bronze guns, the iron pieces used a smooth exterior form.

Several other firms delivered small quantities of iron 6-pdrs, some of which are only known through receipts archived in the Citizens FilesBellona Foundry may have produced some 6-pdrs similar to those from Tredegar.  One surviving casting at the foundry site is definitely a field gun, but remained unbored or finished.  Quinby & Robinson received credit for one iron 6-pdr, which may have used the Model 1841 pattern.  Bennett & Lurges also produced six iron 6-pdrs in addition to its lone bronze gun prior to the fall of New Orleans.  The Alabama firm of Leech & Avery produced two 6-pdrs in 1861 for Captain W.H. Fowler’s battery.

A surviving piece in Marion, Alabama has the firm’s marks and clearly resembles the Model 1841 form.

Perry County Confederate Cannon (Marion, Alabama)
Leech & Avery Gun

Several other bronze and iron guns exist today, lacking little in the way of markings or documentation.  Without proper pedigree, many “cannon hunters” have considered these likely from Confederate sources.  One of which, standing along Ruggles Line at Shiloh, with a distinct reinforce, resembles the experimental Alger iron guns of the 1840s.

Ruggles bty 337
Unknown 6-pdr at Shiloh

As mentioned above, Confederate gunmakers used the 6-pdr patterns for field rifles in both bronze and iron.  I’ll save details of those types for a separate post.  But such utilization matches, over a more compressed time line, the same evolution on the northern side of the 6-pdr story line.

All told, the south produced less than 250 6-pdr field guns during the war.  This was an insufficient quantity, of an obsolete type mind you, to arm the Confederate field armies.

One thought on “Confederate 6-pdr Field Guns

  1. UPDATE: Ah… pulled a fast one on myself! The photo captioned for the Brennan 6-pdr was actually a Tredegar 6-pdr. I’ve switched to a photo of a Brennan 6-pdr at Fort Donelson. Sorry if that confused anyone.

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