Barry and the Artillery Organization of the AOP: Part 7, Ammunition

Back to the examination of the initial organization of the artillery in the Army of the Potomac.  In the last few posts, I’ve covered the battery composition and assignments, and mentioned the creation of the artillery reserve.  The next numbered line in General William Barry’s September 1862 report provided logistical details.  To supply his guns, Barry suggested, “That the amount of ammunition to accompany the field batteries was not to be  less than 400 rounds per gun.” (OR, Series I, Volume 5, Serial 5, p. 67)

400 rounds per gun.  But not all guns are the same, of course. Here’s a comparison of the ammunition chest round count for each of the common guns found in the Army of the Potomac at that time:

  • 6-pdr field gun – 50 rounds per chest.
  • 12-pdr Napoleon – 32 rounds per chest.
  • 12-pdr field howitzer – 39 rounds per chest.
  • 24-pdr field howitzer – 23 rounds per chest.
  • 32-pdr field howitzer – 15 rounds per chest.
  • 3-inch rifle or 10-pdr Parrott – 50 rounds per chest.
  • 20-pdr Parrott (or James Rifle?) – 25 rounds per chest.

Going into action, a properly equipped gun of the time had one ammunition chest on the limber.  Two more followed on the caisson.  The artillery supply trains contained additional ammunition chests ready to replenish those depleted in action.

Taken at face value Barry’s recommendation for ammunition supply translates to eight chests per 6-pdr, 3-inch rifle, or 10-pdr Parrott; twelve to thirteen chests per Napoleon; sixteen chests for a 20-pdr Parrott (and I would assume for a James rifle of nearly the same caliber); and twenty-seven chests for a single 32-pdr field howitzer!

While heavy caliber guns might hurl larger payloads at the enemy, they do offer a burden to those resupplying the ammunition.  The 32-pdr howitzer is a good example in the extreme.  While the howitzer’s weight as restrictive, I would also point out the weight and space for all those additional ammunition chests proved even more prohibitive.  Little wonder the type quickly disappeared from the Army of the Potomac’s lineup by the end of 1862.