8-inch Seacoast Howitzer Model 1840

Earlier this year I introduced the 8-inch seacoast howitzers that saw limited service in the Civil War, but particularly on both sides at Fort Sumter in April 1861.  The 8-inch seacoast howitzer came in three models identified by their year of design – 1839, 1840, and 1842.  I was able to, with help from a marker-hunting friend, offer photos of a Model 1839 in that post.  But I lacked photos of the Model 1840 (and no Model 1842 survive today).

After my visit to St. Augustine earlier this month, I’ve got some photos for a “walk around” of the 8-inch Seacoast Howitzer.  Or to be precise, a pair of them:

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Two 8-inch Seacoast Howitzers Model 1840

The external profile of these howitzers conform to the standards of the day.  Starting from the back, the cascabel was a simple knob joined with a moderate sized neck.

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Breech profile of 8-inch Seacoast Howitzer

The breech face, while flat in the center, gradually slopes to join the base ring.  This gives an appearance like a pan.  The profile is similar to that used on the 42-pdr and 32-pdr seacoast guns of the same time period.

A lockpiece molding is over the vent.  Also note the thin ring at the end of the first reinforce.  This ring is not found on contemporary seacoast guns, and is a quick visual to aid identification.

Under the knob is the weight stamp.  In this case 5840 pounds.  The other howitzer is 5820 pounds.

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Weight Stamp Under Knob

Further forward on the gun, the second reinforce ended with a sharp taper down to the chase, forming the shoulder of the weapon.  Note the “U.S.” acceptance stamp.

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Shoulders of the Howitzer

The left trunnion has the date stamp.  Both howitzers were produced in 1841.

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Left Trunnion of Howitzer

The right trunnion bears the manufacturer’s mark.  In this case the initials of John Mason (J.M.), the owner of Columbia Foundry (C.F.) in Washington, D.C.

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Right Trunnion of Howitzer

A chase ring is at the end of that section of the cannon.  The muzzle featured a generous, but not extreme swell.   Notice that while most field and siege howitzers lacked a muzzle swell, the seacoast howitzers used the same form as the seacoast guns.  Notice also the simple lip molding.

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Muzzle Profile of Howitzer

Stamps on the muzzle face indicate the inspections by John Symington (J.S.).  The registry of this piece is 11.  It’s mate is number 14.

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Muzzle face of #11

Both howitzers at St. Augustine exhibit the test scars on the muzzle face.  These date to the late 1840s and early 1850s.  Ordnance officer Louis A. DeBarth Walbach pulled samples from a number of cannons then in service to determine the best metal composition.  The hole left behind apparently did not compromise the integrity of the cannon.  But it was filled with a mixture of metal filings and some form of epoxy.  No doubt that filling worked, as today the filling is intact.

The main difference between the 1839 and 1840 models was the requirement for cold blast iron in the later version.  Such change in metal composition is impossible to determine without advanced (and destructive) metal analysis.  So I’d simply determine the model number off the date stamps.

As discussed in the earlier post, the seacoast howitzers as a class were simply an evolutionary step in the Columbiad family.  The 8-inch howitzers provided a starting point for the “new Columbiads” produced later in the 1840s – a line that eventually produced the more capable and durable Rodman guns.

Although considered second rate, the seacoast howitzers remained on hand at the start of the Civil War, but used in minor roles.

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8-inch Seacoast Howitzer Model 1840, Columbia #14

Of 64 produced only ten of this model survive today.  So the pair at the Castillo offer a rare chance to examine an evolutionary step in artillery development.

Published by Craig Swain

"Historical marker hunter" and Civil War enthusiast.

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