The Creole Field Gun: Leeds and Company 6-pdrs

Since my last cannon post discussed a 6-pdr (modified to resemble a 12-pdr Napoleon) on the south end of McGilvery’s line at Gettysburg, the next logical post is an examination of that gun’s battery mate.

GB 27 Dec 759
False Napoleons flank Dow's Battery

The Revere gun is on the left side of the monument.  To the right side is a gun cast on the other side of the conflict – a 6-pdr field gun from Leeds & Company of New Orleans, Louisiana.

GB 27 Dec 767
Leeds 6-pdr Gun at Dow's Battery

Like the Revere gun, the Leeds gun was altered to resemble a 12-pdr Napoleon as the park was configured in the 1890s.  So many of the exterior moldings were machined off to make this gun a “False Napoleon.”

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Muzzle of Leeds 6pdr at Dow's Battery Showing Alterations

Also like the Revere gun, the southern-made gun was cast in 1861.

Gettysburg 166
Left Trunnion of Leeds Gun at Dow's Battery

Leeds stamped the trunnions as if complying with the older US ordnance regulations.  On the right trunnion is the stamp “Leeds & Co. // New Orleans.”

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Right Trunnion of Leeds Gun at Dow's Battery

Looking at the breech profile, a line appears around the knob.  I suspect this line was left by the tools used to convert the gun into a Napoleon look-alike.

Gettysburg 164
Breech Profile of Leeds 6pdr at Dow's Battery

A few yards away is another Leeds gun, which is part of a pair representing Battery G, 1st New York Light Artillery (Captain Nelson Ames’ Battery).

Gettysburg 139
Leeds 6-pdr at Ames' Battery

The second Leeds gun was cast in 1862.

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Left Trunnion of Leeds Gun at Ames' Battery

It’s manufacturer’s stamp is easier to read.

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Right Trunnion of Leeds Gun at Ames' Battery

On the breech, just left of the holes for the hausse seat, is the number “871” which should be the weight of the gun.

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Weight Stamp (to the left) on Leeds 6pdr

A stamp on the right rimbase provides the foundry’s number – 58.

Gettysburg 144
Right Rimbase of Leeds 6pdr

The muzzle moldings appear to have slight variations from the standard Federal guns. The fillet is thicker and the cavetto before the face is not as deep.

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Muzzle of Leeds 6pdr at Ames' Battery

But again, with the alterations to a “False Napoleon” one cannot take those as definitive for manufacture.

One other interesting “mark” on the gun is the vestiges of paint from a stencil on the breech.

Gettysburg 141
Breech Stencil

This and other similar markings appear to indicate the date the gun was received somewhere – either at a depot, arsenal, or the battlefield itself.

In 1861, Leeds was the largest foundry in New Orleans employing 300 workers.  The firm was located at the “corner of DeLord and Foucher Streets” according to invoices.  Examination of period maps indicates a location near the Confederate Memorial Hall.  Before the war Leeds produced steam engines, boilers, and other machinery.  In May 1861 the firm moved into the armaments business, and focused on heavy cannons with mixed results.

Leeds figured prominently in the efforts to arm militia and Confederate forces in the first months of the war.  However the first official Confederate order for field guns didn’t reach Leeds until October 1861.  By December the firm had delivered seven 6-pdr smoothbores along with five 3.3-inch rifled guns (using the same casting blocks).  Below is an invoice dated December 3, 1861.  Given the production figures, pretty good chances the gun at Dow’s Battery was included on this invoice:

The rapidity of Leeds’ response to contracts indicates that proofed and tested patterns were on hand at the foundry.  Such raises the possibility that Leeds produced guns for militia or private orders prior to deliveries to the Confederate army.  Leeds delivered another four 6-pdr smoothbores and ten 3.3-inch rifles before the fall of New Orleans in April 1862. To these numbers the firm added a dozen 12-pdr Napoleons and nine 12-pdr howitzers.

Many observers today note the different “patina” of the Leeds guns.

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Leeds 6-pdr at Ames' Battery

Leeds made use of bells donated to the Confederate war effort.  More bells arrived at New Orleans than could be used.  When the Federals occupied the city, they found a substantial number of bells along the city’s levee.  These were, ironically, shipped north to Boston for use there.

So one of the stories these two Leeds 6-pdrs offer concludes with a “what if?”  From October 1861 to April 1862, Leeds produced nearly fifty field guns.  Given the resources, what if Leeds and other companies in New Orleans had more time to produce weapons for the Confederacy?

Published by Craig Swain

"Historical marker hunter" and Civil War enthusiast.

One thought on “The Creole Field Gun: Leeds and Company 6-pdrs

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