Another line on that invoice: Tredegar 12-pdr Iron Field Howitzer

Earlier I offered this lengthy invoice to trace the origins of a 12-pdr bronze howitzer from Tredegar:

Just above the entry for Tredegar’s bronze 12-pdr #1578 is another line for a “12pdr Iron Field Howitzer #1513” (highlighted in red):

A gun with that registry number survives today at Petersburg National Battlefield Park.

Petersburg 432
Tredegar Iron 12pdr #1513

My photos of the markings (taken with my older camera) are too blurry for display.  So you’ll have to take my word instead of visual verification.  But what you can see from this photo the exterior form took significant departure from Tredegar’s rather orthodox bronze contemporaries.

A similar 12-pdr iron field howitzer stands outside the Richmond NPS visitor center at the old Tredegar Iron Works site.

Richmond 21 Mar 10 044
12pdr Iron Field Howitzer at Tredegar

Most prominent is reinforce.  While half the size that of the bronze howitzer, the iron howitzer’s reinforce was a non-tapering cylinder.  The step at the end of the reinforce was smoothy blended into the tapering barrel.   The breech face was rounded, with contour lines resembling that of the Federal’s 3-inch Ordnance Rifle.  And even further streamlining the form, the rimbases joined the barrel in a smooth molding.   Overall, this howitzer could easily pass for something from a “Federal” design of 1861 vintage.

Early in the war, the Confederacy lacked good bronze for field pieces.  While calling for bells and other scrap metal, southern gunmakers turned back to iron composition for field guns.  There is some indication that Tredegar produced iron 12-pdr howitzers for state orders early in 1861.  However, Tredegar began casting iron 12-pdr howitzers for Confederate orders in November 1861.  The first of these failed due to poor metal choice.  Eventually those problems were resolved and the army accepted twenty-five of the iron 12-pdrs from Tredegar.  That total includes three on the invoice pictured above.  Production ceased in late 1862 with the official order to switch to Napoleon type field guns.

Tredegar’s 12-pdr iron howitzers serve as a physical reminder of shortage of resources to feed the Confederate war machine.  The production run also points to the evolution of weapons types, as more evolved guns replaced the pre-war classes.  On the other hand, the exterior form confirms that someone in Richmond had been reading all those reports from ordnance tests from the 1850s.