Iron Substitutes: Tredegar 6-pdr Iron Field Guns

To me, one of the most interesting aspects of Civil War artillery is the different approaches taken to essentially the same requirement – launching a projectile.  Due to operational requirements and contingencies different designers and manufacturers  chose alternate forms, constructions, and styles.  No where is that more apparent than with the Confederate field guns, particularly the work of Tredegar Foundry.  Due to raw material shortages, Tredegar turned to expedients and substitutes.  The company produced cannons for field use from melted down bells and also turned to the less preferred iron.  I’ve already mentioned the company’s bronze 6-pdr bronze field guns, 3-inch bronze rifles, Parrott Rifles (and here too), and 12-pdr howitzers in both bronze and iron.  Time to take a look at the company’s iron 6-pdr field guns.

Brawner Farm on the Second Manassas battlefield offers visitors a view of three of these smoothbore guns.

Manassas 8 Feb 143
Iron Guns on Brawner Farm

Looking past the Tredegar 10-pdr Parrott, three iron 6-pdrs stand at the Brawner Farm (after this photo was taken, the Park Service added a 3-inch iron rifle to the lineup… but that is for another day).

The smoothbores at Brawner Farm exhibit a few markings.  Two are definitely the work of Tredegar, as indicated on the trunnion stamps.

Manassas 8 Feb 163
Right Trunnion of Iron 6pdr

Visible under the paint are the initials “J.R.A & Co.” and “T.F.” indicating Joseph R. Anderson & Company, Tredegar Foundry.

But even without markings, the rough exterior and seam lines betray the Confederate origin, specifically Anderson’s preference to avoid turning the guns for a smooth exterior.

Manassas 094
Tredegar 6-pdr

The iron smoothbores share a “bottle” shaped exterior form.  From a distance, these guns are easily mistaken for 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.

manassas 2 June 021
Breech of Tredegar 6-pdr Field Gun

However, the breech of these Confederate guns is thicker than the famous wrought iron gun.  At the vent, the Tredegar gun has a 12 inch diameter (compared to about 9.5 for the Ordnance Rifle).  To the front of the vent is a 9 inch long cylindrical reinforce.  The breech face is a hemisphere.   Forward of the reinforce the barrel tapers sharply before the trunnions.  The guns average just over 70 inches in length.

There are two variations in the form of these 6-pdrs.  The cascabel varies from rounded to flattened knob.

manassas 2 June 023
Tredegar 6-pdr Iron Gun showing round knob and muzzle swell

The other variation is the muzzle swell on two of the 6-pdrs.

Sighting arrangements on these guns also resembled the Ordnance rifles.  The front sight was a blade posted on the muzzle (part of which is seen on the 6-pdr with straight muzzle).  Tapped holes for the rear sight are located on the breech.

Invoices from Tredegar indicate these guns weighed around 900 pounds.  While that is is about equal to a bronze 6-pdr Model 1841, recall that particular type was by design the “heavy” version in the family tree.  Most of the old iron (and bronze for that matter) 6-pdrs from the first half of the century weighed significantly less.

All told Tredegar produced between 35 and 40 of the iron 6-pdr smoothbores.  Those deliveries mixed with production of externally similar 3-inch iron rifled guns, which often appear in the records as “6-pdr iron rifled guns.”  In my next post I’ll turn to a delivery invoice to show the paperwork trail for two of these Manassas guns.

Published by Craig Swain

"Historical marker hunter" and Civil War enthusiast.

4 thoughts on “Iron Substitutes: Tredegar 6-pdr Iron Field Guns

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