I prefer to lead off a post about the cannons with a photo of a surviving gun. Makes for easy conversation starter. But in the case of the 6-pdrs produced by Bennett and Lurges there are no survivors, that I know of. In fact, the only item to discuss is an invoice dated March 21, 1862.
The partners B.K.T. Bennett and Francis Lurges owned the foundry which, as the invoice header states, produced “every description of builders iron work, ornamental verandas, railings, and such.” The foundry itself stood near the Jackson Rail Depot on Magnolia and Erato Streets. But the office stood on Davidson’s Row, 116 Carondelet Street. The location of the foundry is easily pinpointed on a modern map, but I’m not certain the street address for the office conforms to the modern street numbering.
Prior to the war, Bennett & Lurges attained a reputation for quality ornamental iron work. But with secession, the firm turned from decorative iron grapevines on railings to stands of grape shot for Confederate contracts. In addition to shot, shell, and grapeshot of several calibers, the firm produced some 8-inch columbiads and 9-inch guns. Many of the invoices went to the Confederate Navy.
But the invoice shown above listed the Confederate States Army as the customer. The first line lists a 6-pdr brass smoothbore gun, with the notation “navy gun” struck through. The second line indicates six 6-pdr iron guns on the same delivery. With no indications to go with regarding patterns, we can only speculate. The “navy gun” notation may reference a pattern offered to that branch. Wouldn’t be hard to imagine the defenders of the Big Easy might turn to anything available in March 1862. But the 6-pdr caliber is not common for naval work, save for landing parties and “insurance guns.” The later were often supplied to merchants to satisfy insurance requirements.
Bennett & Lurges directed the invoice to Colonel W.S. Lovell, ordnance officer for the New Orleans department. W.S. Lovell was a naval officer before the war, and I am not sure if he is related or not to General Mansfield Lovell who commanded the New Orleans defenses.
Another interesting point on the invoice to consider is the pricing. Bennett & Lurges charged $1200 for the bronze gun and $300 per iron gun. The bronze piece was certainly pricy, but the iron guns weren’t going cheap either. Recall around the same time Tredegar charged $190 to $195 for their iron 6-pdrs and 3-inch rifles. Then again Bennett & Lurges didn’t charge the government to haul the guns.
Oh, and one more thing! Not all of Bennett & Lurges wartime activities focused on the war effort. Court documentation provides information the firm did veranda work for a W.G. Robinson in New Orleans in January 1862. The firm claimed they were not fully paid for the work, and took Robinson to court. Settlement came in 1866. The court records indicate Bennett & Lurges cited the blockade as one factor raising the cost of iron in New Orleans. Perhaps the same factor drove the price of iron 6-pdrs to nearly triple that in Richmond.
And since I’ve just about filled out an entire post noting minutia details from a lone invoice, it is worth pointing out that Bennett & Lurges was not B.K.T. Bennett’s only gunmaking venture. He also partnered with M.J. Bujac to manufacture cannon and small arms. Bujac & Bennett produced 32-pdr and Parrott rifles, with lackluster results.
I don’t often engage in counter-factual what-ifs, but Bennett’s gunmaking endeavors does leave a question on the table – what if the Confederacy had more than a year’s worth of production from the industries in New Orleans.