6-pdr Gun Cast for “Insurance”

At the center of Clarendon, Virginia is the Arlington County veterans war memorial.

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Veterans Memorial in Clarendon

I would point out this memorial honors the veterans from the county who served in the world wars, Korea, and Vietnam.  But I bring it up here because of the three cannon incorporated into the memorial.  Or more specifically for this post, to discuss one of those three cannon.

Each of the three guns is worth mention, if not dedicated blog posts.  To the east side (left of the photo above) is an iron 6-pdr of either early American or English manufacture.  It’s form is that of guns produced between 1780 and 1815 or so.  To the west (behind the monument in this view) is a Confederate 3-inch rifle cast by Noble Brothers of Rome, Georgia in 1861 (and will be the subject of another post).  And on the north side of the memorial is this gun:

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"Insurance" Gun at Clarendon

This particular gun, and several other similar surviving pieces, resembles the description of “insurance” guns produced during the 19th century.  Particularly during time of war, insurance companies insisted that ships be armed if traveling into hostile waters.  Guns of this type were marketed to ship owners who needed at least a notional armament on their ships.

The gun is mounted inverted.  But on what should be the right trunnion is the familiar stamp “C.A. & Co. // Boston” for Cyrus Alger.

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Right Trunnion

The year stamp on the left trunnion indicates this gun is of Civil War vintage.

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Left Trunnion

The muzzle of the gun features a modest swell and a chase ring, in line with navy forms prior to the Dahlgren designs, but in miniature.

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Muzzle Profile

And the breech profile is distinctively “navy” with the split jaw cascabel.  The locking pin remains but the block is absent from the cascabel.  And again, all in miniature form compared to the larger naval guns.

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Breech Profile

Under the breech (what would be the top) is the number “843” which is close to the expected weight for a gun of this caliber.

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Possible Weight Stamp

Missing from the top of the breech are sight masses and lockpiece blocks often seen on guns of the 1840-50 period.

The only other mark I noticed on a recent visit was the number “236” on the muzzle.  This may be the foundry’s registry number.

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Number on the Muzzle

I’ve never seen a pattern diagram that matches the gun at Clarendon, so confirming a specific company model number is not possible at this time.  Alger, which also used the name South Boston Foundry, advertized guns of this type in 1851:

These will be furnished at short notice, and of the best quality.  These Guns intended for Merchantmen or Steamers to give notice of arrival or departure, as well as for defense, if occasion should require, are of various calibers usually 4, 6 and 9 pounders.  They are attached to carriages, and furnished with percussion locks.

These “insurance” guns saw service that was more administrative, if not purely decorative.  But the form, resembling a smaller version of official Navy pattern 32-pdrs or larger guns, is noteworthy.

The gun’s manufacturer stamp also reminds that even before the start of the Civil War an armaments industry was already turning out weapons of war.

Published by Craig Swain

"Historical marker hunter" and Civil War enthusiast.

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