Yesterday I mentioned a 3-inch iron rifle at the Arlington County veterans memorial in Clarendon, Virginia. Although resembling those Tredegar weapons of the same caliber, this particular gun came from Noble Brothers & Company of Rome, Georgia.
Stamps on the right trunnion leave no doubt as to the origin of this weapon: “Noble Brothers & Co. // Rome GA.”
The left trunnion has a stamp for the month of manufacture – “November” – but the letters have eroded down considerably in 150 years. Missing, or eroded away, is the year of manufacture. Noble brothers usually put the year stamp below the month, using the same font size. However below the month in this case is a number “2” in a different, larger font. The “2” may even overstamp the year stamp.
The year of manufacture is almost certainly 1861. Noble Brothers produced weapons for Confederate contracts from April 1861 to October 1862, arguing against the “2” being part of an 1862. So perhaps the “2” is a post-manufacture number, be that from ordnance handling or trophy annotation.
At the very edge of the muzzle, the twelve rifle grooves are easy to count. Further into the bore those grooves are less distinct (trash in the bore prevents me from posting a photo here).
Like the Tredegar guns, the Noble Brothers gun featured a cylindrical reinforce with a near hemispherical breech.
Noble Brothers used a different style knob. Notice the screw holes for a hausse seat over the top of the breech, as opposed to the more elaborate rear sight seen on Tredegar guns.
Of nearly sixty cannons produced for the Confederacy by Noble Brothers, twenty-four were iron 3-inch rifles. Unlike other “western” manufacturers, Noble Brothers guns found their way to Virginia early in the war. One of those early invoices, dated August 27, 1861 and marked as received at Richmond, calls out “6-pdr rifled guns.”
These particular rifles went to the Jeff Davis (Alabama) Artillery. Given later references to the battery’s armament with 3-inch rifles, likely these were guns cast to the 6-pdr form but rifled with a three-inch bore. As readers will recall, the terms 6-pdr rifle and 3-inch rifle appear almost interchangeable in Confederate (and Federal) documents.
The are some indications that later in the production run Noble Brothers changed the pattern to use a different external form. For bronze 6-pdrs the firm dispensed with the muzzle swell and introduced a button knob. The knob is rather distinctive and almost unique to Noble cannon. One iron 3-inch rifle found today at Manassas has such a button knob.
So tentatively some cannon-hunters identify this as a Noble Brothers 3-inch rifle of later production dates.