Working from the old patterns: Confederate “New Columbiads”

Back in April I posted some on the heavy columbiads used at Fort Sumter in 1861.  Both the 8- and 10-inch variety evolved from seacoast howitzers through the Models of 1844.  Not happy with the endurance of the Model 1844, the Ordnance Department conducted tests on modified versions of the columbiad.  These are given, retroactively, the designation of “New Columbiads” as there was no formal model year applied.   Of the 94 known 8-inch “New Columbiads” received by the Army, Tredegar and Bellona combined for 26.  Likewise of the seven 10-inch “New Columbiads” received for trials, the two Virginia firms combined for four examples.

As indicated in the earlier post on “New Columbiads” for the most part these guns were used, and destroyed, in tests.  As such, many examples dispensed with the elevating ratchet system found on the breech of most service columbiads of the age.  Instead these used large knob style cascables to facilitate handling on the test ranges, where elevation was usually fixed by the mounting.

No doubt the two firms retained patterns and forms for these test columbiads.  As the war clouds gathered, and leaders throughout the south called for heavy weapons, Tredegar and Bellona cast batches of these columbiads.  One of those weapons sits today at the southeast corner of Fort Pulaski on a wooden reproduction center pintle wooden barbette carriage.

Savannah 5 May 10 262
8-inch Confederate Columbiad at Fort Pulaski

The right trunnion bears the familiar stamp of Tredegar  – “J.R.A. & Co. // T.F.”

Ft Pulaski 3 Aug 11 1352
Right Trunnion

The left trunnion indicates a very early wartime production date.

Ft Pulaski 3 Aug 11 1355
Left Trunnion

The breech differs significantly from other columbiads, with the large knob mentioned above.

Ft Pulaski 3 Aug 11 1356
Breech with Knob Cascabel

With no other explanation, I would offer the selection of the knob was simply due to pattern availability.  While getting big guns in the hands of the warfighter quickly, the columbiad required the older style elevating systems.  Wartime photos of similar knobed columbiads show quions.  The National Park Service has this piece mounted with a couple of wood blocks.

Conforming to Federal patterns, the first reinforce extended about 25 inches from the breech, as a perfect cylinder.  The second reinforce tapered gradually to a point past the trunnions.  There it tapered sharply down to the chase.

Fort Pulaski 5 May 10 268
Reinforce Detail

Note also the sight mass over the trunnions, typical placement for this make and model.

Not seen on the earlier profile, a wedge-shaped section of the muzzle of this gun is missing.

Ft Pulaski 3 Aug 11 1353
Burst Muzzle

For many years this particular columbiad sat outside Fort Pulaski  buried muzzle down (some say as a graveyard post, retained long after the bodies were reburied elsewhere).  In the 1970s, the park excavated, restored, and mounted the gun.  The chase is badly pitted, but still has the chase ring.

Ft Pulaski 3 Aug 11 1351
Confederate Columbiad Showing Missing Muzzle Section

Although the muzzle marks are difficult to read, the letters “GA” appear on the top of the barrel.  Certainly not a standard Confederate marking, this alludes to a purchase for Georgia state troops.  Others have stated this gun is foundry number 1140 with a weight of 9460 pounds.  The number would fall within the range of guns cast in April 1861.   So this gun has an interesting story to tell just from the start.

When surrendered on April 11, 1862, the fort had five 10-inch and nine 8-inch columbiads.  One of those sat over the open breech on the southeast corner, right where the surviving gun is perched today.

Fort Pulaski Breech

But of course, the muzzle on that gun is intact.  Still the damaged muzzle and provenance of the 8-inch Tredegar columbiad indicate the possibility the surviving gun was among those in the fort during the bombardment.

At some point in 1861, both Tredegar and Bellona modified the columbiad patterns.  An 8-inch Columbiad also cast in 1861, although from Bellona, currently gracing the might be mistaken for a Rodman gun.

St. Augustine 1 Aug 11 518
Bellona 8-inch Columbiad

The Bellona weapon retains the cylindrical reinforce, opposed to the Rodman’s rounded shape.  But it does have the “mushroom” cascabel used on Rodman guns.  I’ll examine this example and similar Confederate columbiads in my next post on the subject.

Published by Craig Swain

"Historical marker hunter" and Civil War enthusiast.

4 thoughts on “Working from the old patterns: Confederate “New Columbiads”

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