First of Many: Early Batches of 3-inch Ordnance Rifles

Earlier I discussed the different makes which observers might call “ordnance rifles.”  But for now I’ll return to the common definition of the type and look at the first batches of 3-inch rifles produced by Phoenix Iron Company.

References indicate registry number 1, a historic piece in more ways than one, from Phoenix  is in private hands.  For most of us, the oldest gun of the type we might examine sits at the Lutheran Theological Seminary grounds at Gettysburg.

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3-inch Ordnance Rifle #5 Representing the 3rd Richmond Howitzers

Muzzle markings confirm this gun’s pedigree – “No. 5 // PICo // 1861 // 815 lbs. // T.T.S.L.”  Translated this is registry number 5 from Phoenix Iron Company, produced in 1861, weighing 815 pounds, and inspected by Theodore Thadeus Sobieski Laidley.

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Muzzle markings of Phoenix Ordnance Rifle #5

The majority of the 3-inch Ordnance Rifles one encounters today have muzzle markings in this format.  The size of the letters may vary a bit, but conforms with the regulations of 1861.

Also seen in the muzzle view are the seven lands and grooves of the rifling.  Nothing fancy, just flat, right-hand twist, conforming to the standards set by the regulations.  Likewise the exterior form is the “ordnance shape” mentioned in the earlier post.  (And yes, the speckles on this gun are from a light rain that was falling at the time.)

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3-inch Ordnance rifle #5 showing exterior form

Looking at the breech, there’s a few things to point out (looking around the raindrops).

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Breech of Ordnance Rifle #5

First there’s the vent at the top center.  No bouching appears around the hole.   A bouch was a hardened copper or iron sink placed into an enlarged vent hole.  Bouching allowed replacement of the metal around the vent as it eroded with use.  Hard to tell if this gun was indeed bouched, or if the seams are just painted over.

Look to the right of view at the “dimple” at about the two-o-clock position.  This is the rear sight.  While mashed down a bit with handling over the century, this formed a “V” for the gunner and matched up with a front sight mounted over the right rimbase.   Registry #5 has a “nubbin” sight on the top of the muzzle.  Tap holes for a rear pendulum hausse seat, normally seen on the breech, may be filled in and painted over.  Or perhaps there was never a hasse seat?  Missing also is the “nubbin” sight normally seen over the trunnions.

A more complete set of sights is on registry #39 on Hancock Avenue representing Battery B, 1st Pennsylvania Light Artillery.

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3-inch Ordnance rifle #39 showing sights

Number 39 has a hausse seat and muzzle sight.  It also has the right side “V” and a front sight on the right rimbase.  But there is no additional sight over the trunnions as seen on some later production guns.  (On occasion there are also left side sights, but I’ll discuss those later.)

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Rimbases and acceptance mark

Instead, between the rimbases is only the “U.S.” stamp of acceptance.

Another gun from the early batches from Phoenix stands prominently at a more famous place on the Gettysburg battlefield, representing Cushing’s Battery A, 4th U.S. Artillery at the Angle.

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3-inch Ordnance Rifle #176 at Gettysburg

This gun also has two sets of sights.  But here I’d call attention to the trunnions.  Nothing on the left….

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Left Trunnion of 3-inch #176

… and nothing on the right.

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Right Trunnion of 3-inch #176

Some of these early batch 3-inch Phoenix guns have the foundry stamp reading “Phoenix Iron Co.” on two lines.  But all too often, as seen here, those marks, if present at all, have vanished with time.

More interesting is what is often seen on the left trunnion of guns in the later batches – a patent date.  Some guns manufactured after December 1862 have the stamp “Patented Dec. 9, 1862.”  Recall that is the date of Reeves’ patent improving the process for making the guns.  The absence of the stamp may indicate Phoenix used the earlier production method (patented by Griffin) for the first set of guns.  (Parrott often stamped the abbreviation “CAV.” on his guns indicating the patent was pending.  But Phoenix apparently neglected that practice.)

The other important lead the patent stamp provides regards the processing of the guns through the supply system.  While the rest of the particulars I’ve highlighted in the photos above offer little tactical impact and only trivial historical notice, the date on those trunnions tell us how quickly the Federals fielded the 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  I’ll look at that ‘patented’ second batch next.

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Aside from on site notes, inline citations, and links provided above, sources consulted for this post were:

Hazlett, James C., Edwin Olmstead, and M. Hume Parks. Field Artillery Weapons of the Civil War, Revised Edition. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2004.

Ripley, Warren. Artillery and Ammunition of the Civil War, 4th Edition. Charleston, S.C.: The Battery Press, 1984.

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