From ’63 to ’66: The later batches of 3-inch Ordnance Rifles

In earlier posts I’ve discussed the 3-inch Ordnance Rifles produced by Phoenix Iron Company through 1862.  Early guns had “side sights” and lacked a stamp for Samuel Reeves’ patent.  Although some sources indicate the patent stamp appeared with registry number 236 in the series, I have offered a rebuttal on that point.  Regardless of the stamps, around registry number 284 the guns received an auxiliary sight between the trunnions.  Now let me turn to guns produced after March 1863.

…. Oh, and before going too far, conceded a point to a reader who wishes to remain anonymous – the Phoenix guns are properly identified as “wrought iron ordnance rifles” to set them apart from other weapons made to the ordnance pattern.  But I hope you will allow me to use the short name to reduce the word count!

As alluded to in the earlier post, the later batches of guns from Phoenix simplified the sights to a single set – pendulum hausse and muzzle blade sights.  Among the first guns to conform to that new standard is registry number 597, credited in the last week of March 1863.

9 July 2011 242
3-inch Ordnance Rifle #597 at Fort Monroe

The gun is a bit pitted, and … well… the better collection of ordnance rifles is up at Gettysburg.   So let me introduce you to registry number 616 over near the Gettysburg maintenance facility.

Gettysburg 4 Feb 12 110
Muzzle of #616

Fairly typical muzzle markings indicate Theodore Thadeus Sobieski Laidley (a name like that inspires a post!) inspected this gun in 1863. He called the weight at 816 pounds – like so many ordnance rifles.  The right trunnion stamp reiterates the vendor’s name.

Gettysburg 4 Feb 12 111
Right Trunnion of 3-inch #616

The left trunnion displays the patent date for the manufacturing process.

Gettysburg 4 Feb 12 114
Left Trunnion of 3-inch #616

But between the trunnions, only the “U.S.” acceptance mark.  No hole for the auxiliary sight.

Gettysburg 4 Feb 12 113
Trunnions of 3-inch rifle #616

This gun only retains the pendulum hausse seat and muzzle sight.

Gettysburg 4 Feb 12 112
3-inch Ordnance Rifle #616

The front sight originally stood taller than what we see today.  Handling has left them just a stub. Number 616 actually has a substantial base to the sight.  Most survivors simply have the remainder or “nubbin.” Some surviving 3-inch rifles have more substantial muzzle sights, such as the base left on 616.  Others have only the threaded hole for the sight.

Gettysburg 4 Feb 12 138
Hole for muzzle sight on #674

Again, the variations seen here (markings and sights) had no substantial effect on the use of the guns.  Or at least not that I’ve found in the veteran’s accounts.  So something must have worked!   With a few possible and minor exceptions, all remaining 3-inch Ordnance Rifles confirmed to those particulars.

Gettysburg 18 Feb 12 230
3-inch Ordnance Rifle #931

That includes registry number 931 delivered in 1866, more than a year after the last Confederate surrender.

So in conclusion, the long line of 3-inch Ordnance Rifles – over 950 of them – conformed in all practical details to the pattern set by the Ordnance Board in 1861.  There are no major variations that would affect performance of the weapon.  However for modern-day visitors, there are some subtle differences with the markings and sight arrangements.  These are in some cases clues to the story of the otherwise silent guns.

Oh, and don’t think I’m done with the Ordnance Rifles.  I fully intend to bore you readers with more minutia about these guns!

Published by Craig Swain

"Historical marker hunter" and Civil War enthusiast.

3 thoughts on “From ’63 to ’66: The later batches of 3-inch Ordnance Rifles

  1. I have a 3inch dia x just under 6inch long shell case, it appears to be cast iron with 2 fairly ornate brass bands around it, one at the base and one just below the exit. It shows marks of having been fired. Just inside the mouth it is threaded.
    Has anyone any idea what it is please?

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