James River Napoleons: Tredegar’s light 12-pdrs in bronze

J.R. Anderson & Company / Tredegar’s involvement with the 12-pdr light field gun, commonly known as the Napoleon gun, began well before Virginia’s secession.  Mentioned earlier, the firm entered contracts for 12-pdr light field guns with the state of Georgia in February 1861.  Very likely none of those were delivered, but historians give categorize them as the “Type 1” Confederate Napoleon to hold the place pending more information (or a possible survivor).

Tredegar Napoleon production began slowly.  At most, the foundry produced ten examples in 1862.  The earliest known surviving Napoleons produced by Tredegar date to November 1862.  Those are considered “Type 4” due to variations with the external profile.  As production continued into 1863, Tredegar increased output and adopted the “Type 5” external profile.

One of those Tredegar Type 5 guns sits along West Confederate Avenue at Gettysburg, representing the Letcher Artillery (Brander’s Battery).

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Tredegar Napoleon #1916

Tredegar produced number 1916 in September 1863.  It may be one of those appearing on a receipt filed on October 8, 1863 for eleven 12-pdr brass Napoleon guns.

Unlike other guns, for some reason Tredegar receipts or invoices rarely note the foundry numbers of Napoleons. Instead these arrive in batches with only the total weight indicated.

While the delivery date may be in question, stamps on the gun leave no doubt to the identity of the gun.  The right trunnion has the standard “J.R.A. & Co. // T.F.” used on Tredegar guns.

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Right Trunnion of #1916

The left trunnion displays the year of manufacture.

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Left Trunnion of #1916

In typical Tredegar style, the foundry number appears at the top of the muzzle face.

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Muzzle face of #1916

On this particular gun, a second stamp at the seven o’clock position shows the number “22.”  This may be a Confederate tracking number.

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Close Up of number 22 stamp

The weight of the gun appears just behind the vent – 1245 pounds.

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Weight stamp of #1916

So after establishing the administrative particulars from the stampings, let’s look at the external profile.  Complying with the Type 5 rule, this Tredegar Napoleon features a long reinforce.  However the breech face is somewhat rounded, not as much as the Augusta guns however.

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Reinforce and Breech Profile of #1916

The knob is flatter than that of Napoleons from Confederate Government Foundries.  The neck is substantially thicker.

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Breech face of #1916

The rear sight – pendulum hausse – seat used a three-point attachment similar to Federal guns.

For reference, the reinforce is a full 15 inches.  For comparison, my field clipboard seen in the photo below is 12 inches long.

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Reinforce of #1916

The muzzle of the Tredegar gun conforms to the Type 5 rule, with no swell.  Number 1916 retains the stub of the front post sight.

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Muzzle of #1916

The rimbases of the Tredegar Napoleon, or at least this particular gun, are larger and broader than on most Confederate Napoleons.  The base extends up the barrel, nearly to the top.

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Rimbases of #1916

All told, Tredegar produced 120 bronze Napoleons.  With bronze in short supply, the foundry shifted to iron in the later part of 1864, continuing with another 125 of that version.  But once again we conclude a look at Confederate cannon production with a reference to material shortages.

Published by Craig Swain

"Historical marker hunter" and Civil War enthusiast.

One thought on “James River Napoleons: Tredegar’s light 12-pdrs in bronze

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