Putting the punch in the Long Arm of Lee: Tredegar rearms the ANV

Back in February I presented a thread discussing the reforms and re-equipping of the Army of Northern Virginia in January-February 1863. One of those posts included a discussion of the guns delivered by Tredegar that February. As I related in that post, Tredegar delivered only sixteen field pieces that month. And at that rate, the Army of Northern Virginia (ANV) might have the required number of modern guns by September (and don’t even mention the western armies!). Forgive me with not updating this thread at the appropriate sesquicentennial time… better late than never.

The slow response of Tredegar to support the Confederate buildup in those critical winter months was in part due to a lack of resources. As mentioned back in December, the manufacturer lacked certain raw materials needed to cast bronze guns. And to get around this shortage, the Army of Northern Virginia turned in obsolete 6-pdrs guns, James rifles, and some 12-pdr howitzers. These were then turned into 12-pdr light field guns, or as we like to call them – Napoleons.

However the lag time in the production cycle must be considered. I don’t think it possible to accurately estimate the time between a battery’s turn in and the receipt back of the gunmetal in the form of a Napoleon. However, records show the field batteries didn’t start turning in 6-pdrs in large numbers until February. That, I would contend, led to an abundance of deliveries in March.

Page 704

So in March, Tredegar delivered twenty-four 12-pdr Napoleons, three 12-pdr mountain howitzers, and two 20-pdr Parrotts. A total of twenty-six full size field pieces. A 60% bump in deliveries from the previous month.

And for April?

Page 677

Three 10-pdr Parrotts, one more 20-pdr Parrott, and ten 12-pdr Napoleons. The second line down indicates a single 10-pdr Mullane Gun, which I would interpret as one of the Tredegar 3-inch iron rifles, without the band. Oh, and two more of those 12-pdr mountain howitzers for the fans of the little cannons. So overall numbers dropped again, to fourteen.

Still that was a total of 56 field guns in the ninety days prior to Chancellorsville. If that rate might be sustained, by the end of summer Tredegar might well rearm not only the ANV but at least one of the field armies in the west. (Oh, and if the Federals might cooperate by just not going on the offensive for several months…)

But there is one problem with the type of guns received. Most of these were bronze Napoleons. Continued production of those depended upon exchanges of older field guns. Tredegar cast six Napoleons that April and seven more in May. Then production picked up in June to sixteen.

While 12-pdr Napoleons were better than the older Model 1841 light field weapons, the ANV required a mix of smoothbores and rifles in order to compete with the Federals. And I’d stress iron rifles, as the bronze variety had not held up to field service. Yet on the eve of the Chancellorsville campaign, Brigadier-General William Pendleton lamented that only three 10-pdr Parrotts had arrived. Why the holdup of iron guns?

In Ironmaker to the Confederacy, historian Charles Dew attributes some of the problem to supply of iron from the Cloverdale furnaces in Botetourt County. Specifically he cited terrible weather in late January 1863 which left the roads impassable and the furnace out of charcoal. (Remind me again the dates for the “Mud March”….) The shortage affected not only the re-equipping of the ANV, but also plans to reinforce Mobile, Wilmington, Vicksburg, and, as I’ve also detailed, Charleston. And this also set back the Navy’s plans for ironclads.

Of course, with the victory at Chancellorsville, the Confederates brought in fourteen “battlefield acquisitions,” which I’ll get into in a post next week. That was balanced against the loss of eight guns on Marye’s Heights. Not a good exchange rate.

The Confederacy had to depend upon Tredegar even more through the spring of 1863. But another event would occur in May to further set back Tredegar’s production.

Published by Craig Swain

"Historical marker hunter" and Civil War enthusiast.

5 thoughts on “Putting the punch in the Long Arm of Lee: Tredegar rearms the ANV

  1. In the “Field Manual for the use of the Officers on Ordnance duty.”
    Prepared by the Ordnance Bureau.
    Printed by Ritchie & Dunnavant

    Page 121, I found at table of service- and bursting charges.

    Among the Ordnance mentioned her is:

    “4-pounder State Rifle”
    Service charge 1 Lbs, Bursting charge 0.43 Lbs.
    “12-pounder State Rifle”
    Service charge 1.25 Lbs, Bursting charge 0.75 Lbs.

    The note under the table says:
    The “state rifles” are Virginia pieces, cast iron, rifled and banded.

    4-pounder SB gun would have a caliber around 3.2″, 12-pounder would be around 4.62.

    I have not been able to find anything on those two guns in neither Ripley nor Hazlett, and Googling has brought me nothing.

    Do you have any information on these guns?

    Could it be Confederate copies of the 10-pounder Parrot and the 20-pounder Parrot?
    (Service and bursting charges are the same as for those Federal guns in Confederate service)


    1. Jeanette, yes, cannon historians have interpreted those rifles to be Parrotts. However, the question in my mind at least, is if these “state guns” were genuine West Point Foundry guns forwarded after the war, or if they were Tredegar copies. I’ve heard compelling arguments both ways. The reason for the 4-pdr designation, some say, is in reference to the 3.3-inch bore. Such fits into speculation that West Point sold rifles of that caliber to Virginia just before the war.

      The references for the 12-pdr state rifle, however, fall all out of place. The charge seems too small for a 20-pdr Parrott. But the bore might be correctly interpreted as 3.67 inch – so deriving 12-pdr from a doubling of the 6-pdr bore nomenclature (a common practice at the start of the war in particular).

      The trouble tracing this down is West Point records are silent on the sales to Virginia, and Tredegar’s gun book is missing pages from those early war months.

  2. Thank you for your informative answer, at least it shed some light to the mysterium.
    It makes sense that during the first 5 months of 1861, Southern states that still hadn’t seceded would be able to buy guns from West Point Foundry, as it would be in the Unions interest to try to pursuade those States from seceding, so normal relations would still be in effect. Being named “State Rifles” could indicate that those were ordered and delivered during this periode. Only too bad the West Point- and Tredegar books are silent.

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