Ye Olde English Gun… on Sullivan’s Island!

You may have seen this wartime photo of the Sullivan’s Island defenses before.

The photo shows two guns in Fort Marshall. The caption from the Library of Congress states this is the northeast angle of the fort. The photo was one of many taken of the defenses of Charleston in 1865 after the Federals occupied the city.

Let me go all Garry Adelman for a bit. There’s a Brooke single banded rifle (I think) on the left. But it is hard to glean any details from the photo. On the right, the closer gun, is a siege gun. And that gun is a bit more interesting, if you are trying to match surviving guns to wartime photos.


Nice study of a siege carriage, with a few implements as props. The size and mounting are the type used for 12-pdr siege guns. But notice a few particulars about this gun. There’s a breech loop over the knob. There’s a band over the breech. And there’s something like ornamentation on top of the barrel over the trunnions.


Well, well! That’s just like this gun:

Charleston 4 May 10 181

Yes, one of the old English 12-pdrs banded and rifled by the Confederates. The gun, as mentioned earlier, is on display at the Old Powder Magazine in Charleston. A refresher from the walk around provided, that particular gun’s trunnions, cascabel, and breeching loop are missing, with only scars on the metal. But that royal seal is on the top of the barrel.

Charleston 4 May 10 187

Certainly similar guns. But there were several old English guns converted to rifles by the Confederates. Without some definitive marking to work from (alas those missing trunnions!), I can only suggest the surviving gun was at Fort Marshall.

One other detail from the photo that I’d call attention to. Look at the ammunition stored in a little hut to the side of the gun.


Grape, canister, and either solid bolts or shells. There’s more of the first two types than the later. That, of course, gives some indication as to the intended use of this weapon – to sweep the beaches and dunes of any attackers on foot. And speaking of beach, look at all that sand piling up next to the projectiles.

You can almost feel the sand between your toes just looking at that photo.

But why would the photographer chose this particular setting? Don’t get me wrong, I like a good cannon photograph. But what attracted the cameraman’s eye when he setup this particular shot?

Published by Craig Swain

"Historical marker hunter" and Civil War enthusiast.

6 thoughts on “Ye Olde English Gun… on Sullivan’s Island!

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