It has been a while since I published a real “artillery” post. So let me renew my “quals” on cannon posts!
Four years ago, I offered up a post about 12-pdr Napoleon guns with the line “all Napoleons look alike until you examine them up close.” From that starting point, and with some deliberation, I offered up photos and details of the variations. In that 2010 post, I looked at a Napoleon from an 1862 production lot from Cyrus Alger, of Boston, Massachusetts. With the 150th of the Overland Campaign just a few weeks away, allow me to turn to an older Napoleon from Cyrus Alger which complements a display at Spotsylvania Court House battlefield, overlooking Laurel Hill and standing next to the spot where General John Sedgwick met his end.
The gun’s exterior offers a familiar form. Nothing out of the ordinary for a 12-pdr Light Field Gun, Model 1857, Modified, or a.k.a. “Napoleon.”
The breech has both upper and lower tabs seen on Cyrus Alger Napoleons.
It’s the muzzle where we see variations. Specifically the markings:
Or what is left of the markings. This battered and worn muzzle lacks the standard markings seen on most Napoleons. While the registry number is scarcely visible, at least two of the inspector’s initials still show:
J.P.F. for Joseph Pearson Farley. Compare this muzzle to that of a later production Alger Napoleon, over at Hazel Grove on the Chancellorsville battlefield:
Nothing that would alter the performance of the weapon. Just stamps conveying the administrative data for the gun. The Chancellorsville gun is from an 1863 production batch, and uses the markings specified in the Ordnance Instructions of 1861. The older gun, at the Wilderness, uses a mix of the 1841 and 1861 conventions.
While the registry number might elude positive identification, the capsquares protected the foundry number over the years. See the “881”?
The trunnion faces carry the vendor’s name and home city on the right:
And the year of manufacture on the left:
As common with pre-war cannons, the weight stamp was under the hausse seat:
Receipt records indicate the army received registry number 6 in the fall of 1861. While missing the early battles, this gun was around for the major battles of the war. While I have no documents to match the gun to a specific battery (as I write this post), it was issued to the Army of the Potomac are pretty good.
If that is the case, then this particular gun has some stories to tell. But today the gun stands guard over a silent battlefield where thousands fought just over 150 years ago.