Earlier I introduced this fine bronze cannon and it’s peculiar origin:
This cannon represents the 8th Indiana Battery at Chickamauga. Let’s do a formal walk around this Belgian cannon, noting the features and markings. As mentioned in the earlier post, the intent was to use this cannon to test European metal within an American pattern. So the exterior form is very much “American”:
We see a slight muzzle swell, chase ring, a single reinforce extending just past the trunnions, a base ring, then a simple cascabel at the breech. One could easily mistake this cannon for a 6-pdr Model 1841 Field Gun.
Looking close to the muzzle:
From the face, there is a simple cavetto and a fillet to join with the muzzle swell. The chase ring is a full astragal with fillets on each side. No other adorning features.
The trunnions themselves are simple forms also. That on the right has no markings:
“No. 1 // 369 K” The top line indicates this was the first of the set. The second line may indicate the weight – 369 kg = 813.5 pounds. Perhaps? But that would put the 6-pdr about 65 pounds lighter than a Model 1841 of the same caliber. But close to the weight of a Model 1840 6-pdr.
Or 369 K might refer to a foundry sequence number? There’s more markings to consider.
Normally on American weapons of this period, we’d find the weight stamped on the breech face, below the knob:
A little hard to read, but this stamp is 889. That number, in pounds, conforms to the weight of a standard Model 1841 6-pdr. Keep both these stampings (left trunnion and breech face) in mind when we look at the second Belgian gun.
We already discussed the nice label atop the base ring “Liège 1841”:
This is very much European in look. Note also the vent, which is bouched.
We also looked at the muzzle in the earlier post:
No so much a “brag” here, as many guns would fire eight times that number during the Civil War. “Fired.1000.Rounds. // 1842” was, I think, intended to mark this gun as the control example in testing. After all, 1000 rounds was not a full life-cycle test. That in mind, the bore diameter measures 93 mm, or 3.66142 inches. Giving allowances for my field measures and such, that’s very close to the standard 6-pdr bore specifications.
Moving to the other surviving example, on the north end of the Chickamauga battlefield, representing Douglas’s Texas Battery:
Again, a familiar exterior form.
This example has no markings on the muzzle face:
And about that muzzle, I measure it at 98 mm in diameter, or 3.85 inches. And that is what we might expect for a cannon subjected to a great number of test fires. The bore, however, is relatively smooth:
Looking aside from the mud-dauber nest and the bottle seated in the chamber, there’s not a lot of scratches. Though the stress lines give the appearance of use.
The left trunnion has markings:
“No. 4 // 370 K” The first, of course, indicates this was the last of the set purchased in Belgium. And 370 kg would be 815.7 pounds. Again, closer to the Model 1840, which would be the pattern in hand when the board was in Belgium, than the Model 1841.
Yes. But it reads “1063”. And that is NOT the weight of the piece. So “might be” and “could be” on the stampings.
The base ring on No. 4 has the same label as the first gun:
However, note the vent. This vent was cleared after what appears to be a lot of wear.
I didn’t have my full field kit in hand when visiting these guns. So I didn’t get a chance to take overall measurements. However, conveniently sited next to No. 4 is a standard Model 1841 6-pdr, registry number 146, cast by Ames in 1844:
The base ring sits directly atop the elevating screw. The same as on the Belgian cannons. These National Park Service reproduction carriages tend to be very uniform in dimensions. So my first inclination is the Belgian guns match the Model 1841 in terms of length. At least from the trunnions to base ring.
But if we go with the trunnion stamp as the weight in kilograms? Hard to reconcile that with the dimensions. One of these days I’ll return to the Belgian guns to give an exact number on the dimensions. (Or perhaps a reader with a tape measure might save me the trip!) And that might help discriminate the stampings.
Questions of weight and dimensions aside, there are two of the four Belgian bronze guns surviving – number 1 and number 4. If we accept No. 1 as the “control” for experiments on endurance…. and No. 4, with all that bore wear, as subjected to substantial firings… then might we suppose No. 2 and No. 3 were destroyed in the process?
Though I’ve never run across a formal report of testing for these Belgian guns, I do know William Wade used the results in other experiments. And for the next few years Wade would work to perfect the alloying process for bronze and other fine points of casting. The result that played out on battlefields of the Mexican-American War. Then later the Civil War.