A Bore-ing Day at Manassas

Yesterday the staff and I took an afternoon trip to Manassas to burn off what energy we had left after a day of yard-work.  While on the Henry Hill trail, I took the opportunity to take “measure” of some familiar guns.

Manassas 25 June 11 064
Bore of 6-pdr Model 1841, Alger #111

I’ve always carried a tape measure and small ruler with my camera/field bag.  But until recently I never had a camera that would provide the close-focus resolution to make pictures worth posting.   The subject of this photo is a 6-pdr Field Gun produced by Cyrus Alger in 1854.

According to the 1862 Ordnance Manual, the 6-pdr’s bore measured 3.76 inches (that is 3.67 inches for the projectile plus 0.09 inches for windage).  In the photo my ruler stands at a slant, but I’d call the measure about 3 and 50/64ths, or 3.78 inches.  Considering this gun is over 150 years old, been in the elements for much of that time, and has scars to attest to heavy use – that’s not bad.

Moving down the line, another 6-pdr, this one produced by Miles Greenwood’s Eagle Foundry in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1861, has similar measures.

Manassas 25 June 11 043
Bore of 6-pdr Model 1841, Greenwood #11

Again, adjusting for the placement of the ruler, I’d call it 3 and 50/64ths.  Not as much scarring in the bore of this “western” gun, however.

On the other hand, the bore of a Model 1835 6-pdr now measures a bit more.

Manassas 25 June 11 028
Bore of 6-pdr Model 1835, Ames #11

This is Ames registry #11, cast in 1837.  It’s bore measures about 3 and 54/64ths in diameter.   Maybe it was fired more?  Maybe the inspector allowed a bit more windage?

Now how about the rifled field guns?

Let’s start with a gun that started life as a smoothbore.

Manassas 25 June 11 003
Bore of Rifled 6-pdr, Ames #176

Ames produced registry number 176 as a smoothbore in 1854.  Either just before, or in the early stages of the war, the gun was rifled.  The bore went from 3.76-inches to what I measure at 3.84 inches (3 and 56/64ths to keep on the same scale as the smoothbores noted above).  Note the rifling lands on the upper bore barely touch the “28” and “56” marks on the ruler.

Another gun on the line shares the same Model 1841 pattern, but was ordered from the start as a rifled gun.

Manassas 25 June 11 054
Bore of Ames #530, James Rifle Type 1

Ames Manufacturing produced registry number 530 against an order for 6-pdr rifled guns.  I’d measure this bore with a bit less windage at 3 and 13/16ths, or 3.82 inches.   Bore wear?  Or increased tolerance on guns produced as rifles from the start?  My field notes over the years lead me to believe this is a case of wear.

But compare to the wider bore of the 12-pdr field howitzers on the same line.

Manassas 25 June 11 033
Bore of 12-pdr Model 1841, Marshall #23

By the manual, the bore should measure 4.72 inches.  In this case, the ruler measures to the 46 mark past four inches, for 46/64ths.  That’s very, very close to the regulation measure.

I made some interesting measures of the Parrott rifles on the Federal side of the line, but I’ll save those for a post comparing Tredegar and West Point Parrott rifles.

Hundredths of an inch.  But every hundredth important to the weapons performance.

James Rifles, Part V – Rifled 6-pdr Cannon

This last section on the James field guns includes weapons that retained the standard 6-pounder bore size, 3.67-inch, but were rifled.  And there is no real standard as to rifling pattern or external shape.  I label these “tentatively” or in some cases “incorrectly identified” as James Rifles.  Other than having the capability of firing a James type projectile, these weapons cannot be definitively traced to anything Charles T. James worked on.  Some were likely experimental conversions used for testing.  Others were modifications of existing stocks for service issue.  And some were new production. If nothing else, because these guns were bronze weapons introduced around the same time as the true James rifles, there is some similarity to their story and classification.

Of those which were pressed into service (early war in particular), contemporary designations span from “6-pdr Rifled” to “12-pdr Rifle” to “James Rifles.”  Personally I try to avoid contradiction and confusion on the subject.  As such I propose these weapons are best called “6-pdr Field Guns, Rifled,” or Rifled 6-pdr for short.  This attributes the bore size, regardless of rifling pattern. Unless some new documentary evidence comes to light, in my opinion these should not be called true James Rifles.

Those disclaimers noted, the Rifled 6-pdr fit into three broad categories for identification:

– Guns cast to standard patterns prior to the Model 1841 6-pdr Field Gun which were rifled.

– Non-standard 6-pdr types which were rifled either for testing or potentially for service.

– Model 1841 6-pdr Field Guns which were rifled or ordered as rifled guns, and of course retained the 3.67-inch bore (and thus are not James Type 1).

And within those three categories, there are variations in rifling.

Of the first category, only two have ever been identified, both from Ames Manufacturing of Massachusetts and both reported in private hands – a Model 1835 with the registry number 23 and a Model 1840 with registry number 70.  The Model 1835 was recorded with 20 groove flat rifling, but reported observations of the Model 1840 example used an odd form of rifling.  Instead of evenly spaced lands and grooves, the Model 1840 example is said to have 20 narrow and 4 broad grooves.  Some historians have considered this an example of “Atwater” rifling, which was an experimental system based on some flawed assumptions about projectile behavior.   It would be easy to assume both were machined as part of early rifled cannon experiments.  But with both guns out of public view for further scrutiny, and a complete lack of pedigree documentation, nothing can be confirmed.

Four 6-pdrs, from a non-standard pattern, are on display at Shiloh National Military Park.  These I affectionately call “Alger Eagles” and have covered in detail in another post.  The ten groove rifling hints there is some connection to the other rifled 6-pdrs, at least in terms of technical application.  As with the older models mentioned above, a lack of documentation leaves the story of these weapons speculative.  In addition to not being “true” James rifles, these may have been purely experimental.  Other rifled cannon using the 3.67-inch bore size but not the Model 1841 pattern were produced by Parrott, Sawyer, Wiard, and Delafield.  But these are pattern designs which fall outside of the discussion of James Rifles.

Perhaps a little less speculative, and certainly more accessible, are several Model 1841 pattern 6-pdr Field Guns which were either pulled from stocks and rifled or ordered from the manufacturer with rifling.  From a distance, these look exactly like James Type 1.  One must closely examine the bore to note variations in rifling and bore size (which is why I carry a tape measure in my day pack!).  The difference between the two types is rather small – by draft measure 0.13-inch.  So that standard is difficult to apply in the field.  More precise is to count the number of grooves. All James Type 1 have 15 grooves.  However the 6-pdr rifles varied between 6 and 10 grooves.  Four different manufacturers produced Rifled 6-pdrs – Cyrus Alger of Massachusetts, Ames Manufacturing, Miles Greenwood of Cincinnati, and William D. Marshall of St. Louis.  Of twenty-nine surviving cataloged examples, seventeen are on display at Shiloh.

One of the remainder is at Gettysburg, the sole example on an “Eastern” battlefield, and has been altered to a False Napoleon (at the Peach Orchard if my notes are correct).  Including that “False Napoleon,” eleven of the survivors were produced by Alger.  All have ten groove rifling.  Two examples stand on the line of artillery near the Shiloh visitor center.    Registry number 831, produced in 1861 by Alger, represents Dresser’s Battery (Battery D, 2nd Illinois Lt. Arty.)  A quick look at the muzzle confirms the number and the rifling.

Rifled 6-pdr, Registry Number 831
Rifled 6-pdr, Registry Number 831

In profile the piece looks no different than a standard smoothbore Model 1841, save the rear sight arrangement.

Rifled 6-pdr at Dresser's Battery
Rifled 6-pdr at Dresser's Battery

Offering an excellent comparison, the other gun representing the battery at this location is a James Type 1, 3.80-inch Rifle.

James Type 1, Greewood Registry No. 108
James Type 1, Greenwood Registry No. 108

With the similarity in form, one must examine the bore for a positive identification.

Another Rifled 6-pdr stands next to the tablet for Stone’s Battery (Battery K, 1st Missouri Lt. Arty.) further west on Grant’s last line at Shiloh.

Rifled 6-pdr Registry No. 1107
Rifled 6-pdr Registry No. 1107

The registry number (1107) and weight (887 lbs.) are clear in this view, thanks to some powder mix applied by an unknown (or unknowing?) cannon hunter.  Other markings confirm Alger production in 1861.  On the muzzle, the front sight post is protected by a shroud.  Few other field pieces have this.  It appears to be iron, and is slotted into cuts on the muzzle lip.  Hard to say if this was an official modification, one done for experimentation, or a field modification.   As both these Alger weapons were produced in 1861, but retained the same registry number sequence as smoothbore weapons, likely these were pulled from  production batches and rifled.  Five other Alger weapons, identified only through ordnance records, were ordered and produced as rifled guns, receiving registry numbers from a new sequence.

However, three Rifled 6-pdrs from Ames were more likely smoothbore weapons pulled from service stocks and rifled.  And keeping with the “tour” all three stand along Grant’s last line at Shiloh today.

Rifled 6-pdr, Ames Reg. No. 436
Rifled 6-pdr, Ames Reg. No. 436

Somewhat difficult to make out the last digit, but this pieces carries the registry number 436.  It stands in Mann’s Battery (Battery C, 1st Missouri Lt. Arty.) along with two James Type 2 rifles.  As with the Alger guns mentioned above, this piece features 10 groove rifling.  Tracing the registry number, it matches to a production batch cast in 1853 and inspected by Louis A. de Barth Walbach. Upon inspection of the breech ring, some of the history of the piece is revealed:

Inscription on Breech Ring
Inscription on Breech Ring

The inscription reads “Rifled by C. Alger & Co. // Boston, Mass.”  Pretty good indication this weapon was taken in hand for rifling well after production, although the date of the processing is not indicated.  A piece at nearby Welker’s Battery (Battery H, 1st Missouri Lt. Arty.), registry number 431, carries a similar inscription.

But not all of the Ames rifled 6-pdrs have 10 groove rifling.  A few steps away at the position for Schwartz’s Battery (Battery E, 2nd Illinois Lt. Arty.) on Grant’s line is an example with eight groove rifling.

Ames Reg. No. 433 with 8 Grooves
Ames Reg. No. 433 with 8 Grooves

Other than the number of grooves, this piece differs little from the two mentioned above, even originating from the same production lot.  Another Ames weapon on display at Chickamauga-Chattanooga Battlefield Park has six groove rifling.  Clearly these were modifications of existing weapons.  However, a “clean” set of six weapons are listed in the acceptance sheets for Ames which indicate at some point in 1861, the factory reset the registry number sequence, perhaps indicating weapons produced as rifles from the start of casting.  All six survive today and are on display in the National Parks.  Unfortunately I do not have a photo of the one example at Shiloh.  These six weapons used 10 groove rifling.

Also produced as rifled 6-pdrs from the start were a batch of six produced by Marshall & Company of St. Louis.  One of these at Shiloh represents the initial Day 2 position for Terrill’s Battery (Battery H, 5th U.S. Artillery) (Recall the same battery is represented by James Type 3 at the second position).

Marshall Rifled 6-pdr Reg. No. 35
Marshall Rifled 6-pdr Reg. No. 35

Marshall’s guns, ordered in September 1861 and delivered by May 1862, featured seven groove rifling.  Also from the “Western” foundries, Miles Greenwood’s factory in Cincinnati produced a batch of rifled 6-pdrs, but these used eight or nine groove rifling.  Two other vendors, who’s weapons have not been located among survivors, contracted to produce rifled 6-pdrs early in the war.  G.H. Penfield, of Illinois, contracted to produce enough weapons to fill fourteen batteries, but only delivered twelve guns.  And A.J. Richardson (location unknown) is credited with one piece.

Of course, as alluded to in the opening for this (long) post, the story of the Rifled 6-pdr is incomplete at best.  Some of these weapons were clearly intended to fill experimental roles.  Yet, others were apparently produced with clear intentions of field service.  Tactically, as with the James Type 1, very little benefit was gained in range or capability over the smoothbore weapons.  And with the mass production of better iron rifles, these pieces were superfluous to the Union Army’s needs.   And there is scan mention of the pieces in Confederate service.   The question arises then if ANY of these weapons saw active service.  Parker Hills makes a convincing argument for the weapons use at the 1863 Battle of Raymond, in an article posted to the Friends of Raymond website.

In summary, no these weapons were not “true” James rifles.  Nor do they fit within even a loose definition of a single “type” given the variation in form, rifling, and manufacture.  Some of these were undoubtedly experimental steps along an evolutionary path, which quite well have led to the James rifles and other contemporary weapons.  As such, they warrant a cursory examination.

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Aside from on site notes and links provided above, sources consulted for this post were:

Hazlett, James C., Edwin Olmstead, and M. Hume Parks. Field Artillery Weapons of the Civil War, Revised Edition. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2004.

Olmstead, Edwin, Wayne E. Stark, and Spencer C. Tucker. The Big Guns: Civil War Siege, Seacoast and Naval Cannon. Alexandria Bay, NY: Museum Restoration Service, 1997.

Ripley, Warren. Artillery and Ammunition of the Civil War, 4th Edition. Charleston, S.C.: The Battery Press, 1984.

James Rifles, Part IV – The Type 3

The previously mentioned “True James Rifles,” Type 1 and Type 2 shared, beyond a common bore size, bronze construction.  Both types also saw active service during the first half of the war.  However, such was not the case with the Type 3 (again a designation imposed by historians to classify the type, but not a contemporary nomenclature).   The James Rifle Type 3 was constructed of cast steel (although the lack of weathering may indicate the use of wrought iron) and was only an experimental type as far as can be determined.

The authors of “Field Artillery Weapons of the Civil War” point out the Type 3 is tied to an experimental batch of guns indicated on a purchase order of February 15, 1863.  The order called for six bronze 14-pdr rifles, six bronze rifled Napoleons, and six cast steel rifles from Ames Manufacturing Company.  The six 14-pdrs were probably the last batch of James Type 2, Series 4 produced.  The six rifled Napoleons have been discussed in another blog post.  That leaves the six weapons described as cast steel.  Collectively the six weighed 5,581 pounds, or a shade over 930 pounds each.  No other details are known from the documentary evidence.

With no leads, historians have never definitively identified examples of this type.   But speculation has centered on three weapons on display at Shiloh National Military Park.  Two of the three represent Terrill’s Battery (Battery H, 5th U.S. Artillery) just south of the Sunken Road line, at a second day fighting position.

Terrill's Battery Position
Terrill's Battery Position (Second Day, 2nd Position)

Neither weapon has any markings to note.  But the form is the familiar Ordnance Shape of 1861.  The form, fittings, and rifling all indicate these weapons are James Rifles.

James Type 3 Profile
James Type 3 Profile

Yes, these feature a unique trunnion band instead of the conventional rimbase attachment.  This type of mounting, while uncommon among American guns, was used on Blakely, Whitworth, and Armstrong guns imported from England during the war.  In most cases, the trunnion band was used where the gun tube was produced with a composite construction, particularly early steel weapons.  The presence of the trunnion band caused many historians to identify these pieces on display at Shiloh as Blakely Rifles (Warren Ripley tentatively labeled it the Blakely Type 8 in his tally).

Trunnion Band on James Type 3
Trunnion Band on James Type 3

Blakely guns often used hook-slant rifling.  However where the English gun-maker used flat lands and grooves, Blakely preferred seven grooves.

Seven Groove Blakely Rifling
Seven Groove Blakely Rifling

These two guns have ten flat lands and grooves, very much like that used on the Type 3, Series 2,3,4 Bronze James Rifles.  My measurements indicate the bore is about 3.78-inches between the lands (raised portion), clearly putting the projectile size in line with the preferred “true James” types.

Bore of James Type 3
Bore of James Type 3

At the breech are the familiar slot and retaining screw socket for a James tangent sight. However, no front sight arrangement is apparent.

Sight Mounts for James Type 3
Sight Mounts for James Type 3

Perhaps the sight sockets are the best evidence for these pieces’ identification as James Rifles.  However the profile of the breech also indicates some commonality in form with the James Type 2.

James Type 3 Breech Profile
James Type 3 Breech Profile

The knob and neck form match closely that used on the bronze pieces from Ames Manufacturing.  The logical presumption is these were all Ames products using either the same set of molds or lathe patterns.

I’d stress the lathe pattern presumption a bit.  The guns on display at Terrill’s Battery have the same level of weathering seen on the familiar 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Such implies the weapon was produced with a wrought iron technique (and then turned down on the lathe).  At the same time, one would expect “cast steel” as indicated on the invoice cited above would not stand up to 100 plus years of exposure outdoors at Shiloh.  Thus these weapons might be cast iron, cast steel, or wrought iron.  Presumably the trunnion band was of different construction and slipped on while hot and “sweated” on.  The only way to tell for sure would be destructive testing, which I would not recommend.

Thus the look at the “True James” Rifles ends with a speculative footnote.  The preponderance of physical evidence shows the weapons flanking Terrill’s tablet at Shiloh are indeed James Rifles, showing lines in common with contemporary Ames products.  However with no summary of the testing or notations, the assumption must be these types offered no advantage over existing 3-inch Ordnance Rifles, 10-pdr Parrott Rifles or 20-pdr Parrott Rifles (whose caliber the James Rifles is closest in size).

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Aside from on site notes and links provided above, sources consulted for this post were:

Hazlett, James C., Edwin Olmstead, and M. Hume Parks. Field Artillery Weapons of the Civil War, Revised Edition. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2004.

Ripley, Warren. Artillery and Ammunition of the Civil War, 4th Edition. Charleston, S.C.: The Battery Press, 1984.

James Rifles, Part III – The Type 2

Of the types identified as James Rifles, the most familiar is what some historians have come to call the Type 2.   The James Rifle, Type 2 has the same 3.80-inch bore of the other “true James Rifles.”  However what differentiated the type from the Type 1 was the exterior form – that of the “Ordnance shape” matching that defined in 1861.  The shape offered sweeping, easy lines, with no breech or chase ring.  The only right angle allowed on the form was where the trunnions joined the rimbases.   Otherwise the look was what we’d call today “streamlined.”

James Rifle, Type 2, Series 4
James Rifle, Type 2, Series 4

Seen here is Registry Number 21, produced in 1861 by Ames Manufacturing.  Today it represents Stone’s Battery (Bty K, 1st Missouri Lt. Arty.) along with three other guns along Grant’s Last Line at Shiloh National Military Park.  Clearly the form resembled a bronze version of the 3-inch Ordnance Rifle.  Just slightly larger.  For comparison consider the dimensions of the James Type 1, 3-inch Ordnance Rifle, the James Type 2, and the 4.5-inch Siege Rifle:

James Type 1 3-in Ord. Rifle James Type 2 4.5-in Rifle
Bore 3.8 in. 3 in. 3.8 in. 4.5 in.
Length Overall 65.6 in. 72.7 in. 74 in. 133 in.
Length of Bore 57.5 in. 62.75 in. 65 in. 120 in.
Muzzle Diameter (exterior) 18.17 in. * 6 in. 6.38 in. 9 in.
Diameter at Vent (Exterior) 9.8 in. 9.5 in. 9.9 in. 16 in.
Trunion Diameter 3.67 in. 3.67 in. 3.67 in. 5.3 in.
Metal Bronze Iron Bronze Iron
Weight 880 lbs. 820 lbs. 917 lbs. 3,572 lbs.
*Dimensions around Muzzle Swell

In short, the James Type 2 was about eight inches longer than the Type 1 (which used the Model 1841 form), but only slightly larger than the 3-inch Ordinance Rifle.  And the next notch up on the caliber scale, the 4.5-inch Rifle, was much more massive.

As indicated on the caption from the photo above, the James Type 2 is sub-classed by historians in four different series.  These series, like the type designations for the James Rifles, are purely the discriminators placed upon the surviving weapons found today, and do not match any known design or production designations.

The James Rifle Type 2, Series 1 differs from the later variants by having seven-groove rifling.  The reason for the number of grooves might have been simply to conform with the 3-inch rifle specifications (see page 17 of the 1861 Ordnance Manual).   No firm records exist as to the number manufactured, but based on registry numbers, likely only six were produced.  Of the five survivors, three are at Shiloh National Military Park.  One of these, on display at the visitor center.

James Rifle Type 2, Series 1 (center)
James Rifle Type 2, Series 1 (center)

A rather neat triangle of markings, over the reinforce between the vent and trunnions, identifies the piece and its origins.  These read “James Rifled Cannon // Manufactured by // Ames Mfg. Co. // Chicopee // Mass.”  :

James Type 2, Series 1 Markings
James Type 2, Series 1 Markings

Also visible on this particular gun, just above the triangle are inscriptions indicating the weapon was captured by the 4th U.S. Infantry at Corinth, October 4, 1862.

The manufacturer’s information is repeated on the right trunnion; and the year of manufacture – 1861 on the left.  The inspector’s initials, G.T.B. for George Thatcher Balch, appears on the muzzle.  Of note, ALL James Type 2 rifles were produced by Ames Manufacturing.   And all that have inspectors initials (a few do not or are worn too badly to identify) bear those of Lt. Balch.

However, outside of these first six pieces, the remainder of the Type 2 rifles used 10-groove rifling.  No records indicate exactly why, but one possible explanation was the inability of the projectile to seat in the wide rifling.  What historians have labeled the Type 2, Series 2 continued to use the “triangle” markings over the back part of the gun.  But these lack any acceptance marks such as the inspectors initials or “U.S.” stamps.

10-groove Rifling of Series 2
10-groove Rifling of Series 2

Only six survivors of fitting this “strict” description have been found.  Either the batch was a set of pre-production prototypes, or perhaps was a set not handled within the standard Army orders.  All six are on display at Shiloh.  One of these represents Mann’s Battery (Battery C, 1st Missouri Lt. Arty.) in the Peach Orchard, which was the unit’s second position of April 6, 1862..

James Type 2, Series 2
James Type 2, Series 2

The triangle of markings is clear, in spite of the patina:

Type 2, Series 2 "Triangle"
Type 2, Series 2 “Triangle”

The weight is recorded with a small stamping under the knob, which is standard for all but the last series of Type 2 guns.

Weight Markings - 918
Weight Markings – 920

Regardless of the reason for the switch to ten groove rifling, the remaining batches conformed to that standard.  In fact the only difference between the Series 3 and 4 was the markings.  Those for the Series 3 conform to the Regulations of 1840, while those of Series 4 conform to Regulations of 1861.    The former called for the registry number and inspectors initials on the muzzle face; manufacturer’s name on the right trunnion; year of manufacture on the left trunnion; the weight under the knob; and “U.S.” between the trunnions as an acceptance mark.  Those of the later regulation placed all markings on the muzzle face, with the exception of the “U.S.” acceptance mark.

Located at Mann’s Battery’s third position, this time along Grant’s Last Line, at Shiloh, is one of the park’s five Type 2, Series 3.  And to conform with the regulations, G.T.B., for the inspector, appears at the top, with the registry number at the bottom (either a 13 or 18).

Muzzle of a Type 2, Series 3
Muzzle of a Type 2, Series 3

Eighteen of this type have been located today, perhaps indicating a short production run.  Four of these survivors carry markings for the State of Connecticut, two which stand today on Matthews Hill in the Manassas National Battlefield Park.

State of Connecticut Markings
State of Connecticut Markings

By far the most numerous of the James Type 2 was the Series 4, with over eighty produced.  The Series enjoyed remarkable survival rates, with over fifty existing today.  With all the markings on the muzzle, these are easy to identify.

Type 2, Series 4 Muzzle
Type 2, Series 4 Muzzle

This piece is one of a pair representing Richardson’s Battery (Battery D, 1st Missouri Lt. Arty.) along Grant’s Last Line, again at Shiloh.  Clear are the stamps for “1862,” “A.M.C” for Ames Manufacturing Company, “G.T.B.,” “911” for the weight, and “No. 46.”

All of these James Type 2 used a standard sighting system.  The front sight was a blade type, fixed to the muzzle.  On the breech, a slot for a tangent sight passed under the knob.  This sight was fixed with a screw passing vertically into the slot.

Gunner's View Showing Slot for Rear Sight and Locking Screw Hole
Gunner’s View Showing Slot for Rear Sight and Locking Screw Hole

I have not seen a definitive range table for the James Type 2 Rifles, and can only assume the ranges were slightly better than that of the Type 1 (due to the longer bore).  Indeed the Ordnance Manual of 1861 did not even mention the caliber.  In theory, the caliber of gun gave a weight of shell on par with 20-pdr Parrott Rifles.  So it is nice to speculate about the potential of these weapons.  However, clearly there was enough working against the type to force it out of service.  During the Antietam Campaign of 1862, only ten James Rifles were numbered with the Army of the Potomac.  At Gettysburg the following year only four examples of the type, equipping the 2nd Connecticut Light Artillery which had just been pulled from Washington’s defenses, were on the field.  The phase out was slower in the Western Theater, with James Rifles remaining in service as late as the Atlanta Campaign.  Production ceased in 1862, with the exception of one test batch in February 1863 (which works in to the discussion of the Type 3 which I shall approach next).

Perhaps there was a side benefit of this rapid decline in popularity.   Considering the survival rate of the Type 2s, particularly the Series 3, and that few show excessive bore wear, the James were quickly sent to the arsenal storage facilities.  Instead of their numbers reduced by post-war service, plenty of the type remained in stocks when the War Department called the old guns out for park displays in the 1890s.

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Aside from on site notes and links provided above, sources consulted for this post were:

Hazlett, James C., Edwin Olmstead, and M. Hume Parks. Field Artillery Weapons of the Civil War, Revised Edition. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2004.

Olmstead, Edwin, Wayne E. Stark, and Spencer C. Tucker. The Big Guns: Civil War Siege, Seacoast and Naval Cannon. Alexandria Bay, NY: Museum Restoration Service, 1997.

Ripley, Warren. Artillery and Ammunition of the Civil War, 4th Edition. Charleston, S.C.: The Battery Press, 1984.

James Rifles, Part II – The Type 1

As mentioned in the previous post on James rifled guns, historians of artillery have defined a “true” James rifle as having a 3.80-inch diameter bore.  Charles T. James preferred that caliber for his work.  While other larger and smaller projectiles were produced, it was the 3.80-inch that best identifies the type.

Why 3.80-inch?  That bore size is odd when considering the “standard” bore diameters in use during the muzzle loading days – 6-pdr was 3.67-inch; 9-pdr was 4.2-inch, 12-pdr was 4.62-inch.  The James standard fell somewhere between a 6-pdr and a 7-pdr (3.86-inch) bore size.  And the later was not much more than a gauge for sizing, certainly not used for any issued field piece.  The only lead I have is a citation indicating the caliber was chosen as it allowed the gun-makers to ream out damaged and worn 6-pdrs and apply the rifling.  Makes sense, but implies the Army had a program in place to re-utilize and refurbish old field pieces.

Following successful trials of rifled guns, the Army did order a portion of the existing field gun stocks converted.  Later day historians have labeled this the “James Rifle, Type 1.”  All Type 1s, except one, have 15-groove rifling, 3.80-inch bore, and were either converted from or cast as Model 1841 6-pdr bronze field guns.  An example of this conversion is a field piece on display at Manassas National Battlefield Park, the southernmost of the field guns opposite Henry House Hill.

Model 1841 6-pdr Field Gun Rebored to James Rifle Type 1
Model 1841 6-pdr Field Gun Bored to James Rifle

A date on the left trunnion indicates the piece was cast in 1845.  And on the left trunnion is the stamp of N.P. Ames, of Springfield, Massachusetts.  The registry number 176 and the inspector’s initials J.W.R. (John Wolfe Ripley) is on the muzzle.

Muzzle of #176
Muzzle of #176

And a closer examination of the bore shows fifteen lands and grooves.

Fifteen Grooves - Count 'em!
Fifteen Grooves - Count 'em!

Certainly positive proof that at least some of the existing field pieces were taken in hand and bored out for James 3.80-inch projectiles.  Based on the tally of 22 other similar survivors, a handful of the older production Model 1841 from Cyrus Alger and Ames were modified in this manner.   Several of those survivors were later, in the post-war, taken in hand by the War Department at Gettysburg for conversion to false Napoleons, making identification tricky for cannon hunters today!   Still figure of over 600 Model 1841 6-pdrs produced before 1861, and around 250 of those cataloged as survivors, to find only 23 means the conversion was not too common.

Slightly more common are series of James Type 1 rifles which were delivered as new production.  Both Ames and Miles Greenwood of Cincinnati, Ohio produced such after 1861.  Fittingly, on display at Manassas also, but on the north end of the Confederate gun line, is one of Greenwood’s James Type 1 rifles from their lot of 51 delivered.

Greenwood James Rifle Type 1, Registry #47
Greenwood James Rifle Type 1, Registry #47

Barely visible on the battered trunnions are the manufacturer’s “M. Greenwood” and “Cincinnati O.” circling the year of manufacture – 1861.  The same 15 groove rifling was applied.  And clear at the twelve o’clock position is the number “47.”

Muzzle of Greenwood James Type 1
Muzzle of Greenwood James Type 1

Of course when mentioning the James rifles, one must recognize that Shiloh National Battlefield Park has the largest collection.  The Ames James Type 1 below is one of seventeen examples there.

Ames James Type 1 at Shiloh
Ames James Type 1 at Shiloh

This particular piece stands in a line of guns representing Ross’s Battery at the Peach Orchard.  On the left trunnion, barely visible, is the year 1861.  Clearer on the right trunnion is the manufacturer’s stamp – Ames Co. // Founders // Chicopee, Mass. Yes, the firm’s name changed after the death of Nathan P. Ames in 1847.  Chicopee and Springfield are adjacent, so the change likely did not indicate the foundry moved, but rather the preference of the new owner James T. Ames with regard to his mailing address did.

And yet another of these James Type 1 “new production” stands outside the Antietam National Battlefield Park visitor center.  It was featured in a post by Mannie Gentile last year.

Greenwood James Type 1, Registry #69
Greenwood James Type 1, Registry #69

The tactical impact of these bronze rifles was arguably negligible.  At 4 degrees of elevation, a standard 6-pdr could fire a shell to 1200 yards and solid shot to 1500 yards.  Based on field reports from the Peninsula Campaign of 1862, the James Type 1 rifles could fire a shell to 1400 yards.  (And defying the definition of the “James System” the recorded range was using Schenkl and Hotchkiss shells, not the James type designed for the gun!)  But the rifle did offer more accuracy.  And of course there was the unsolved problem with bore erosion on the bronze guns.

Regardless , the James Type 1 saw wide service early in the war when both armies were short of gun tubes.  Even as late as Chickamauga, in 1863, Confederate reports of captured ordnance list nine James rifles, which based on the recorded weight some would logically be James Type 1.  In service  the weapon was referred to by many names to include 12-pdr, 13-pdr Rifle, and the confusing “6-pdr Bronze Gun Rifled on James System.”  Enough variation in the primary sources to drive a researcher to drink!

There are two oddities within the James Type 1 set accepted by historians.  Neither of two I can say I’ve seen first hand.  The first is an iron field gun, with the same 15 groove rifling and 3.80 bore.  This interesting piece is said to be in Newport, Rhode Island and is similar in form to several experimental smoothbores produced by Cyrus Alger in 1854.  The other is likely the one and only Confederate James, produced by Scates & Co. of Mobile, Alabama in 1861.   It was reported in Ridgefield, New Jersey.  And it conforms to the dimensions and form of the Federal bronze James Type 1, to include the Model 1841 exterior lines.

In conclusion, the James Rifle, Type 1 was a derivative type matching the new technology with existing gun forms.  The type served to transition the armies, using existing stockpiles and production tooling, until the more advanced designs using iron, with cleaner lines, and advanced construction techniques were available.  At a time when artillery pieces were desperately needed, these were at least serviceable options.

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Aside from on site notes and links provided above, sources consulted for this post were:

Hazlett, James C., Edwin Olmstead, and M. Hume Parks. Field Artillery Weapons of the Civil War, Revised Edition. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2004.

Muller, John.  A Treatise of Artillery.  Reprint of the 1780 edition.  Alexandria Bay, NY: Museum Restoration Service, 1977.  (Used to reference the standard artillery bore sizes.)

Olmstead, Edwin, Wayne E. Stark, and Spencer C. Tucker. The Big Guns: Civil War Siege, Seacoast and Naval Cannon. Alexandria Bay, NY: Museum Restoration Service, 1997.

Ripley, Warren. Artillery and Ammunition of the Civil War, 4th Edition. Charleston, S.C.: The Battery Press, 1984.

James Rifles, Part 1

In my view, the James Rifle was an early war “fad” that came and past.  Much like a teen pop star’s popularity passes quickly, everyone wanted a James Rifle in 1861.  But by 1863, the fad had passed and the weapons were generally discarded in favor of Napoleons, Parrotts, or Ordnance Rifles.  And just as the later piece is erroneously called “Rodman” by many otherwise well versed historians, the James is often misidentified or incorrectly cited.  Part of the confusion within the contemporary accounts, and what precisely should be classified as a James Rifle.  On the other hand that there was not just “one” type of James Rifle.

The weapons are attributed to Charles Tillinghast James, of Rhode Island.  Born in 1805, James was a self-made man.  In spite of limited education, he rose to prominence in the milling industry, and served a term in the U.S. Senate (1851-57).  In the Rhode Island State Militia, he held the rank of Major General.  Apparently in that capacity, he became interested in the firearms industry, and with his background in machinery and design, began to experiment.  These experiments expanded to include cannon, and led to among others Patent Number 14,135, offering specifics for a new type of projectile.

Charles T James
Charles T James

The advancement cited in James’ patent was the use of “fibrous material” were others used soft metal.  Cannon projectiles, unlike musket balls, could not be formed of solid lead.  So to force a solid iron projectile to take to the rifling, contemporary designers often used a soft metal cup at the base of the projectile or a band of similar soft metal around the mid-section.  James felt the metal used would detach in the bore, or perhaps leave a residue behind, which would foul the rifling.  This he opted for, as stated in the patent, hemp to form a sabot around the base of the projectile.  The original patent used a mandrel to force the material outward to engage the rifling.  However, it appears later the mandrel was dispensed with.  Instead James projectiles had a tail section with ribs forming a “cage” of sorts.  Over this cage the “fibrous material” was fitted.  On firing the pressure would force gas into the cage, expanding the material around it, and thus engaging the rifling.

An example of an early pattern James Projectile is on display at the Shiloh NMP visitor center along with a Hotchkiss projectile for comparison:

Hotchkisss (left) and James (right) projectiles
Hotchkisss (left) and James (right) projectiles

Collectors and historians often call these James Pattern I projectiles.  There is not much to go on with regard to James’ experiments, as his notes have never surfaced.  But clearly he found hemp wanting as composition for his sabot.  While the example at Shiloh is missing the sabot, specimens found intact use lead with a greased canvas covering.  The problem was, when fired, the lead tended to break apart.  Shortly after leaving the muzzle, this lead became a danger to any friendly troops nearby.  (Yes, not unlike the danger encountered with modern day sabot rounds from tank main guns.)

So James further improved the design, resulting in the Pattern II.  The cage was dispensed with, and the ribs simply formed off the sides of the projectile body, without the ring at the base.  Tin was used to prevent the breakup of the lead.  However, this in turn brought back the original problem James encountered with rifled weapons – bore erosion!

James projectiles were designed for use on weapons with flat lands and grooves (as opposed to the slant-hook, notched, or other types of early rifling).  The projectiles were produced in calibers ranging from 6-pdr (3.76-inch) up to 42-pdr (7-inch).  Generally since the projectile weighed double the smoothbore of the same caliber, contemporary accounts become confusing when referencing such pieces.  A rifled 6-pdr became a 12-pdr or 13-pdr, for instance.  But through this all, James remained focused on developing the projectile, not the gun.

So to say any particular piece is a “Charles T. James rifled cannon” is technically in error.  Perhaps the best way to put things, these were rifled cannon that used the James system. In particular older iron siege guns ranging from 12-pdr to 42-pdr caliber were rifled in a form compatible with James’ projectiles, to provide useful service in the early stages of the war.  A collection of 24-, 32-, and 48-pdrs were present at the reduction of Fort Pulaski in April 1862.  The weapons impressed all observers at Fort Pulaski.  Chief Engineer Quincy Gilmore wrote in his report of the action,  “In regard to the James guns, the admirable manner in which the rifled motion is imparted to the projectile, the large mass of metal thrown, and the shape of the shot, seem to leave little to be desired in a breaching gun.”  But Gilmore was less impressed with the Parrott 30-pdrs on hand, complaining of a “wabbling motion in flight” and less penetration due to the lighter weight of shot.

Likely this was the high spot in the service life of those old iron guns.  More widely used (and encountered today among the survivors) were the various field guns, typically bronze, which used James projectiles.  But here also enters the issue of nomenclature.  Since James did not produce the guns himself, and since the guns could and did use projectiles of different designs over time, then what is the litmus test for a piece to be called a “James Rifle?”  Some historians have used the caliber as the discriminator.  James specifically designed a 3.80-inch diameter projectile, known commonly at the time as a 14-pdr, for field use.  Thus if there can be a simple specification that defines a “true” James rifle, perhaps the caliber is a proper one to settle upon.

That said, for future posts along this thread, I will explore the following categories within the range of James Field guns:

1.  “True” James Rifles, 3.80-inch or 14-pdr, bronze, cast to the Model 1841 Field Gun pattern, produced by at least four foundries

2.  “True” James Rifles, 3.80-inch or 14-pdr, bronze, cast to the Model 1861 Ordnance Department form, all produced by Ames of Massachusetts.

3.  “True” James Rifles, 3.80-inch or 14-pdr, iron/steel, cast generally like the Model 1861.

4.  Rifled 6-pdr Field Guns and similar types which, incorrectly or not, have been grouped with the James Rifles.

And as a reminder, in addition to these four types mentioned here, a fifth type likely designed to use the James system was the Rifled 12-pdr Napoleons, which were the subject of a previous post.

Bore of a 3.80-inch James Rifle
Bore of a 3.80-inch James Rifle

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Aside from on site notes and links provided above, sources consulted for this post were:

Hazlett, James C., Edwin Olmstead, and M. Hume Parks. Field Artillery Weapons of the Civil War, Revised Edition. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2004.

Ripley, Warren. Artillery and Ammunition of the Civil War, 4th Edition. Charleston, S.C.: The Battery Press, 1984.

Rifled Napoleons

Six Napoleons at Gettysburg stand out as perhaps the rarest of the Federal Napoleons.  What sets these six apart from all other Napoleons is their rifling.  This set were part of an experimental battery delivered in 1862, and did not see active field service.  These six guns are:

No. 80 in the National Cemetery
No. 80 - Bty. C, 4th US -National Cemetery
No. 82 in the National Cemetery
No. 82 - Bty. C, 4th US - National Cemetery
No. 81 - 15th N.Y. Bty - Peach Orchard
No. 81 - 15th N.Y. Bty - Peach Orchard
No. 78 - 15th N.Y. Bty - Peach Orchard
No. 78 - 15th N.Y. Bty - Peach Orchard
No. 79 - 9th Mass Bty. - Peach Orchard
No. 79 - 9th Mass Bty. - Peach Orchard
No. 77 - 3rd Mass. Bty - Plum Run Valley
No. 77 - 3rd Mass. Bty - Plum Run Valley

Yes, the last features a strange “shell.”  (And I’d like to know what winged animal laid a numbered egg….)

Looking at all six “business ends” notice the blade sight.

Blade Sight and Muzzle Profile
Blade Sight and Muzzle Profile

And a look down the bore confirms the rifling:

10 Flat Lands and Grooves
10 Flat Lands and Grooves

On the breech end, also some differences between these rifled guns and a standard Napoleon:

Sight and Retaining Screw Holes
Sight and Retaining Screw Holes
Breech Profile
Breech Profile

The rifled Napoleons retained the “base plate” at the bottom, as with others cast by Ames, but clearly the hausse seat mounting tab was altered for the new sights.

These differences in sights and rifling compare favorably with James 14-pounder Bronze Rifles, which also feature a triangular blade front sight, holes for rear tangent sights, and 10 x 10 rifling.  In fact, aside from the “Napoleon” exterior form, the main difference between the 14-pdr and these Rifled Napoleons is the bore diameter.  The 14-pounder had a 3.8 inch bore, while the Napoleons retained the 4.62 inch bore of their smoothbore parentage.

14-pounder James Rifle on Matthews Hill, Manassas
14-pounder James Rifle on Matthews Hill, Manassas
Rifled Napoleon in Gettysburg National Cemetery
Rifled Napoleon in Gettysburg National Cemetery

The six rifled Napoleons were all produced by Ames Manufacturing Company in 1862, and were likely delivered early in 1863.  Clearly the intent was to determine if any advantage could be exacted from a proven smoothbore design.  No details are known of the results of testing.  But it would be interesting if the rifled guns offered any range advantage over the smoothbores.

The deduction I would make is two factors worked against the rifled Napoleons.  Bronze rifled guns wore out quickly in the field.  Secondly, the James projectile had fallen into disfavor by 1863.  In the east, most of the James bronze rifles were already being replaced.  To my knowledge, the only Federal 14-pounder rifles to see service at Gettysburg were from the 2nd Connecticut Light Artillery Battery of the 2nd Volunteer Brigade, Artillery Reserve.  And that battery had just been moved up from the Washington defenses prior to the campaign.

As it stands, perhaps these six guns are just examples of what might have been – illustrating the lengths to which ordnance officers would go in pursuit of any technical edge.  To me, however, given the sequential numbers and uniformity of the lot, the guns offer the hint of some dusty story.  The six were likely stored together and issued from a depot to Gettysburg as a lot, sometime in the early days of the park.  So why would the U.S. Army store these arguably failed experiments for decades after the war?  And I wonder if there were any notes of curiosity between the Battlefield Board and Army Depot when these were delivered.

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Aside from on site notes, sources consulted for this post were:

Hazlett, James C., Edwin Olmstead, and M. Hume Parks. Field Artillery Weapons of the Civil War, Revised Edition. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2004.

Ripley, Warren. Artillery and Ammunition of the Civil War, 4th Edition. Charleston, S.C.: The Battery Press, 1984.