Category Archives: Chancellorsville

A 10pdr Parrott Rifle from Macon? Well maybe

A couple years back when discussing the Regarded Parrott rifles, I mentioned Macon Arsenal as another source for Confederate Parrotts.  As I said then, I’ve never seen a “confirmed” Macon 10-pdr.  But every visit to Chancellorsville I give one particular gun extra scrutiny hoping it might give away some clues.

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10-pdr Parrott Rifle, possibly from Macon Arsenal

Recall Macon Arsenal was among the facilities built by the Confederate government during the war.  In that case, the nucleus of the arsenal was a rented shop.  Although Macon’s biggest production runs were 12-pdr Napoleons, the cannon foundry produced at least a dozen 10-pdr Parrotts.  Of that lot, the registry of surviving guns lists two that are around today.  One is in private hands.  The other is tentatively identified as the gun pictured above.

The Parrott rifle in question appears a closer match to early Federal 10-pdrs (2.9-inch) than the Tredegar guns.  There is a noticeable “step” in front of the trunnions, much like early Federal guns.

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Step in front of the trunnions

Notice the casting seams running dorsally down the gun.  As I’ve mentioned before, this is often seen on Confederate guns where the foundry kept machining to a minimum.

The rimbases are squared, as was the fashion with both early Federal and Tredegar Parrotts.

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Trunnions and rimbases

The trunnions themselves are badly weathered.

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Trunnion face

There’s little hope gathering markings off those trunnion faces.  Nor from the breech face.

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Breech face

Damage flattened the underside of the knob.  Certainly something to be expected from a century and a half of handling.

The band exhibits lateral lines, suggesting but welding as was done with the Tredegar Parrotts.

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Profile of the Band and Breech

However, the band is shorter than those seen on Tredegar Parrotts, by nearly two inches.  There’s no bevel at the front of the band.   However there is a raised section at the front of the band, which seems to indicate the surface under the band is likewise raised.

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Raised section under the band

The muzzle has a swell, again not unlike Federal Parrotts.

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Muzzle profile

Of course early Tredegar Parrotts had similar muzzle swells.

But what about the muzzle face?  Any markings that might suggest the origin of this piece?

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Muzzle face

I’ve looked this muzzle face over in different lighting conditions, always looking for traces or hints of stamps or markings.  The most I’ve ever seen clearly is a “2” at the top of the muzzle face.

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Number 2 on muzzle face

That photo was taken in the early morning light, with the dew providing moisture to highlight the dents, dings, and number.

Notice also the three groove rifling.  That rifling extends into the bore but is worn down.

The best I can offer is that “2” is similar in font and size to that used on Macon 12-pdr Napoleons.  For example number 28 at Gettysburg.

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Close up of “No. 28” stamp on Macon Napoleon

Of course, all that might prove is that a couple of foundries used the same type of dies when stamping the guns.

Several factors, particularly the lack of machining, point to a Confederate origin.  The “2” is the only other clue there.  Much smaller than those seen on Federal Parrotts.  Still, pending a readable marking or some paper trail on the gun, I’ll still say “maybe” from Macon.

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.

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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?

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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.

Guns “unservicable for want of horses”: Artillery in the aftermath of Chancellorsville

Reading some materials posted on other venues, you might think the Army of Northern Virginia stood still from May 6-11, 1863 as the drama of Guinea Station played out.  We forget, armies are like living creatures.  There are always men engaged in the act of just “being.”  The work of the army continues despite the passing of its leader – be that Thomas J. Jackson or Franklin D. Roosevelt.  The man who signs the orders may change, but the army’s business is still there.

That said, consider a report from Colonel J. Thompson Brown, Chief of Artillery for Second Corps (yes, still Jackson’s Corps at this time), from May 11:

Brig. Gen. William N. Pendleton,
Chief of Artillery, Army of Northern Virginia:

General; Your note is received. I have to report that orders have twice been issued to battalion commanders to reorganize and refit as rapidly as possible. This is being done. Many guns which could be manned are unserviceable for want of horses. Should there be an immediate call, the following number of guns can be carried into service:

Colonel Walker, fourteen guns in camp and four on picket on right.
Lieutenant Colonel Jones, eight guns in camp and four on picket on left.
Lieutenant-Colonel Carter, thirteen guns in camp and three at repair train.
Lieutenant-Colonel Andrews, fourteen guns in camp.
Major Hardaway, twelve guns in camp and four on picket in center.
Major Mcintosh, fourteen guns in camp.

Making a total of eighty-seven guns for service, and three to be ready in a few days.

I have sent out 2 men from each battalion to buy horses, amply supplied with money, with directions also to offer as inducement the sale of condemned horses any neighborhood where horses can be bought. This was done by authority of Colonel Corley.

I shall use every exertion to have the artillery of the corps in good order as quickly as possible, but I am sure you concur with me in the necessity of properly fitting out the batteries as soon as possible, as imperfect transportation for gun-carriages at the commencement of the campaign will necessarily cripple them during its whole continuance.

Please notify me of any omission in steps for refitting, &c. I will report further progress.
Very respectfully,
J. Thompson Brown,
Colonel, and Acting Chief of Artillery, Second Corps.

Eighty-seven guns ready to support the Corps, with three more being repaired. Recall that earlier in the year Pendleton estimated that Jackson’s Corps required 116 guns. In February, the corps had 95 guns on hand, and even with that many guns were obsolete or less preferred types.   Although guns were obtained, notably from Tredegar, the shortfalls remained.  Furthermore, Jackson’s artillery suffered from want of horses and equipment.  While there’s no doubt that between February and April the artillery arm “got healthy,” the raw details are hard to nail down.  Lieutenant Edmond P. Dandridge didn’t return to record another inspection prior to the battle of Chancellorsville.

The important take away from Brown’s report is not “87 guns” but rather “87 guns ready to support.”  It’s horsepower that Brown complained about.  Aside from just the need to “dress up” his command, Brown was looking ahead.  Notice he does not make references to where the command started prior to the Chancellorsville campaign.  Rather he references the start of the NEXT campaign.

The referees had blown the whistle signaling the end of the play.  Now the teams were called into the huddle.  The next down was already in the making.  The play clock ticked off seconds regardless if the huddle was one man short.

(Brown’s report is from OR, Series I, Volume 25, Part II, Serial 40, page 793.)