Sunbury’s Confederate Iron Guns

When showcasing the Confederate iron 6-pdr field guns from Tredegar I featured the guns at the Brawner Farm on the Second Manassas battlefield.  Another place to view a set of these iron smoothbores is Sunbury, Pennsylvania at the foot of the Northumberland County Civil War memorial.

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Northumberland Civil War Memorial

Because the iron fence prevents “walk around” I’ll still suggest Manassas for students who wish to examine the guns closely.  But Sunbury is a good side trip for those traveling down Highway 15 (on the way to… say… Gettysburg?).

Of the three guns, only one has visible markings to speak of.

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6-pdr Iron Field gun - Tredegar #1486

The muzzle on this gun displays the familiar Tredegar foundry number mark.  In this case #1486.

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Muzzle of Tredegar #1486

On the breech, just in front of the vent, is the weight stamp of “918”.

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Breech of #1486

Records show that Tredegar cast #1486 on April 9, 1862.  The gun is among four others sold to the Confederate Army on May 10.  The others being #1485, #1487, and #1477.  These appear on the same invoice as the 3-inch Rifled Field Gun #1464.  Certainly the smoothbore #1486 at Sunbury and the rifled #1464 at Gettysburg share the same outward appearance from the flattened knob to the straight muzzle.

However the other two 6-pdrs at Sunbury have the older style knobs and muzzle swells.  While there are no markings to confirm these as Tredegar guns, the form matches that of the earlier 6-pdr iron guns (and 3-inch rifles for that matter).  Good coats of paint hide the years of weathering.

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Shiny 6-pdr Field Gun, Presumed Tredegar

One of these has a tall, and relatively undamaged, muzzle sight post.  The neck of the knob has cut-outs similar to those seen on Tredegar rifled guns.  Another indication of the connection between 6-pdr and 3-inch iron gun patterns.

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Breech of Unmarked 6-pdr

The last of the three displays scars and scuffs under the otherwise good paint.  It also lacks any front sight fixtures.

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Unmarked 6-pdr at Sunbury, Presumed Tredegar

There are other guns at Sunbury’s monument.  Two 8-inch Siege Mortars of Model 1861 sit in between the field guns.  While stopped with tampons, the markings are easy to read.  No doubt the subjects for a future post!

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8-inch Siege Mortar Model 1861

However there is one more 6-pdr at Sunbury, also an iron gun.  But this piece was likely cast well before the Civil War.

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Unknown 6-pdr at Sunbury

The external form resembles guns cast in the first decades of the 19th century.  While this gun has rimbases for the trunnions, it also has a key-hole vent.  Certainly fodder for speculation and perhaps another post.

But as nice as these American iron cannons are, I must admit the highlight of Sunbury’s downtown display is this piece:

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77mm FK16 German Field Gun

This gun, a German 77mm FK16, came home with World War I veterans and speaks to another time and another place in history.

Variations on Two Themes: Tredegar’s 3-inch Iron Field Guns

Months ago I mentioned the connections between 6-pdr smoothbore field gun development and the early rifled field guns on the Federal side.  Similar connections appear on the Confederate side, particularly with the guns from Tredegar Foundry.  Just as the bronze 6-pdr smoothbore served as a baseline pattern for a 3-inch bronze rifle, the iron 6-pdr smoothbore offered a pattern for a 3-inch cast iron rifled gun.

Two 3-inch iron rifles sit today on Marye’s Heights behind the Sunken Road at Fredericksburg.

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Two Iron 3-inch Guns on Marye's Heights

The exterior form and dimensions resembled the 6-pdr smoothbores mentioned in last week’s post.  In particular these match the guns with muzzle swells and round knob cascabels.

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3-inch Rifle on the Right

And notice the relatively smooth exterior indicating at least some machine work was completed at the foundry.

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3-inch Rifle on the Left

The trunnions display the marks for Tredegar.

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Right Trunnion with Tredegar Marks

And production during 1861.

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Left Trunnion Showing Year of Manufacture

As with the 6-pdr smoothbores, the external form of these guns tapered sharply between the reinforce and trunnions.

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Front Perspective View of 3-inch Rifle

The muzzle swell matches the form used on both the 6-pdr smoothbore and the early 10-pdr Parrott rifles.

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Muzzle Swell

The rifling pattern, however, matched that of the bronze 3-inch rifle and the 3-inch Tredegar Parrott rifles.  The 12 groove rifling stands out distinctly, indicating perhaps a minimal amount of use.

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12-groove Rifling of 3-inch Iron Rifle

Although the “shell” in the bore is not authentic.

Examination of the breech confirms the similarity to parent, or at least sibling, 6-pdrs with the same general dimensions of the reinforce – 9 inches long and 12-inches in diameter by my non-calibrated measuring tape.

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Breech of 3-inch Iron Rifle

But notice the small “cut out” at the base of the cascabel neck.  That cut was made to provide clearance for the breech sight.  Two dimples on the top of the breech provide the other mounting points.  Those points conform in general arrangement to the sights mounted on the breech of 3-inch bronze guns at Fort Monroe.

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Breech of 3-inch Bronze Rifle at Fort Monroe

Neither Fredericksburg gun offer muzzle markings, where Tredegar placed the foundry numbers.  That is a shame since the year on the left trunnion puts these among the first batches of the 3-inch type produced by the foundry.  In addition to the two at Fredericksburg, four other surviving iron 3-inch rifles bear marks from 1861.  Probably less than a half-dozen were produced in the early months of the war.  Details are lacking on those early guns, and likely some used different rifling schemes.

Production began in earnest in December 1861, with three produced. The problem tracking these against the Tredegar books is compounded by inconsistent nomenclature.  In some cases the guns are “6-pdr rifles” and in others “3-inch rifles”.  Such opens the production tallies for speculation.  Tredegar produced between 60 and 90 cast iron 3-inch rifles, not counting Parrott types.

Like the 6-pdr smoothbores, the 3-inch rifled guns underwent an exterior design change during the war.  A 3-inch rifle produced in March 1862 currently on display at Gettysburg lacks the muzzle swell of the guns displayed at Fredericksburg.

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3-inch Tredegar Gun at Gettysburg

I will turn to discuss that gun next.  Its foundry number traces back to an invoice.  Furthermore a battlefield incident at Gettysburg helps explain why the type fell into disfavor.

Invoicing those Iron 6-pdrs

Earlier I introduced the 6-pdr iron field guns produced by Tredegar.  The guns allude to either knowledge of the “Ordnance Shape” used on Federal artillery… or perhaps at a minimum similar solutions to the problem with cannon durability.  Of the three guns on the Brawner Farm at Manassas, two have legible foundry numbers.  Those are number 1450:

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Muzzle and Measure of Tredegar #1450

And number 1466:

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Muzzle of Tredegar #1466

Notice while #1450 has the muzzle swell, #1466 has a straight muzzle.

According to the foundry’s “Gun Book” (transcribed in Confederate Cannon Foundries by Larry Daniel and Riley Gunter), Tredegar cast #1450 on March 23, 1862.  The foundry poured #1466 on April 2.

Continuing the paper trail, an invoice dated May 12, 1862 references both guns.

Yes… another long Tredegar invoice.  But this does tell a few things about the administrative aspects of Confederate gun purchases.  First off, looking about half the way down, there is the line for #1450.  The gun weighed 900 pounds when delivered on April 28th.

A bit further down is a line indicating delivery of 6-pdr smoothbores numbers 1465, 1466, and 1467 on April 30.

Those three guns weighed 903, 900 and 900 pounds respectively.  Tredegar charged $190 each for the guns, regardless of weight.  Examination of other lines indicates Tredegar charged the same price for 3-inch rifled iron guns, likely of similar patterns.

From casting to delivery, the guns remained under Tredegar’s control between three and four weeks.  Keep in mind this was during April 1862, when some fellow named McClellan was making much noise around Yorktown.  And the invoice was not filed until mid-May when all sorts of activity was going on in front of Richmond.  So this invoice speaks to administrative work done with a “foreclosure” looming in the background.

There’s also the question of the gun patterns.  That #1450 and #1466 cast just over a week apart, but to different exterior forms, indicates the rapid introduction of the new pattern without muzzle swell.  Or perhaps raises the possibility the two patterns were used concurrently for at least a short period.  The deciding vote may be cast by a surviving Tredegar gun on Ruggles Line at Shiloh.

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6-pdr Iron Field Gun at Shiloh

This gun has Tredegar markings and may be 1452 or 1472 depending on how one reads a blurred number.  Either number would conform to both Tredegar foundry records and invoices for 6-pdr iron guns.  The “Gun Book” indicates #1452 was cast the same day as #1450.  So the straight muzzle on this piece may be physical evidence of the mixing of patterns.  Or more conformation that production switched to the straight muzzle at the end of April 1862.

There’s one other thing I’d highlight from this invoice.  Something perhaps more important that the trivial pattern variations, time spent preparing the guns, or the administrative processing of invoices.  Consider the lines at the bottom of the invoice.

Charges on those lines are for “hauling 30 guns, caissons, and battery forges” and “changing position of elevating screws on 2 24 pdr siege carriages.”

Yes, J.R. Anderson & Company billed the government for EVERYTHING.  You know how these defense contractors are!  Fully expect to see a $1,000 hammer thrown in there for good measure….

Iron Substitutes: Tredegar 6-pdr Iron Field Guns

To me, one of the most interesting aspects of Civil War artillery is the different approaches taken to essentially the same requirement – launching a projectile.  Due to operational requirements and contingencies different designers and manufacturers  chose alternate forms, constructions, and styles.  No where is that more apparent than with the Confederate field guns, particularly the work of Tredegar Foundry.  Due to raw material shortages, Tredegar turned to expedients and substitutes.  The company produced cannons for field use from melted down bells and also turned to the less preferred iron.  I’ve already mentioned the company’s bronze 6-pdr bronze field guns, 3-inch bronze rifles, Parrott Rifles (and here too), and 12-pdr howitzers in both bronze and iron.  Time to take a look at the company’s iron 6-pdr field guns.

Brawner Farm on the Second Manassas battlefield offers visitors a view of three of these smoothbore guns.

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Iron Guns on Brawner Farm

Looking past the Tredegar 10-pdr Parrott, three iron 6-pdrs stand at the Brawner Farm (after this photo was taken, the Park Service added a 3-inch iron rifle to the lineup… but that is for another day).

The smoothbores at Brawner Farm exhibit a few markings.  Two are definitely the work of Tredegar, as indicated on the trunnion stamps.

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Right Trunnion of Iron 6pdr

Visible under the paint are the initials “J.R.A & Co.” and “T.F.” indicating Joseph R. Anderson & Company, Tredegar Foundry.

But even without markings, the rough exterior and seam lines betray the Confederate origin, specifically Anderson’s preference to avoid turning the guns for a smooth exterior.

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Tredegar 6-pdr

The iron smoothbores share a “bottle” shaped exterior form.  From a distance, these guns are easily mistaken for 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.

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Breech of Tredegar 6-pdr Field Gun

However, the breech of these Confederate guns is thicker than the famous wrought iron gun.  At the vent, the Tredegar gun has a 12 inch diameter (compared to about 9.5 for the Ordnance Rifle).  To the front of the vent is a 9 inch long cylindrical reinforce.  The breech face is a hemisphere.   Forward of the reinforce the barrel tapers sharply before the trunnions.  The guns average just over 70 inches in length.

There are two variations in the form of these 6-pdrs.  The cascabel varies from rounded to flattened knob.

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Tredegar 6-pdr Iron Gun showing round knob and muzzle swell

The other variation is the muzzle swell on two of the 6-pdrs.

Sighting arrangements on these guns also resembled the Ordnance rifles.  The front sight was a blade posted on the muzzle (part of which is seen on the 6-pdr with straight muzzle).  Tapped holes for the rear sight are located on the breech.

Invoices from Tredegar indicate these guns weighed around 900 pounds.  While that is is about equal to a bronze 6-pdr Model 1841, recall that particular type was by design the “heavy” version in the family tree.  Most of the old iron (and bronze for that matter) 6-pdrs from the first half of the century weighed significantly less.

All told Tredegar produced between 35 and 40 of the iron 6-pdr smoothbores.  Those deliveries mixed with production of externally similar 3-inch iron rifled guns, which often appear in the records as “6-pdr iron rifled guns.”  In my next post I’ll turn to a delivery invoice to show the paperwork trail for two of these Manassas guns.

The Creole Field Gun: Leeds and Company 6-pdrs

Since my last cannon post discussed a 6-pdr (modified to resemble a 12-pdr Napoleon) on the south end of McGilvery’s line at Gettysburg, the next logical post is an examination of that gun’s battery mate.

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False Napoleons flank Dow's Battery

The Revere gun is on the left side of the monument.  To the right side is a gun cast on the other side of the conflict – a 6-pdr field gun from Leeds & Company of New Orleans, Louisiana.

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Leeds 6-pdr Gun at Dow's Battery

Like the Revere gun, the Leeds gun was altered to resemble a 12-pdr Napoleon as the park was configured in the 1890s.  So many of the exterior moldings were machined off to make this gun a “False Napoleon.”

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Muzzle of Leeds 6pdr at Dow's Battery Showing Alterations

Also like the Revere gun, the southern-made gun was cast in 1861.

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Left Trunnion of Leeds Gun at Dow's Battery

Leeds stamped the trunnions as if complying with the older US ordnance regulations.  On the right trunnion is the stamp “Leeds & Co. // New Orleans.”

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Right Trunnion of Leeds Gun at Dow's Battery

Looking at the breech profile, a line appears around the knob.  I suspect this line was left by the tools used to convert the gun into a Napoleon look-alike.

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Breech Profile of Leeds 6pdr at Dow's Battery

A few yards away is another Leeds gun, which is part of a pair representing Battery G, 1st New York Light Artillery (Captain Nelson Ames’ Battery).

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Leeds 6-pdr at Ames' Battery

The second Leeds gun was cast in 1862.

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Left Trunnion of Leeds Gun at Ames' Battery

It’s manufacturer’s stamp is easier to read.

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Right Trunnion of Leeds Gun at Ames' Battery

On the breech, just left of the holes for the hausse seat, is the number “871” which should be the weight of the gun.

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Weight Stamp (to the left) on Leeds 6pdr

A stamp on the right rimbase provides the foundry’s number – 58.

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Right Rimbase of Leeds 6pdr

The muzzle moldings appear to have slight variations from the standard Federal guns. The fillet is thicker and the cavetto before the face is not as deep.

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Muzzle of Leeds 6pdr at Ames' Battery

But again, with the alterations to a “False Napoleon” one cannot take those as definitive for manufacture.

One other interesting “mark” on the gun is the vestiges of paint from a stencil on the breech.

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Breech Stencil

This and other similar markings appear to indicate the date the gun was received somewhere – either at a depot, arsenal, or the battlefield itself.

In 1861, Leeds was the largest foundry in New Orleans employing 300 workers.  The firm was located at the “corner of DeLord and Foucher Streets” according to invoices.  Examination of period maps indicates a location near the Confederate Memorial Hall.  Before the war Leeds produced steam engines, boilers, and other machinery.  In May 1861 the firm moved into the armaments business, and focused on heavy cannons with mixed results.

Leeds figured prominently in the efforts to arm militia and Confederate forces in the first months of the war.  However the first official Confederate order for field guns didn’t reach Leeds until October 1861.  By December the firm had delivered seven 6-pdr smoothbores along with five 3.3-inch rifled guns (using the same casting blocks).  Below is an invoice dated December 3, 1861.  Given the production figures, pretty good chances the gun at Dow’s Battery was included on this invoice:

The rapidity of Leeds’ response to contracts indicates that proofed and tested patterns were on hand at the foundry.  Such raises the possibility that Leeds produced guns for militia or private orders prior to deliveries to the Confederate army.  Leeds delivered another four 6-pdr smoothbores and ten 3.3-inch rifles before the fall of New Orleans in April 1862. To these numbers the firm added a dozen 12-pdr Napoleons and nine 12-pdr howitzers.

Many observers today note the different “patina” of the Leeds guns.

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Leeds 6-pdr at Ames' Battery

Leeds made use of bells donated to the Confederate war effort.  More bells arrived at New Orleans than could be used.  When the Federals occupied the city, they found a substantial number of bells along the city’s levee.  These were, ironically, shipped north to Boston for use there.

So one of the stories these two Leeds 6-pdrs offer concludes with a “what if?”  From October 1861 to April 1862, Leeds produced nearly fifty field guns.  Given the resources, what if Leeds and other companies in New Orleans had more time to produce weapons for the Confederacy?

Fine Craftsmanship Butchered: Revere Copper 6-pdr Field Gun

Some time back I detailed the 12-pdr “Napoleon guns” produced by Revere Copper during the war.  While those 12-pdrs at Malvern Hill look dirty from exposure, the guns themselves are good examples of the work done by a firm with a long history of metalworking.  In addition to those 443 Napoleon guns, Revere also produced a handful of 6-pdr Model 1841 Field Guns.  A Federal order placed in November 1861 called for two guns.  The company received credit for these in February 1862 as registry numbers 1 and 2.

Today registry number 1 sits at Gettysburg representing Dow’s 6th Maine Battery in a position in McGilvery’s Line along modern Hancock Avenue.

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Revere 6-pdr Model 1841

Sadly, in the 1890s the Gettysburg Battlefield Commission had the Revere gun modified to resemble a 12-pdr Napoleon.  Like other “False Napoleons” this 6-pdr had external features trimmed down to present a smooth line, although the gun stands out visually being 7 inches shorter than a real Napoleon.

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Breech of Revere Gun

The process trimmed off the base ring and rounded the contours of the breech.  However the neck of the knob retains a narrow fillet, unlike some “pho-poleon” conversions.  The reinforce step just past the trunnions was smoothed down. The chase ring also disappeared under the cutting tools.   The muzzle moldings remained.  A sharp eye notes some slight differences between the moldings on the Revere gun and those of other Model 1841 guns.  But this could of course be due to the alterations.

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Muzzle of Revere Gun

Conforming with standards established in 1861, Revere placed their markings on the muzzle face.

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Muzzle Marks on Revere Gun

Likely the tool used to enlarge the front of the bore to the 12-pdr size obliterated part of the markings.  This should read “Revere Copper Co. // 1861 // 853 lbs. // J.P.F. // No. 1”, including the initials of inspector Joseph P. Farley.

The gun at Gettysburg is the lone survivor of the pair produced by Revere for Federal orders.  The possibility exists that Revere offered similar guns to private or militia organizations. But no records, and more importantly no guns, survive to tell that story.  At roughly the same time Revere setup production of the two 6-pdrs, the firm started production of the 12-pdr Napoleons.  The Farley inspected Revere’s 6-pdrs and initial batches of 12-pdrs at about the same time.  Revere continued production of 12-pdrs through April 1864.

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Revere Gun in Profile

Yes, I would love to have this example of fine Revere craftsmanship intact so as to better compare the gun to contemporary 6-pdrs.  Certainly would like to confirm or reject the notion that Revere used a unique muzzle molding.  But the lone survivor from Revere was butchered a bit so as keep up appearances on the battlefield.

Imported for the Confederacy: Austrian 6-pdr Field Guns – Part 2

In part one, I introduced an old Austrian 6-pdr at Fort Monroe:

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Austrian 6-pdr Cast in 1812

The old gun resembles the Liechtenstein-system guns developed in the mid-1700s  that formed the basis of Austrian cannons through the Napoleonic Wars.  Beside this gun is an Austrian 6-pdr with a different, cleaner exterior form.

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Austrian 6-pdr cast in 1857

The “new” model 6-pdr retained the semi-circular handles, with round cross-section, along with the low set trunnions.

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Handles and Trunnions

But the Austrians dispensed with all but the reinforce step and muzzle swell ring, offering a very streamlined form.

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Vent Field of Austrian Gun

The vent has a rather generous grain.  Next to the vent is the stamp “No. 1CC” similar to that on the older gun.  Also present is the letter “A” in front of the vent.

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Left Side of Base Ring

Like that on the older gun, the base ring inscription has the administrative data for the cannon.  On the left side is “Nr. 280 729”.

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Right Side of Base Ring

To the right is “Wien 1857.”  An “S” appears below the sight pad.  And note the sight pad is similar to that seen on American weapons of the time.  The Austrian guns probably used a pendulum hausse type sight, not unlike contemporary American weapons.   The plaque at the base suggests the gun was originally a rifle, but bored out to smoothbore.  The lack of sight mounts to the side (seen on the rifled Austrian guns at the Washington Navy Yard) argue against this.   The bore diameter also rebuts the presumption about rifling.

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Bore Measure of the Austrian Gun

The bore diameter is not far off that of the older gun steps away.  Roughly 3-3/4ths inches (or 3.75 inches).  Such is close to the cited bore diameter in the Confederate ordnance instructions.  The line forming a circle around the bore appears to be a machining mark left behind by a turning lathe. But I wouldn’t count out the possibility the Austrians used a bore liner insert, particularly with the four spaced “dimples” along the line.

Mention of these Austrian guns in the Confederate instructions indicates the new owners considered the weapons “battle worthy”.  However, little mention is made of the type outside the ordnance manuals.  Like the 24-pdr field howitzers from Vienna, these 6-pdrs probably saw limited service in the backwater garrisons.

For comparison, consider two of the rifled Austrian field guns at the Washington Navy Yard.  Here’s a “new” pattern gun cast in 1854.

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"New" Austrian Rifled 6-pdr at Leutze Park

On the other side of Luetze Park is a rifle using the older form, cast in 1843.

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"Old" Austrian Rifled 6-pdr at Leutze Park

The artifacts on display at Fort Monroe and the Washington Navy Yard do tell a story about weapons development.  As the Americans did on this side of the Atlantic, as the Austrians first deployed rifled artillery they opted to reuse existing bronze gun patterns.  The Austrian guns are analogous to the bronze James Type I and II rifles produced here in the U.S.

In addition to about a hundred thousand Lorenz muskets, the Confederacy imported several dozen bronze field pieces from Austria.  A handful of surviving weapons tell the story of those imports today.