All those captured guns from Missionary Ridge

I have not blogged about Chattanooga through the sesquicentennial of that battle. Mostly because I was unable to make an expedition that way during the fall to refresh my photographic archives.  Lots of cannon stories and interesting subjects for “walk arounds.”  But I’ve not visited since the late 1990s, and don’t have good pictures to back up the posts.

That said, let me pull up one familiar wartime artillery photographs taken at Chattanooga which featured artillery:

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I count eighteen tubes in this view.  All 12-pdr Napoleons.  Some with the straight muzzle of Confederate manufacture.  Others with a muzzle swell, which could be captured Federal (but not in this case) or those of early Confederate manufacture.

Captain Thomas G. Baylor, Chief of Ordnance for the Army of the Cumberland provided a by-type listing of guns that Army captured at Chattanooga.  Since the photo carries the caption linking to that particular field army, let us figure odds are good the weapons in the photo are among those listed in Baylor’s report.  Baylor tallied:

  • Eight 6-pdr guns
  • Thirteen 12-pdr light field guns, Confederate pattern
  • Six 12-pdr light field guns, Leeds & Company, New Orleans
  • Three 12-pdr field howitzers
  • One 3-inch rifle, Confederate pattern
  • Four 10-pdr Parrott rifles, 2.9-inch bore
  • Two rifled 6-pdrs with 3.67-inch bore
  • One James rifle with 3.8-inch bore
  • Two 24-pdr siege guns.

A grand total of forty guns. That does not count a handful of weapons captured by other formations (outside of the Army of the Cumberland) in the battle.  Aside from the siege guns, no real surprises here.  The Army of the Tennessee had benefited from  the battlefield captures from Chickamauga.  With the defeat on Missionary Ridge, the Army of Tennessee lost almost a third of its artillery.  And a substantial portion of the guns remaining were off near Knoxville in another ill-fated endeavor.

So eighteen of the nineteen Napoleons show up in that photo (maybe I miscounted or maybe one is tucked away at the end of the line).  That’s almost five (four gun) batteries of the preferred Napoleons.  And all of those Napoleons recorded by Baylor were Confederate manufacture.  That was like a solid punch in the gut to the southern war effort.  All the time and resources allocated to producing those fine guns ended up a naught.  Another photo of that line of Napoleons, taken from a different angle, best illustrates that point:

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The markings are out of focus.  But looking close at the trunnion on the second gun in the row, there’s a three line manufacturer stamp.

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Sort of reminds me of the stamp used by Augusta Arsenal:

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The fourth gun also teases with an out of focus stamp:

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If I had to venture a guess, I’d say Leeds & Company.  But that would be a wild guess.

Others who have interpreted this photo pick out the stencil on the carriage trail for the first gun in the line:

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“Macon Arsenal // 1863 // GA.”

So total up the cost to produce one bronze gun tube, a carriage, limber, implements, and such.  Multiply that by nineteen.  There’s the cost of that line of guns in dollars in cents to the Confederate war effort.

And by the way, those nineteen guns?  That would represent about 5% of the total Confederate bronze Napoleon production through the entire war.  All in a nice row, but under new ownership.  No doubt a few of them destined for a return to the battlefield… but as static displays long after the sounds of war disappeared.

(Baylor’s report appears in OR, Series I, Volume 31, Part II, Serial 53, pages 99-100.)

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Ordnance Observations from the field at Charleston

On September 24, 1863, Major John Barnwell of the Confederate Ordnance Department conducted a routine inspection of batteries on James Island.  The next day he filed his inspection report.  The first half of that report was routine and related details of which guns were in what battery, the state of the guns, and the ills of ammunition storage.  But in the second part, Barnwell offered remarks about the ordnance, projectiles, carriages, and mortar beds.  “The conclusions arrived at are based on the evidence of facts and experience in the field, and will be placed before you as concisely as a clear expression will admin.”

To start with Barnwell brought up the the grove pattern used on rifled guns.  Specifically the shape of the groove:

Some manufacturers of ordnance deny the fact that a gun is weakened by rifling, and attribute their frequent bursting to the heavier projectiles used. While there is some truth as regards weight of projectiles, it is a fact that the fractures in rifled guns follow the edge of the groove exactly as ice and granite fracture in lines cut upon the surface. It is known that acute re-entering angles upon the surface of guns are the usual lines of rupture, hence the present external form of guns without moldings. From these facts, no rifled guns should have acute or sharp-edged grooves, but a flattened curve thus /¯¯¯¯¯¯\ as a Parrott, which, though it does not remedy the injury from rifling, has been proved to be the least injurious form.

I’ve never heard, from wartime accounts, of a cracking pattern as alluded to above.  Interesting that Barnwell cites Parrott rifling as better for endurance, without naming Brooke or Blakely.

Next, Barnwell took on the nature of reenforcing bands on the guns:

Banded guns, facts and experience prove, to be weaker at the breech than at the re-enforce, as of four which I have examined on the front of our defenses, all have fractured square at the vent, throwing the breech to the rear. If the breech is strengthened, explosions would not be so frequent.

Barnwell mentioned the Brooke strap system, like used on the triple-banded guns. But most preferable, according to Barnwell, would be a wrought-iron case that covered the entire breech area (which some Blakely guns were using).

Barnwell then offered his observations about rifled projectiles:

We are certainly in error as regards weight of elongated projectiles, which requires immediate correction for effective service, as well as on the score of economy. We must have some safe, fixed limit determined for the weight of shot, beyond which weight it should be made penal to serve, for we cannot afford experiments in the field, excepting at the cost of dismantling our works, and this it would be more judicious, as well as economical, to leave to the prowess of the enemy.

He offered an example to illustrate his point:

In Battery Haskell we have 60-pound shells and 80-pound shots for 24-pounder rifled guns. The initial velocity of 1,600 feet per second has been fixed upon by the experience of the past as a maximum for economy and efficiency for a 24-pounder and some other calibers. To double this velocity, if possible, would be straining the gun beyond a safe limit, yet it is a common practice here to use projectiles of twice the weight, which is equivalent to velocity x 2. To meet this additional strain, guns are banded, and the economy of the service demands that the banding should increase the strength of the piece to twice the resistance of the casting.

Barnwell observed that rifled guns firing very heavy projectiles were unsafe after 300 rounds.  By comparison the smoothbore guns were able to safely fire 1,500 rounds. He recommended the ordnance department restrict the projectile weight to double that of the caliber.

He then turned to the subject of carriages.

Experience as regards columbiad barbette carriages shows that they are too weak in design and plan to sustain long-continued firings at high angles. In one of our batteries out of five pieces all are without eccentric wheels. It is respectfully suggested that the use of rear eccentric wheels be abandoned; that strong lunettes be placed on the rear and bottom of the carriage, to be worked with rolling handspikes.

The Federals on Morris Island used, for the most part, wrought iron carriages.  But Colonel Edward Serrell’s carriages on Black Island were strengthened for firing at elevation.

Lastly Barnwell mentioned the mortar beds, saying “wooden transoms will not answer.  There are four mortars in our batteries which are unserviceable from this cause.”  Major Thomas Brooks, on the Federal side, had already encountered this problem and resolved it with an improvement over regulation mortar beds.

Barnwell’s recommendations went to Colonel Gabriel Raines at Augusta Arsenal.  But at this point in the war, there was little the Confederates could do to modify weapons construction techniques.  However, projectile technology was still evolving.  This was direct feedback on new technology, in 3 out of 5 cases, from the field.

(Barnwell’s report is from OR, Series I, Volume 28, Part II, Serial 47, pages 378-9.)

Napoleons from Augusta: 12-pdrs from Augusta Foundry

If you wish to study Confederate Napoleons, then the place to go is Gettysburg. The park has over 75 examples from five manufacturers. Thirty-three of those are from the Augusta Foundry of Augusta, Georgia.

The Augusta Foundry was one of several “government” foundries established during the war to furnish ordnance to the Confederates. Allow me to simply summarize the story of Augusta Foundry at this point, saving the details for another post (which it richly deserves). The foundry used some of the facilities of the pre-war Augusta Arsenal, seized in January 1861. To complete the facility, the Augusta Foundry & Machine Works became a casting facility. Equipment came in from various sources. Much of it, the Confederate government purchased from civilian firms across the deep south. Augusta Foundry came on line just as many private foundries, from New Orleans, Nashville, and Memphis in particular, were overrun by the Federals.

Starting in late 1862, Augusta produced a substantial number of 12-pdr Napoleons. Most of these were earmarked for the desperate Army of the Tennessee and other formations in the Western Theater. The Napoleons from Augusta matched the “Type 5” category identified by modern artillery historians.

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Augusta Napoleon #20AF

The guns produced by the Augusta Foundry have some external features that set them apart from other Confederate Napoleon guns. Unlike other Confederate Napoleons, the edges of the breech were rounded, joining after a generous curve.

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Breech profile of #20AF

The knob is elongated compared to Federal patterns.

Another distinguishing feature of the Augusta guns is the squared rimbases. Although Federal Napoleons also used squared rimbases, most Confederate Type 5 guns have flared rimbases.

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Rimbases of #20AF

Aside from those rather cosmetic differences, the guns are identified by their markings. The foundry stamp is on the right trunnion, reading “Govert. // Foundry & Machine Works // Augusta.”

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Right Trunnion Stamps – #95AF

The other marks are on the (often battered or weathered) muzzle. At the top is the foundry number. In this case “No. 92AF.”

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Foundry Number at top of Muzzle

Augusta’s numbers always end with an “AF.” The production sequence in 1862 ran up to number 12. In 1863 the sequence restarted and ran through at least number 68. In 1864 the same sequence continued. This inconsistency makes estimates for the total number produced rather difficult.

At the 9 o’clock, or left, is the year of manufacture. In this case 1864.

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Year Stamp on #92AF

The weight is at the 3 o’clock position – “1235” pounds.

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Weight stamp on #92

And the inspectors initials, if they do appear, are at the bottom. Being in charge of the activities at Augusta, George Washington Rains inspected most, if not all the Augusta guns himself. So his “G.W.R.” is a strong indicator of an Augusta weapon.

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Inspector’s Stamp on #92AF

The Augusta guns, like many Confederate weapons, often have deep pit marks or other signs of casting flaws. Certainly these have been exacerbated by 150 years of weathering. But rarely do Federal guns exhibit this level of pitting.

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Pitting on #14AF

Augusta Foundry produced between 110 and 130 12-pdr Napoleon guns. Of the nearly fifty survivors, none have production dates beyond 1864. Yet, outside of Tredegar, no other Confederate source provided more Napoleons. And while their wartime usage was predominantly in the west, today the Augusta Napoleons are the “majority” of Confederate guns of that type at Gettysburg. That juxtaposition is, to a degree, a reflection of where those guns were collected after the war and where they were stored before issue to the park. Just call it a “beyond the war” story the guns can tell.