And this (full size so you can pick out the details):
Notice the maneuvering handspike on the lower left. Those details show up on the right hand side of this photo:
Here’s another view of that ammunition chest:
The accouterments hanging on the earthworks in front of the wheel:
Having established the Wiards position on the second parallel as just to the left of the Napoleons, let’s look at the guns themselves. A great study of the Wiard Guns and their advanced, if non-standard, carriages.
For those unfamiliar, the trail of the carriage meets the axle below and not on top as with a standard Army field carriage. The placement of the trunnions on a high, arching cheek allowed for greater elevation – up to 35°. The rear sight hangs from a seat on the back of the breech.
The crew is loading the other gun in the pair. From this angle, we also see the wedges, a feature that counteracted shrinkage of the wooden wheel.
The gun crew wears an assortment of hats. According to the photo caption, these fellows were part of Lieutenant Paul Berchmire’s Battery F, 3rd New York Light Artillery. Aside from the hats, there’s a bit of contrast among those men.
Some look like they have yet to shave for the first time. Others seem to have avoided razors for years.
The right pair of howitzers seen here occupy positions used by those Wiard guns in the photo above. See, again, the cut from Major Thomas Brooks’ map, focusing on the “How. Battery” in front of Battery Brown:
But I think we are looking at the same section of the second parallel, but at different times. Brooks’ journal entry for August 6, 1863 provides a clue:
Made repairs in defensive howitzer battery on the right of second parallel. Two Wiard field guns now in position there have proven very destructive to platforms and embrasures; more so than any field guns which have come under my observation.
Perhaps some of the debris seen in the howitzer battery photo was the result of those “destructive” Wiards.
At any rate, if my figuring is correct, when the engineers first established the second parallel, two Napoleons and two Wiards anchored the line on the right. Later the Napoleons went to positions further to the left, as indicated on Brooks’ map. The Wiards likewise moved to the left, with one going on the far side of Battery Kearny. That Wiard gun position had embrasures for firing on both Battery Wagner and Battery Gregg – an arrangement not seen in the Wiard gun photo above.
So three photos. Two taken early in the siege. One taken later. All of the same general area.
There are a several other photos taken on Morris Island during the summer of 1863 which I’ll give mention. Some of these show the “rear area,” in particular the ordnance yard and camps. Others show Batteries Wagner and Gregg after Federal occupation. I’ll get to those in due time.
However, I should, from a chronological standpoint, discuss a couple of photos taken in the second parallel showing the use of field artillery on the line. We’ve already looked at a photo of the howitzer battery. In addition to those four howitzers, and the two placed out in the surf battery, between two and four 12-pdr Napoleon guns and two 3.67-inch Wiard rifles bolstered the defense of the second parallel.
A photo of two Napoleons shows what I think is the two gun position drawn on Major Thomas Brooks’ siege map:
Brooks called out two locations in the second parallel with the annotation “Napoleon in barbette.” Those appear to be single gun positions. But on the far right of the line, in front of the Requa position on the surf battery on Brooks’ map, is a two gun position:
For a brief time in late August, the howitzers from the surf battery were relocated there. I think the photo shows those two guns, and those two guns are Napoleons at an early time in the evolution of the parallel. Looking to the background of the photo, the position overlooked the beach. And directly in front of the battery are branches of trees, which may be parts of the abatis laid there.
The Napoleons were part of Battery B, 3rd New York Light Artillery under Captain James Ashcroft. As with many of the photographs of batteries on Morris Island, the photographers appear to have captured an “action” scene. The crew is loading the gun on the right.
And we know that Napoleon was produced by Ames, Alger, or Revere, since there is both a hausse seat and a baseplate.
Better view of those fittings on the gun to the left. Notice also the blade sight on the muzzle. The crew ran out the lanyard for this gun. They were, one might guess, ready to fire the gun for the photographer. But wait a minute…
… firing through the sandbags? OK, set this one aside as a posed photograph. Give some credit, however, as Sullivan’s Island is visible in the background. The photographer was indeed on the front lines, even if a quiet salient of that line.
Elsewhere in the photo were several empty boxes and other debris. The blur leaves no visible markings to determine the purpose of these boxes.
Half concealed on the left is an ammunition chest.
To the far left of the photo is the wheel of some other vehicle.
The hub and axle are not that of another Napoleon. And it is not a limber. It is a non-regulation wheel. I think you’ve seen one like it before:
Matching the wheel and the ammunition chest brings us to this photo:
On December 5, 1862, well before the battle of Fredericksburg, General Robert E. Lee voiced his displeasure about the artillery types supplied to his Army. In a letter to Secretary of War James Seddon, he wrote:
During the past campaign I have felt, in every battle, the advantages that the enemy possessed over us in their artillery. This arose in part from their possessing more experienced artillerists and better prepared ammunition, but consisted chiefly in better guns. These advantages, I am happy to state, are gradually diminishing. Our artillerists are greatly improving, our ammunition is more carefully prepared, and the efficiency of our batteries increased by guns captured from the enemy. I am greatly in need of longer range smooth-bore guns, and propose that, if metal cannot be otherwise procured, a portion, if not all, of our 6-pounder smooth-bores (bronze), and, if necessary a part of our 12-pounder howitzers, be recast into 12-pounder Napoleons. The best guns for field service, in my opinion, are the 12-pounder Napoleons, the 10-pounder Parrotts, and the approved 3-inch rifles. Batteries composed of such guns would simplify our ammunition, give us less metal to transport, and longer and more accurate range of fire. I urgently recommend to the Department the consideration of this subject, and that measures be immediately taken to improve our field artillery. The contest between our 6-pounder smooth-bores and the 12-pounder Napoleons of the enemy is very unequal, and, in addition is discouraging to our artillerists. …
Lee went on to request four Napoleons immediately, along with 20- and 30-pdr Parrotts. Again, this request came just before the battle of Fredericksburg. Lee would get a few of the requested items. But the problem was the Ordnance Department simply did not have the requested guns. In response to Lee’s request, Colonel Josiah Gorgas offered agreement but cited the shortfalls:
I respectfully inclose copy of circular sent to all our arsenals, showing that I have already, some time ago, given orders which will meet the views of General Lee. Recently Messrs. J.R.A. & Co., of the Tredegar Works, have been directed to work night and day to prepare guns of this description. I have requested Colonel Baldwin, chief of ordnance of General Lee, to send down old guns to be recast. In the mean time, however, we shall send to him these guns as fast as they can be made. None are now on hand.
Gorgas attached a note which directed production focus on 12-pdr bronze Napoleons along with 10-, 20-, and 30-pdr Parrotts of iron. The directive, of course, only pertained to field guns, with larger caliber seacoast guns of several calibers still authorized.
Yet for all this “working day and night” Tredegar was only able to add four Napoleons, one 10-pdr Parrott, and four 20-pdr Parrotts during the month of December. The foundry’s focus in the months prior were towards heavier seacoast and naval guns. The production line took time to shake out for the new requests. (Although I’d point out Tredegar produced eight Parrotts in the closing days of November, for good measure.)
One problem facing Napoleon production was raw materials. Bronze, as used for casting guns, was an alloy of copper, tin, and zinc. The Confederacy had none of these in great quantities (but the Yankees did!). Earlier in the war the Confederate gunmakers turned to bells or even bronze intended for sculptures. But calls went out from every gunmaker for more materials.
On Christmas Eve 1862, Colonel Thomas S. Rhett, ordnance inspector, intervened on behalf of Tredegar to request tin.
“Messrs J.R. Anderson & Co. are much in need of Block Tin to be used in casting Bronze Guns. Please inform me how much you could furnish them.” The request is addressed to Major W.S. Downer in charge of the ordnance depots. There is a small notation at the bottom – “3 or 400 lbs now“. This may indicate what Tredegar wanted or, more likely, the quantity available from the depots. (And this is why I like to see the digital copy of the original – transcriptions would miss this detail, and often you wouldn’t see it if reviewing the original in room lighting.)
Regardless of the supply of tin, within a month Tredegar needed more raw materials. In a message dated Jaunary 23 or 24, 1863, the firm spoke for itself on the matter and asked to have more obsolete bronze guns fed into the pit:
“We are pushing ahead the Napoleons bronze guns & have remelted nearly the whole of the old Guns. We will require at once either Copper or more old Guns. We have some tin on hand & an order for more.” So more old guns cycled from Lee’s batteries to Tredegar to become bigger guns in preparation for the 1863 campaign season.
On Christmas Day, 1862 outside Fredericksburg, General Lee and the artillerists of the Army of Northern Virginia might have welcomed a few shiny new bronze Napoleons under the tree. But in Richmond, Joseph R. Anderson would have been ecstatic over a few carloads of copper and tin.
(Citations of Lee and Gorgas from OR, Series I, Volume 21, Serial 31, pages 1046-47.)
There are three oft-repeated lines about Confederate 12-pdr field guns (a.k.a. the Napoleons):
Confederate versions have straight muzzles, in contrast to the muzzle swells of the Federal types.
The Confederate Army ordered Napoleons after field experience demonstrated the inadequacies of 6-pdr guns and 12-pdr howitzers.
Confederate Napoleon production came from government-owned facilities, save Tredegar (which worked close with the Confederate Ordnance Department).
These lines are true for the majority of Confederate Napoleons. But when considering the details, all three have notable exceptions. Indeed, a gun on display at Petersburg National Battlefield tells a story which contradicts all three bullets.
But before I go into the particulars of this gun, some background context is required. The “12-pdr light gun” was only a recent addition to the American weapon catalog at the start of the war. In July 1861 there were only five 12-pdr Napoleons in Federal service. One was the prototype, deemed unsuitable for field use. The other four were, as Harry Smeltzer likes to remind me, in Company M, 2nd U.S. Artillery under direction of Major Henry Hunt.
But the pattern was well known among Army officers. And apparently Tredegar Iron Works also knew the pattern – either by way of normal correspondence with the Army, or passed along by officers who’d just resigned from key positions (although I put more weight on the former possibility). In early February 1861 the State of Georgia struck a contract with Tredegar for twelve 12-pdr Napoleons . If these guns were produced at all, none survive today. But the presence of the order indicates the artillerists in grey already knew of the weapon’s potential. Very likely these Napoleons for Georgia followed (or at least SHOULD have followed since we don’t know if they were produced) Federal patterns to include the handles seen on early production models.
Shuffling forward in time, by late fall of 1861 the Confederate commanders in the western theater faced an acute shortage of weapons – particularly cannons. Turning to local sources, Captain Hypolite Oladowski, ordnance officer for General Braxton Bragg, ordered six 12-pdr light field guns.
Oladowski soon increased that order to a dozen. The paper trail between authorities and Leeds is somewhat difficult to match up, but additional orders may have increased that total. Production continued right up to the days in front of the Federal occupation of New Orleans. The records show the Leeds invoices for all government contracts were not settled until the following year.
These Leeds Napoleons undoubtedly saw service right from the start. Records show Robertson’s Alabama Battery deployed four 12-pdr guns at Shiloh. Very likely those were part of Leeds’ initial production batch. At least five of the Leeds guns survive today.
Looking at the survivor at Petersburg, from a distance the Leeds Napoleon has a family resemblance to the Federal Napoleon. Absent are the handles of the original Federal guns. Otherwise the profile, with muzzle swell, is close to the later Yankee production.
But the similarity ceases at the breech. The breech face is flatter and lacks the “tabs” used on Federal guns. Although the knob resembles that on the northern guns, the neck joins the breech with a fillet, as opposed to a blended sweep.
On the right trunnion is the maker’s mark – “Leeds & Co. // New Orleans.”
On the left is the year of manufacture. This rules out all but the December production lot.
Sources indicate a foundry number of 19 stamped somewhere on the gun, but that does not stand out in my photos. One other deviation from Federal designs was the length of the reinforce. Leeds cast the Napoleons with a 16 inch long cylindrical reinforce – one full inch longer than Federal standards and most later Confederate production.
Overall the Leeds gun bears more resemblance to Federal Napoleons than later Confederate types, such as the example below (cast at Augusta Foundry in 1863), which stands a few feet away at Petersburg.
The very existence of the Leeds Napoleons, particularly the gun at Petersburg cast in 1861, refutes some of the standard interpretation about Confederate ordnance. The fine points about muzzle swells and production sources are noteworthy but do not indicate great changes. However, the Leeds gun’s production date indicates that someone on the Confederate side already knew about the superiority of the light 12-pdr design early in the war.
UPDATE: And I had forgot about an earlier post about this same gun. All’s well I guess, as in this post I got to introduce more of the “paperwork” pedigree of the gun.
1. Charles Dew, Ironmaker to the Confederacy (Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia, 1999), page 77.
2. James C. Hazlett, Edwin Olmstead, and M. Hume Parks, Field Artillery Weapons of the Civil War (University of Illinois Press, Chicago, 2004), page 101.
One aspect I enjoy about studying Civil War artillery is the real, tangible link the guns provide to the events. We often speak of “witness trees” and compare the battlefield with “now and then” photographs. But the cannon are subjects which tie in battle, the ground, and the men who fought.
Now rarely are battlefield visitors treated to the sight of a gun placed at, or at least near, the location the crews positioned that exact cannon in battle. I can think of a few cases, but associating a particular gun is difficult (and I’d say to some degree the “holy grail” of many cannon researchers). More likely, visitors are lucky to see the historically accurate type of gun at a particular position. Such is the case with Battery D, 1st New York Light Artillery (Winslow’s Battery) in the Wheatfield at Gettysburg. Two guns represent that six gun battery.
In this case, a visitor can stand behind a cannon and see the a similar view gunners did 150 years ago. Again, for emphasis before we start arguing over flank markers… similar.
But in the case of the two guns representing Winslow’s Battery, there is more a visitor might experience.
Let me do what I do best, and introduce the guns. On the right of the memorial is a 12-pdr Napoleon from Cyrus Alger of Boston, Massachusetts. Typical of those produced by that vendor, this is registry number 15 produced in 1862 weighing 1228 pounds.
That outstanding ordnance officer Thomas J. Rodman inspected the gun. But his initials are barely legible on the weathered and worn muzzle face.
On the left side is a Napoleon from Ames Manufacturing of Springfield, Massachusetts. With registry number 72, this gun was cast in 1862 and weighed 1232 pounds. Alexander B. Dyer inspected this piece. While not as well known today as Rodman, Dyer invented a rifled projectile. He ended the war as the Chief of Ordnance.
Markings on the Ames gun are at least a bit more legible.
So two guns, from two vendors, inspected by two important ordnance officers who were probably hundreds of miles from the battlefield. So what?
Take a look at the muzzles again, and pay close attention to the bore sizes. Napoleons, being 12-pdrs, fired a 4.62-inch diameter projectile. With windage the bore should be somewhere between 4.68 and 4.72 inches in diameter. So what is the measure of those worn, weathered guns today?
My field ruler shows the bore at 4 23/32nds, or 4.688 inches. In other words very close to what it probably was at manufacture. And of course, my field ruler is not as accurate as the finely tuned gauges and patterns used by the inspectors. (And I doubt the park will allow me to take the guns into a lab for measures!) So give or take a few more tenths.
Now take a look at the Alger gun. Its bore is noticeably wider even without the measure.
The measure is 5 1/8th, or 5.125 inches. At least four-tenths wider. Way, way off the regulation allowance for windage. This gun is “worn out.” And with the naked eye, one can see the lower rim of the gun is narrower than the upper rim. Some ascribe this wear to the extended use of canister rounds. But I would responded the use of any strapped projectile would produce such effects. Regardless this gun was not stored away in some depot during the war. It was in the field and was being used.
So when a visitor stands behind this gun and sights down the barrel…
… that visitor is looking along the same lines that some gunner sighted as he prepared to fire live projectiles at real, living targets. This gun is not some museum replica. This gun is the real deal and it has a story to tell.
As noted in an earlier post discussing the company’s history, Ames was the most important bronze gunmaker in the decades prior to the Civil War. Ames produced the first 12-pdr Napoleon and the initial batch of four “modified” guns. Those five were the only Napoleons on hand at the start of the Civil War. At the start of the war, Ames delivered 18 or 19 more Napoleons with handles.
After those early batches, the Army removed the handles from the design. Subsequent production from Ames matched the new Army specifications (perhaps to the point of being boring to those studying cannons today!). One of those later Ames Napoleons stands on Barlow Knoll among a group of four guns representing Battery G, 4th US Artillery, or Wilkeson’s Battery.
Produced in 1862, registry number 37 might serve as a study for the “standard” Federal Napoleon gun. The breech features both top and bottom pads (which recall some vendors dispensed with).
The barrel tapers to the chase. Older gun designs incorporated a step just past the trunnions at the end of the reinforce. Not so with the 12-pdr Napoleon.
The Ames Napoleon used the conical rimbases used on nearly all Federal bronze guns. Like other vendors, Ames placed a foundry number on the left rimbase. But Ames used such a small font that the number rarely survives today. Ames used a one-inch tall font for the “U.S.” acceptance mark on top of the gun barrel. That mark cannot be seen in the photo above, and likely the stamp has eroded with time.
Ames did have a distinctive muzzle marking pattern, which is perhaps the only major variation to aid “cannon-hunters” today. From the top, turning clockwise, Ames stamped the year of manufacture, the foundry name, inspector, weight, and registry number. For this gun the stamps are: 1862 // A.M.Co. // G.T.B. // 1222 // No. 37. Translated this reads: Registry number 37 produced by Ames Manufacturing Company in 1862 weighing 1222 pounds inspected by George T. Balch.
Compare muzzle marks with a Henry N. Hooper gun next to the Ames gun:
The standard Ames muzzle marking patterns appear on even the six experimental “rifled Napoleons” produced at the end of 1862.
Those rifled Napoleons were among the last field guns produced by Ames for Federal orders. All told, Ames delivered 97 Napoleons to the Army from 1856 to 1863. Several surviving pieces with 1864 date stamps have New Jersey markings, indicating further production for state orders. But with the close of the war, Ames ceased to be a major source for artillery.
Federal production 12-pdr Model 1857 “Light” Field Guns are one of, if not THE, largest group of surviving field pieces from the Civil War. These came from five vendors – Cyrus Alger, Ames Manufacturing, Miles Greenwood (Eagle Iron Works), Henry N. Hooper, and Revere Copper. For the most part, one Federal Napoleon looks much the same as the next. But as noted before with regard to posts on each vendor (linked above), the astute observer can identify these guns by their source with careful attention to some fine details.
Revere Copper Company is indeed connected to the hero of the American Revolution, Paul Revere. While I’ve seen plenty of claims linking the company (which still exists today) from the Revolution through to the Civil War and beyond, the company today does not make note of past cannon production. So I’m not sure if the current “Revere Copper” is directly related via lineage to the cannon facility, or if 150 years of mergers and acquisitions have spun the cannon-maker into another line.
Regardless, Revere Copper Company of Boston, Massachusetts produced more 12-pdr light field guns during the Civil War than any other source. All told, Revere delivered 443 Napoleons against Federal contracts. Revere’s guns matched the specified pattern with one variation. While the first gun produced by Revere lacked handles, at least one of the first production batch of six had them. All later Revere guns lack handles.
With all the guns produced, Revere Napoleons are familiar to most battlefield stompers. One good spot to see and compare Revere guns is Malvern Hill on the Richmond Battlefields.
Conforming with regulations of 1861, Revere guns have muzzle stampings indicating the vendor, weight, year of production, inspector, and registry number. In the photo below, those read clockwise from the top – “Revere Copper Co. // 1230 lbs. // 1863. // T.J.R. // No. 255.”
Inspectors initials indicate the famous ordnance officer Thomas J. Rodman proofed this particular piece. Note also the rather small font used for the vendor’s name at the top. In many cases time and weather have removed that stamp, leaving a blank spot between the registry number and weight, which used a larger font. Such is the case with registry number 22 also at Malvern Hill.
Cannon-hunters today might use the blank space to help correlate a particular piece to Copper production. Another useful mark present on many Napoleons is the foundry number on the right rimbase. In the case of registry number 22, that appears as “23.”
In my experience, the rimbase number appear readable about as often as the muzzle stamps. Seems to follow if the gun’s muzzle marks eroded away, the rimbase marks did also. And often the metal fittings of the carriage prevent clear reading. Still, where these exist, these are a useful indicator to trace a gun. Easier to read is the foundry number from registry number 255.
The foundry number “265” here lends support to the identification of registry number 255. Notice that the foundry number and registry numbers used different sequences.
Another distinction on Revere markings is the reception mark over the trunnions. The “U.S.” is rather ornate with texture through the open block letters. The periods, somewhat elevated above the base line of text, are crosses.
Most Revere Napoleons have the hausse seat mounting tab on the breech top and matching tab called a “base plate” or seat at the bottom of the breech. The bottom tab provided a level surface for the elevating screw.
However, the first Revere Napoleon – registry number 1 – also on display at Malvern Hill exhibits two slight variations. First the muzzle markings are out of sequence.
The muzzle reads “Revere Copper Co. // 1862 // 1,194 lbs. // J.P.F. // No. 1.” Only a trivial transposition of the year and weight. As the first gun produced for a large contract, perhaps this indicates the inexperience of those finishing the gun. J.P.F. are the initials of Joseph P. Farley who inspected this gun. But one more variation awaits at the breech.
Missing is the “base seat” at the bottom of the breech. Here’s a closer view.
Hard to see on the photo, but on site I noted what looked like filing lines or other machine marks running front to back across the location of the base seat. Was this a factory modification or field modification? Unknown. However also note the hausse mounting tab.
The hausse still attached to the gun is not squarely mounted as on other Revere guns (see number 255 above with the back-plate and three screws). Instead the hausse seat is conformal to the breech curvature. Here’s a closer look.
While I see a crease directly across the hausse base, there also appears to be an adapter or fillet between the hausse and the gun’s breech. And the oxidation pattern brings that out as separate from the gun.
One possible explanation comes to mind. Greenwood Napoleons lacked the tab for the hausse seat. In batteries equipped with Greenwood guns used a modified hausse seat. Where other vendors’ guns mixed with Greenwood guns, some artificers modified the breech tabs to allow use of the Greenwood hausse seat. Perhaps an unrecorded artificer made that modification to Revere registry number 1 to allow the use of the otherwise incompatible Greenwood hausse seat. If so, all we have to go on is the current appearance of the gun.
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.