Table of Contents Model 1841 Bronze 6 pounder Army Parrott Rifle 20 Pounder 1.5 Inch Hughes Breech-loading Cannon
Photo by Alice King
Model 1841 Bronze 6 Pounder
Robinson's Battery is privileged to have the use of an original Model 1841 bronze six pounder cannon. We remember and honor Civil War cannoneers every time we take to the field and share it with the public. We are mere custodians in this gun's long history. The following statistics are from "The 1864 Field Artillery Tactics" issued by the United States War Department.
Gun (bronze) ---------------------------------------- 884 lbs Type One Carriage (no
wheels) -------------- 540 lbs Two Wheels ----------------------------------------- 360 lbs
Limber Body (no wheels) ----------------------- 335 lbs Two Wheels
----------------------------------------- 360 lbs Ammunition Chest (empty
--------------------- 185 lbs Ammunition ------------------------------------------ 381 lbs
Total Rolling Weight with Implements --- 3,185 lbs
Standard Ammunition Chest Load (this could vary with type of conditions)
Mr. Larry Franks of Sturgis, Michigan donated this amazing 20 pound Parrott, made by the South Bend Replica Company, with a Paulson Brother rifled liner mounted on a carriage with a Paulson Brother limber and chest as well as additional items to Robinson's Battery. We are awed by his generosity and pledge to use them to continue our efforts to educate the public about the American Civil War and honor the lives of its veterans.
Mr. Franks is shown here with Jon Liebrandt, Fred Chapman, Scott Johnson, Cameron Davis and John Hughes.
The largest rifled field artillery piece in common service, the 20-pound Parrott was made of cast iron with wrought iron breech reinforcement. The Parrott rifles were developed by Robert P. Parrott at the West Point Arsenal in Cold Spring, New York, and patented in 1861. Federal ordnance officers accepted the first lots in the summer of that year. Production continued until the fall of 1864 with over 330 examples delivered for Army or state contracts.
Gun Weight:2925 pounds
Gun carriage: 1175 pounds
Gun tube:1750 pounds
The bore measured 3.67 inches across the flats. That caliber corresponded directly with the 6-pdr field gun then in service. The 20-pdr. had five groove increasing pitch rifling, designed to use Parrott’s patent projectiles.
The 20-pound Parrott used solid bolt, shell, spherical case, and cannister. While throwing a heavier shell, the 20-pounder's range was not significantly different from the 10 pound version. A 20-pdr. brought only 75 ready rounds to the battle (25 on the limber and 50 with the caisson). Thus a 20-pdr could stand on the firing line roughly half the duration of a lighter 3-inch rifle, which brought 150 rounds to the fight.
Trunnions measured 4.62 inches in diameter and 3.5 inches long. The 20-pdr Parrott used a Number 3 carriage and with it's limber, weighed in excess of 4400 pounds. This rated the weapon among the heaviest designated for field service, requiring an eight horse team.
At the end of 1862, Gen. Henry J. Hunt attempted to get the 20 pound Parrott eliminated from the Army of the Potomac's inventory, Because of its high weight and a reputation for bursting; it was largely replaced by 10-pound Parrots and 3-in Ordnance rifles after 1863.
Night Fire by Roger Thorson
1.5 inch Hughes Breech-loading Cannon
· Type: Breech-loading Rifled gun, 15 lands and grooves
· Years of Manufacture: 1861 to 1863
· Tube Composition: Wrought iron
· Rate of Fire: 6 to 8 rounds per minute
· Bore Diameter: 1.5 inches
· Standard Powder Charge: unknown, approximately 3.5 oz. maximum
· Projectiles: Conical type solid shot, 15 balls (.58 cal.) in a tin cylinder for canister
· Tube Length: 47.5 inches
· Tube Weight: about 90 pounds
· Effective Range: 3 miles
· Number used in North America: at least 10, maybe as many as 50 or more
· Cost in 1861 Dollars: $600 (CS)
· Invented By: D. W. Hughes (patented) in 1861. He provided an innovative breech design which he incorporated in his rifled breech-loader for the Confederacy. Hughes’ patent dealt specifically with his unique breech design which utilized lugs instead of threads and an elastic gum gas check.
The patent drawing reveals the principle of Hughes’ invention. The gum gas check (sabot), cylindrical and of gutta-percha elastic material, has a hole through its length and fits onto a spindle which protrudes from the front of the breech. In front of the gas check is a steel washer of the same diameter that also fits on the spindle. A screw at the end of the spindle serves to retain the washer and gas check on the spindle.
Upon discharge, pressure against the washer moves it rearward compressing the gum cylinder causing it to deform and expand against the walls of the chamber thus sealing the breech.
The washer serves to distribute pressure onto the face of the gum cylinder and to protect it from direct contact with flame. After discharge, the gum cylinder returns to its relaxed diameter and the breech plug is then rotated, unlocking the lugs, and the entire breech is free to be removed for reloading.
· Manufactured By: Street, Hungerford & Company of Memphis, Tennessee. The barrels of the Hughes Cannons were supposedly turned from locomotive axles.
· Special Notes: Barrel includes a copper sleeve water jacket, it surrounds the barrel. When filled with water, it helps to improve cooling during rapid fire. It fired by a falling hammer, using a regular musket percussion cap.
John Hughes, Fred Chapman, Cameron Davis and Scott Johnson decided to build a Hughes gun based on this original gun.
The project bagan with a parts purchase in 2011. The barrel is a portion of a 40 mm Bofors Anti-Aircraft gun, the breech started out as 5" solid CRS, and a roughed out trail.
The breech was bored and turned, the barrel turned and threaded, the trunnion band heat shrunk in place.
The breech then was threaded to match the barrel.
The barrel was screwed into place.
The breech was milled for the loading slot.
The end cap was installed, the hammer lock positioned and the bolt made.
Here is the bolt showing the obutration pads and the recesses for the locking lugs.
The trail started as a roughed out piece of oak.
The trail was sanded into finished size; the cheeks and axle housing made. Everything was aligned and bolted together.
An Amish wheelwright made the wheels.
The axle stubs were installed; the carriage after finish fit and painting.
The finished barrel was installed.
The water jacket was fitted and soldered together.
The ammunition boxes were mounted and all the painting completed.
Fred Chapman sighting the Hughes gun.
Night Fire by Roger Thorson
The owners and/or builders: Scott Johnson-breech and barrel machining; John Hughes-carriage, water jacket, implements and equipments; Fred Chapman-sights; Cameron Davis-ammunition chests.
Casting Shot - 2014
Creating the shot used in live fire matches is an interesting and exacting process. These photos are from 2014. Scott, Brandon, Josh and Lydia rode down to Monroe on Saturday morning with
John and arrived at Matt Switlik's workshop around 10:15 am, just in time for a cloudburst sweep through the area. Bob Mueller and his daughter
AnnMarie met everyone there about the same time.
We moved the work tables into Matt's crowded shop, lit up the
torches and started melting the scrap zinc the Battery purchased last
While the cold, damp zinc heated, Scott and Bob looked over
some of Matt's cannon boring equipment and the various projects underway.
The rain stopped and we got ready to pour the first rounds into the new
Hughes gun mold that Scott had made.
The molds took a while to get up to heat and cast good rounds, but after
awhile we were pouring 2- 6 pound and Hughes gun rounds for each 20
We took a few breaks as the molten zinc had to be replenished a
couple times during the afternoon.
Lydia took the hot rounds where they were pulled out of the
molds and after they cooled a bit, Josh cut off the sprues added the sprues
back into the pot to be recast. John opened the molds and removed the hot shot.
Scott and Brandon poured the molten metal, while Bob and AnnMarie kept the
preheated zinc going into the pot, stirring it in to help separate from the
We thought that we might run out of the scrap material that John
had brought, and Matt brought in a barrel of the zinc shavings that he
uses. But by 4:30 pm when we dipped out the last little bit to pour into
the Hughes gun mold, we decided to call it a day.
By day's end, we had cast up 17- 20 pound shot, 19 - 6 pound round ball and 32
rounds for the Hughes gun.