Table of Contents Dictionary Occupations Recommended Reading Resources
A line behind the vent,
distinguishing the cascabel, to its rear, from the remainder of the breech.
Traditionally marked by a base ring, as on the six-pounder gun or
12-pounder field howitzer, the base line is for later models an
imaginary line at about the point of sharpest curvature.
The basic unit of organization in
the artillery, typically consisting of four or six guns and the accompanying
personnel and materiel.
Solid shot for rifled cannon,
typically a cylinder with a pointed nose. Bore
The cylindrical hole, opening at
the muzzle, into which the charge and projectile are inserted.
The portion of the cannon to the
rear of the base of the bore, including the cascabel. Caisson
A two-wheeled cart, bearing two
ammunition chests, drawn by a limber and its team.
consisting of a tinned-iron can full of iron or lead balls packed in sawdust.
The structure that holds a piece of
ordnance in place and allows it to be aimed. For field ordnance, typically a
two-wheeled device drawn by a limber; carriages for fortifications and
naval use were more complex.
Cascabel also cascable The portion
of the breech to the rear of the base line, including the cascabel
knob and neck. The term is often loosely (and erroneously) used to refer to
the knob alone.
Also called shrapnel or shrapnel
shell; a shell whose cavity has been partly filled with small lead or
A narrower portion of the bore,
at its base. Most typically found in howitzers, it allows a projectile
to be fired using less powder than a gun of the same caliber.
The tapering portion of the barrel
forward of the reinforce; traditionally terminates at the chase ring,
a decorative molding found chiefly on the six-pounder during the Civil War
A heavy screw in the upper face of
a carriage, under the breech, used in aiming to adjust the range
by raising and lowering the piece.
Similar in concept to canister,
but with fewer and larger balls, held together with iron rings or trussed up with
fabric and twine.
A relatively long-barreled cannon
designed to fire projectiles with a nearly flat trajectory.
A heavy wooden bar, variously
shaped for different pieces of ordnance, used as a crowbar or lever, whether
for aiming or otherwise manhandling the piece; see pointing rings.
Howitzer A relatively shorter-barreled
cannon with a chamber at the base of the bore, designed to take a
smaller charge. Its range is shorter than that of a gun, and the
trajectory of the projectile shows more arc.
A length of cord secured to a
wooden handle, with a hook at the free end, used to pull the primer and
fire the piece.
A two-wheeled cart, bearing an
ammunition chest, used for drawing a gun carriage, caisson,
wagon, or forge.
A ring at the end of the trail
of a field piece, which fits over the pintle and is keyed into place to
hold the limber and carriage together during transportation.
Muzzle, muzzle swell
The muzzle is the front face
of the cannon; the muzzle swell, where present, is the flaring portion
of the barrel just behind the muzzle.
The knob (basically a trailer
hitch) at the rear of the limber, by which the carriage or other
piece to be towed is attached.
A pair of iron rings on the upper
face of the trail, just ahead of the lunette, into which a handspike
is inserted to turn the piece to left and right in aiming.
The weight needed to balance a
piece when suspended freely from its trunnions. Preponderance is
typically at the breech, to seat the gun against the elevating screw.
Primer or friction primer A small
brass tube filled with powder, inserted in the vent and used to ignite
the main charge.
Also called the vent pick, a
length of heavy copper or brass wire, looped for a handle at one end, pointed on
the other, used for punching the powder bag by inserting it through the vent.
A heavy rope, 26'7" long, with
an iron ring at one end and a toggle at the other, used for towing. When not in
use, it was wound around two prolonge hooks on the top of the trail.
The thicker portion of the barrel
of a gun, forward of the breech, and leading to the chase. There
may be first and second reinforce, the first being that starting at the
breech. Earlier models often had a molding, or at least a sharp discontinuity,
between the reinforce and chase, as with the M1841 six-pounder gun, but this
was usually smoother, almost invisible, in the more common guns of the Civil
Rifling, lands and grooves
Spiral grooves cut into the bore
of a cannon, for the purpose if imparting spin to the projectile. The portions
of the bore surface not cut away are referred to as the lands.
The shoulders of the trunnions,
which center the cannon and strengthen the joint between the trunnions and the
body of the piece.
For smoothbores, the (typically
wooden) short cylinder to which the shot or shell is strapped, for attaching
the powder bag and keeping the fuse pointed toward the muzzle. For rifles, the
mechanism (typically a cup or ring) which engages the rifling.
A hollow projectile, filled with
powder and equipped with a fuse, intended to explode at some distance from the
A solid non-explosive projectile.
Sponge, sponge-rammer, rammer
The sponge is a staff with a
wool-covered cylinder at one end, which can be moistened and is used to clean
the bore and extinguish sparks. A similar staff with a wooden cylinder used for
seating the charge is called a rammer. These functions were often placed
at either end of a single staff - the sponge-rammer
A padded deerskin cover for the
left thumb of the cannoneer covering the vent.
Trail also stock The rear portion
of a field carriage, which rests on the ground when firing.
The metal cylinders on either side
of a piece, typically just ahead of the center of gravity (see preponderance)
by which the piece is seated on its carriage.
The small hole leading from the top
of the barrel to the base of the bore, by which a spark is communicated
to the charge.
The difference between the principal
diameter of the bore and the largest diameter of the projectile.
A double spiral hook, mounted on a staff, used to
remove debris from the bore.
Young soldier, Ben Rusk
Photo courtesy of Carolyn Rusk
Artificer - A skilled worker; a craftsperson
Farrier - One who shoes horses
Puddler - One who works with molten ores
Saddler - One who makes, deals in, or repairs saddles and other leather equipment for horses
Teamster - One who drives a team of horses, mules or other beasts of burden
Alexander, E. Porter, Fighting for the Confederacy: The
Personal Recollections of General Edward Porter Alexander, 1989
Alexander, E. Porter, The Military Memoirs of a Confederate: A Critical
John Davis, Hardtack and Coffee, 1888
Daniel, Larry Cannoneers in Gray: The Field Artillery of the Army of Tennessee, 1861-1865,
Daniel, Larry J., Riley W. Gunter, Confederate Cannon Foundries, 1977
Dickey, Thomas S. and Peter C. George, Field Artillery Projectiles of the
American Civil War: Including a Selection of Navy Projectiles, Fuzes, Hand
Grenades Rockets, and Land Mines, rev. ed., 1993
Dornbusch, C. E., Regimental Publications & Personal Narratives of
the Civil War; a Checklist, 1961
Dyer, Frederick, A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion, 1908
Gibbon, John, The Artillerist's Manual, 2nd ed., 1863
Gibbon, John, Personal Recollections of the Civil War, 1928
Hazlett, James C., Edwin Olmsted, M. Hume Parks, Field Artillery Weapons
of the Civil War, 2nd ed., 1988
Lavery, Dennis S. and Mark H. Jordan, Iron Brigade General: John Gibbon,
a Rebel in Blue, 1993
Lewis, Emanuel Raymond, Seacoast Fortifications of the United States,
Longacre, Edward G., The Man Behind the Guns: A Biography of General
Henry J. Hunt, Commander of Artillery, Army of the Potomac,
Lutz, D. E., Artillery for the Land Service of the United States,
1849-1865, 1988 (One of a series of reprints
based on the Mordecai drawings.)
Melton, Jack W. and Lawrence
E. Pawl, A Guide to Civil War Artillery Projectiles, 1996
Melton, Jack W., and Lawrence
E. Pawl, Introduction to Field Artillery Ordnance, 1861-1865, 1994
Morgan, James, "Mounted But Not Mounted: The Confusing Terminology of
Artillery", Camp Chase Gazette, March 1996
Naisawald, L. VanLoan, Grape and Canister; The Story of the Field
Artillery of the Army of the Potomac,
Olmstead, Edwin, Wayne E. Stark, Spencer C. Tucker, The Big Guns: Civil
War Siege, Seacoast and Naval Cannon, 1997
Peterson, Harold L., Round Shot and Rammers: An Introduction to Muzzle-Loading Land
Artillery in the United
Artillery and Ammunition of the Civil War, 4th rev. ed., 1984
Sifakis, Stewart, Compendium of the Confederate Armies, 1995
Switlik, M. C., The More Complete Cannoneer, 3rd ed., 1990
Thomas, Dean S., Cannons: An Introduction to Civil War Artillery,
Time-Life Echoes of Glory series (1991): Arms and Equipment of the Union
Arms and Equipment of the Confederacy
U.S. Army Ordnance
Department (Alfred Mordecai), Artillery for the United States Land
U.S. War Department, Instruction for Field Artillery, prepared by a Board
of Artillery Officers [ William H. French, William F. Barry, and Henry J.
Wise, Jennings Cropper, The Long Arm of
Lee, or, the History of the Artillery of the Army of Northern
Many sources exist from which images of original documents of the Civil War era can be obtained. We have used, and highly recommend, the following in our research about Battery members. Our thanks to all of the dedicated archivists who work not only to preserve these irreplaceable materials but to make them available to others so that a better understanding of history can be maintained.
HAL Digital Collection
Michigan Historical Museum Department of Military and Veteran Affairs
Detroit Public Library
VA National Cemetery Administration
United States Army Heritage & Education