For smoothbores, cast-iron solid shot is the familiar spherical
cannonball; for rifles,
the elongated projectile is called a "bolt". Both were useful for
counter-battery fire or attacking fortifications; the superior power
of the rifle bolt was the technological development that made masonry
fortifications obsolete, a fact graphically demonstrated by the ease
with which the walls of Fort Pulaski were breached early in the
Shell Shell, as its name implies, is a hollow iron
projectile filled with a bursting charge of black powder. All round
shell, and some rifle shell, used a time fuse to ignite the bursting
charge; Rifle shells could also use percussion fuses.
Case Shot Also called shrapnel or shrapnel shell after its
inventor, British artilleryman Henry Shrapnel, case shot was an improvement
on the simple shell by the addition of small lead or iron balls to the
interior of a thinner-walled projectile. The balls were embedded in a
matrix of sulphur or coal-tar. Case shot was designed to
explode in the air, so nearly always used time fuses.
Canister Canister is simply a tinned-iron can full of iron
or lead balls packed in sawdust. When fired, the effect is that of a
giant shotgun blast. Canister is essentially short-range
Grape Shot Grape Shot is similar in concept to canister, but
has fewer and larger balls, held together with iron rings or trussed
up with fabric and twine. (The latter is "quilted grape shot",
sometimes referred to as "quilted grape" or "quilted shot".) It is
often erroneously stated that this was purely naval ammunition, but
grape was at least occasionally issued to field and foot artillery.
The mechanisms of rifled ammunition:
Just as rifled cannon were in an experimental phase at the beginning
of the Civil War, so ammunition for those cannon were developed in
bewildering variety. Each of the types shown here employed a
different method of engaging the rifling on a gun. The James shot
allowed gas to pass through slots in the lower part of the projectile,
forcing the thin metal sabot to expand outward and engage the
rifling. The Read and Parrott designs, which were substantially
similar though not identical, relied on a soft metal cup (usually
brass or wrought iron) in the base to expand and take the rifling.
ammunition was manufactured in three parts; the upper bolt was
separated from the lower base by a lead ring sabot around the
exterior. The firing forced the two iron parts together,
accordian-like, expanding the intermediate lead ring to engage the
rifling. Finally, Shenkl's
ammunition employed a papier-mache sabot over the tapering rear half
of the shell; when the explosion forced it forward, it expanded to
take the rifling.
This specimen of Federal spherical solid shot was never fired, as can
be seen by the wooden sabot still attached with iron straps. It is
4.5 inches in diameter, which provided the necessary windage for the
4.62-inch diameter of the Napoleon. The groove in the base of the
sabot allowed the powder charge to be tied to it, after which it would
be referred to as fixed ammunition. This was the most common solid
projectile used in the Civil War.
This cutaway view of a Confederate spherical shell shows a specimen
with a polygonal cavity. The resulting lines of weakness would assure
that the shell would burst into a number of similarly sized
fragments. This Confederate innovation, generally attributed to Col
John W. Mallet, seems to have been based on earlier British work.
Note the fuze well, which is not threaded; it took a wooden fuze plug
with a paper fuze. (See below.)
The Schenkl shell was produced for the Federal armies in several
patterns, of which this was the most common. The tapering rear cone
with its seven raised ribs is one of the most distinctive attributes
of any projectile of the period; in use, this cone was covered with a
papier-mache sabot. Confederate specimens often used wooden sabots,
which were less flexible and therefore less effective. The diameter
of this shell is 2.92 inches; it was fired from a 3-inch rifle.
This cutaway, a Schenkl shell of the same style as the prior example,
shows the interior construction of the shell.
It also provides a good view of the Schenkle brass percussion fuze, a
simple but reliable mechanism with an effectiveness rate of 82%.
This Federal Parrott shell is 3.63 inches in diameter, for firing from
a 20-pounder Parrott rifle with a 3.67 inch bore. (Note, as with the
Schenkl, the typically smaller windage for a rifled projectile.) It
has a brass ring sabot and a zinc fuze plug for a paper fuze. Similar
models with a wrought iron ring sabot are often termed Read-Parrott
projectiles, the term reflecting the various efforts to enhance the
This cutaway of a Federal Read-Parrott case shot, with its wrought
iron sabot, illustrates the note from the last specimen. Its case
shot balls are embedded in a sulphur matrix, which was friable and
less effective than the more yielding coal-tar. Note that the
bursting cavity was simply drilled through the shot and matrix. This
specimen is unusual in that it is equipped with a Bormann time fuse;
because its maximum burning time was five and one-quarter seconds, the
Bormann was usually not thought suitable for the long flying times of
This Confederate Read bolt is 2.94 inches in diameter, and was
designed for a 3-inch rifle. It shows some typical signs of the
compromises made in Confederate manufacture: the copper sabot is
thick and unevenly cast, and the use of bourrelets (the raised rings)
as bearing surfaces for the projectile meant less time machining the
bolt to fit the bore.
The complex construction of this Federal Hotchkiss case shot is shown
to advantage in this cutaway. The sliding cup in the rear pushed the
surrounding sabot ring out to engage the rifling. Although the number
of case shot balls was small, isolating the bursting charge to their
rear with an iron plate threw them forward with even deadlier force
than other styles of case shot. Hotchkiss case shot was typically, as
here, equipped with a brass time fuze plug to take a paper fuze;
common shell might employ a percussion fuze.
These two specimens of Federal 14-pounder James rifle projectiles are
denominated Pattern I, Sub-Pattern I, which is some illustration of
the great variety of experiments tried by Charles T. James. The basic
concept, however, varied little; a sabot ring (in the case of the
solid shot on the left, a
canvas-covered iron sheet) was expanded by the explosive force passing
through slots in the base of the shot. The shell on the right
employed a lead ring covered with a tin sleeve, to the same end.
Whitworth ammunition was also produced in a number of variants, of
which this is the most common type of solid shot. It measures 2.73
inches across the flats, to fit the 2.75 inch bore of the 12-pounder
Whitworth breechloader - an exceptionally tight fit. Although
Whitworths were relatively rare on Civil War battlefields, their
prominence is deserved because they were one of the harbingers of the
artillery to come.
Each model of cannon was equipped with a Table of Fire, which was
affixed to the inside of the lid of the limber chest:
The columns show the elevation in degrees, the projectile, the range
in yards, and the time of flight in seconds.
The lower portion of the chart reads as follows:
Care of the Ammunition Chest
1st. Keep everything out that does not belong in them, except a bunch
of cord or wire for breakage; beware of loose tacks, nails, bolts, or
2nd. Keep friction primers in their papers, tied up. The pouch
containing those for instant service must be closed, and so placed as
to be secure. Take every precaution that primers to not get loose; a
single may cause an explosion. Use plenty of tow in packing.
(This sheet is to be glued to the inside of Limber Chest Cover.)
The gunner having determined the range of the target, the men at the
limber chest would give him the elevation, to be used in aiming the
piece, and use the time of flight given by
the table to set the fuses. A certain
amount of mathematical skill was expected in order to extrapolate from
the ranges given in the table.
With few exceptions (such as the mountain howitzer) the limber chest
was the same size for all field pieces, and the amount of ammunition
it could hold varied with the caliber and rifling. A limber chest
could hold 50 rounds of ammunition for a six-pounder; with its four
chests (two on the caisson and one on each limber), each six-pounder
gun carried 200 rounds. The same chest would only hold 32 rounds for
a 12-pounder. By regulation, each chest included some of each type of
ammunition used by the piece, although field practice might vary
this. (The numbers given are for fixed ammunition, in which
the shot or shell is strapped to a wooden sabot, with the powder bag
affixed, so that the ammunition can be loaded in a single movement.
This was the typical, but not universal practice during the War.)
Solid shot, canister and grape all operate on the same
principle as musket fire; the projectiles are simply flung at the
enemy by exploding a large charge of powder behind them. Shell and
case shot are somewhat more complex, being designed to explode at or
near the target. To accomplish this, some sort of fuse is
necessary. (The word was typically spelled "fuze" during the period.)
The fuses used by the artillery in the Civil War were of two very
basic types: time fuses, which burn slowly enough to ignite the main
charge of the projectile after a number of seconds, and percussion
fuses, which explode on impact.
The oldest and simplest form of time fuse was a tapering cylinder of
wood (left), hollowed almost to the point and packed with a
composition of mealed powder moistened with whisky or alcohol. When
dry, the rate of burning would be determined by experiment, and marked
on the fuses packed with that lot. The fuse, marked in tenths of
inches, would be cut with a fuse saw to the length necessary to burn
for the desired period of time. The rate of burning for a composition
packed into the tube was unreliable, however, because the packing
would result in uneven stratification of the powder.
The paper fuse of substantially similar form overcame this difficulty
because it could be packed longitudinally before being wrapped. They
could be cut to length with a sharp knife, and were inserted into a
wooden fuse plug in the hole of the shell. (More sophisticated fuses
might use a metal fuse plug that would screw into the fuse-hole of the
Paper fuses were color-coded: yellow burned 5 seconds to the
inch, green 7, and blue 10. The Union ordnance department decreed
that only the Frankfort Arsenal would manufacture paper fuses, in
order to ensure a uniform product. The Confederate ordnance bureau
could not afford this luxury, and the unreliability of their fuses, in
comparison to their Union counterparts, was a regular source of
frustration to the Confederate artillerymen. Both wooden and paper
fuses continued to suffer from the defect that the shocks of field use
tended to break up the solid composition, allowing fire to penetrate
too quickly to the main charge.
As in so many areas, however, the War stimulated experimentation.
This relatively simple technology was soon supplemented by a large
variety of time fuses. All continued to be based on the concept of a
substance (powder or quickmatch) that would burn at a known rate. The
most successful of these was the Bormann fuse (left), which is worth a
detailed description because so many other fuse types were based upon
its design. A Belgian state secret for many years, it leaked out in
the 1850's and achieved instant popularity as an easily-manufactured,
reliable, and waterproof fuse.
The form of the Bormann was quite simple. Within a squat threaded
cylinder of metal was a groove running around the circumference; a
channel at one end of the groove led to the center of the fuse, which
was in turn perforated to communicate with the charge inside the
shell. The top of the fuse was sealed with a thin sheet of tin,
graduated as shown in seconds. The cannoneer at the limber chest
would screw the fuse into the shell and punch a hole in the fuse at
the desired number of seconds. The Bormann fuse and its derivatives
(such as the Baden and Breithaupt fuses) were very popular with
artillerists by the time of the War, but the expense and time of
manufacture made the continued use of paper and even wooden fuses
All time fuses were ignited by the main charge behind the projectile;
the necessary windage for the piece would allow flames to lick forward
around the shell and light the fuse. By the use of a sabot, the
gunners could be sure to load the ammunition with the fuse facing
forward, else the main charge might force the fuse into the shell and
explode it prematurely, with potentially disastrous consequences.
As the name implies, percussion fuses explode on impact. As a very
general rule, they employ some sort of spring or slider mechanism to
arm the ammunition by inertia, throwing a plunger to the rear upon
firing and then allowing it to fall against a percussion cap upon
striking. Many patents for percussion fuses were issued during the
period of the War, but none were used extensively, being limited to
specialized purposes like destruction of fortifications. Their
complex and often delicate construction made them unsuitable for
regular field use, and there was always the concern that their
mechanisms would become armed during the transportation and
The age of the linstock and quill had not quite ended by the time of the
Civil War - Gibbon gives detailed instructions for the manufacture and use
of slow-match, quills, and even portfires.
However, this cumbersome method of firing had
been superseded by the remarkably effective friction primer. The primer
consists of a brass tube, open at one end. At the closed end, a small hole
of about the same diameter of the tube is drilled to one side, and short
length of similar tubing is inserted and soldered into place.
this short length of tubing is a hole to receive the priming wire,
which is a length of brass wire with a flattened and serrated
end. The short tube is lined with a friction powder similar in composition
to the head of a friction match, and the priming wire is inserted through
the head of the primer and into the short tube, which is then crimped to
hold the end of the serrated wire in place. The long end of the priming
wire is twisted into a loop.
The head of the primer is then sealed with shellac, and when dry the
main body of the primer is filled with musket powder, the open end being
sealed with wax. The resulting product
is effectively waterproof, which is one of the signal advantages of the
friction primer over the linstock. In use, the primer is simply placed
in the vent hole of the piece, with the lanyard hooked to the loop of wire
at its head. When the lanyard is pulled, the serrated end of the
priming wire ignites the friction composition, which in turn sets off the
musket powder in the body of the primer, which flashes down the vent to
set off the main charge. The effect is almost instantaneous.
Before the introduction of the friction primer, many pieces were
equipped with a lock mechanism to use percussion caps, similar to those
used to fire muskets.
The Effects of Artillery Fire
The following excerpts are not for the squeamish. They are included at
the Civil War Artillery site because we believe it is important to
remember that the artillery was not created as an abstraction for our
study, but as an instrument of war. War means fighting, and fighting
means killing. We are indebted to Alan Libby for suggesting this section
and providing the quotations.
Death Four Ranks Deep
As we returned a Yankee battery of eight guns had full play on us in the
field, and our line became a little confused; we halted, every man
instantly turned and faced the battery. As we did so, I heard a thud on
my right, as if one had been struck with a heavy fist. Looking around I
saw a man at my side standing erect, with his head off, a stream of
blood spurting a foot or more from his neck. As I turned farther around,
I saw three others lying on the ground, all killed by this cannon shot.
The man standing was a captain in the 42nd Va. Regt., and his brains and
blood bespattered the face and clothing of one of my company, who was
standing in the rear. This was the second time I saw four men killed by
one shot. The other occurred in the battle of Cedar Run, a few weeks
earlier. Each time the shot struck as it was descending - the first man
had his head taken off, the next was shot through the breast, the next
through the stomach, and the fourth had all his bowels torn out.
From the diary of Pvt. John H. Worsham, 21st Va.
A Cannonball in the Wilderness"
At one point," remembered Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., a young Sixth
Corps aide, "General Sedgwick's. . . headquarters were very accurately
shelled from the left - one struck within a yard of quite a number of
us who were siting on horseback & bounced under the horses." Another
staff aide, Thomas Hyde, was standing near the corps commander when a
stray cannonball decapitated a New Jersey private a few yards away.
The bloody head struck Hyde full in the face, momentarily blinding him
and filling his mouth with brains and gore. Friends moved to help the
shaken aide to his feet, finding to their astonishment that he was
otherwise untouched. " I was not much use as a staff officer for
fully fifteen minutes," Hyde later recalled with a shudder.
Noah Andre Trudeau, Bloody Roads South, page 66.
Col. Wise on the Effect of Artillery
"We often hear the sneering criticism that at such and such a battle
but 1 or 2 per cent of the enemy's loss was due to the fire of
artillery. Any such test is entirely erroneous. Not only do the guns exert a
tremendous moral effect in support of their infantry, and adverse to
the enemy, but they do far more. They often actually preclude heavy
damage from the enemy by preventing him from essaying an assault against the
position the guns occupy. Then, again, by forcing the enemy to seek
cover, they eliminate their antagonists to that extent...Let us hear no more
of artillery efficiency as measured by the number of its victims."
Paddy Griffith, Battle Tactics of the Civil War, 1989, p.171
Jan. 5, 1863: The Aftermath of Murfreesboro
.....Nationals and Confederates, young, middle-aged, and old, are
scattered over the woods and fields for miles. Poor Wright, of my old company,
lay at the barricade in the woods which we stormed on the night of the
last day. Many others lay about him. Further on we find men with their
legs shot off; one with brains scooped out with a cannon ball; another
with half a face gone; another with entrails protruding; young Winnegard,
of the 3rd, has one foot off and both legs pierced by grape at the
thighs; another boy lies with his hands clasped above his head, indicating
that his last words were a prayer. Many Confederate sharpshooters lay behind
stumps, rails, and logs shot in the head. A young boy, dressed in the
Confederate uniform, lies with his face turned to the sky, and looks
as if he might be sleeping. Poor boy! what thoughts of home, mother, death,
and eternity, commingled in his brain as the life-blood ebbed away! Many
wounded horses are limping over the field. One mule, I heard of, had
a leg blown off on the first day's battle; next morning it was on the spot
where first wounded; at night it was still standing there, not having moved
an inch all day, patiently suffering, it knew not why nor for what.
John Beatty, The Citizen Soldier or, Memoirs of a Volunteer,
"We bury our dead"
At five p.m., Bate led the six hundred men of the 37th GA,
20th TN, and the 4th GA Battalion of Sharpshooters into the Poe field. For an
instant, perhaps, the Confederates could see in the fading daylight
the black outline of cannon barrels trained on them from across the field.
Then came the brilliant orange flashes, followed by the report of
twenty guns simultaneously, and the field was blanketed in smoke and blood.
Bate's horse was torn to pieces by canister. The Tennessean mounted
another and kept on. It too was cut down. Both regimental commanders
were struck and Maj. T.D. Caswell fell at the head of his sharpshooters,
nearly half of whom were killed or wounded. For three, maybe four minutes,
the Confederates withstood the pounding. Men fell at the rate of nearly one
every second. Finally, after 180 had been hit, Bate led the rest back into
Ambrose Bierce watched the slaughter from behind the batteries:
"Nothing could be heard but the infernal din of their discharge, and
nothing seen through the smoke but a great ascension of dust from the
smitten soil. When all was over and the dust cloud had lifted, the
spectacle was too dreadful to describe. The Confederates were still
there -- all of them, it seemed -- some almost under the muzzles of the
guns. But not a man of all those brave fellows was on his feet, and so
thickly were all covered with dust that they looked as if they had been
reclothed in yellow. `We bury our dead,' said a gunner grimly."
Peter Cozzens, This Terrible Sound: The Battle of
Chickamauga, 1992, pp.256-257.
[Canister is packed in sawdust; the resulting smoke is bright
yellow and even thicker than the clouds of smoke from the black powder
Now it was Minty who was in trouble, and he had to act fast. "My
only means of crossing the creek was Reed's Bridge, a narrow, frail
structure, was planked with loose boards and fence rails, and a bad ford
about three hundred yards farther up," he recalled. By the time Minty's
first squadron trotted across, the head of the rebel column was only five
hundred yards away, "carrying their arms at right shoulder shift, and moving
at the double quick as steadily as if at drill." Mrs. Reed stood on her
porch and jeered the troopers as they rode past her house. "You Yanks are
running! Our army is coming! Our friends will not hurt me!" Just then
Bledsoe's Missouri battery (Confederate) swept the
house with canister, throwing
her mangled body against the door.
Peter Cozzens, This Terrible Sound: The Battle of
Chickamauga, 1992, p. 105.
The following excerpts were taken from Edward A. Moore of the
Rockbridge Artillery, ANV, The Story of a Cannoneer Under Stonewall
Just after we got to the top of the hill, and within fifty or
one hundred yards of the position we were to take, a shell struck the
off-wheel horse of my gun and burst. The horse was torn to pieces, and the
pieces thrown in every direction. The saddle-horse was also horribly
mangled, the driver's leg was cut off, as was also the foot of a man who was
walking alongside. both men died that night. A white horse working in the
lead looked more like a bay after the catastrophe. To one who had been in
the army but five days, and but five minutes under fire, this seemed an
awful introduction. p.31
As we drove into the road again, I saw several infantrymen
lying horribly torn by shells, and the clothes of one of them on
[Moore counts 27 holes in walls of a house which had been struck by
three artillery shells.] Being an artilleryman, and therefore
to be exposed to missiles of that kind, I concluded that my chances
for surviving the war were extremely slim. p.49
Still photographed on my memory is the appearance of the body of
one of the Second Virginia Regiment being hauled on our rear caisson.
His head had been shot off, and over the headless trunk was fastened a
white handkerchief, which served as a sort of guide in the
darkness. p. 78
....One of the drivers, Fuller, was lying on the ground, his head
toward the enemy. A shell entered the crown of his head and exploded in his
body! p. 162
So great was the loss of horses, there being over a hundred in
this battery killed in battle, that during the last year of the war they
were unhitched from the guns after going into action and taken to the rear
for safety. p. 315
The carriage performs a number of functions in the operation of an
artillery piece, some of them obvious, some not. First and foremost, the
carriage holds the cannon in place while being fired, and allows the
piece to be aimed. In the case of field artillery, whose mobility is
critical, the carriage also allows the piece to be easily moved where
it is needed. But transport and firing only
begin to describe the functions of the
carriage; this seemingly simple mechanical contrivance, through years
of trial and error on the march and on the field of battle,
acquired a set of refinements that rivalled those lavished on the
The carriage for field artillery consists of two cheeks, bolted
together and with the stock. The cheeks support the piece by its
trunnions, and in turn rest upon the axle-tree supported by two
wheels. The back of the stock or trail rests on the ground. The
field carriage dissipates the force of recoil by rolling along the
ground, and on firm ground can rear back several feet on firing. On
softer ground, the trail tends to dig in, which can cause problems in
aiming. The trail terminates in an iron ring called a lunette, which
is the means by which it is fastened to the limber. Two pointing
rings ahead of the lunette hold a handspike, which provides leverage
for aiming the piece. Ahead of the pointing rings are two hooks,
around which is wound the prolonge, a length of heavy rope with a ring
at one end and a toggle at the other.
The prolonge is used to loosely attach the gun to
the limber, as when firing while slowly retreating, or for other
A Number One carriage shown carrying a 6-pounder
The wheels of the carriage are of very subtle design. Their 14 spokes
are dished slightly inward to make the wheels more "springy" on rough
ground, and the ends of the axle are tapered downward to correct for
this angle, so that the base of the iron-tired wheel is perpendicular
to the ground. This dishing outward also improves the cornering of
the vehicle and has the salutary effect of throwing mud outward and
away from the men and horses following the carriage.
The pre-War system of ordnance called for three models of field
carriage: No. 1 for the 6 pounder gun and 12 pounder howitzer, No. 2
for the 24 pounder howitzer, and No. 3 for the 12 pounder gun and 32
pounder howitzer. The Napoleon (model 1857 light 12 pounder) used a
No. 2 carriage, as did the 10 pounder Parrott and 3 inch ordnance
rifles, all with some minor modifications where needed. There was
also some experimentation with carriage design, most notably the
idiosyncratic creation of Norman Wiard for his rifles.
Wheels for all three of the
standard carriages, as well as caissons, limbers and battery wagons,
were 57 inches high, and could be easily interchanged. As will be
noted, caissons carried an extra wheel, and changing a broken wheel
was part of the standard drill for a battery of field artillery.
Carriages for fortifications were fixed in one position and needed to
support much larger cannon, which in turn meant that they were
subjected to much larger stresses during firing. The example shown of
an immovable carriage is a barbette-carriage, named for the barbette
tier of a fortification.
A 100-pounder Parrott on a barbette carriage
Limbers and Caissons
The limber for field service is basically a two-wheeled cart, simply
an axle, with its wheels, surmounted by a framework for holding an
ammunition chest and receiving the tongue. At the back of the axle is
the pintle hook, on which the lunette on the trail of the gun
carriage can be keyed into place. The result is a four-wheeled cart
that pivots on the pintle hook. In theory, the limber chest can be
used as a seat for three cannoneers, but after the first few months of
the War, it was customary to spare the horses, and cannoneers would
ride only when necessary.
A caisson hooked to its limber; note the extra wheel at the rear and
the extra limber pole slung under the caisson.
The caisson is intended to transport ammunition, and carries two chests
like that on the limber. It has a stock like that on the gun
carriage, terminating in a lunette, so that it can be hooked to a
limber for transportation. A caisson with its limber thus held three
ammunition chests, which with the chest on the limber hauling the gun
carriage would make four in all. The caisson with its drivers and
crew would be under the direction of a corporal, who would report to
the sargeant in charge of the gun to which the caisson was assigned.
The line of caissons for the battery would be under the overall
supervision of one of its lieutenants.
The battery wagon, also drawn by a limber, is a long bodied cart with
a rounded top, which contains the saddlers' and carriage makers'
tools, spare parts, extra harness, and rough materials for fabricating
parts. The forge is a portable blacksmithy - in this case the chest
on the inevitable limber which draws it contains blacksmith tools.
Each battery had only one wagon and one forge, and they were expected
to accompany the battery wherever it went.
A battery wagon held a variety of accoutrements; note also the forage
rack at the back.
Each of the cannoneers is equipped with specialized implements, some
of which have been mentioned in the description of the firing
procedure under Drill. Number 1 uses a
sponge/rammer, a large ash staff with a wool-covered sponge head
at one end, to be wet for cleaning and cooling the bore,
and a rammer head at the other for inserting the charge. Number 3 has
a pouch with the priming wire or vent pick, which is a pointed metal
rod with a loop at the opposite end, and a vent brush, used to clean
the vent and avoid fouling. Number 4 wears a leather primer pouch
attached to a belt, and holds the lanyard, a length of cord tied
to a wooden handle, with a hook at the free end. Number 5 wears a
haversack for carrying the ammunition. Numbers 6 and 7, who work
together at the chest, have tools for preparing the ammunition,
including a fuze punch and a fuze saw. The Gunner carries the
sight, which takes various forms depending upon the model of gun; for
examples of two different types,
see this reproduction brass:
the 10-pounder Parrott rifle....
....and this drawing of a pendulum hausse.
While Chapman & Sons no longer maintains a website, replicas can be purchased by contacting them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many implements were stored on the field carriages, caissons and
limbers. The prolonge, a heavy tow rope, was wound onto two hooks on
the upper surface of the trail of the gun carriage, and the
sponge-rammers and worms were hung from implement hooks under the
carriage. The two handspikes hung from each cheek of the field
carriage. The caisson had slots for holding an axe and a pick.
The tarbucket (left) hung under the limber and contained the grease for the
The water bucket (left) hung off the axle of the field
carriage and held water for keeping the sponge moist.
The horse for artillery service should be from five to seven years
old (the latter age to be preferred), and should be from fifteen to
sixteen hands high.The saddle horse should be free in his movements; have good sight; a
full, firm chest; be sure-footed; have a good disposition, with
boldness and courage; more bottom than spirit, and not too showy.
The draft horse should stand erect on his legs, be strongly built, but
free in his movements; his shoulders should be large enough to give
support to the collar, but not too heavy; his body full, but not too
long; the sides well rounded; the limbs solid, with rather strong
shanks, and feet in good condition.
To these qualities he should unite, as much as possible, the qualities
of the saddle horse; should trot and gallop easily; have even gaits,
and not be skittish. The most suitable horse for the pack-saddle is
the one most nearly approaching the mule in his formation. He should
be very strong-backed, and from fourteen to fifteen hands
Gibbon, The Artillerist's Manual,
At left is a detail from the Gettysburg
Cyclorama by Paul Philippoteaux and
It is easy to forget that the field artillery was almost as a
dependent upon horses as the cavalry. Gibbon held that a battery of
six light guns needed 110 horses to take the field, and an even larger
number would be required for a battery of mounted artillery. As the
principle motive power for the guns, they were a prime target for the
opposing force; disabling the horses meant that the guns were at risk
of capture. Horses, like the soldiers who depended upon them, were
also subject to the rigors of disease, poor rations, and the too-often
squalid living conditions of an army camp. The death toll has never
been calculated, but the cost of the War in horse flesh was surely
As their lives and guns so often depended upon their horses,
artillerymen were disposed to accept without excessive grumbling the
regulations for their care. The bugler would sound stable call after
reveille and roll, and water call after breakfast. The same routine
for the horses would be repeated late in the afternoon. Morning and
afternoon drill also meant a workout for the horses, after which they
needed to be walked to cool down, curried, and probably watered
again. There were always sick horses requiring care, and those who
died requiring burial. (This last was described by John Billings,
with the humor that can only be the product of a long passage of time,
in his Hardtack and Coffee.)
One driver was assigned to each pair of horses, riding the on (left)
horse and holding reins for it and the off horse. Skilled riders were
required for this service, which combined the daring of the
cavalry troopers with the precision teamwork expected of the
artilleryman. Drivers were issued a leg-guard, an iron plate encased
in leather and strapped to the right leg to prevent the limber pole
from injuring them. The duties of a driver are described in more
detail in the Field Artillery Position section.
Story of an Artillery Horse: Loomis Battery's Sam
The Coldwater Light Artillery had been a crack militia unit well
before the commencement of the Civil War, and when hostilities began,
this unit from Branch County, Michigan, was one of the first to offer
its services for the cause of the
Union. The people of Coldwater were justifiably proud of their
Battery, and donated everything needed to complete the equipment of
the unit. Among these donations was the use of Old Sam, a horse owned
by Mr. Clark, a local innkeeper.
Old Sam had been employed for
several years as a cab horse, bringing passengers from the train
station to the inn.
When the Battery left Coldwater in May, the thoughts of those left
behind were all of the men; few could have spared concern for a
horse. But the men themselves had apparently already adopted Old Sam
as something of a pet, the sight of him pulling his cab down the old
post road being familiar to them all.
This is not the place to tell the entire history of Loomis's Battery,
save to say that it was often found where fighting was the thickest,
and that the toll on the Battery's horses was even more fearsome than
the toll on the men.
In savage fighting at Perrysville 33
horses were killed or disabled. The Battery was again heavily engaged
at Murfreesboro, losing nearly 40 horses. Finally, in the debacle at
Chickamauga, the Battery lost five of its guns and nearly 50 horses.
In the course of the War, many others were lost to disease, or simply
wore out their lives in the hard work and scant forage that were the
lot of the artillery horse.
But somehow, through all of this, Old Sam plugged along. His
seemingly charmed life made him a symbol of survival to the men of
Loomis's Battery, and he continued to be a reminder of the home they
had left behind so many months before.
After mustering out, the men of the Battery were sent home to
Coldwater, and so was Old Sam. When the ramp from his railroad car
was lowered, Sam needed no one to tell him that he had reached his old
familiar station. Not waiting to be bridled, he simply trotted down
the ramp and went directly to his old stable, his empty stall waiting
for him. Again like the soldiers with whom he had spent four years,
he returned to the work he had known before the War. He retired to a
local farm a few years later, but continued to be a special
participant in every Decoration Day parade and GAR encampment.
When at last his time had come to an end,
the veterans with whom he'd served had
long since come to regard Old Sam as one of them, and were loathe to
part with him, even in death. Though the law forbade his being buried
in the local cemetery, those veterans felt there was a higher law to
be followed. Local legend, passed on from father to son for over a
century, says that they buried Sam in an unplotted area of the town's
cemetery. There are still a few descendants and relatives of those
men who can point to a large shallow depression in a disused corner of
the cemetery as the final resting place of Old Sam, the artillery