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Table of Contents

Organization and Drill

The Weapons

The Equipment

The Ammunition
    Types of Ammunition
    The Effects of Artillery Fire

The Equipment
    Limbers and Caissons
    Artillery Horses

Famous Weapons


Types of Ammunition

Solid Shot
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 War.


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 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 anti-personnel ammunition.

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.

Hotchkiss 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 original design.

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 rifled ammunition.

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 field 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 scraps.
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.

Time Fuses

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 shell.)

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 necessary.

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.

Percussion Fuses

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 loading.


Friction Primers

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.

Opposite 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, 1879, p.211

"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 the woods. 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 charges.]

Civilian Death

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 Jackson, 1907.

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 fire. p.35

[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 Equipment


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 Parthenon.

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 towing jobs.

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 leather 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:

for 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 cannonsight@comcast.net.

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 wheels.

The water bucket (left) hung off the axle of the field carriage and held water for keeping the sponge moist.

Artillery Horses

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 high.

Gibbon, The Artillerist's Manual, p. 363.

At left is a detail from the Gettysburg Cyclorama by Paul Philippoteaux and assistants.

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 enormous.

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 horse.