Medium 9781574411638

Civil War Heavy Explosive Ordnance

By: Jack Bell
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Civil War Heavy Explosive Ordnance is the definitive reference book on Union and Confederate large caliber artillery projectiles, torpedoes, and mines. Some of these projectiles are from the most famous battles of the Civil War, such as those at Fort Sumter, Charleston, Vicksburg, and Richmond. Others were fired from famous cannon, such as the "Swamp Angel" of Charleston and "Whistling Dick" of Vicksburg. And some were involved in torpedo attacks against major warships. Jack Bell covers more than 360 projectiles from public and private collections in smoothbore calibers of 32-pounder and up, rifled projectiles of 4-inch caliber and larger, and twenty-one Union and Confederate torpedoes and mines. Each data sheet shows multiple views of the projectile or torpedo (using more than 1,000 photos) with data including diameter, weight, gun used to fire it, rarity index, and provenance. This comprehensive volume will be of great interest to Civil War historians, museum curators, field archaeologists, private collectors, dealers, and consultants on unexploded ordnance. "This will become a required reference guide at every Civil War site and related museum."--Wayne E. Stark, Civil War artillery historian

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The Role of Heavy Explosive Ordnance in Strategic Battles

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The Role of Heavy Explosive Ordnance in Strategic Battles

The development of heavy explosive ordnance brought awesome destructive power to the battlefield never experienced before. But that power was not fully tested or understood before deployment under actual battle conditions, and could be destructive to the user as awell as to the enemy.

Every major engagement involving heavy explosive ordnance was a learning experience for both sides. However, a few represented historic “firsts” in warfare or turning points in tactics or strategy. Sometimes these “firsts” were accomplished only with great sacrifice. In a number of cases, the tactics and strategies used were wrong, and brought disastrous results. In other cases the “lessons learned” were incorrect and reversed when tested in later battles. Notwithstanding these failures and catastrophes, by the end of the war, the tactical and strategic landscape for the use of heavy explosive ordnance was changed forever.

Described in chronological order are highlights of seven major battles or attacks in which heavy explosive ordnance produced results that led to changes in the strategy or tactics of warfare.

 

Guide to Using Data Sheets

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Guide to Using Data Sheets

For the convenience of users, the data sheets for projectiles and torpedoes use a standard format. Descriptions of the information in each category are provided below.

Users should read this guide before using the data sheets.

Projectile Photos

Most projectile data sheets have photographs of the side, top, and bottom of the projectile. The ruler scale applies only to the side view of the projectile. It is important to note that the scale does not include the height of the fuze, only the length of the projectile.

The torpedo data sheets normally have only a side view and a close-up photo of the fuze or detonator mechanism. Most torpedo data sheets do not include a scale bar, because the torpedoes are too long for the scale numbers to be legible.

Projectile or Torpedo Identification Title

The projectile identification provides several key pieces of information. It first identifies the origin of the projectile or torpedo. Origin defines who manufactured the projectile or torpedo: CS, British/CS, or US. Next it identifies the caliber (e.g., bore size) of the cannon that fires the projectile.

 

Glossary

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Glossary

ANCHORED TORPEDO—a torpedo (mine) designed to float under the water or rest on the bottom of a body of water, anchored in place by a weight, cables, or ropes. A defensive weapon.

ARMY OFFICIAL RECORDS (“Army ORs” in footnotes)—officially named, War of the

Rebellion Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. A 128-volume set, published from 1880 to 1901, containing original reports and other documents prepared during the Civil War by government and military officials on both sides relating to

Union and Confederate Army actions. (See Bibliography)

ARTIFACT—a man-made object, usually associated with a period, as in Civil War artifact.

BANNERMAN’S—the major military surplus dealer who purchased huge quantities of leftover military ordnance after the Civil War, which they resold well into the twentieth century. Originally known as Francis S. Bannerman’s, later known as Bannerman and Sons.

BASE—the bottom of a projectile or torpedo.

BASE PLATE—a flat iron disk on the bottom of a canister, grape stand, or quilted grape.

 

Shot, Shell, and Case Shot

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Section 1

Large Smoothbore Projectiles

Shot, Shell, and Case Shot

Smoothbore projectiles are generally classified in six categories, according to their design and proposed use. Shot, shell, and case shot are discussed in this section. Canister, grape stands and quilted grape will be discussed in the sections that follow.

Characteristics

Shot—are usually spherical in shape. These projectiles were designed to crush the target by the momentum of impact. As ships and fortifications became more formidable in their defenses, shot became more important projectiles for damaging or destroying them. Some shot were elongated, to increase the weight of the projectile being fired.

Almost all of these were proof shot, fired to ensure the ability of the cannon to withstand the pressures of firing. A few (almost all Confederate) were elongated and designed for use at very short ranges against ironclad targets before the shot started to tumble. Maury and Brooke shot are the best known of this type. (Maury shot are covered in the rifled projectile section because of their traditional association with rifled projectiles.) Bar and chain shot were not used in large caliber guns.

 

Canister

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Canister

Canister are always cylindrical. They were designed as antipersonnel projectiles used at short range against enemy troops or naval crews. Canister contain no explosive charge.

They are usually made with thin sheet metal sides that disintegrate as the canister is fired. At very close ranges, cannon crews might be ordered to use double canisters for each firing, creating a deadly wall of balls and metal debris directed against enemy troops.

However, canister did virtually no serious damage to enemy guns, ships, or equipment.

By the beginning of the Civil War, canister was recognized as the most deadly form of short-range antipersonnel weapon. Charges of double canister were even more deadly.

The larger number of smaller canister shot created a wide cone of destruction immediately in front of the cannon. For example, a single 7-inch canister contained 112 iron shot 1.3 inches in diameter compared to 9 shot 3.15 inches in diameter for a 7-inch grape stand.1

In large calibers, the canister shot used were iron.

 

Grape Stands and Quilted Grape

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Grape Stands and Quilted Grape

For both smoothbore and rifled artillery, grape stands and quilted grape served a different purpose from case shot and canister. Quilted grape and grape stands were designed to damage ships’ rigging and spars or fortification equipment, with the fragments from this damage causing major casualties to gun crews.

Some confusion exists about the use of grape stands and quilted grape. As general antipersonnel weapons, grape stands and quilted grape in field calibers had been largely replaced by canister by the time the war began. It appears that early in the war grape stands replaced quilted grape for calibers below 8 inch. Quilted grape were used in all calibers above 8 inches, including the 15-inch size, which has been documented aboard

Monitor-type gunboats1 and in postwar Bannerman catalogs.2 However, the Confederates captured a large supply of 32-pounder quilted grape when the Southern states seceded and had others manufactured during the early years of the war. These were deployed to river and coastal gun positions. A number of these 32-pounder quilted grape were excavated near Fort Huger, North Carolina, some years ago, and others reportedly were recovered in gun positions along the Mississippi and elsewhere over the years.

 

Absterdam

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Absterdam

John Absterdam patented a number of projectile designs in 1862 and 1864. The Union

Army Absterdam shells were made in the 3-inch and 4.5-inch calibers. Two of these 4.5inch designs are included in the book, having been used in the 1864-65 RichmondPetersburg siege.

There are three designs of Absterdam projectiles: Type 1 has a lead cup sabot and two lead bourrelets; Type 2 has a lead cup sabot and one (upper) lead bourrelet; and Type 3 has a brass ring sabot with no bourrrelets. A hybrid Type 2/3 is documented in this book, with a brass ring sabot and one upper lead bourrelet.

Absterdam had contracts with at least three foundries in addition to his own foundry to manufacture his projectiles: Dickson & Zane of Philadelphia; Chase, Sharp & Thompson of Philadelphia; and A.J. Smith.1 The first 3-inch Absterdam shells were ordered by the

Union Ordnance Department from Chase, Sharp & Thompson on July 28, 1863, and delivered on February 8, 1864.2 The first 4.5-inch Absterdam projectiles were ordered by the Union Ordnance Department through Dickson & Zane on March 17, 1864, and delivered on September 27, 1864.3

 

Archer

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Archer

Credit for the design of the Archer projectiles and the Archer safety fuzes is being changed in this book. Cdr. John Brooke’s papers and Charles Dews’ authoritative book on the Tredegar Foundry clearly indicate that credit for the design of both the Archer projectiles and the Archer safety fuzes should go to Dr. Robert Archer. The confusion that arose in earlier books about whom to credit is the result of three Dr. Archers being associated with Confederate cannon manufacturing: Dr. Junius Archer of Bellona Foundry, near Richmond; Dr. Edward Archer, a superintendent at the Tredegar Foundry; and Dr.

Robert Archer, a partner of Joseph Anderson in the Tredegar Foundry.

Brooke identified Dr. Robert Archer as the designer of both projectiles and fuzes.1

Charles Dew indicated that Dr. Robert Archer was an inventor of some distinction, having designed rifle shot for Tredegar cannon and a safety device to prevent premature explosion of cannon shell.2

The Archer shells and bolts have a lead band sabot placed just behind the center of the shell body as it tapers towards the base. Used at the very beginning of the war at First

 

Armstrong

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Armstrong

Sir William G. Armstrong designed a family of rifles and projectiles in the 1850s that were highly prized by the British government. In fact the British government controlled the company that produced the rifles and projectiles—Elswick Ordnance Company—and would not allow any to be sold to foreign countries until they completed their rearmament program in 1861–1862.1 The British government withdrew from the company in 1862, and Confederates began to buy Armstrong rifles and projectiles.2 In 1864, the Confederates acquired several large caliber Armstrong rifles and projectiles. Included in these shipments were two 8-inch Armstrong rifles, which were mounted at Fort Caswell and Fort Fisher.

Each rifle weighed nearly eight tons.3 Tests done in England indicated these rifles would pierce the armor of the Monitor-type gunboats.4

With the Armstrong rifles came an impressive array of advanced projectiles, including shell, segmented shrapnel, armor-piercing bolts, and armor-piercing shells. The Armstrong projectiles used a shunt rifling system with brass lugs mounted in a spiral shape along the length of the projectile body.

 

Blakely

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Blakely

Capt. Theophilus Alexander Blakely, a British inventor, designed a number of rifles and projectiles in a wide variety of calibers, which were sold before the war to individual

Southern states and later to the Confederacy. At least two batteries of Blakely rifles were also sold to Union units. It is well known that South Carolina had acquired a 3.5-inch

Blakely rifle before the war, which participated in the initial bombardment of Fort Sumter.1

Less well known is the fact that Virginia had acquired a 7.5-inch Blakely rifle just before or after hostilities began. That rifle fired some 900 rounds at Union forces at Shipping

Point at the mouth of the Potomac River before being abandoned by Confederate forces in mid-1862.2 It survives today and is located in the gun park at the Washington Navy Yard.

Most Blakely-designed rifles used projectiles designed by Sir Bashley Britten, who received a British patent on the design in 1855, but was unable to obtain a U.S. patent until after the war. Britten’s projectiles are described in the next section. The Blakely rifles firing Britten projectiles used conventional square land and groove rifling. Two other projectile designs—both flanged—were used in Blakely rifles that used the shunt system of rifling. Both are actually Blakely designs, but one is called the Preston-Blakely design and the other is known as the flanged Blakely. Battlefield recoveries of the PrestonBlakely design have been noted in 3.5-inch and 4-inch calibers. In addition, an 8-inch

 

Britten

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Britten

Sir Bashley Britten designed a lead-cupped rifled projectile and received a British patent on it in August 1855.1 Britten was unable to get an American patent on his projectile design until after the war. Some experts suspect that the U.S. Government’s anti-British sentiment caused this delay.

It may also be due to efforts by Alexander Dyer, a senior officer and eventually the

Chief of the Union Army Ordnance Department. After a trip to England just before the war, Dyer designed a very similar shell, which the Union Army Ordnance Department purchased in large numbers, even though most large caliber Dyer shells failed to explode.

It is noteworthy that Britten was allowed a U.S. patent on his design after the war, when his design was considered obsolete. It is also noteworthy that Dyer never obtained a patent on his design.

Britten’s design (and Dyer’s) had a lead cup sabot that was bonded onto the iron shell body with a hot zinc coating. The base of the shell body is rounded and often shows through the bottom of the sabot.

 

Brooke

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Brooke

Cdr. John Mercer Brooke, CSN, is best known for his designs of rifled cannon and projectiles for the Confederacy. He also designed the torpedoes and armor for the CSS

Virginia and oversaw its manufacture by Tredegar Foundry.1 Brooke was so highly regarded by both sides that Union Adm. David Porter said he only regretted the loss of two officers to the Confederacy from the United States Navy: Brooke and Catesby Jones.2 Porter did not mean to be flattering with that comment. After the war he said that Brooke had done more harm to the North than any other man in the South.3

Like his early work in designing cannon, Brooke’s early projectile patterns were modified versions or outright copies of existing designs. For example, in working on projectiles for the CSS Virginia, Brooke asked for designs from the Gosport Navy Yard ordnance officer, then modified the Dahlgren pattern for a shell design. He wrote in his notes, “200 shells are being cast at the Tredegar—of my design—Dahlgren pattern serving as the basis.”4 A number of experiments were conducted using Brooke’s Dahlgren designs,

 

Broun

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Broun

Lt. Col. William L. Broun became commander of the Richmond Arsenal in June

1863. It appears that he soon began to work on the redesign of rifled bolts and shells with copper ring sabots to improve their performance (and to reduce the consumption of scarce copper). Shells attributed to Broun’s designs appear on 1864 battlefields.

These designs simplified the manufacturing process by eliminating the lower bourrelet on the shell body, replacing it with a copper sabot that was wider than the shell base diameter. He attempted to improve the sabot effectiveness with lugs that were cast about one-half inch into the shell to hold the sabot firmly to the body. There is some evidence that these changes produced better performance, and manufacturing was simplified.

Large-caliber Broun shells have been recovered from two areas. The 4.2-inch caliber

Brouns have been recovered from late war Richmond-Petersburg lines and from Mobile

Bay. The larger calibers, 6.4-inch and 7.0-inch, are known to have been recovered only from the Mobile Bay area.

 

Cochran

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Cochran

J. Webster Cochran was a longtime inventor of weapons and projectiles.1 He designed

2 and was granted patents on projectiles and fuzes from the 1850s through at least 1863.

His only success in terms of government purchases appears to be the family of Cochran projectiles and fuzes purchased and used very early in the war by the Union Navy. These were produced in navy calibers only, except for a 3.8-inch bolt that is in the West Point collection. The navy calibers documented for Cochrans were 3.4-inch, 5.1-inch and 6inch. There are no known surviving specimens in the 5.1-inch caliber.

Cochran designed a convex brass ring sabot that screwed on to the projectile. The sabot contained a grease ring and had numerous small holes around it. As the sabot squeezed into the rifling upon firing, grease was squeezed out to lubricate the barrel.

Fired specimens appear to have taken the rifling well and retained their sabots. It is not clear why Cochran failed to get follow-on contracts with the navy, but the complicated design probably made the Cochran shells too costly.

 

Dyer

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Dyer

Prior to the war, Alexander B. Dyer was a junior ordnance officer in the U.S. Army.

Before the war he went to England and observed the performance of Britten projectiles being fired from Blakely rifles. Upon his return home, Dyer designed a very similar projectile. He soon was promoted to captain and became chief of ordnance at Fort Monroe.1

It was while he was in that post that the Union Army began purchasing projectiles of his design. The ordnance officer who recommended the purchase of Dyer shells stated that the Dyer design differed only slightly from the Dimick projectile2 and was almost identical to the design of John A. Dahlgren.3

The Dyer design, like Britten’s and Dahlgren’s, had a heavy lead cup sabot cast on to the shell base. For field caliber shells, Dyer used the same method for sabot attachment as Britten. The rounded shell base was tinned, then a lead cup sabot was cast on to the tinned shell base. For the large caliber projectiles, Dyer designed the shell body with a flat base and used notches in the side of the shell base to hold the sabot in place, differing from the Britten design.

 

Harding

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Harding

The designer of the Harding family of projectiles has proved to be the most elusive of any of the designers of Civil War projectiles. The author searched in vain at the National

Archives, the Museum of the Confederacy, the Library of Virginia, and talked with librarians at the Charleston Historical Society and the Charleston Museum. No information was found to identify Harding.

This family of projectiles owes its “Harding” name to a series of photographs taken at the Charleston Arsenal shortly after the war. In preparing projectiles to be photographed, someone had meticulously assembled about 50 pieces of heavy artillery projectiles and torpedoes and painted the names and calibers on most of them. Among those, were more than a dozen projectiles labeled “Harding.” (See front of dust jacket.)

During modern times some 11 different types and calibers of projectiles from this family have been recovered in various locations around Charleston and along the South

Carolina coast. Based on their recovery locations, Harding projectiles may have appeared as early as 1863, certainly by 1864. They continued to be used until Confederate forces abandoned Charleston as General Sherman began to move north from Savannah towards

 

Hotchkiss

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Hotchkiss

Andrew Hotchkiss of Connecticut developed the Hotchkiss family of projectiles and was granted his first patent on October 16, 1855. He improved the design and was granted subsequent patents on July 24, 1860, and May 14, 1861.1 The dates cast into many of his projectiles—October 9, 1855, and May 14, 1861—are somewhat confusing. The October

9 date is the date the first patent was applied for, not the date granted.2

The initial design was a smooth-sided projectile, now classified as Type I. Flame grooves were added for the Type II shells, which improved the performance of time fuzes, and for some unknown reason, they were also added to bolts. A flat-nose version with a rounded base cup was developed for case shot, identified as Type III. At the very end of the war, a flat base cup was added to the flat-nose case shot, a wooden disk was inserted between the cup and the shell, and the Wright 14-second or 16-second time fuze was added. This is known as Type IV.

In all four types, the base cup pushed into the lead band sabot, forcing it into the rifling. Because of this design, however, the base cup and the sabot often separated, creating major friendly fire hazards to forward troops. Nonetheless, in the 3-inch caliber, the Hotchkiss was the preferred projectile for the 3-inch Ordnance Rifle and saw widespread use through the end of the war and afterwards.

 

James

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James

Charles T. James was a retired general in the Rhode Island Militia and a former U.S. senator from Rhode Island. In 1856 he patented the famous “bird-cage” projectile, currently designated as Type I. The sabot of this projectile was made of three layers: an inner layer of lead cast on to the shell body; a thin tin sheet middle layer; and a rough canvas outer covering. James’ second design was patented in 1862, and purchased only in the 3.8inch caliber. The sabot of the Type II design was a lead band sabot cast onto a heavily ribbed shell body.1

In December 1860, James was awarded a contract to rifle half the smoothbore cannon in U.S. Army forts and arsenals, and as many bronze smoothbore cannon as the U.S.

Army delivered to him in Chicopee, Massachusetts.2 Based on the list of “guns fit for service” attached to that letter agreement, James was to rifle 922 cannon, of which 91 would be 42-pounders, 427 would be 32-pounders, and 335 would be 24-pounders. This contract was underway at the time of the outbreak of hostilities. James benefited enormously from this contract, gaining other contracts for the manufacture of thousands of his projectiles for use in those rifles. The Union Army also awarded James a contract to produce bronze cannons in the 3.67-inch and 3.8-inch calibers. At least 158 of these rifles still survive.3

 

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