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Brass

Georgia Kemp Caraway University of North Texas Press PDF
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Absterdam

Jack Bell University of North Texas Press PDF

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

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Tennessee

Jack Bell University of North Texas Press PDF

Tennessee

(Formerly Mullane)

Establishing proper credit for the design of Tennessee projectiles has been a challenge for decades. Period documents refer to them by a variety of names including, “Tennessee

Shell,” “copper saucer,” and “copper cup.” Even Cdr. John Brooke referred to the design as “Tennessee Sabot” in correspondence to the Confederate secretary of the navy and to

Catesby Jones at the Selma Foundry in 1863.1

In a postwar paper written in 1883, Gen. Edward P. Alexander, formerly Longstreet’s chief of artillery, gave credit to both Mullane and Read for the design of at least the fieldcaliber Tennessee projectiles. In the paper, Alexander stated:

This shell (with the saucer shaped copper sabot attached with bolts after the shell was cast), called the Mullane or Tennessee shell, was the invention of Dr.

Read of Tuscaloosa, Ala., the well known inventor of what are usually but improperly called Parrott shell. . . . A patent was refused the Mullane shell by the

Confederate Patent Office, on the ground that it was anticipated by this patent of

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Dyer

Jack Bell University of North Texas Press PDF

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.

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Britten

Jack Bell University of North Texas Press PDF

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.

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