Diary of Orrin Brown—Dec 23, 1864

Pipestone Cannon

Diary of Orrin Brown, Savannah, Georgia

Friday–Dec. 23rd

We had a very cold night there was ice in the mess pan this morning nearly 1/2 inch thick and the roads were froze quite hard. Jim Gifford and I went over to the rebbel fort this morning and saw some of their big guns that they left, they spiked the guns but our men went right to work and drilled the spikes out in a short time. We saw 4.32 Pounders 1.20 Pounder rifled and a 6 Pound Brass piece very pretty pieces all of them. When we came back from the fort we brought an old trunk to put our bread and dinner and dishes that is all of our China and glass ware into and we got an old Batten door and made a Table of it so we are keeping house in great stile away down here in Georgia, it is very cold and chilly today and the smoke hurts my eyes very bad.

Artillery at the time of the Civil War was in transition.  Traditional smoothbore cannon were preferred initially by the command.  Smoothbore guns were proven technology, designed to fire solid shot projectiles at high velocity over low trajectories.  Short-barreled howitzers complimented these guns, typically in a six-gun battery, serving up exploding shells over shorter distance on a high trajectory.  Bronze was the preferred metal, as cast or wrought iron would stress over repeated use.  A bronze 6-pounder Gun might weigh over 880 lbs and cover a range of 1,500 yards.

Rifling came into its own in the mid 19th-century.  Spiral grooves along the inside of the gun barrel spin the shell, increasing accuracy while also increasing pressure on the metal.  Great Britain had encouraged innovations in rifling, for both large and small arms, and sold guns to both the Confederacy and Federal armies early in the war.  The 12-pounder Whitworth rifled cannon even featured breech loading (where the shell is inserted from the rear rather than front of the barrel).  While older smoothbores were also retrofitted, new rifled guns were produced before and during the war.  The North held a substantial advantage here, as the South only had one or two foundries capable of producing heavy artillery.



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