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"About ACW Artillery." Topic

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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP20 Sep 2016 3:39 p.m. PST

"The American Civil War has been called the last of the ancient wars and the first of the modern wars. It was a war which introduced the first metallic rifle and pistol cartridges, the first repeating rifles and carbines, the first ironclad ships, and many other inventions which herald a change in warfare. But the military still relied on the old tried and trusted means of smoothbore muskets, paper cartridges, and troops marching in military precision across the battlefield towards the enemy. More innovations and experimentation took place during the Civil War than during all other previous wars combined. This mix of technology was very evident in the ordnance department.

Prior to 1860, the United States government offered little encouragement to, and even less interest in, the inventions and experiments being offered by various ordnance experts. The general opinion of the U.S. Ordnance Department was that smoothbore cannons had won the previous wars and nothing further was needed. Many of the Ordnance Department employees were elder military officers who resisted any changes or departures from these smoothbore field guns, Napoleons, howitzers, and Columbiads. As a result, American inventors were subjected to years of expensive experimentation, field trials, and political bickering just to be able to introduce their ideas to the government. Many of these inventors invested their own money into their projects and faced financial ruin if the government turned their invention down…"
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rmaker21 Sep 2016 6:23 a.m. PST

Absolute nonsense. The record, as opposed to sensationalist newspaper reporting, shows that the Ordnance Department was interested in all modern developments. But weapons inventors tended to take out patents to protect themselves and their ideas. And after the Hall's Breechloading Carbine fiasco, Congress had passed a law forbidding the acquisition of patent arms, except with express congressional approval. Colt, of course, was given such an exception.

As for rifled artillery, the US Army was actually at the forefront internationally. The James system was probably the best smoothbore-to-rifle conversion system available, and the M1860 (that means ADOPTED, not first developed in 1860) was an excellent piece.

Big Martin Back21 Sep 2016 9:56 a.m. PST

The first ironclad ships! Gloire was launched in 1859 – before the ACW had started.

rmaker21 Sep 2016 3:16 p.m. PST

And New Ironsides was authorized before Gloire was launched. Besides, that's the Navy and what's being promulgated here is the old chestnut about the Army Ordnance Department being hidebound and reactionary.

John Thomas821 Sep 2016 6:48 p.m. PST

But they didn't buy the Gatlin Gun before the end of the war. There was a bit of hide-boundness in there.

cwbuff Inactive Member23 Sep 2016 9:04 a.m. PST

There were some reliability problems with the Gatling Gun. Probably just attributable to newness of the weapon system. Tended to jam, no traverse except to move by the trail, lots of smoke when fired, took as many horses to move a Gatling Gun as a cannon, training of the crews. Butler purchased at his own expense, I think 12 of them but not deployed. Can find reference to two being used in repelling a Confederate assault but do not really trust a one sentence mention.

Brechtel19825 Sep 2016 5:12 p.m. PST

The best field piece of the war was probably the rifled 3-inch Ordnance Rifle. It was an excellent,and reliable, horse artillery piece.

The 12-pounder Napoleon smoothbore, was probably the most popular overall and there is a slight difference between those produced in the North from those cast in the South. The Union model had a definite muzzle swell while the Confederate model had no muzzle swell.

number4 Inactive Member12 Feb 2017 7:02 p.m. PST

Rifled artillery is great for long range and accuracy, but the old Napoleon was better and the deadly business of dishing out industrial amounts of canister when they won't stop coming. The larger bore allows a wider shot pattern at close range, and was also faster to load than most of the rifles using fixed ammunition. The 3-inch canister was fixed, however, with forty-nine .96 caliber iron balls in a tinned iron case, although it was claimed that, being long and thin, the load did not perform as well as that of the 12-pounder.

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