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Field Artillery and the American Civil War

Between 1861 and 1865, one of the most important parts of the United States history was written. The American Civil War proved out to be a major turning point for both the Union States and the other 11 States from the south (Confederate States of America). The Union was under the command of the 16th American President Abraham Lincoln and the Confederate States under the one of President Jefferson Davis.

The war was caused by a lot of reasons but two of the most important ones were related to the issues of slavery and secession. There were many battles and attack on behalf of both parts, large armies and an incredible number of artillery weapons participating. After the American Civil War, the history of American guns was certainly richer and more complex.

The Civil War relied heavily on the use of field artillery, including various artillery weapons and additional equipment. Both the infantry and cavalry used weapons such as smoothbores and rifles. From all the weapons, there are some models that were extensively used and these mainly include: 12-pounder Napoleon cannon, 12 and 24-pounder Howitzer, 10-pounder Parrott rifle and the 3-inch Ordnance rifles. The materials from which these weapons had been manufactured were bronze and iron. The projectiles were of various types and so were each weapon’s features, including the velocity and range of motion.

If we were to discuss the major types of weapons that were used by both the Union and Confederate forces during the Civil War, then the discussion would be mainly about smoothbore firearms and rifles. Smoothbores were completely different from rifles, being part of the early American gun history. They included both the howitzer and the cannon, serving primarily to the firearm needs of the Confederate forces. The advantages of the howitzer constituted of the light weight and the high trajectory of its explosive shells. However, the cannon had a longer-range for firing and they could not only fire shells, but also canister and solid shots.

The problem with cannons was that they were quite heavy and could hold back an army unit.

By far one of the most famous weapons of the American Civil War was the 12-pounder Napoleon, widely used by Confederate and Union forces as well. The smoothbore cannon carried the name of Napoleon III of France and it was extensively treasured. The Napoleon was admired because it had an incredible fire power while being safe to use at the same time.

As for rifled guns, they were used even more in the Civil War. Manufacturers understood the importance of providing arms to the armies and this is why they kept on increasing production and introducing technological innovations. Rifles based their functioning on a special mechanism, using a gyroscopic force and having an enhanced accuracy. If at the beginning they were not so much used due to their being quite costly to manufacture, in later times they were widely used, being considered as incredibly accurate and performant. The rifles that were used in the American Civil War respected and followed the muzzle-loading system; still, there were certain rifles that could be operated using a breech-loading mechanism.

When John Griffen came out on the market with his 3-inch ordnance rifle, the need for a gun that was both durable and dependable was increasingly felt.

Manufactured by the Phoenixville Iron Company, this special rifle had a barrel made from molded iron and had an incredible range of accuracy. It quickly became popular amongst the Confederate forces and there are many history records standing today to attest the important role it played during the Civil War. Giving the fact that the war wasn’t about to end too soon, more and more manufactures and gun inventors started to produce guns for warfare. Among these was the illustrious Robert Parker Parrott, manufacturer of various rifles with different sizes. Still, amongst the most used during the Civil War were his 10 and 20-pounder rifles, having incredible advanced features. The rifles were made from both cast and molded iron, with an improved range of accuracy. However, there were many things that were not all right with the Parrott rifles; in time, they became less used and replaced with other weapon that were much safer. Robert P. Parrott managed to remain in history as the inventor of one of the largest field artillery guns that were used during the American Civil War.

The Civil War also allowed for the development of various types of ammunition, ready to be used with the wide variety of artillery and assault weapons introduced.

All of them were designed to hit specific targets, but they had distinct features. Some were solid projectile but contained no explosives. That was the case of solid shots. These were especially used in smoothbore cannons where they were known as cannonballs. The efficiency of the projectile or the bolt as it was called was represented by the impact it had upon the enemy army and the equipment it carried. As for projectiles that contained explosives, shells were some of the best ammunition used to destroy enemy forces. These were considered even more effective, not only for assault operations but also in case there was the need of demolishing certain buildings and setting them on fire.

Recent innovations soon caused the appearance of projectiles that had included explosive that was highly efficient. These were case projectiles and they contained iron balls that were projected to explode over the enemy. Case projectiles were usually used on the 12-pounder Napoleon and they represented an extremely destructive type of ammunition. And if we were to consider the kind of ammunition that caused the highest number of deaths, this was certainly the canister shot. Loaded with iron or lead balls and it had an incredible exploding power and unbelievable efficiency. As for other equipment that was used, the cavalry relied heavily on horses and the carriages used to carry the artillery’s additional equipment.

After reading a little bit about the history of the Civil War, everyone can realize that the Union States had a great deal of advantages over the Confederate forces. The North was much more industrialized and artillery weapons were constantly produced. The favorable position given by the multitude of weapons available and also the efficient organization has helped the North to win a great number of battles, perpetually hitting the South. Using smoothbores such as cannons and howitzers, rifled cannons and many other artillery rifles, the Union was well equipped as opposed to the Confederate forces, where guns lacked both quality and performance. The number of casualties was increased by the new weapons used by the Union forces and also because of the sound-thinking battlefield tactics. The South tried to defend as much as possible and had its own number of victories, smaller indeed. When they were defeated, an immense number of slaves were freed and many issues related to the slavery were finished. At the same time, the history of American guns had grown and manufacturers were deeply interested in producing new weapons, which were more accurate and safe to use. Soon, a whole new generation of firearms appeared, respecting the highest standards of quality and having truly advanced features for those times.