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Old April 11, 2015, 04:00 PM   #1
CANNONMAN
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History lesson please

Just watched the Hx channel's guns of the Civil War. I'll bet a bunch of you have a lot to say about it. My questions, if you will: 1. Was the whole war fought with BP? 2. If not, what changed? 3. They mentioned "fulminated" [?] Is this a nitrocellulose or modern powder? 4. I saw brass and cast iron [?] cannons; who got what and why? 5. The first rifles shown had ram-rods that seemed to be made of steel, yes? I know all these questions are available somewhere in the WWW, but you folks are somewhere between a cousin, to get in trouble with, an uncle who sneaks you a beer, and a Grandpa who gives kindred teaching. Thanks all!
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Old April 11, 2015, 04:02 PM   #2
4v50 Gary
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1) The Civil War was fought with black powder.

2) Percussion caps contained fulminate of mercury. I think friction fuses for cannons were also fulminate of mercury (but someone correct me if I'm wrong).

3) Nitro-cellulose was not used as a propellant until after the Civil War.

4) Bronze cannons as well as iron guns were used. Both Petersburg National Battlefield Park and Gettysburg has excellent cannon displays. Generally cannons, or guns, were issued six per battery so as to keep logistics simple. The smaller 6 pdrs were phased out in favor of the 12 pdr Napoleons. This war was about the last hurrah for smoothbores. Concurrently rifled guns were also issued and saw extensive service by both sides.

5) Iron or metal ramrods have been around since the French & Indian War. French & Indian War British (actually a Swiss in British service) Col. Henry Bouquet, 1/60, inventoried the extra iron ramrods he had at hand. When the 60th was first issued their long pattern (46" bbl) Brown Bess muskets, they had wood ramrods. They were given the muskets that were not suitable for regular service. This meant that many of the newer Bess had iron ram rods.

During the Civil War wood ramrods were basically a civilian thing and they continued in use by some hunters well, even to this day.
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Old April 11, 2015, 04:37 PM   #3
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CANNONMAN what station was it on??? I probably missed another good show.
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Old April 11, 2015, 05:03 PM   #4
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2. Roughly smoothbore were bronze and rifled iron with plenty of exceptions. The common bronze field guns were the 6 pounder (phased out where possible), 12 pounder howitzer, 12 pounder Napoleon (perhaps the best gun), and variations. Common iron rifled guns were the 3" ordinance rifle and the 10 and 20 pounder Parrots. Like everything else gheConfederates improvised and cast iron Napoleons and 6 pounders, among others

Siege guns, mortars, garrison, and naval guns were a whole other story plus there are another dozen guns and types used in the field I didn't mention, like the James rifle
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Old April 11, 2015, 05:06 PM   #5
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What is also interesting is the Confederates switched to iron cannons because their copper mines were overrun. So they didn't have enough bronze to cast cannon but enough iron.

Kind of turns on it's head the idea they made brass framed revolvers because of an iron shortage it was really the reverse. I think hey made brass framed because it is easier to machine with simple tools
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Old April 11, 2015, 06:56 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jaxenro View Post
What is also interesting is the Confederates switched to iron cannons because their copper mines were overrun. So they didn't have enough bronze to cast cannon but enough iron.

Kind of turns on it's head the idea they made brass framed revolvers because of an iron shortage it was really the reverse. I think hey made brass framed because it is easier to machine with simple tools
Your last sentence is the truth of the matter.
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Old April 11, 2015, 07:05 PM   #7
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Modern Marvels

Is this the program you saw?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBjJS42VnyE
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Old April 11, 2015, 11:59 PM   #8
Ephraim Kibbey
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A very interesting video but how could they not even mention the Sharps.

I thought the volley gun that was fired by just one cap and used chain firing to ignite all the other barrels on either side a great "lemons to lemonade" idea.
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Old April 12, 2015, 02:20 AM   #9
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Iron cannons would burst on occasion...bronze cannons had a reputation not to.

Footnote: Black powder was very smokey and in major engagements many in low lying and cool and windless battlefields commanders couldn't see how the battle was progressing. Hence the term to represent not understanding completely what's happening in a modern developing news story...The fog of war.

Calvary was often used to reconnoiter a battle to tell commanders what was going on.

Last edited by Bexar; April 12, 2015 at 02:34 AM.
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Old April 12, 2015, 02:46 AM   #10
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Cannonman...you might enjoy reading this discussion.

http://www.thehighroad.org/archive/i.../t-471893.html
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Old April 12, 2015, 08:45 AM   #11
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Iron was also heavy as more was needed to prevent bursting yet he 3" ordinance rifle almost never burst (I think there might be a record of one bursting during the war). The Napoleon was what we would call overbuilt today and could stand tremendous punishment.

All field guns then were horse drawn so the common field sizes were able to be drawn by 6 horses (sizes up to the 12 pounder nspoleon and 12 pounder howitzer but not the regular 12 pounder gun). The idea was to get the most gun and ammo on the field with the least practical horsepower. More horsepower was not only more expensive but a larger target and guns were lost when the horses were killed. Horses were often a target of sharpshooters for that reason and when batteries were stormed the horses were often stabbed or shot.

Back then horsepower and manpower were really brute strength
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Old April 13, 2015, 06:00 PM   #12
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iron guns

The Civil War period was when new techniques for casting iron guns came into use. One of the new developments was water cooling the part of the mold that formed the bore. This caused the core or center of the barrel to solidify first and the outer part to shrink around the core as it solidified, greatly strengthening the gun.

The iron guns used in the war were a mix of old and new technology, hence varied quite a bit in strength depending which gun you were talking about.
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Old April 13, 2015, 07:19 PM   #13
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Its also incredible the tonnage per day that the army had to have in order to keep its horses and mules just 'serviceable.' Prior to the railroads I don't know how armies keep their stock up to par unless they had plenty of replacements or didn't stray far from major rivers. During the Napoleonic wars you get some glimpses of this struggle. For example, the 7th Polish Lance (Vistula) one of the most celebrated cavalry units during the entire war, only on occasion had enough serviceable horses to mount the entire regiment.

Last edited by Crawdad1; April 13, 2015 at 07:26 PM.
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Old April 13, 2015, 07:40 PM   #14
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For a long time, all wars were like Sherman's march to the sea.

An army would live off the land through which it marched whether friend or foe.

Any supply line would be limited to what they could not do without and could not expect to steal along the way.

When the war was over and the soldiers were released from service to their king, they would continue their brigandage on farmers and travelers in what ever country they found themselves.
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Old April 14, 2015, 01:09 PM   #15
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History Channel
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Old April 14, 2015, 03:28 PM   #16
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Beginning in the 1650s, major European armies began to travel on their logistical stomach. This was taken to new heights by the English & French leading up to/into/through the Napoleonic era.

The American Civil war took this even further. And while local purchase/scrounging/forage by quartermasters/bummers was an essential supplement to fresh foodstuffs from day-to-day, the central ration was supplied by the national gov't's logistical chain. (Note that Lee was forced into surrender after his line of communication was cut off and his railroad-carried rations were captured by Sheridan at Appomattox Station.]

NOBODY cut themselves off from the supply lines -- save two occasions: Grant’s push on Vicksburg in May`63 where he "semi"** cut loose from Grand Gulf; and Sherman as he marched from Atlanta to Savannah.

In both cases, each man was the object of dire warning [including Sherman warning Grant the first time around]. But both men were also absolute masters of maneuver warfare when it most counted.


**
http://www.civilwar.org/battlefields...plyhillpg.html

.

Last edited by MEHavey; April 14, 2015 at 03:37 PM.
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Old April 14, 2015, 04:19 PM   #17
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What was the story of one side taking the supply train of the other in order to ....? Darn it. I did not pay enough attention. Civil War story on how to stop and capture by taking the food and supplies. I think there was a bit on how the troops were looking foreword to being resupplied and what the demoralizing effect would be if it were taken.
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Old April 14, 2015, 04:56 PM   #18
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One of the reasons that the antique firearms worked so well, for such a long time is the chamber pressure build up being slower and less than smokeless powder. Obviously, the metallurgy knowledge is superior now compared to the civil war period, and before. Black powder creates about 12,000 pounds per square inch of pressure, and smokeless powder creates 60,000 plus or minus pounds of pressure per square inch. Also, the types of ignition make the muzzleloaders weaker than modern arms. Every muzzleloader, whether a cap lock, (percussion), flint lock, match lock, wheel lock or in line, has a hole somewhere for the flame to pass through, to ignite the powder. Black powder is composed of the earth elements of powdered charcoal, sulfur and potassium nitrate, (also called salt peter), and smokeless powder is composed of nitrocellulose. Black powder burns at the same rate whether it is confined, (in a gun barrel), or poured out on the ground. Smokeless powder burns faster the tighter it is confined. Because of this difference, if you put smokeless powder in a muzzleloader you will blow up the gun, and the weakest part of the barrel is closest to your face............Robin
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Old April 14, 2015, 07:28 PM   #19
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Grierson's Raid taught Grant that he could forage. Grierson led a cavalry force that cut its way from Mississippi to Baton Rouge.
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Old April 15, 2015, 12:56 PM   #20
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Awesome lessons! You can almost see, hear and feel them! Thanks!
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Old April 15, 2015, 11:32 PM   #21
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"[black powder] ... chamber pressure build up being slower and less than smokeless powder."

Not really. BP generates less pressure but its pressure spike is actually faster and drops off quicker than that of smokeless powder, which is more progressive burning. That is why Damascus barrel shotguns let go with smokeless powder; the barrels are made to contain high pressure for only a few inches then they thin down to reduce weight. But smokeless powder pressure remains high longer, so it is still high at the point where the barrel gets thin, and the barrel lets go. Since that is the point where the shooter usually has his off hand, pieces of fingers often go along for the ride.

Jim
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Old April 16, 2015, 04:48 PM   #22
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I think the particular History Channel show was "Blood and Glory, the Civil War in Color". They presented a history of the war via colorized b&w period photography. There was an entire segment on weaponry, including artillary.
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Old April 16, 2015, 06:59 PM   #23
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The video I saw came out some time prior to these shows. Although I am enjoying your mentioned shows with awe at this time.
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