12-pounder Whitworth rifle

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12-pounder Whitworth rifle
CW Arty Whitworth.jpg
Typefield gun
Place of originUnited Kingdom
Service history
Used byUnited States
WarsAmerican Civil War
Production history
DesignerJoseph Whitworth
ManufacturerJoseph Whitworth
Mass896 lbs
Barrel length7ft 9in

The 12-pounder Whitworth rifle was a medium caliber field gun deployed during the mid-19th century. Designed by Joseph Whitworth, the gun was most notably used during the American Civil War. The gun was also used by the Imperial Brazilian Army in the War of the Triple Alliance.


The 12-pdr rifle was designed in the early 1850s by British manufacturer Joseph Whitworth, who had recently been contracted to improve the Pattern 1853 Enfield. During his experiments with the Enfield, Whitworth was inspired to begin experimenting with a hexagonally-rifled barrel; Whitworth would later apply these principles to his field guns.[1]

Along with Whitworth's smaller 3-pdr gun, the artillery piece was considered for adoption by the British government's Board of Ordnance. However, Whitworth's guns eventually lost out to the Armstrong gun.[1] During the American Civil War the weapon was exported and saw service in the Union and Confederate armies, though it was considered a rarity.[1][2]

From a design standpoint, the weapon was unique. Like all of Whitworth's designs, the weapon had a distinctive hexagon-ally rifled barrel and was a breechloader (though it could be loaded via the muzzle with modifications).[1] The cannon was forged using a method in which iron plates would be overlapped and forced together using hydraulic presses.[1]

The 12-pounder Whitworth saw service with the Army of Northern Virginia.[2] One Whitworth was used in the Confederate defense of Charleston.[3] The weapon saw some service in the Union army (notably with the Army of the Potomac in the Peninsula campaign),[4] and in one instance a group of Americans living in England gifted a battery of four Whitworths to the United States government.[5]

Despite being a rarity in the Civil War (one source states the weapon only saw Confederate service with the Army of Northern Virginia),[2] a replica 12-pounder Whitworth was used on the set of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.[4]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Whitworth Rifled Ordnance". 2008-02-13. Archived from the original on 2008-02-13. Retrieved 2020-09-06.
  2. ^ a b c Weller, Jac (1957). "The Confederate Use Of British Cannon". Civil War History. 3 (2): 135–152h. doi:10.1353/cwh.1957.0019. Project MUSE 415017.
  3. ^ Beauregard, G. T. (1886). "Defense of Charleston, South Carolina, in 1862, 1863 and 1864. II". The North American Review. 142 (355): 564–571. JSTOR 25118633.
  4. ^ a b Broughton, Lee (2020-03-19). Reframing Cult Westerns: From The Magnificent Seven to The Hateful Eight. Bloomsbury Publishing USA. ISBN 978-1-5013-4351-3.[page needed]
  5. ^ "Battery of Whitworth Cannon Arrived". Scientific American. 4 (24): 378. 1861. JSTOR 24960078.