Talk:Field artillery in the American Civil War

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14-Pounder James Rifle[edit]

(developed by Gen. C.T. James; mfg. by Ames Mfg. Co., MA)

What was the scope of use of the above (i.e., how many were in the field)? Should they be included?--Fix Bayonets! 06:42, 17 October 2006 (UTC)

...a six-pounder version is seen here
--Fix Bayonets! 03:02, 5 November 2006 (UTC)
The 14-pounder James rifle should be added to the table at least. It was a fairly common weapon early in the war, but was largely gone by mid-1863. I'll take a look at this one. Red Harvest (talk) 21:38, 27 May 2011 (UTC)

edit of October 17[edit]

I deleted a sentence regarding ranges from the Whitworth paragraph. The quotation that is there now about accuracy is immediately followed by a sentence that discusses that accuracy. Interposing additional range information between those two sentences makes the following accuracy sentence inappropriate. The range at 5° is already covered in the table, so if you think it is important to discuss the range at 35°, you need to find a different place in the paragraph to add it.

I also adjusted the footnote to conform to the style that I use in my other American Civil War articles -- list the book in the References section and provide a brief page number citation as the footnote. In this style, the Notes section needs to follow the References to make sense. Hal Jespersen 14:37, 17 October 2006 (UTC)


Where did these ranges come from? I was always told that the 12 pd Nap was a 1400 yd gun and had a lower muzzle velocity than the rifled guns. Hal Baker 16:14, 21 Apr 2009 (EDT)

If you are referring to the table "Field artillery weapons characteristics," its source is footnoted. If you have alternative data from secondary sources, we can make adjustments with the proper citations. Hal Jespersen (talk) 22:01, 21 April 2009 (UTC)

Merge per AFD[edit]

per this afd, please merge this into the article —Preceding unsigned comment added by The Placebo Effect (talkcontribs) 01:57, 25 October 2007 (UTC)


Perhaps the sections should be reorg'ed here. How about some general headings (not all inclusive of course):

Guns: SB - 6pdr, 9pdr, 12pdr, Napoleons

Rifled - Parrott 2.9 and 3in, Ord 3in, Parrott 20pdr, Ord 4.5in, CS 3in, James series, Whitworth and other English imports

Howitzers: 12pdr series, 24pdr, 32 pdr

Mortars: 24pdr coehorn was considered by many sources a "field" weapon.

Other: Mountain and infantry weapons and Boat Howitzers

That might reduce some confusion about types.

Since I wrote this article, people have been fooling around with the headers in a way that makes it more confusing than it was originally. Also, the intent of the article was to highlight common weapons, not to be a fully exhaustive list. I actually do not think an exhaustive list is a good idea for an article of this format -- one with tables and gallery photographs. It would soon become much too lengthy to be of interest to the average reader. So if your intent is to add brief mentions of alternative weapons within categories, that should be fine and your proposed reorganization is okay, too. One other thing: the intent of this article was to highlight weapons commonly used in the field, in the artillery batteries that did not have "Heavy" in their names. I note that a few of the pieces you have in your list above are listed in the reference by Hazlett et al as being "Too Big for the Field," so we should limit discussion of such weapons in this context. Hal Jespersen (talk) 19:10, 26 November 2007 (UTC)

"Too Big for the Field" was those particular author's opinion of the weapons. In the case of the larger weapons, even Hazelett and others agree the 4.5in Rifles, 30pdr Parrotts, and heavy FIELD howitzers were used in the tactical armies of the day, but not without a lot of labor.

I'd also ask why the facts concerning the Confederate Napoleons keep getting rolled back? --Caswain01 (talk) 17:11, 29 November 2007 (UTC)

The opinions of the authors of the secondary sources that we use as references are the guiding principles for writing articles in Wikipedia. What we are trying to do in this article is to describe the common uses of field artillery, not provide an exhaustive look at every piece that ever was conceivably deployed. I don't object to having lists of links to articles about artillery pieces that fall into the lesser used categories, but I would object to a large expansion of this article to include the amount of detail comparable to the detail there now for the common pieces. Wikipedia has whole taxonomies of List articles that try to be exhaustive, but more descriptive articles really bog down when they attempt to do so.
The claims regarding the Confederate Napoleons were unsourced. I posted a flag requesting a citation, waited about two weeks without a response, and then deleted the sentence, reflecting that fact in the edit summary. This is a very common practice in Wikipedia. If you wish to restore the claim, provide a citation from a secondary source. Thanks. Hal Jespersen (talk) 18:54, 29 November 2007 (UTC)

First I am stating that you are indeed using an "opinion" to classify what is "field artillery" here if you opt to throw out references to weapons that were indeed classified as "Field Artillery" in the Ordnance manuals of the day. There are some primary sources that cite the use of, say, the 12pdr Field Gun in the field armies of the time. Also recall the use of 4.5in rifles, which the Army of the Potomac always had at least a section of when in the field.

Wikipedia uses secondary sources for its opinions. If the Ordnance manuals of the day say something, I'm sure you can find secondary sources that cite them. Hal Jespersen 13:49, 30 November 2007 (UTC)

Second, I did indeed cite a source for my comments about the Confederate Napoleons. I used the very same source you cite later in the article - the definitive work on the subject of Hazlett, Olmstead, and Parks. If you are saying it is the policy of Wikipedia to have sourced comments removed, then I've got to cry foul. --Caswain01 (talk) 01:04, 30 November 2007 (UTC)

Well, I saw no footnote on the claim. That's what the "citation needed" flag is asking for. Hal Jespersen 13:49, 30 November 2007 (UTC)

Chain Shot[edit]

The section about Chain Shot should be removed entirely. Chain shot was never standard issue for field artillery, used against ships, and no documentation I can cite reference its use during the ACW by any field units.--Caswain01 (talk) 03:06, 30 November 2007 (UTC)

  • Agreed, doesn't apply to ACW field artillery. I will delete the section unless someone has some reasonable objection. Red Harvest (talk) 04:34, 27 May 2011 (UTC)

Double-barreled cannon[edit]

The Double-barreled cannon link was added to See also and I think this is the appropriate place for it. This article on field artillery was meant to be a catalogue of widely used FA pieces and related topics. Since the double-barreled cannon was a curiosity never deployed to the field, it doesn't belong in the main text. Hal Jespersen (talk) 22:39, 3 May 2008 (UTC)

Table of field artillery misleading[edit]

The most common field arty type early in the war isn't even listed in the table, the 6 pounder gun. This was the most common piece at the start of the war. These were in batteries of four 6 pounders and two 12 pound howitzers typically. The presence of this weapon was particularly common in the western and trans-Mississippi theaters where few of the newer types were available. Early conversions of 6 pounders to James rifles were numerous before being displaced by iron rifled pieces. Napoleons and Parrott/Ordnance rifles dominated later in the war as production of them ramped up. Whitworths were rare, although prominent where used.

Another lesser known but more frequently used piece was the 12 pounder mountain howitzer which was extremely portable, both as pack or on a prairie carriage. It's primary usage was in rugged terrain with few roads. Red Harvest (talk) 23:45, 26 May 2011 (UTC)

The table attempts to list the most important, widely used pieces, but you are welcome to improve it with info from reliable sources. Hal Jespersen (talk) 03:20, 27 May 2011 (UTC)
I've added the 6-pounder information to the table (from same source.) I'm debating adding the 12-pounder mountain howitzer...only obstacle is the opening paragraph of the article that excludes them, despite wartime production of several hundred for the USA and a few dozen by the CSA. They saw use in West Virginia, at Chickamauga, in Missouri and Arkansas as well as versus native Americans during the ACW (and afterward.) I came across a long treatise about them on a website years ago--had quite a few references and many examples of their use in battle. Takes some interpretation and sleuthing to figure out when it was a mountain howitzer specifically since they were typically used as field pieces in smaller engagements in the West where mobility was paramount, and there were several other 12-pounders, plus other very small bore guns used for some of the same missions. There were prairie carriages and limbers made for this piece as well. (The wiki article on "mountain guns" is really just a stub.) Red Harvest (talk) 06:32, 27 May 2011 (UTC)

Largest "Field Gun" used?[edit]

This line in the section about Parrott rifles is problematic: "The 20-pounder was the largest field gun used during the war, with the barrel alone weighing over 1,800 pounds (800 kg)." There are a couple of problems with the statement, but not a clear solution since it exposes a can of worms in definitions:

  • The CSA used two 30-pounder Parrotts (ca. 4200 lbs) of Tredegar manufacture in the field on Marye's Heights at the battle of Fredricksburg. I'm not sure whether a field or seige carriage was used (perhaps the key to the definition?) Both pieces were heavily used in the battle and both burst as a result of rapid firing/overheating.
  • 4.5 inch Ordnance rifles (3450 lbs) were taken with field armies...but these were on siege carriages and typically travelled with the siege train.
  • While used as a field piece (on the heavy field carriage) the mass of the 20-pounder required an 8-horse team. Hazlett doesn't devote direct coverage to 20-pounder Parrotts as field artillery, but has a table showing them as such in the 1861 list of field artillery.
  • ACW siege carriages were not so bulky as to preclude limited field use though they did call for 8-10 horse teams depending on total weight.
  • The official standard "12-pounder gun" was little used because of its heft and size compared to the equally effective Napoleon. It required an 8 horse team vs. 6 for standard field guns.
  • Regulation 32-pounder howitzers were heavier (1890 lbs) and were designed to be mounted on the heavy 12-pounder field carriage (also used by the 20 pounder Parrott.) Per Hazlett These saw effective field combat service in this configuration during the siege or Richmond in 1864--granted it was within a were many other field pieces.

In summary the problem I see is with the stark absoluteness of the statement about the 20-pounder. It probably needs some qualifiers. The statement appears both true in a practical sense (they were employed rather frequently with operating field armies in the East and had just enough mobility that they could be maneuvered during battle), yet false in the absolute sense because of documented exceptions as well as interchange between siege, field, and reserve artillery service in field armies. Red Harvest (talk) 15:25, 27 May 2011 (UTC)

Adding the 12-pounder mountain howitzer[edit]

There appear to be enough primary and secondary sources employing this weapon as field artillery to support adding a paragraph about it to the field artillery article. It was a standard U.S. ordnance at the time and had both a pack portable carriage and a prairie carriage with limber. Hazlett notes its versatily. Numbers produced during the war cover over 200 registry numbers in Hazlett (p. 136 and App. 15A, 15B.) It's use seems to have been both as an infantry/cav gun (e.g. detailed to an infantry or cav company for close support) as well as for more standard field artillery. That means changing the lead sentence which specifically excludes the such a type at the moment. Considering the numbers produced during the war and continued post-ACW uses in the Indian Wars the piece appears to fall in the non-trivial category. One of the reasons for such an addition is to give more balance to theaters other than the main show in the East. (Note that I'm not supportive of adding more obscure, less standardized types like the diminutive Woodruffs or mountain rifles. The more conventionally sized & employed field pieces like the Wiards probably don't warrant a section in the article because of their more limited numbers--around 60 per Hazlett.) Red Harvest (talk) 22:57, 29 May 2011 (UTC)

1st Paragraph[edit]

What kind of article spends the first paragraph listing things the article is not about? Couldn't a slightly more comprehensive article include those other types of artillery? Pretty soon each pound denomination of cannonball will have its own article consisting of a paragraph listing all the cannonballs that the article is not about. Just sayin' Nickrz (talk) 23:16, 4 June 2011 (UTC)

I understand what you are saying (since I removed the "mountain guns" limitation), but recognize that the article was at least originally intended as one covering the common field artillery types, and avoiding those that really weren't used as field artillery, or were rather obscure/novelties rather than important to field operations in the conflict. I didn't create the page, but believe I understand the theme and agree with the premise. Siege/coastal artillery, naval artillery, and field artillery are different beasts and should be separated...with a few overlaps of course. A few types served as "infantry guns", but they either served also as field artillery or were produced/used in such small numbers as to be irrelevant to the article. By defining in the first paragraph what the article is about and what it is not about, the author sought to limit insertion of extraneous paragraphs.
The problem of a fully inclusive article is that obscure types can soon dominate the article (at least in word count.) Another way of addressing the need to limit the discussion within the article might be to add a brief section that mentions rarely used or novel types that served (or were designed to serve) as field artillery. But again, fixed and naval types would not qualify. Red Harvest (talk) 04:49, 5 June 2011 (UTC)

Explosives used in shells?[edit]

This article could bear at least some specification of the explosive(s) used in the explosive shells - at least in the "Shells" section under "Ammunition", if not also footnoted in the article's chart in the opening section (under "Weapons"). I understand that TNT wasn't invented until 1869 and therefore couldn't have been used in the U.S. Civil War; so was gunpowder/blackpowder all there was? Did the armies and navies use the same mix? The article needs at least a minimal addressing of these questions regardless of their answers. Epischedda (talk) 13:34, 18 February 2013 (UTC)