The use of wood for cannon making could be dictated either by the lack of metal, or the lack of skill to engineer metallic cannons. Wooden cannons were notoriously weak, and could usually fire only a few shots, sometimes even just one shot, before bursting. The balls for use in such wooden-barreled cannons could be made of various materials such as wood, stone, ceramics, or steel.
The Romanians (motzes) from Apuseni Mountains, Transylvania, extensively manufactured this kind of cannons for use against Hungarian army in 1848–1849. The wooden cannons had various calibers, up to 120–150 millimetres and were made from fir, cherry or beech tree. They were made using manpowered drills to obtain the desired calibre. In battle were employed from fixed positions (the greater calibres) or could be deployed on the field carried on man or horse-drawn carriages or transported horseback on packsaddles.
The barrel could be sometimes coated with tin in the interior, having the exterior reinforced with 8–10 iron circles. The firing system was identical with the one used on flintlocks.
The cannons could fire a variety of missiles, from cannonballs made of iron, wood or rock, to incendiary materials and a type of grapeshots (a load of smaller rocks with sharp edges to increase damage on attacking compact infantry formations). Also, they were used as a psychological weapon, firing without missiles, simply for the sound, which was enough to create in enemy ranks a state of panic, believing that is attacked by military artillery. In the mountains, the sound was reverberated by the mountain slopes, the sound being thus repeated and amplified.
Wooden cannons were used by the Vietnamese against the French during the Cochinchina campaign in 1862. Some Japanese forces used wooden cannons during the Boshin war in 1868. The Native Peoples of South America used wooden cannons against the Spanish and Portuguese during the 17th and 18th centuries. The Native Americans in North America used improvised wooden cannons against fortifications. Squire Boone also constructed a wooden cannon used in the defense of Boonesborough, Kentucky in 1778 Siege of Boonesborough
Wooden cannons were used in Europe on various occasions. Russian Tsar Peter the Great is known to have built several as a childhood pastime. The Bulgarians used 52 cherry-wood cannon during the April Uprising in 1876; the Macedonians also produced cherry-wood cannon before the Ilinden Uprising in 1903.
In some conflicts, fake cannons made from a wooden log, sometimes painted black, were used to deceive an enemy. Misleading the enemy as to the strength of an emplacement was an effective delaying tactic. Both sides of the American Civil War used such faked weapons, called Quaker Guns. The name derives from the Religious Society of Friends or "Quakers", who have traditionally held a religious opposition to war and violence in the Peace Testimony.
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