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 Posted: Fri Jan 29th, 2010 04:33 am
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Atlanta Cutlery
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Artillery played a crucial role in determining the outcome of the Battle of Gettysburg. Artillery units fought desperately side by side with their infantry counterparts during all three days of the battle and Union guns made up the difference during the July 3rd finale known as Pickett's Charge. Today, at Gettysburg National Park, there are hundreds of cannons that line park avenues at locations where Union and Confederate batteries were established during the battle. Each position is marked by a tablet or monument with a compliment of cannon of the type used by that organization during the battle. Visitors are quick to note that the guns on both sides are very similar in design and made of bronze or iron. In fact, Confederate artillery units were not only armed with southern-made cannon, but a number of captured Union guns filled southern artillery organizations. One popular story relates that a captured Confederate soldier was observed closely inspecting the guns of a nearby Union battery. The man would look at the "US" stamped on the top of each gun barrel then simply nod his head in acknowledgment . When a Union soldier asked the southerner what he was looking at, the man replied, "Ya'll have as many of them thar US guns as we have!"

Artillery in the 1800's fought side by side with infantry units because the range of the big guns limited them to visible targets. Like the infantry weapons, Civil War-era cannon were muzzle loaders and required a crew of eight men to aim, load, and fire the weapon. Maintaining the large guns was an important job and discipline in the artillery was very strict due to the value of the weapon. One artillery unit was referred to as a battery. Composed of six cannon and just over one hundred men, the battery was commanded by a captain. Many batteries were companies of an artillery regiment. Battery A, 4th US Artillery or Battery B, 1st New York Light Artillery are examples of this. Some northern states raised "independent" batteries, which were not attached to an artillery regiment. New York supplied fifteen independent batteries including Captain Andrew Cowan's 1st New York Battery and Captain Patrick Hart's 15th New York Battery, both of which fought at Gettysburg. Confederate batteries were, for the most part, labeled by the nicknames of where they were raised or by the name of the battery commander. The "King William Artillery", commanded by Captain W.P. Carter, was typical of a Virginia organization. In the same battalion were the "Jeff Davis Artillery" from Alabama, and the "Morris Artillery" and "Orange Artillery" from Virginia.

There were several different types of field cannon developed prior to and during the war with many different nomenclatures.  Civil War cannon were mounted on carriages made of oak with iron fittings. There were several different sizes of carriages to accommodate each type of cannon. Carriages at Gettysburg National Park today are made of cast iron and are made to replicate the look of the old carriages. These were made in a Gettysburg foundry by Calvin Hamilton, a Civil War veteran, between 1895 and 1910.

There were many types and styles of artillery rounds manufactured during the Civil War. Smoothbore guns such as 12-pounder Napoleons and howitzers fired round cannon balls. Elongated or conical-shaped shells were used in rifled cannon.

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