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DKSmith

Civil war cannon live fire video

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DK

 

Impressive firing demonstration, from front and rear.    :o

 

If you're not tired of Civil War-era live fires, the attached link shows operation of 8-inch, forty-five pound mortar (beginning at 1:35 minute mark) and explains many of the tools and adjustments available:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E2l9NU2a-XY    (Posted by cannonmn on March 12, 2012)

 

Cheers

 

Ozzy

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Ozzy.....

 

Interesting video.  I've seen plenty of cannons fired, but never a mortar.  Did they have a battery of mortars firing at the same target or did they fire independently at different strategic locations?  Pretty powerful.  I have a civil war canister ball in my collection and can only imagine the damage that heavy little ball can do.  The chunks blown from those 45 pound balls must have had devastating results. 

 

THE MANASSAS BELLE

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Belle

 

Good questions about Civil War mortars, and their use. In the Western Theatre, Flag-Officer Foote attempted to get mortars for the gunboat attack on Fort Donelson, but none were available in time... and the Federal fleet suffered without them.

 

Mortars were available for the operation against Island Number 10 in April 1862, and many impressive period-sketches, showing their use, are to be found:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Island_Number_Ten   (from wikipedia: four mortar-boats in background.)  [it appears that mortar shells bursting high above a defensive position prohibits the defenders from making full use of their weaponry: death rains down as shrapnel from above.]

 

No mortars were used at Pittsburg Landing. I believe General Grant intended to use siege guns against the defenses at Corinth.

 

 

Regards

 

Ozzy

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Hey Oz,  Hey Manassas Belle,

 

Sorry I took so long to get back to this thread, but better late than never!

 

At Shiloh, mortars were fired from the decks of the gunboats Tyler and Lexington.  They anchored at the mouth of Dill Creek and fired through the ravine, that way they didn't have to fire over the steep river bank.   There's a couple of naval cannon (I guess Mr. Reed couldn't find a mortar) on Riverside Drive to commemorate the gunboats.    

 

I thought the downrange video was unique because you can hear the projectiles spinning as they go by.  Some of them can be heard tumbling.  Some of them ricochet after they hit the ground. It's a pretty good testament to what it must have sounded like to troops advancing under fire.  

 

 

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DK

 

Good to hear from you; hope you're enjoying your holiday   :)

 

Your last post had me wondering about the actual armament aboard USS Lexington and USS Tyler during Battle of Shiloh; and depending on the resource, the guns aboard those two vessels are described in various ways. However, according to the Naval History and Heritage Command, on April 6th, 1862 the Lexington was armed with four 8-inch guns (64 pound shot weight) and two 32-pounder guns. The Tyler was armed with six 8-inch guns, and one 32-pounder. The 8-inch, smoothbore Dahlgren could be used as a mortar, firing an exploding shell, but with a max elevation of only about 15 degrees, it had serious limitations.

 

Mortars were first recognized as useful by the North, in prosecution of the War in the West, early on; but due to a contracting mix-up, there were only two 13-inch mortars under construction at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in late 1861. President Lincoln had the process hurried forward, once the deficiency was brought to his attention. Meanwhile, the 'promise of Mortars arriving soon' may have been the reason why Henry Halleck denied U.S. Grant's first request to attack Fort Henry, in early January 1861 (my theory). On January 28th, Flag-Officer Foote wrote to Halleck, and confirmed that the reduction of Fort Henry could be achieved without mortars... and Halleck approved the operation.

 

Far as I can tell, the first Western rivers use of Naval mortars (13-inch, firing a 215 pound shot via ignition of 23 pounds of powder) was at Island No. 10 in March/April 1862.

 

 

Cheers

 

Ozzy

 

 

References

 

http://archive.org/stream/lifeofandrewhull00hopprich#page/274/mode/2up    Life of Andrew Hull Foote

 

http://www.history.navy.mil/     

 

Official Reports  OR

 

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Good post Oz,

 

Thanks for clearing up my misconception.  The fact that they used guns instead of mortars better explains why they had to shoot through Dill Creek ravine instead of firing over the river bank.

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It is well known that firing over the embankment at elevations needed to clear the embankments resulted in mortar firing with little positive results except physiologically because of the noise.  An advantage of this type of firing was the ability to spread the firing out over a greater area than firing up the Dill Creek Ravine.  The shoulders of the ravine would create a firing chamber (so to speak) with sides.  The very reduced side movement of the union guns would create even less results than firing over the embankments.  In any event, this firing by the gunboats was ineffective with little in terms of results.  A OFTEN OVERLOOKED BATTLEFIELD CONDITION IS THAT MANY UNION SOLDIERS WERE IN THE TARGET AREA. SO WHAT IS YOUR JUDGEMENT OF THE BARRAGE RESULTS NOW?

Ron     

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Let's see what the Confederate Commander of Forces at Shiloh has to say...

 

'The gunboats, all through the night, threw shells into the Confederate bivouacs, the dim light of the campfires guiding them in their aim. Thus were slumber and rest chased away from our exhausted men.'  -- PGT Beauregard, from his semi-autobiography (credited to Alfred Roman, 1883) page 306.

 

Cheers

 

Ozzy

 

http://archive.org/stream/milloperations01romarich#page/306/mode/2up

 

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I'm just guessing here, but it seems like firing through the ravine would have allowed the gunboats to bomb a straight line across the Confederate advance simply by changing elevation on the guns.  There would be no need to traverse left or right.  

 

In modern artillery it would be called harassment and interdiction fire.   

 

 

west_zpstzip1ca5.jpg

 

 

There is no doubt that many wounded Union soldiers were in the target area.  I don't know how the Union commanders felt about with that.  I suspect they were willing to sacrifice them to hold back the Confederates a little while longer.    Especially those commanders who were already inside of Grant's final line.

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DK

 

Nice graphics. 

 

I had a look at the Tennessee Gazeteer for 1834 (before the TVA interference), and it indicates the width of the Tennessee River along Hardin County was never less than 250 yards (750 feet.) And there are 1862 photographs in existence that show one of the timberclads tied up on the eastern bank of the river.

 

Why is this important?  The 8-inch Dahlgren gun used by Lexington and Tyler had a maximum elevation of 15 degrees. In order for a shell fired from one of these guns to clear a 100-foot high bluff, the vessel firing the gun had to be 400 feet or more away from the bluff... which was achievable by either timberclad. The range of an 8-inch shell (fired at 11 degrees elevation) was 2600 yards. Subracting 200 yards (position of the gunboat from the bluff), the timberclads could still launch shells over 2400 yards (at 15 degrees) and vary where they 'dropped' by the set of the timing fuse.  

 

   Pittsburg%20Landing.jpg

 

Cheers

 

Ozzy

 

 

Reference   http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001264565   Tennessee Gazetteer for 1834,  page 65.

 

http://www.illinoiscivilwar150.org/    Pittsburg Landing sketch.

 

bgmcclure.com     Pittsburg Landing sketch

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Well, there goes another one of my theories, shot down by facts.  

 

I only had the range, deflection and elevation wrong!  Other than that, it was a pretty good firing solution!

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DK

 

There's still the height of the trees to contend with... so maybe shooting up the ravines wasn't a bad idea.    :)

 

Happy New Year!

 

Ozzy

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