The Largest Security-Cleared Career Network for Defense and Intelligence Jobs - JOIN NOW


Sailing Ship Armament

Soon after he found he could hurl a rock with his good right arm, man learned about trajectory-the curved path taken by a missile through the air. A baseball describes a "flat" trajectory every time the pitcher throws a hard, fast one. Youngsters tossing the ball to each other over a tall fence use "curved" or "high" trajectory.

A cannon is a general name for large pieces of ordnance or artillery, as distinguished from those pieces which can be held in the hand while being fired. No military weapon in use before the invention of gunpowder can fairly come under this designation; they were more generally of the kinds described under Balista. At what exact date cannon were first used is not known; but cannon, called "crakys of war," were employed by Edward III at Creecy, and at Calais in 1346.

In artillery, where trajectory is equally important, there are three main types of cannon: (1) the flat trajectory gun, throwing shot at the target in relatively level flight; (2) the high trajectory mortar, whose shell will clear high obstacles and descend upon the target from above; and (3) the howitzer, an in-between piece of medium-high trajectory, combining the mobility of the fieldpiece with the large caliber of the mortar.

Earlier pieces were rather flamboyant and bear fairly elaborate inscriptions and national emblems. Royal guns might bear the arms of the king for whom they were made, as well as those of the official -- his title varied from one country to another -- who supervised the manufacture of the kings cannon. Ordnance of this time might also bear mottoes and inscriptions identifying the gun-founder who cast the piece and the date it was made. These earlier weapons were often given individual names, and a number of these will be seen here. As later bronze ordnance became more sober and functional in form, so did its ornamentation. The royal arms were replaced by a cipher, a crowned script monogram based on the initial of the kings name. Classical learning was still very much alive, and these royal ciphers were done in Latin. Thus, "C VI R" stood for Carolus Sextus Rex - King Charles the Sixth.

From the guns of Queen Elizabeth's time came the 6-, 9-, 12-, 18-, 24-, 32-, and 42-pounder classifications adopted by Cromwell's government and used by the English well through the eighteenth century. On the Continent, during much of this period, the French were acknowledged leaders. Louis XIV (1643-1715) brought several foreign guns into his ordnance, standardizing a set of calibers (4-, 8-, 12-, 16-, 24-, 32-, and 48-pounders) quite different from Henry II's in the previous century.

By 1750 design and construction were fairly well standardized in a gun of much cleaner line than the cannon of 1650. Although as yet there had been no sharp break with the older traditions, the shape and weight of the cannon in relation to the stresses of firing were becoming increasingly important to the men who did the designing.

Calibers and lengths of principal
eighteenth century English Ship cannon
1-1/2 pounder
In the 1700's cast-iron guns became the principal artillery afloat and ashore, yet cast bronze was superior in withstanding the stresses of firing. Because of its toughness, less metal was needed in a bronze gun than in a cast-iron one, so in spite of the fact that bronze is about 20 percent heavier than iron, the bronze piece was usually the lighter of the two. For "position" guns in permanent fortifications where weight was no disadvantage, iron reigned supreme until the advent of steel guns. But non-rusting bronze was always preferable aboard ship or in seacoast forts.

John Mller, who had devised a new system of ordnance for Great Britain, strongly advocated bronze for ship guns. "Notwithstanding all the precautions that can be taken to make iron guns of a sufficient strength," he said, "yet accidents will sometimes happen, either by the mismanagement of the sailors, or by frosty weather, which renders iron very brittle." A bronze 24-pounder cost 156, compared with 75 for the iron piece, but the initial saving was offset when the gun wore out. The iron gun was then good for nothing except scrap at a farthing per pound, while the bronze cannon could be recast "as often as you please."

Windage in the English gun of 1750 was about 20 percent greater than in French pieces. The English ratio of shot to caliber was 20:21; across the channel it was 26:27. Thus, an English 9-pounder fired a 4.00-inch ball from a 4.20-inch bore; the French 9-pounder ball was 4.18 inches and the bore 4.34.

The British figured greater windage was both convenient and economical: windage, said they, ought to be just as thick as the metal in the gunner's ladle; standing shot stuck in the bore and unless it could be loosened with the ladle, had to be fired away and lost. John Mller brushed aside such arguments impatiently. With a proper wad over the shot, no dust or dirt could get in; and when the muzzle was lowered, the shot will roll out of course. Besides, compared with increased accuracy, the loss of a shot was trifling. Furthermore, with less room for the shot to bounce around the bore, the cannon would not be spoiled so soon.

All cannons were made by pouring molten metal around a solid cylinder to form a chamber for powder and shot. Exact alignment was difficult and the interior cavity was often miss-shaped. In 1740, Maritz of Switzerland made an outstanding contribution to the technique of ordnance manufacture. Instead of hollow casting (that is, forming the bore by casting the gun around a core), Maritz cast the gun solid, then drilled the bore, thus improving its uniformity. Metal impurities, known as slag, was forced to the center by the cooling action and removed by a lathe during the finishing operation. But although the bore might be drilled quite smooth, the outside of a cast-iron gun was always rough. Bronze cannon, however, could be put in the lathes to true up even the exterior.

The solid-cast process reached America by 1773 and became standard practice for all U. S. cannon foundries. When necessary, excess metal was removed from the exterior to insure that the bore was accurately centered.

In 1811 Major George Bombford of the US Ordnance Department introduced a 50-pounder iron gun called the Columbiad to replace the large variety of seacoast cannons then in use. Gradually, as the thickness of ship armor increased larger guns were needed and more metal had to be removed from the exterior to reduce weight and decrease cost. The quest for more powerful guns resulted in less trustworthy ordnance. America's cast iron guns became notorious for their ability to burst so the field artillery went back to bronze as their gunmetal.


In ships of war, the cannon of the lower-decks are usually drawn into the ship during the course of an expedition at sea, unless when they are used in battle. They are secured by lowering the breech so as that the muzzle shall bear against the upper-edge of the port, after which the two parts of the breeching are firmly braced together by a rope which crosses them between the front of the carriage and the port; which operation is called frapping the breeching. The tackles are then securely fastened about it with several turns of the rope extended from the tackle and breeching, over the chase of the cannon.

The advantage of large cannon over those of a smaller bore is so generally acknowledged, that a particular discussion of it might perhaps be spared. The most important advantage of heavy bullets is this, that with the same velocity they break holes out in all solid bodies in a greater proportion than their weight that is, for instance, a twenty-four pound shot will, with the same velocity, break out a hole in any wall, rampart, or solid beam, in which it lodges, above eight times larger than will be made by a three pound shot; for it's diameter being double, it will make a superficial fracture above four times as great as the three-pounder, (more of a smaller hole being closed up by the springing of the solid body than of a great one) and it will penetrate to more than twice the depth; by this means the firmest walls of masonry are easily cut through their whole substance by heavy shot, which could never be affected by those of a smaller caliber; and in ships the strongest beams and masts are hereby fractured, which a very great number of small bullets would scarcely injure.

To this last advantage of large cannon, which is indeed a capital one, there must be that of carrying the weight of their bullet in grape or lead shot, and thereby annoying the enemy more effectually than could be done by ten times the number of small pieces.

These are the principal advantages of large cannon, and hence it is no wonder that those entrusted with the care of the British navy have always endeavoured to arm all ships with the largest cannon they could with safety bear; and indeed, great improvements were made on this head, by reducing the weight of many of the species of cannon, and thereby enabling the same ships to carry guns of a larger bore: and, very lately, the six-pounders in some of the smaller ships have been changed for nine-pounders of a larger fabric than usual, which hath been justly esteemed a very great addition to the strength of those ships.

The importance then of allotting to all ships the largest cannon they can with safety bear being granted, it remains to show on what foundation a change is proposed to be made in the fabric of all pieces from eighteen pounders downwards, so that they may be changed for others of the same, or less weight, but of a larger bore.

The 24-pound guns each required a gun team of 6-14 men to operate and weighed about 5600 pounds. They are called 24-pounders because they fired a cannonball that weighed 24 pounds. Although the solid 24 pound shot is what was commonly used, the guns could be loaded with a combination of projectiles. The long gun possessed one great advantage: it could far outrange the carronade, and if well operated had a chance of crippling the enemy before coming to close quarters.

The normal gunpowder charge used for these guns was six pounds and their maximum range was about one mile at maximum elevation, but due to inaccuracy at that range this was literally a "long shot." The maximum effective range of a 24-pounder was about 1200 yards. The usual engagement range, however, was much closer. CONSTITUTION engaged HMS Guerriere in 1812 at about 25 to 50 yards. At this range CONSTITUTION's guns could do terrible damage, with her cannonballs penetrating over two feet of oak planking.

The 32-pounder Navy gun [length 112 inches, 57 hundredweight] was intended service was on first class frigates and ships of the line. A total of 744 smoothbore guns of this type were manufactured at five different foundries from 1846 to 1852.


Garrison and ship carriages were far different from field, siege, and howitzer mounts, while mortar beds were in a separate class entirely. Basic proportions for the carriage were obtained by measuring (1) the distance from trunnion to base ring of the gun, (2) the diameter of the base ring, and (3) the diameter of the second reinforce ring. The result was a quadrilateral figure that served as a key in laying out the carriage to fit the gun. Cheeks, or side pieces, of the carriage were a caliber in thickness, so the bigger the gun, the more massive the mount.

A 24-pounder cheek would be made of timber about 6 inches thick. The Spaniards often used mahogany. At Jamestown, in the early 1600's, Capt. John Smith reported the mounting of seven "great pieces of ordnance upon new carriages of cedar," and the French colonials also used this material. British specifications in the mid-eighteenth century called for cheeks and transoms of dry elm, which was very pliable and not likely to split; but some carriages were made of young oak, and oak was standard for United States garrison carriages until it was replaced by wrought iron during the Civil War.

For a four-wheeled British carriage of 1750, height of the cheek was 4-3/4 diameters of the shot, unless some change in height had to be made to fit a gun port or embrasure. To prevent cannon from pushing shutters open when the ship rolled in a storm, lower tier carriages let the muzzle of the gun, when fully elevated, butt against the sill over the gun port.

Carriage trucks (wheels), unless they were made of cast iron, had iron thimbles or bushings driven into the hole of the hub, and to save the wood of the axletree, the spindle on which the wheel revolved was partly protected by metal. The British put copper on the bottom of the spindle; Spanish and French designers put copper on the top, then set iron "axletree bars" into the bottom. These bars strengthened the axletree and resisted wear at the spindle.

A 24-pounder fore truck was 18 inches in diameter. Rear trucks were 16 inches. The difference in size compensated for the slope in the gun platform or deck-a slope which helped to check recoil. Aboard ship, where recoil space was limited, the "kick" of the gun was checked by a heavy rope called a breeching, shackled to the side of the vessel. Ship carriages of the two- or four-wheel type, were used through the Civil War, and there was no great change until the advent of automatic recoil mechanisms made a stationary mount possible.

Training the old truck carriage had been heavy work for the handspikemen, who also helped to elevate or depress the gun. Maximum elevation or depression was about 15 each way-about the same as naval guns used during the Civil War. If one quoin was not enough to secure proper depression, a block or a second quoin was placed below the first. But before the gunner depressed a smoothbore below zero elevation, he had to put either a wad or a grommet over the ball to keep it from rolling out.

Ship and garrison cannon were not moved around on their carriages. If the gun had to be taken any distance, it was dismounted and chained under a sling wagon or on a "block carriage," the big wheels of which easily rolled over difficult terrain. It was not hard to dismount a gun: the keys locking the cap squares were removed, and then the gin was rigged and the gun hoisted clear of the carriage.


The Carronade was a very important addition to naval ordinance in the late 18th century. They are short, light, iron guns, differing from cannon and howitzers in having no trunnions, being fastened to their carriages by a loop underneath. Carronades also lack a gun carriage; instead, they are mounted on slides that permit the carronade to recoil when fired and slide back onto the deck for reloading.

They are chiefly used for arming ships, and enable vessels to throw heavy shot at close quarters without overloading their decks with heavy guns. It used a comparatively small charge of powder, so that the shot had a lower velocity than one from a normal gun of similar bore. On striking its target a carronade ball caused much more damage that the faster moving cannon shot and produced a shower of splinters that inflicted innumerable casualties among the crew on the crowded decks.

The Carronade was invented by the British General Robert Melville and received its name from being cast by the Carron Foundry in Scotland. This gun was originally designed as a lightweight, low velocity piece of artillery that could keep up with the infantry rather than the heavier, bulkier cannons that were difficult to transport. The design was adapted for naval gunfire. The advantage of the carronade lay in its lightness. This made it available for locations where a heavier gun would have been prejudicial to the stability of the ship. Since it threw a much larger projectile than a long gun of the same weight, it did correspondingly more damage at the short ranges than usual in battle. Its light weight was perfect for topside locations where weight was critical for stability.

The carronades were moved in a fixed slide carriage. Recoil was limited to the length of the slide and the breeching was sized accordingly. Although 4-9 men were used to man the carronade, with its relatively light weight, as few as two men could man this gun. The barrel was cast solid and bored to size. It was a thin walled gun with no swell at the muzzle like the long guns. The bore was enlarged at the muzzle to facilitate loading. At one degree of elevation, it would carry for 380 yards.

To load the carronade a loader would insert a powder cartridge into the muzzle and then push it to the other end using a rammer. The cartridge would then be followed by scrap fibers known as wad to keep the cartridge in place. After this was done, a pound shot would then be inserted into the muzzle with another wad and then rammed into place. The carronade was then ready to be run out, primed, and fired. To reload, this procedure was repeated, however, the bore would first be wiped out with a moist sponge to put out any smoldering bits of gun powder.

By convention, carronades were not reckoned as part of a ships gun total, they were often installed or augmented by individual captains and not therefore part of the vessels listed armament. A ships rating was determined by the number of long guns carried whose calibre was greater than a swivel. After the introduction of the carronade, the difference in the rated armament and the number of guns actually carried sometimes bordered on the ridiculous. Americans employed a higher percentage of carronades on many ships than other nations. The first USS Boxer was a brigantine measuring 115 feet at the waterline, mounting 14 24-pounder carronades on the broadside and two 9-pounder guns. Completed in 1832 and measuring 88 feet at the waterline, the second Boxer was a schooner, later re-rigged as a brigantine mounting eight 24-pounder carronades and two 9-pounder guns.

Swivel Gun

A Swivel Gun was a small piece of ordnance, turning on a point or swivel. A typical swivel gun might measure 33 inches (90 cm) in overall length, with a bore diameter of 1 inches (3.5 cm). It would have fired pound balls and would be wedged in place to use for anti-personnel fire. Besides their main defensive weapon, the swivel gun was used for signaling and salutes.

Chase Gun

The chase guns, usually distinguished as bow chasers and stern chasers (or just chasers for short) were cannons mounted in the bow or stern of a sailing ship. They were used to attempt to slow down a ship either pursuing or being pursued, typically by damaging the rigging and thereby causing the target to lose performance.

A Bow Chase is a cannon situated in the fore-part of a ship to fire upon any object a-head of her. A Stern Chase are the cannons which are placed in the after-part of a ship's gun-room, pointing a-stern, and intended to strike any ship which chases her, or other object in her rear. The chase long gun or cannon was usually mounted on a four wheeled carriage to allow for freedom of movement to the needed position on deck. That may be aft, in a position to fire at ships that are giving chase to you or forward to fire at the ship you are chasing. It could also be employed at one of the available gun ports either port or starboard.

Bow chasers might be regular guns brought up from the gundeck and aimed through specially cut-out ports on either side of the bowsprit, or dedicated weapons made with an unusually long bore and a relatively light ball, and mounted in the bow. Stern chasers could also be improvised, or left permanently in the cabins at the stern, covered up and used as part of the furniture.

USS Constitution returned to active duty in March 1809, carrying the thirty new Cecil Iron Works long 24s on her gun deck and the twenty-four Foxall carronades above on the spar deck. At some time between then and the outbreak of the War of 1812 in June of that year, a single 18-pounder long gun had been added as a chase gun. It was with these fifty-five guns that Constitution defeated HMS Guerriere on 19 August 1812 and earned her nickname of "Old Ironsides." Following his succession to command of the ship on 15 September 1812, Commodore William Bainbridge eliminated the 18-pounder, simplifying his ammunition loading and handling problem by dropping one caliber. The gun had been virtually useless, anyway, since the ship's bow structure was not well suited to the accommodation of a chase gun.

Pivot Gun

A pivot gun was a large gun mounted on a pivot or revolving carriage, so as to turn in any direction. By 1812 the long gun on a pivot had reached the height in popularity in America, which it maintained for sixty years, until it was replaced by the turret mount [which in anticipated]. The pivot gun mount typically consisted of a metal ring, or 'circle' of from 9' to 12' in diameter, on deck and brought level athwartships by a wooden foundation. This circle was usually of iron, though copper and brass could be employed. The section of the circle was a shallow "U" shape, hollow side up, about 5 1/2" wide and 1" thick. The inside and outside rims of the top were raised 1/2" and were about 1/2" wide, creating a track in which the rollers traveled.

The rollers were on the bottom of two horizontal timbers, 8" to 12" square, called 'skids,' secured by three or more blocks, or 'chocks,' and bolted. The skids were parallel and usually a few feet apart. On the top inside edge of each there was a rabbet running the full length of the skid. In this the bottom of the gun mount could slide. The skids were pivoted at the middle, or thereabouts, by a heavy pivot bolt, or pin, which passed through the center chock of the skids and thence through deck and a heavy timber plate in the deck and was often heavily bushed in the skid-chock, since the strains of recoil were largely concentrated on this structure.

The gun mount consisted, as a rule, of the standard broadside carriage without trucks, the bottom of the side brackets of which rested in the rabbets on the upper and inner side of the skids. Sometimes there were rollers on the underside of the brackets, or the trucks were retained and traveled in the grooves in the skids. The gun was trained by prying the skids around by means of handspikes. Recoil was controlled by breechings - heavy rope secured to the breech of the gun and fastened either to ringbolts in the deck about the gun, or on neighboring bulwark stanchions. Small guns had breechings secured to the skids, but this put a greater strain on the pivot bolt than was desirable, so when the gun was brought to bear on a target the breechings were commonly hooked onto ringbolts in deck and rail. Neither gun nor mount was particularly suitable for firing on fast-moving targets.

In the revolution, and again in the war of 1812, the seas were covered by swift-sailing American privateers, which preyed on the British trade. The schooners, brigs, and brigantines in which the privateersmen sailed were beautifully modeled, and were among the fastest craft afloat. They were usually armed with one heavy gun, the "long Tom," as it was called, arranged on a pivot forward or amidships, and with a few lighter pieces of cannon. These private armed vessels appear to have carried almost invariably a "Long Tom," and besides, from 2 to 18 guns, and from 50 to 150 men.

The General Armstrong was 246 tons burthen. Carried 6 Nine pounders and a Long Tom (42 pounder) amid ships and a crew of 90 men.

The United States Schooner Alligator, designed as an armed schooner, was constructed at Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston, Massachusetts in 1820. One of only five vessels built for the suppression the slave trade and piracy during President James Madison's "Era of Good Feelings." It was among the first oceangoing vessels outfitted with a high pivot gun, a technological innovation and forerunner to the turret guns standard on later warships. At 198-tons, Alligator measured 86 feet from stem to stern, 24 feet 9 inches in width, and a draft of 9 feet. Alligator served a brief but remarkable naval career.


The standard routine for reloading after firing is, first, the barrel is wormed using a two start, open end metal spiral fitted to a wooden pole. This is rotated against the end of the barrel to remove any debris left after the firing. After removing the wormer, the barrel is swabbed. The tool used is a wet sheepskin secured to a wooden pole. This should extinguish any residue sparks or embers remaining in the barrel after firing. Once this is withdrawn, the black powder charge is inserted in the muzzle and pushed down the barrel with the rammer; a wooden bung fixed to the end of a wooden pole. When the charge is down at the breech end, a tightly bound wad of old cloth is pushed down from the muzzle to rest against the charge. The cannon is now "loaded and wadded" but not primed. Once in this condition, the breech is covered with a lead cover until the cannon needs to be primed ready for firing.

The priming is usually carried out by the mate. He carries with him a horn container full of fine black powder. On priming the cannon, the lead cover is removed from the cannon breech, a "pricker" is briefly inserted in the vent to pierce the charge below in the cannon, and then black powder is poured from the horn into the vent hole until full. A small "tail" is left running back into a shallow depression a few inches from the vent. On the order to fire, the mate uses a slow match to ignite the black powder in the depression which then follows the tail down into the cannon igniting the charge.

The gun was loaded with powder, wad, shot, and a small charge of powder which was poured into the priming pan, a depression at the rear of the weapon connected by a touchhole with the main charge inside. The gun was finally fired by igniting the prime charge with a slow match. A quoin, or wedge, was used to adjust the gun's elevation. The quoin is tapered and was moved in its groove until the gun was properly aimed (by eye) and the order to fire was given. Upon being fired, the gun leaped backward with a roar, its recoil checked by the heavy piece of cordage wrapped around its breech.

The general rule observed throughout the ship, is to load, fire, and sponge, the guns with all possible expedition, yet without confusion or precipitation. Frm control of the procedure was needed at all times. The captain of each gun is particularly enjoined to fire when the piece is properly directed to it's object, that the shot may not be fruitlessly expended. The lieutenants, who command the different batteries, traverse the deck to see that the battle is prosecuted with vivacity; and to exhort and animate the men to their duty. The midshipmen second these injunctions, and give the necessary assistance wherever it may be required, at the guns committed to their charge.

By 1800, although guns could be served with as few as three men, efficient drill usually called for a much larger force. The smallest crew listed in the United States Navy manual of 1866 was seven: first and second gun captains, two loaders, two spongers, and a "powder monkey" (powder boy). An 11-inch pivot-gun on its revolving carriage was served by 24 crewmen and a powderman.

The rate of fire was approximately one shot every two minutes for a well trained gun team. Twelve rounds an hour was good practice for heavy guns during the Civil War period, although the figure could be upped to 20 rounds. By this date, of course, although the principles of muzzle loading had not changed, actual loading of the gun was greatly simplified by using fixed and semi-fixed ammunition.

Naval gunnery officers would occasionally order all their guns trained at the same angle and elevated to the same degree. The gunner might not even see his target. While with the crude traversing mechanism of the early 1800's the gunners may not have laid their pieces too accurately, at least it was a step toward the indirect firing technique of later years which was to take full advantage of the longer ranges possible with modern cannon. Use of tangent and trunnion sights brought gunnery further into the realm of mathematical science; the telescopic sight came about the middle of the nineteenth century; gunners were developing into technicians whose job was merely to load the piece and set the instruments as instructed by officers in fire control posts some distance away from the gun.


Gunner's equipment was numerous. There were the tompion (a lid that fitted over the muzzle of the gun to keep wind and weather out of the bore) and the lead cover for the vent; water buckets for the sponges and passing boxes for the powder; scrapers and tools for "searching" the bore to find dangerous cracks or holes; chocks for the wheels; blocks and rollers, lifting jacks, and gins for moving guns; and drills and augers for clearing the vent. But among the most important tools for every day firing were the following:

Handspikes were big pinch bars to manhandle cannon. They were used to move the carriage and to lift the breech of the gun so that the elevating quoin or screw might be adjusted. They were of different types, but were essentially 6-foot-long wooden poles, shod with iron. Some of them, like the Marsilly handspike, had rollers at the toe so that the wheelless rear of the carriage could be lifted with the handspike and rolled with comparative ease.

The wormer was a double screw, something like a pair of intertwined corkscrews, fixed to a long handle. Inserted in the gun bore and twisted, it seized and drew out wads or the remains of cartridge bags stuck in the gun after firing. Worm screws were sometimes mounted in the head of the sponge, so that the piece could be sponged and wormed at the same time.

The ladle was the most important of all the gunner's tools in the early years, since it was not only the measure for the powder but the only way to dump the powder in the bore at the proper place. It was generally made of copper, the same gauge as the windage of the gun; that is, the copper was just thick enough to fit between ball and bore.

Essentially, the ladle is merely a scoop, a metal cylinder secured to a wooden disk on a long staff. But before the introduction of the powder cartridge, cutting a ladle to the right size was one of the most important accomplishments a gunner had to learn. Collado, that Spanish mathematician of the sixteenth century, used the culverin ladle as the master pattern. It was 4-1/2 calibers long and would carry exactly the weight of the ball in powder. Ladles for lesser guns could be proportioned (that is, shortened) from the master pattern.

The ladle full of powder was pushed home in the bore. Turning the handle dumped the charge, which then had to be packed with the rammer. As powder charges were lessened in later years, the ladle was shortened; by 1750, it was only three shot diameters long. With cartridges, the ladle was no longer needed for loading the gun, but it was still handy for withdrawing the round.

The sponge was a wooden cylinder about a foot long, the same diameter as the shot, and covered with lambskin. Like all bore tools, it was mounted on a long staff; after being dampened with water, it was used for cleaning the bore of the piece after firing. Essentially, sponging made sure there were no sparks in the bore when the new charge was put in. Often the sponge was on the opposite end of the rammer, and sometimes, instead of being lambskin-covered, the sponge was a bristle brush.

The rammer was a wooden cylinder about the same diameter and length as the shot. It pushed home the powder charge, the wad, and the shot. As a precaution against faulty or double loading, marks on the rammer handle showed the loaders when the different parts of the charge were properly seated.

The gunner's pick or priming wire was a sharp pointed tool resembling a common ice pick blade. It was used to clear the vent of the gun and to pierce the powder bag so that flame from the primer could ignite the charge.

Join the mailing list

One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias

Page last modified: 22-07-2011 17:41:06 ZULU