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American Civil War

American Civil War

American Civil War – Artillery

When the Ordnance Board revised the artillery system for 1861, several new patterns emerged including the 8-inch and 10-inch Siege Mortars and the 13-inch Seacoast Mortar. The 8-inch and 10-inch Siege Mortars had maximum ranges of2,225 and 2,064 yards, respectively, and the 13-inch Seacoast Mortar had a maximum range of 4,300 yards, but their effective ranges were much shorter. These mortars saw action in many different theaters in the American Civil War and were used by both the Army and the Navy.

While guns were intended to batter down the walls of a fortification during a siege, mortars were designed to fire explosive shells over the walls of the fortification in a high arcing trajectory, destroying construction and personnel, killing the men inside, forcing others to stay in bombproof shelters, or preventing the gunners from serving their guns and repairing damage caused by the bombardment. Mortars could also destroy structures inside the fortifications which would normally stay unharmed from standard guns. Heavier mortar shells could also penetrate magazines and many bomb proof shelters. They could also be used for fire suppression against hostile siege batteries. Seacoast Mortars could penetrate the decks of wooden ships and even threaten the deck plating of ironclad vessels.

One of the most famous guns of the war was the well photographed 13-inch “Dictator,” which fired 227 pound mortar shells from a railroad platform propelled by 20 pounds of powder into the Confederate lines during the siege of Petersburg.

The official records also site that 13-inch mortars participated in the capture of Island No.10, the reduction of Fort Pulaski, and the actions against Fort Jackson, Fort Saint Philip, Fort Pillow, Fort Pemberton, Battery Wagner and Fort Sumter. The 13-inch mortars were also used in both naval and land based batteries during the siege of Vicksburg and General McClellan placed seven 13-inch mortars in Battery #4 at Yorktown.

Civil War Artillery

Clash of Empires

From the modern perspective, it is easy to look back and think of the military of the eighteenth century as being quaint, but that does them a great disservice. Then, as now, armies were complex instruments using the newest technologies of the time. During the latter part of the 18th century, advances in metallurgy and carriage design resulted in lighter field guns with the standard British Royal Artillery light 6-pounder with a bore of 3.67 inches and light 5.5 inch howitzer weighing around 1,700 lbs. The British Royal Artillery 6-pounder became one of the most widely deployed battalion guns from the wilderness of North America to the tropics of the Caribbean, the African coast, India, and the Philippines. They were also deployed in Germany, Portugal, and raided the French coast.

Smoothbore 6-pounders fired two main types of projectiles: roundshot and case shot (canister). Roundshot was a solid iron sphere hammered into shape while still hot from the mold. It was the most important and numerous projectile in service and composed approximately 70-80% of ammunition used in the field.


Clash of Empires

War on the Nile – Battle of Abu Klea, January 17, 1885

Battle of Abu Klea, January 17, 1885

Zulu War – Rorke’s Drift

Rorke’s Drift – Matte Version

WWI 1914 -1916

The Ordnance QF 13-pounder quick-firing field gun was the standard equipment of the British Royal Horse Artillery at the outbreak of World War I. The gun was developed as a response to combat experience gained in the Boer War and entered service in 1904.

The 13-pounder was intended as a rapid-firing and highly-mobile, yet reasonably powerful field gun for Royal Horse Artillery batteries attached to Cavalry divisions which were expected to be engaged in mobile open warfare.

By late 1914, however, the Western Front settled into trench warfare and the 13-pounder was found to be too light to be truly effective against prepared defensive positions. As a result, it was increasingly supplanted by the 18-pounder.

The first British artillery round on the Western Front in World War I was fired by No. 4 gun of Battery “E” Royal Horse Artillery on August 22, 1914, northeast of Harmignies in Belgium. The 13-pounder was also used to great effect by Battery “L” Royal Horse Artillery in its famous defensive action on September 1, 1914 at Néry, France, for which three Victoria Crosses were awarded.

WWI Collection 1914 – 1916

WWI German Forces 1916 -1918

WWI German Forces 1916 -1918

Christmas Truce 1914

Though there was no official truce, roughly 100,000 British and German troops were involved in unofficial cessations of fighting along the length of the Western Front during Christmas of 1914.

In the early months of static trench warfare during World War I, opposing infantry units in close proximity to each other often developed an attitude of “live and let live.” In some cases, overtly aggressive behavior ceased and troops participated in small-scale fraternization, engaging in conversation or bartering for cigarettes.

Through the week leading up to Christmas 1914, this behavior became even more widespread. On Christmas Eve, German troops began decorating their trenches with candles and putting up Christmas trees, and when the German troops began singing Christmas carols, the British responded by singing carols of their own. The two sides continued by shouting Christmas greetings back and forth between the lines and in many sectors the two sides agreed to and an unofficial truce.

On Christmas Day, many soldiers from trenches on both sides independently ventured into “no man’s land,” where they mingled and exchanged small gifts such as food, tobacco and alcohol. The truce also allowed a breathing spell where recently killed soldiers could be brought back behind their lines by burial parties and in some cases joint services were held

Troops from both sides were also friendly enough to play games of football with one another. First-hand accounts of these “friendly games” are recorded by several units including the Rifle Brigade, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, the Royal Field Artillery and The Lancashire Fusiliers.

Christmas Truce 1914

Battle of the Somme – British

Battle of the Somme


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