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Keywords:VA, artillery, cannon, guns, parrot rifle
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Date modified4-Mar-14 17:28
23379 - Battery No. 1, Farnhold's house; Mounting one 200 pound - five 100 pound guns [LC-DIG-cwpbh-03379]

23379 - Battery No. 1, Farnhold's house; Mounting one 200 pound - five 100 pound guns [LC-DIG-cwpbh-03379]

There can be confusion when referring to the size of cannon during the Civil War. Common guns, such as the Parrot Rifle shown here (at Yorktown, VA in 1862), are sometimes listed by the diameter of the bore or can be listed by the weight of the shell. The smallest size cannon was the 10 lb. shell fired from a rifled gun which came in both a 2.9 and 3 inch bore. As the diameter of the bore started to increase, so did the weight of the shell.
The next largest bore size was the 3.67 inch, which had a shell nearly twice the weight (at 19 lbs.) of the 3 inch cannon. Add another half inch, brought the bore to 4.2 inches and the shell weight to 29 pounds. Just a single inch more, the 5.3 inch bore increased the weight to a whopping 50 lb. shell. The hundred pound gun (mentioned in this caption) had a diameter of 6.4 inches and weighed nearly 10,000 lbs. for the entire gun assembly. The barrel of this monster was 138 inches or 11 and a half feet long.
The 200 pounder mentioned, would have shot an 8 inch shell off of a 16,500 pound cannon. Capable of firing 4.5 miles, this giant of a gun would have had the ability to destroy anything in its path. The challenge of these large weapons was that they were great for stationary targets but against a moving army they had limited effect. Since most battles lasted only for 1-2 days and then moved on, it was not practical to use weapons of this size for most engagements. The 100 pounder alone had a crew of 17 just to operate it. To move and relocate such a weapon at a time when paved roads did not exist outside of major cities, required a substantial amount of oxen to move at even a slow pace.
For this reason, the practical size weapon in the field tended to be the 3 inch (10 lb.) rifled cannon. While still weighing more than 1,700 lbs., it could be moved by a few horses and operated by a team of six. Larger weapons such as the 100, 200 and even 300 pounders tended to be used as long term siege or defense weapons, when quick movement of weapons was not an issue.