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calendar   Thursday - May 23, 2013

Today’s Bit Of Rare History

I never knew they existed ...

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You’re looking at the trunnion stamping of a Model 1861 3 inch rifle. A cannon. Cast from steel. From the Civil War. One like this

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The trunnions are the round stubs that stick out the side of the middle of the barrel and are used as the hinge pins to attach the gun to it’s carriage. Up until the start of that conflict, cannons had been made from either cast bronze or cast iron. The rifled field piece in the lower picture was made by the Phoenix Iron Company (who later became famous bridge builders) and is made from roller forged laminated strips of helical wrapped wrought iron. Because wrought iron has much greater tensile (stretching) strength than cast iron, these cannons were much stronger than their cast iron brethren, and almost never blew up when you fired them. And that’s a very good thing!

Unfortunately, making cannons with Damascus style forged iron barrels was quite a bit more involved than filling a mold with molten metal and then letting it cool for a week or two. And while the Bessemer process for creating steel had been invented in England a few years before the War, it hadn’t really made it across the ocean much at that point. So only a very few foundries, such as Singer, Nimick & Company of Pittsburgh, were able to use crucible steel in the volume required to make artillery. But the steel guns they cast, all 6 of them, were just as strong, durable, and light as the wrought iron ones made by PIC. Except they cost twice as much.

6 were built. One, this one, hangs on the wall at the theater in Gettysburg. (It weighs a bit over 860 pounds. Strong wall!) Two others are in McDonald Field in the battlefield park at Chickamauga; these are the two captured by Beford Forrest’s troops near Lexington Tennessee 12/18/1862. The other three have been lost to time, either melted down for scrap, buried to avoid capture and then forgotten, or in some town park somewhere covered over with a coat of paint whereupon they look just like ever other Model 1861 gun out there, and there were lots.

See More Below The Fold

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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 05/23/2013 at 05:37 PM   
Filed Under: • HistoryMilitary •  
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