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Old August 6, 2010, 04:22 AM   #26
Hawg Haggen
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There were probably more round ball explosive shells used than all the rifled shells combined. They used a fuse that was lit by the firing charge. A lot of the conical shells used the same fuses.

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Old August 6, 2010, 02:32 PM   #27
Mike Irwin
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"There were probably more round ball explosive shells used than all the rifled shells combined."

Hum...

I'm not sure I'd take that bet.

By the end of the war the Parrot, Rodman, and U.S. Ordnance rifles were in heavy use, and pretty much all they used were shells.

In addition, for Naval use, the shell guns had largely replaced the roundball guns by the middle of the war for new construction.
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Old August 6, 2010, 03:24 PM   #28
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I remember a visit to Crete when I was in the Navy in 1963. Crete had a small beach the military used and sometimes airmen would take a car down there and blow the carbon out of it, hence the nickname, "carbon flats."

The Germans placed a lot of mines in Crete during the war and thos things have a long life.

An airman managed to run over one while blowing the carbon out of his car.

It was not pretty.

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Old August 7, 2010, 02:47 AM   #29
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By the end of the war the Parrot, Rodman, and U.S. Ordnance rifles were in heavy use, and pretty much all they used were shells.

In addition, for Naval use, the shell guns had largely replaced the roundball guns by the middle of the war for new construction.
That's all true but through the entire war the most commonly used artillery piece was the Napoleon smoothbore.
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Old August 7, 2010, 04:08 AM   #30
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corrected

I'll take the correction. So, BP is not unstable w/ age.

We had been trained not to handle the things, secure the area and call the local bomb squad. Pretty basic. I made the mental jump that they were delicate/unstable.

The inertial fuse, or a percussion fuse. The detonation rate for the rifled guns w/ percussion fuses was much higher. More reliable system, and the rifled projectiles are stabilized (not stable again!) and land near nose first. BANG. Because of the smaller bore, the explosive effect was much less.

Could a percussion fuse be unstable???
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Old August 7, 2010, 03:44 PM   #31
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I have read that one of the reasons Lee lost the Battle of Gettysburg because of faulty fuses and detonators for the artillery ordnance. When he began the big artillery shelling on I believe the second day they didn't explode over the Union lines but flew over them and exploded where very few Union troops were. When the smoke cleared he was surprised to see the Union line intact, not cut to pieces like he expected.
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Old August 7, 2010, 03:47 PM   #32
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You see that circle in the middle of the ball, that is a fuse.

Many fuses of the era look like mushroom headed electrical fuses.

That also means the ball is filled with black powder and maybe shrapnel balls.

I bought a "cannon ball" from a flea market and got books from the local library. Did my own research on cannon balls. Turns out I was snookered: it was a solid grinding mill ball, even though the dimensions were close for a 12 lb Napolean.

After determining it was just a round mass of cast iron, I brought it to work. After telling the story of how I found "the cannon ball" and how it might be fused, I usually managed to somehow drop the thing on the floor. Word got around.

The funny thing was now, in my community, I was now a Cannon Ball expert, and others brought in their cannon balls for identification. One guy had a solid shot 6 pounder he had dug out of his back yard.

Another guy brought his cannon ball. It was a Parrot I think, long and with four ridges at the base. He bought it around Gettysburg. The seller told him it had been defused. And that was a true statement. No fuse in the forecone. However, you could look through the cavity of the shell and see that it was packed with powder and iron balls. The thing still had the original charge!

I told the bud 1) He needed to take it home , 2) keep it well away from any sources of ignition, 3) and wash the thing out with hot water to dissolve the powder.

Hope I gave him good advice.

I remember talking to an EOD guy at a local gunstore . He had all sorts of cannon ball stories, only one I remember. He had been called out to a little old ladies house to look at her civil war cannon balls. They sounded identical to the pictured round shot. Round and fused, loaded with an explosive charge, and sitting on either side of her fireplace!

People are still drilling these civil war cannon balls and getting killed by them. I kept a newspaper clipping from the 70’s of an Antique Dealer at Gettysburg. He took a dug up CW shell and was doing something with it in his shop. Killed him.

The last CW fatality is still decades ahead of us.
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Old August 7, 2010, 04:46 PM   #33
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So how can one tell the difference between a solid grinding mill ball and a solid cannon ball?
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Old August 7, 2010, 07:16 PM   #34
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So how can one tell the difference between a solid grinding mill ball and a solid cannon ball?
It can be difficult sometimes but weight and measurements will usually tell the tale. I've seen balls from early governor counterweights passed off as grape shot and industrial bearings passed off as six pound shot.
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Old August 8, 2010, 08:44 AM   #35
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"That's all true but through the entire war the most commonly used artillery piece was the Napoleon smoothbore."

Maybe not.

According to this website: http://www.civilwarhome.com/artillery.htm, during the Civil War only about 1,200 bronze 1857 Napoleons were produced for Union service, and half that for the Confederates

Parrot rifle production was approximately 600, and US Ordnance rifles about 1,000, giving the rifled guns rough parity with the smoothbores.

Of course, earlier models of bronze guns were in use during parts of the war; how many I've not been able to determine.

What strikes me, though, is that if those numbers are correct, it seems like such a very small number of field guns for armies the size that were in play during the Civil War.
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Old August 8, 2010, 08:52 AM   #36
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"Could a percussion fuse be unstable???"

Possibly, but unlikely, and far more likely that an unexploded one would go off if dropped on its nose if, for some reason, the striker didn't slide forward when the shell impacted.

Apparently the percussion caps used in these things were quite large and had a lot of fulminate in them, and I have no clue how mercury fulminate ages over time.
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Old August 8, 2010, 11:46 AM   #37
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What strikes me, though, is that if those numbers are correct, it seems like such a very small number of field guns for armies the size that were in play during the Civil War.
I'm glad you said it, because I was sure thinking it! Maybe someday I'll be a Civil War expert, but for now, I'm just workin' on it. In documentaries and movies, you always see a lot of artillery in battles, but from what you wrote, it sounds like either the role of field artillery was played up more than reality or else the field guns were maybe used to a far greater degree in large battles than anywhere else (which would sort of make sense, I guess).

Or perhaps, due to the nature of the transportation networks of the time, fighting was generally concentrated in small areas at any one time, so the field artillery could be moved to where it was needed.

I can see that I have much reading to do this winter.
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Old August 8, 2010, 01:43 PM   #38
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"or else the field guns were maybe used to a far greater degree in large battles than anywhere else"

I would suspect that most of the artillery would have been kept with the largest parts of the army, but still, those numbers just sound so small...

Especially when you consider that during WW II Watervliet Arsenal in New York was producing nearly that many 105s a MONTH. Of course the nature of artillery had changed dramatically in the ensuing 80 years, but still...
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Old August 8, 2010, 02:14 PM   #39
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What strikes me, though, is that if those numbers are correct, it seems like such a very small number of field guns for armies the size that were in play during the Civil War.
You may be right.

The Federal forces began the war with over 4,000 pieces of artillery, but field artillery accounted for less than 165 of these weapons. http://www.civilwarartillery.com/
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Old August 8, 2010, 04:33 PM   #40
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first responders are needed everywhere

They make calls on wether or not these things are safe,be glad if you have time to call them,cause people have done sum dum things in the past,and history repeats its selftreat every gun as loaded,artillery shells included
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