CMH Forum

[Weapons] Important information on early US artillery

Yesterday I was at the National Archives in Washington DC looking through some material that was new to me. I was having no luck tracking down the origin of a particular model of cannon exemplified by specimens at Fort Ticonderoga, Fort McHenry, and even one piece in our collection. Some of my previous posts refer to this unidentified model, the basic lines of which show up in a number of unmarked or minimally-marked bronze and iron pieces.

I had been looking somewhat exclusively in RG 156, records of the Chief of Ordnance. Archivist Mr. Trevor Plant recommended I try looking in Record Group 92, entries 2117 and 2118, which include earlier procurements (beginning in 1794) made out of Philadelphia.

These entries are huge in volume, occupying hundreds of shelf feet with both bound volumes and boxes, so I felt anything pertinent that I found in that massive amount of material would be a matter of luck, but it was my lucky day I guess.

These two pages indicate a cooperative relationship between two important and relatively famous figures, Col. Louis de Tousard, and the early gun founder Henry Foxall, neither of whom need introduction to students of artillery history.

What these two pages show is that in 1800, Tousard and Foxall got the US government to pay for the better part of a complete set of critical tooling necessary to cast cannons of what must have been a new model or models, in several different calibers. Whether the tooling was optimized for casting cannons in iron or bronze is not indicated in the documents, and in fact, it could probably have been used for either if there were no "dolphins" involved in the patterns. "Dolphins" or "handles" atop the gun applied almost exclusively to bronze guns since the small cross-section of this detail did not lend itself to various mechanical properties of cast-iron. What I am calling "tooling" (modern terminology) are the "models" (usually wooden full-sized models) and "flasks" (large iron coffin-like casting containers which can be disassembeled into pieces.)

The material I was looking at also tends to overturn a widely-held notion that the procurement of bronze artillery pieces was discontinued between 1801 and 1835. This information seems to come largely from Birkhimer, William E., "Historical Sketch of ... the Artillery, United States Army," Chapman, 1884, chapter 10. Despite Henry Dearborn's ca. 1801 direction that all U.S. cannon barrels were to be made of cast iron, Henry Foxall seems to have been casting significant numbers of bronze guns, for the U.S., in many different calibers from about 1805 onward (I need to examine more documents to pin the date down more precisely.)

What I've pictured here is the original document discussing the delivery of two wooden models, which is the very first indication that something was afoot. The second link below shows the page listing the flasks etc., the bulk of what I call the tooling.

The key part of the excerpt pictured is "Delivered to Henry Foxall...2 wooden Models of 6&9 pounder Cannon, made under the direction of Major Tousard." This proves that the two were involved in a cooperative effort regarding some new pattern(s) of cannon.

If we can get some experienced researchers/authors to vet this information, and find a few more details, hopefully we can come up with enough to call this the "U.S. (insert caliber here) Model of 1800" or something similar.

I certainly haven't read all that's been published about this subject, so if someone has already "been there done that" please let me know.

http://i17.photobucket.com/albums/b62/cannonmn/miscforumsetc/forums4/IMG_7356S.jpg
http://i17.photobucket.com/albums/b62/cannonmn/miscforumsetc/forums4/IMG_7361S.jpg

Messages In This Thread

[Weapons] Important information on early US artillery
Bronze cannon production 1808
10-inch brass howitzer, real or error?
2 3/4 inch iron howitzer, real or error?
Cannons from Hope, Hanover, and Eagle
Iron howitzers, 3-inch, at Fort Miro, 2nd Infantry
Here's what some of the records look like...
3 1/2-inch iron howitzers, never heard of 'em!
Re: 3 1/2-inch iron howitzers, never heard of 'em!
Specifications, 3 1/2-inch iron howitzers,
12 pounder Light Brass Cannons at West Point
Brass Cannon, LONG 12 pounder
Proving cannons, reboring 32 pdrs at Eagle
Ordance tooling items listed
Ordnance items at Fort Niagra Oct 1796
Re: Fort Niagra Oct 1796 continuation page
...one woman to each 10 to 15 men...
Re: ...one woman to each 10 to 15 men...
Re: ...one woman to each 10 to 15 men...
CMH Minuteman

To Join the Company of Military Historians click here

CMH Minuteman