1st artillery battery. Fort Richardson. Calculation of a 20-pound Parrot gun with a pentagonal bore. This is the 1861 model gun, it was made of cast iron and had a barrel reinforced with a wrought iron ribbon. Despite the good performance, she earned a dubious reputation as an explosive weapon. There were places of rupture of the barrel with the death or injury of gunners, which did not happen with Whitworth guns. The Confederate States of America also made copies of this gun.
No wonder Cyres Smith was an expert in artillery. He immediately determined that the guns are made to fame. The best steel went for their manufacture, they were charged from the breech, fired with large-caliber cores and, therefore, were hit at a considerable distance.
Jules Verne. Mysterious Island
Jules Verne. Mysterious Island
Weapon from museums. In one of the articles published on "VO", a photograph flashed of an old gun with a hexagonal hole in the barrel channel. Not a circle, but a hexagon! Unusually, of course, but it is obvious that such tools existed. But what kind of gun was it, who created it and where was it used? This is what our story will be about today.
What types of artillery were not used during the Civil War in the USA. For example, the 10-pound Parrot gun also had a faceted barrel, but it was only muzzle-charged
The Englishman Joseph Whitworth (1803-1887), a well-known engineer who invented the image of Cyres Smith for Jules Verne's novel “The Mysterious Island”, invented such a weapon. He was so versatile and gifted. However, his first military invention was still not a gun, but a rifle. It was he who was authorized by the War Department of the British Government to design a rifle to replace the Anfield rifle of the 1853 model, which had a caliber of 0,577 inches (14,66 mm). The fact is that at that time the Crimean War had just ended and it turned out that this rifle, firing the Mignier expansion bullet, had a number of shortcomings. First of all, the military was not happy with its accuracy, since the Mignier bullet did not always cut into the rifling as it should, and therefore flew into the target in a very arbitrary way. It took a bullet that would not change its shape inside the barrel and would have greater persistence. And Whitworth just came up with such a bullet and a rifle for her!
Sir Joseph Whitworth (1803-1887). Photo from the studio of Nadar
His rifle had a caliber much smaller than the previous one, only 0,451 inches (11 mm), and the barrel inside was not round, but hexagonal. That is, his rifle shot a hex bullet. Accordingly, the rotation speed of such a bullet was much higher than that of all other samples. It was estimated that during the flight the bullet made one revolution for every twenty inches of the distance traveled. The rifle was tested in 1859, and it surpassed the old "Anfield" in all respects. First of all, the bullet easily entered the barrel, which was important for any muzzle-loading weapon. But the accuracy of the shooting was still significantly higher, and it was the military who sought it. Already on April 23, 1859, the Times reported the test results of the new rifle as a great success for British weapons. But there are spots in the sun! The barrel of the new rifle, as before, was quickly contaminated with lead, while the Whitworth rifle was exactly four times more expensive than the Anfield rifle. Therefore, when it came to its industrial production, the British government abandoned it. True, these rifles began to be produced for the commercial market. During the American Civil War between the North and the South, a certain number of them were in the hands of the Confederate army, where they armed part of the well-aimed marksmen, called the “Whitworth Snipers”.
20 pound Parrot gun. Charged from the barrel
And this is his TTX:
Weight: 1.750 lbs (794 kg).
Barrel length: 84 feet (2,13 m).
Projectile weight: 20 pounds (9,1 kg).
Powder Charge Weight: 2 lbs. (0,9 kg).
Caliber: 3,67 inches (93 mm).
Projectile speed: 1.250 ft / s (381 m / s).
Effective range: 1.900 yards (1,700 m) at an elevation angle of 5 °.
However, Whitworth himself even liked the idea of a hexagonal barrel, and he decided to make a gun with such a barrel! And he did: a 2,75-inch (70 mm) caliber rifled cannon loading from the breech, firing shells weighing 12 pounds 11 ounces (5,75 kg) and with a firing range of about six miles (10 km). An elongated spiral-grooved projectile was patented by him in 1855. Once again, the British army rejected his cannon in favor of the gun of W.J. Armstrong, but several of his guns again hit the United States, where it was used most actively during the Civil War. Moreover, it should be noted that for that time it was an absolutely incredible technological breakthrough, because in both armies both northerners and southerners at that time, 12-pound smooth-bore guns of the Napoleon type were still used from the barrel, and even then nobody it never occurred to them that they had outlived their age a long time ago!
But this is Whitworth’s weapon, loaded from the breech. The handles used to turn the piston lock are clearly visible.
At the same time, Whitworth tried to increase the tensile strength of his gun barrels and eventually patented the process of casting and pressing steel under pressure, which he called "liquid-compressed steel", and then also built a new metallurgical plant in the Manchester area, where this technology began to be applied! Its castings were shown at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1883 and were highly appreciated by specialists.
A photograph of Whitworth’s gun of that distant era ...
The Whitworth gun was considered an excellent field weapon, primarily due to unprecedented accuracy. Only at that time she could hit stationary targets at a distance of 1600 yards (4800 feet), which at that time was just an excellent indicator. The first gun had a caliber of 2,75 inches (12 pounds), but in everything else it was no different from all the guns that existed at that time, that is, it had a single-beam carriage and two wheels with spokes. The cannon was towed by a horse harness, but the team of artillerymen over short distances could easily roll it manually over the field. Another version of the gun had a caliber of 2,17 inches (6 pounds).
The gun fired a 13-pound shell, which had the shape of a pointed hexagon, which corresponded exactly to the barrel channel during movement, along which it began to rotate. Perhaps the main disadvantage of the Whitworth gun was the brittleness of the bolt, which is why many calculations, shutting off the bolt tightly, began to shoot from its guns like ordinary muzzle-loading guns, since the design allowed this. This reduced the rate of fire, but was not reflected in accuracy. And since Whitworth’s guns were usually fired at long distances, in principle, the not very high rate of fire of such “alterations” did not play a special role!
And this is a section of her trunk channel!
In an article dated August 10, 1861 in the Harper's Weekly, Whitworth's gun was described as follows:
“The Whitworth rifled cannon has remarkable power and accuracy through the use of a polygonal spiral bore, more convenient than a barrel with a large number of small rifling. The barrel of a 12-pound gun with a channel diameter of 3,2 inches has one revolution per sixty inches; this gives a barrel length of eight feet, not counting the breech block. The projectile is oblong, made of cast iron and made in such a way as to match the profile of the barrel. The breech of the barrel is closed by a piston, which is screwed into the barrel, and when removed, it rotates on a hinge and leans to the side; then the shell is inserted into the open breech, followed by a tin shell containing gunpowder and coated with a layer of wax or other lubricating substance. Then the bolt is rotated and screwed up by the handles, so that the gun is completely ready for the shot, which is carried out by the ignition tube. A lubricant is also applied to the projectile and cleans the barrel well. Due to the presence of the sleeve there is no breakthrough of gases back. They say that the range of this weapon is greater than that of the Armstrong gun, and its accuracy is much higher. The cost of this gun in England is 300 pounds. "
Whitworth Standard Cannon Shell
All Whitworth guns were delivered to the northerners, but some of them as trophies fell into the hands of the southerners, who rated this acquisition as a real gift of fate.
Whitworth's 2-pound 1867 Mountain Cannon, Fort Granville, South Australia. Battery A, South Australian Voluntary Artillery
The northerners used them in the defense of Washington, as well as in the Battle of Gettysburg. Southerners used them at the Battle of Oak Ridge, where they shot with impunity the position of the northerners at the cemetery and on the hill of Kalp.
Whitworth's Wholly Monstrous 70-Pound Cannon from Princess Fort, Willard Park, Washington Navy Shipyards
Whitworth's 18-pound 1860 naval gun. Royal Danish Naval Museum, Copenhagen
Very soon, the "branded" oblong shells for these guns at the southerners ended and they were left without ammunition. But the need for invention is cunning. Southerners came up with the idea of turning round cores under a hexagonal profile and shooting them. The work was, of course, not for the faint of heart, round shells did not have the accuracy that oblong had, they had less gunpowder, if any, but even such ersatz hit targets much better than the Napoleon’s kernels .
Joseph Whitworth in old age
TTX gun Whitworth, received in the United States:
Caliber: 2,75 inches (70 mm).
Barrel material: iron and steel.
Barrel length: 104 inches (264 cm).
Barrel weight 1.092 pounds (495 kg).
Gunpowder Charge: 1,75 lbs (0,79 kg).
Projectile weight: 13 pounds (5,2 kg).
Firing range at an elevation angle of 5 °: 2800 m (2560 m).
At the Battle of Gettysburg, two such guns were used.