Brooke and Viard rifles

7-inch (178-mm) Brook cannon from the battleship Atlanta

Oh, I’d like to be in the land of cotton
Where the old days are not forgotten
Turn around! Turn around! Turn around! Dixieland.
In the land of Dixie, where I was born,
early frosty morning
Turn around! Turn around! Turn around! Dixieland.
I would like to be in Dixie! Hurrah! Hurrah!
“Dixie”, one of the unofficial anthems of the southern states of the United States

Weapons from museums. Interestingly, Parrott’s cannons were fired not only in the North, but also in the South. True, if the southerners produced small-caliber guns, in general, quite successfully, then with larger ones they had very even greater difficulties. The whole point was that in the South there were simply no well-equipped factories where there would be powerful forging and pressing equipment necessary for the production of forged iron hoops of large diameter and large thickness needed for these guns and for pressing them onto gun barrels. How to cope with this problem, John Mercer Brook, a naval officer and inventor, came up with the idea of ​​making bandages on the barrels from several narrow rings or putting relatively thin tubes on the barrel – one on top of the other. Both ideas turned out to be very sound, and the southerners started to use Brook’s guns!

Diagram of the device of Brook’s gun with a two-layer bandage on the breech

Their production was established at the Tredegar Iron Works (sometimes called JR Anderson & Co, after the owner Joseph Reed Anderson) in Richmond, Virginia, and the naval arsenal in Selma, Alabama. But due to the fact that their capabilities were modest, in three years only about a hundred Brook-designed rifled guns were made in six, seven and eight inches, as well as 12 powerful ten-inch smoothbore guns and several 11-inch guns.

8-inch (203-mm) Brook cannon with a two-layer bandage on the breech

Brook’s cannons, like Parrott’s cannons, were structurally very simple. They had a tapered muzzle and a cylindrical breech. For simplicity, the barrels were made of cast iron, but one or the same cylinders, rolled from strips of wrought iron, were put on the area of ​​the charging chamber, so that the high pressure arising from the shot was applied to it. Since no Southerner foundry had the ability to fit a single thick-walled cylinder like Parrott’s design, a series of smaller rings were used, each usually 2 “(51 mm) thick and 6” (152 mm) wide. All the barrels of Brook’s guns had seven right-hand rifling in the barrel. The shape of the charging chamber is a truncated cone with a hemispherical bottom, but for 6.4-inch guns it was simply cylindrical.

Installation of Brook’s gun on the battleship “Texas”

Brooke and Viard rifles

Battleship Atlanta with Brook’s guns

But the southerners were let down not only by technology, but also by the very culture of production, which was low and therefore led to a high percentage of rejects. So, out of 54 Brook seven-inch guns made in Selma, only 39 were able to successfully pass the tests, and out of 27 six-inch guns – only 15. However, this was also bread, and therefore Brook’s guns were considered very valuable weapons by the southerners and tried to use them with maximum efficiency. In particular, two such guns were installed on the first battleship of the southern states “Virginia”. Battleships Atlanta, Columbia, Jackson also received two such guns, and besides them, a number of other ships of the Confederation. By the way, two guns that were mounted on the turntables of the battleship Atlanta have survived to this day and are now exhibited in Willard Park of the Washington Naval Dockyard.

Brook’s 10-inch smoothbore cannon captured by the northerners in Richmond after the southerners surrender

Brook also designed a series of smooth-bore barrels, which were produced in small numbers by the same Tredegar and Selma factories. Two guns have survived, one of which is in Columbia University Park in Washington DC. In 1864, Selma cast twelve 11-inch smoothbore guns, but only eight were sent to the front. One is located today in Columbus, Georgia.

Brook’s high-explosive shell. The copper plate in the bottom of the projectile, expanding due to the pressure of the gases, adhered tightly to the rifling and made the projectile rotate!

Brook’s guns fired both armor-piercing and explosive shells of his own design. The first was a cylinder with a blunt nose, which had a sharp edge, in order (as F. Engels wrote about this in his time) to reduce the likelihood of a ricochet when hitting the armor. They were often referred to as “bolts” in reports of the time. Accordingly, the explosive shells were hollow cylinders with a rounded or pointed nose. They were filled with black powder and had a simple percussion fuse. Brook’s smoothbore cannons fired spherical cannonballs at armored targets and hollow spherical explosive shells at unarmored targets.

But Norman Wiard belonged to the opposite camp. He was a master foundry in Ontario, Canada, came from a family of blacksmiths and metalworkers, and was an inventor his entire life. Before the war, he received a patent for a steam boat that could move with passengers and cargo on ice and snowdrifts. He also patented a steam boiler that he sold to the governments of the United States and Japan for $ 72,000 and $ 80,000, respectively, and which was installed on 32 warships in the United States Navy.

6-lb (2.72-kg) Wiard cannon from Fort McNire, Washington

During the Civil War, Wiard served as the Union Army’s ammunition dump, which gave him an intimate knowledge of supply issues. He did not like the fact that the federal forces had “no less than nine different calibers of rifled and smooth-bore guns,” which made it very difficult to supply the troops with ammunition. Therefore, he developed two unique cannons that he believed could provide a viable alternative to the North’s field artillery needs: a 2.6-inch 6-pound rifled cannon and a 4.62-inch smoothbore 12-pounder howitzer. Between 1861 and 1862, during the American Civil War, about 60 of his guns were manufactured at the O’Donnell foundry in New York, and it was noted that “although the weapons are obviously excellent, they do not seem to be very popular “. He tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to create a super-powerful 20-inch (510-mm) gun and was able to make two 15-inch (381-mm) rifled guns for the US Navy, one of which was tested, but this gun was not mass-produced.

The six-pound (2.72 kg) rifled gun had a bore diameter of 2.6 inches (66 mm), and the smoothbore gun had twelve pounds (5.44 kg), the bore diameter was 3.67 inches (93 mm). The barrel of the first gun was cylindrical throughout, but the howitzer in its rear part had a chamber for a powder charge of a diameter smaller than the bore. It was 53 inches (135 cm) long and weighed 725 pounds (329 kg). The firing range at 35 ° was 7000 yards (6400 m) with a standard powder charge equal to 0.75 lb (0.34 kg).

Two officers pose for a photographer next to Wiard’s cannons

The shells were used with a weight of 2.72 kg of the Hotchkiss design. They differed from all other muzzle-loading projectiles for rifled guns in some features of their design. The projectile consisted of a pointed head part containing an explosive charge, which was put on its middle part of a zinc cylinder, and a pallet that had a tapered front part that went under the zinc cylinder. Moreover, a certain gap remained between the pallet and the head part. When fired, the powder gases pressed on the pallet, which moved forward and with its conical front part pressed against the walls of the zinc cylinder from the inside. They, of course, at the same time moved apart, pressed into the rifling and then they were already leading the whole projectile along it!

Hotchkiss projectile. The long zinc cylinder in the middle is clearly visible and thus provides a very good obturation

The barrel was cast from puddling malleable iron and mounted on a wheeled carriage specially designed by Viard. The gun carriage frames were spaced far enough apart so that the barrel could rotate freely on the trunnions. The designer added a long lifting screw, making it possible to fire at an elevation of the barrel up to 35 °, that is, the gun acquired the property of a howitzer. The innovations included a flat base plate with a metal rib, which prevented the openers from digging into the ground when recoil, and a more successful carriage braking system. The recoil of the gun was therefore the smallest among all the other guns of the northerners, which, of course, pleased the artillerymen, who at that time had to return their cannon to its original place after each shot. Both the front and rear sights on the barrel had a crosshair for precise aiming, and the rear sight could also be adjusted horizontally.

Sight at the muzzle

In addition, Viard managed to come up with something that did not exist before him: a wooden wheel of increased maintainability, consisting of replaceable segments. Before that, all the wheels on the field gun carriages were solid. If such a wheel was damaged in battle, then the gun could not shoot and the wheel was usually replaced. But it was a rather laborious operation, especially under enemy fire. The Wiard wheel consisted of segments that easily connected to each other. And if some part of the wheel was damaged, the entire wheel from the axle did not need to be removed. Only the damaged part was replaced. Interchangeable parts for small arms during the Civil War were already commonplace, but no one had yet seen replaceable wooden wheel parts.


The device of the carriage of the Wiard cannon

The Wiard Cannon at the U.S. Army Field Artillery Museum in Fort Sill, Oklahoma

And here you can clearly see the cutting of the barrel

Viard paid much attention to the study of the strength of the guns and the effect of thermal expansion of the barrel on the possibility of its rupture when fired. The result was a contract between the United States Navy’s Office of Armaments under the command of Rear Admiral John A. Dahlgren with Wiarda’s company for the production of two 15-inch (381-mm) rifled guns of about the same weight as a smooth-bore 15-inch (381-mm) Dahlgren’s smoothbore cannon. At the same time Wiard had to pay $ 10,750 for each such weapon made according to his design. But then the government had to buy them from him. The result is perhaps one of the most complex and unusual weapons that ever existed in the world. The barrel, like that of Dahlgren’s Columbiades, was made solid. But at the same time, its entire breech was pierced with numerous narrow channels that served for cooling, the intervals between which played the role of stiffeners that reinforced the barrel and had a kind of S-shaped bend. Such a complex structure had not only less weight, but also greater strength due to more uniform cooling of the barrel during casting. True, one of the cannons “died” during the casting process, but the second one was cast quite successfully, and also successfully fired at the range. No further orders followed, although a drawing with the proposed appearance of the 20-inch (510-mm) gun was preserved.

20-inch Wiard cannon. This is how the artist saw her …

Photo of the completely monstrous Wyard 381 mm cannon

At least 24 6-pounder Wiard guns have survived to this day. For example, one cannon stands in front of the Fayette County Courthouse in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, two at the US Army Field Artillery Museum in Fort Silla, Oklahoma, four at Shiloh National Military Park, and two at Stones River National Battlefield in Tennessee.

A page from Wiard’s book where he talks about his 15- and 20-inch guns. Shown here is the appearance of a 15-inch barrel.

The same trunk in section with all its ventilation ducts and stiffeners

He also developed a new 6-pounder projectile, which gave more than other projectiles, the number of fragments: 40-60 pieces. Another advantage was that this 6-pound projectile could be manufactured at a lower cost than any other rifled projectile. It was made on the basis of the Hotchkiss projectile, so the guns fired them with amazing accuracy.

On October 1, 1862, Brigadier General Franz Siegel wrote to Wiardo about his guns that “their mobility, accuracy and range … together with their remarkable service and repair capabilities in the field make these guns an object of universal admiration among officers and soldiers. In my opinion, your cannons are superior to any field artillery that I have ever seen. “

To be continued…

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