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Rons Toys
Posts: 25
(3/29/01 3:36:40 pm)
Reply | Edit | Del All Civil War Artillery - Link
Civil War Artillery

Senior Chief Moderator Staff
Posts: 79
(3/29/01 10:21:05 pm)
Reply | Edit | Del Re: Civil War Artillery - Link
Another great link Ron everything on the net, you have to be careful. To get on this thing with a website does NOT mean you are published, and the material is not subject to "peer review" like a book is.

For example, in the ammunition section, it says solid shot was only used for bombardment against fortifications, etc. WRONG!!! Solid shot was the MAIN antipersonnel weapon at range, against masses of troops usually not moving. Shell, because it was so undependable, was usually only fired against moving troops, or interspersed with solid shot, in counterbattery-fire. Solid shot was deadly, and could and would mow down whole ranks even when "bounced" along the ground. (The round balls from smoothbores were best for this, of course.) Some pieces, such as the Hexagonal bore Whitworth the CSA used, only used solid or cannister, no explosive, with good effect!

Again though, my main question I still don't know isn't answered! The primer tube-was it one shot only, or was it reloaded with fulminate and powder in the field??? One battery at Gettysburg fired 1300 rounds the second day, there is NO way it had 1300 primer tubes!!! Inquiring minds want to know!

My son once came home with printouts of German tanks he got off the net in Mom's office. He was SO proud, until I hauled out my books and showed him some were completely mislabeled, and some were just downright WRONG!

I may be old fashioned, but give me an old reference book any day!!

Rons Toys
Posts: 29
(3/30/01 9:38:09 am)
Reply | Edit | Del Re: Civil War Artillery - Link
Is this what you're looking for?
It goes on to tell how you can make them today.

Friction Primer for Cannon (1863)

The friction primer for cannon is a small brass tube filled with gunpowder,
which is ignited by drawing a rough wire briskly through friction composition,
contained in a smaller tube inserted into the first, near the top, and soldered
at right angles to it. A lanyard, with a hook attached, is used to ignite the

The friction primer is composed of 1 large tube; 1 short tube; 1 wire rubber;
friction composition; musket powder; wax.

The long tube is made from a circular disk of No. 19 sheet-brass, 0.62 inch in
diameter, by means of a series of 5 punches and dies, gradually diminishing in
size to the last, which is of the required size of the tube. The brass must be
annealed before each punching.

The tube is cut to the prescribed length, measuring from the closed end, by
means of a circular saw, and the holes for the short tube and wire rubber are
drilled, and the burrs removed. Length of the long tube, 1.75 inch; exterior
diameter, .19 inch; interior diameter; interior diameter, .175 inch; diameter of
holes, .15 inch and .06 inch.

The short tube is formed from the long one by using two additional punches and
dies. reducing the size each time. It is cut to the proper length by circular
saws placed a the required distance apart, and the burr removed by rolling in a
barrel. Length of the short tube, 0.44 inch; exterior diameter, 0.15 inch;
interior diameter, .133 inch.

One end of the short tube is dipped into a solution of chloride of zinc,
inserted in the hole drilled in the long tube, heated to redness in the flame of
a spirit lamp, and soldered with a soft solder; it is then washed and dried.

The wire rubber is made of No. 16 brass wire, annealed, cut to the proper
length, and pressed flat a one end by a machine for that purpose. The flat end
is trimmed by a punch and die with dentated edges, and the tip is annealed ;in
the flame of a spirit lamp. Length of wire, 3.4 inches; length of flattened
end, 0.65 inch.

The friction composition is made of 2 parts of the sulphuret of antimony1 and 1
part of the chlorate of potassa2, moistened with gummed water - 50 grains of gum
arabic in 2 ounces of water to 1 pound of composition.

The materials are first pulverized separately, mixed together dry, moistened
with the gum water, and ground in an iron mill, such as is used for grinding

Charging and Varnishing. - The small tube is charged by pressing the open end
in the friction composition spread on a flat piece of iron and brought to the
consistency of soft putty, the long tube being closed its whole length with a
wooden or metal plug.

A conical hole is made in the composition, while yet moist, with a conical
drift, and the surplus composition removed; the wire rubber is passed through
the short tube and through the small hole in the long tube, the round end first,
leaving the annealed tip projecting out the open end, which is then closed by
pressing the top and bottom together firmly with pincers, and bending the tip
against the bottom.

The end of the wire rubber is doubled on itself and twisted, leaving a loop 0.2
inch diameter, and then bent alongside the long tube for packing.

The head of the long tube, including the short tube and the joint, is dipped
into shellac varnish colored with lampblack.

When dry, the long tube is filled with musket powder and closed with beeswax,
mixed with 1/3 its weight of pitch.

Both ends are touched with varnish and the tube thoroughly dried.

Packing - The tubes are first put up in bundles of 10 each, wrapped in water
proof paper; 10 bundles are packed in a tin box, painted or japanned: 100 tin
boxes are packed in a box made of 1-inch white pine boards, dovetailed.

The contents of the time box, place and year of fabrication, are stamped on the
lid, and the number of the box marked on the front side. The contents of the
wooden box, are marked on each end.

1Sulphuret of Antimony: The modern name for this is Antimony Trisulfide or
Antimony Sulfide.

2Chlorate of Potassa: The modern name for this is Potassium Chlorate.

Senior Chief Moderator Staff
Posts: 94
(3/31/01 9:02:09 am)
Reply | Edit | Del Re: Civil War Artillery - Link
Knew most of that stuff already, but thanks!

BUT still unanswered....was it one time use and throw away after each shot, or could they reuse it for more than one shot in battle?????

From the description of how it was made, no way they could reuse under fire, BUT you'd need an extra caisson to haul 1300 of them, which is how many shots one battery fired the second day at Gettysburg! Plus old fuses should be one of the most available relics to buy, if they just threw them away after use in battle. They're not.

Battery inventories I've seen listed around 1-200 primers, but I don't know if it was before or after battles...

My question, a minor one, which has bothered me for years, and I can't find the answer, "was it reusable, for more than one shot, or use it once and throw away?"

(How do you keep a Polak in suspense?)

Rons Toys
Posts: 33
(3/31/01 10:05:53 am)
Reply | Edit | Del Re: Civil War Artillery - Link
A friend of mine who is into the civil war arty told me that they were only used once. From what I was reading about how to make the primers today it would only take about 4lbs of the mixture to make the 1300 primers, The physical description of them sounds like they are small size because they say to use 3/8 X 1 3/4" copper tube to make them. That would make them a little larger than a 38 spl. Shouldn't take up too much room if my figures are correct.
Did you go to the link, it has a lot more info.

Senior Chief Moderator Staff
Posts: 95
(3/31/01 11:33:57 am)
Reply | Edit | Del Re: Civil War Artillery - Link
Yeah, then it's starting to make sense. Each #4 had a pouch of primers, if he had say a hundred, and it was a 6 gun battery, then that's 600 primers already. The only thing is the one's I've seen are about 3-4" long, tapered at the bottom to fit the vent, which is about 1/2 to 3/4" diameter. The one's I've seen MAY be from a larger cannon, too.

The only thing is in all my research, I've never read much about #7 or #8 having to fetch more primers in action, OR when #4s went down, the guys who step up having to retrieve primers from the wounded or the dead... maybe I've just missed it...

Well at least I knew the lanyard was reusable.

Thanks again, Ron.
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