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 Naval Cannon 
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Post Naval Cannon
One of the finest books that covers naval cannon is Brian Lavery's "The Arming and Fitting of English Ships of War 1600-1815." It also covers a variety of other topics such as rudders, capstans, pumps, anchors, copper sheathing, and many others. I recommend it highly.

Of lesser renown, is a Shire Publication entitled "Naval Cannon" by John Mundy. It is Shire Album #186 and is a really good overview of cannon during the Age of Sail.

In a few instances, it is even superior to Lavery's book. There are a number of very fine drawings. I especially liked the line drawings of the different types of shot in addition to the normal round shot: chain, bar, star, trundle, grape, langridge, case, etc. shown on page 7. There is one, unnamed, that has two wicked looking "curved cutter blades" that extend in flight, creating a frightening object flying through the air.

If you are unfamiliar with Shire Publications, visit their website. Their booklets, like this one, are small, approx. 6x8 inches and about 32 pages in length. However, each booklet has a wealth of information. The "Naval Cannon" booklet is currently out-of-print but is available from Abe Books.

Don


Last edited by timoneer on Wed Jun 08, 2005 9:53 am, edited 2 times in total.



Tue Jun 07, 2005 12:34 pm
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Post RE: Naval Cannon
Thanks for the tip. I've ordered the book through Alibris.
I would also recommend Arming the Fleet - Spencer Tucker.

PT


Tue Jun 07, 2005 11:45 pm
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Quote:
There is one, unnamed, that has two wicked looking "curved cutter blades" that extend in flight, creating a frightening object flying through the air.
I believe this type was referred to as "spade shot," whether due to its similarity in appearance with the suit of spades in a deck of cards or the effect it would have on both human and ship, I do not know. I have, though, seen references to a dismantling shot termed "spade shot". I have, of course, been known to be wrong. :wink:
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Wed Jun 08, 2005 5:51 am
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Post Caruana, History of English Sea Ordnance
Rodger, in The Command of the Ocean, cites the following, which I have not yet had an opportunity to consult:
Adrian B. Caruana, The History of English Sea Ordnance, 1523-1875, I: The Age of Evolution, 1523-1715; II: The Age of the System, 1715-1815 (Rotherfield, East Sussex, 1994-97).
Rodger's summary evaluation:
"An important work of great antiquarian erudition and practical knowledge, but unreliable in detail and largely devoid of historical analysis." Basically, to professional historians, "antiquarian" means "lots of detail, no analysis or thought"; it is one the nastiest words a historian can use about another's work.


Sat Sep 10, 2005 5:10 am
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With all of the data available regarding armament on board various ships, we are normally told how many guns were carried. But, being in the process of reading "Six Frigates", it is mentioned that to begin with, one of the first of these American ships to be armed, was armed to the hilt (or bulwarks) with heavy cannon. This evidently had a detrimental effect on her sailing abilities. These guns, eventually being replaced by smaller calibre weapons. Getting a few broadsides in with the smaller guns was more beneficial, than none at all, whilst trying to manouvre for a shot. So, what I'm really after is, can anybody point me in the direction of ships data, showing not just the amount of guns on board, but the poundage/calibre?

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Mon Jan 08, 2007 11:02 pm
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I own the "Arming and Fitting" and it is excellent. As for more books on Naval Armament, http://www.scholarsbookshelf.com/ has a couple of books worth examining.


Thu Jan 11, 2007 2:52 am
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CivvyCivvy wrote:
With all of the data available regarding armament on board various ships, we are normally told how many guns were carried. But, being in the process of reading "Six Frigates", it is mentioned that to begin with, one of the first of these American ships to be armed, was armed to the hilt (or bulwarks) with heavy cannon. This evidently had a detrimental effect on her sailing abilities. These guns, eventually being replaced by smaller calibre weapons. Getting a few broadsides in with the smaller guns was more beneficial, than none at all, whilst trying to manouvre for a shot. So, what I'm really after is, can anybody point me in the direction of ships data, showing not just the amount of guns on board, but the poundage/calibre?


Both British and American captains had a tendancy to over-gun their ships, but this was to a large extent reduced for the Americans by the War of 1812/Second American War with the greater control gained by the Secetary of the Navy. Before that, captains could arm their ships as they saw fit. Judging whether a ship was overgunned is greatly complicated by the use of carronades instead of cannon on the quarterdeck and forecastle, since carronades weighed a third or less than that of the equivalent cannon - ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carronade

One of the armaments used on the USS Constitution was all 24 pounders - cannon in the upper deck and carronades on the forecastle and quarterdeck. There was also a shorter version of the standard cannon, which had less range but weighed somewhat less than the standard or "long" cannon. American 74s used an all 24 pounder armament as well, with long cannon on the gundeck, shorts on the upper deck, and carronades on the forecastle and quarterdeck.

Here's some generic armaments for various ratings - generic meaning typical - I compiled for In Harm's Way - though individual ships varied:

Generic 1st Rate
Guns: 100
Gundeck 30 X 32 pndrs
Middle Deck 28 X 24 pndrs
Upper Deck 30 X 12 pndrs
Quarterdeck 12 X 6 pndrs
Forecastle 4 X 32 pndr Carronades

Generic Second Rate
Guns: 98
Gundeck 30 X 32 pndrs
Middle Deck 28 X 18 pndrs
Upper Deck 30 X 12 pndrs
Quarterdeck 10 X 6 pndrs
Forecastle 4 X 32 pndr Carronades

Generic Third Rate
Guns: 74
Gundeck 28 X 32 pndrs
Upper Deck 28 X 18 pndrs
Quarterdeck 14 X 9 pndrs
2 X 32 Pndr Carronades
Forecastle 4 X 9 pndrs
6 X 32 pndr Carronades

Generic Fourth Rate
Guns: 56
Gundeck 24 X 24 pndrs
Upper Deck 22 X 12 pndrs
Quarterdeck 8 X 6 pndrs
2 X 32 Pndr Carronades
Forecastle 6 X 32 pndr Carronades

Generic Fifth Rate
Guns: 38
Upper Deck 28 X 18 pndrs
Quarterdeck 6 X 9 pndrs
8 X 32 pndr Carronades
Forecastle 4 X 9 pndrs

Generic Sixth Rate
Guns: 28
Upper Deck 20 X 12 pndrs
Quarterdeck 4 X 6 pndrs
4 X 32 pndr Carronades
Forecastle 4 X 9 pndrs

Smaller, unrated ships were much more varied - for instance many were armed entirely with carronades, which was rare for frigates and unheard of for larger ships.

Hope that helps! :D

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Thu Jan 11, 2007 2:04 pm
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Blimey Clash and Brit.Privateer. Thanks for your info and time. Something there for me to get me teeth into! :D

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Thu Jan 11, 2007 5:42 pm
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CivvyCivvy wrote:
Blimey Clash and Brit.Privateer. Thanks for your info and time. Something there for me to get me teeth into! :D


No problem! It was mostly just cut and paste, since I had done it all anyway! :D

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Thu Jan 11, 2007 9:02 pm
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CivvyCivvy wrote:
Blimey Clash and Brit.Privateer. Thanks for your info and time. Something there for me to get me teeth into! :D


No Problem, for the exact titles from Scholar's Bookshelf, there are:
"The Evolution of Naval Armament" by Frederick Leslie Robertson

and

"A Tretise of Artillery" by John Muller


Thu Jan 11, 2007 10:19 pm
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Post Re: Naval Cannon
On the subject of cannons in general, when did the flint lock mechanism replace slowmatches? "Fighting Sail" from Time-Life Books mentions that they were "new" in 1805. I thought they'd been around a little longer than that.
How was the replacement done? Did ships have to get new cannons or was it something that could be fitted on the ones they had? This seems like a dumb question... but... :oops:
How would ships on foreign stations have got the new mechanisms, and when would most of them have been replaced?
(What I'm after is whether a ship on the Jamaica station in 1796 would have had flintlocks or still be using slowmatches.)
Any ideas?

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Thu Oct 28, 2010 5:20 am
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Post Re: Naval Cannon
The use of locks for the firing of a ship’s cannon goes back to at least to the 1750s, an example of such a lock has been found in the wreck of LE JUSTE (1759). In the RN, the adoption of flint-locks for great guns had been approved in 1755 and their use occurred even earlier, experimentation taking place in the 1730s. Their adoption seems to have been patchy and was still being advocated at the time of the American Revolutionary War during which the DUKE 98 was equipped (at least on one deck) with locks at the time of the Battle of the Saintes where her fire was said to be impressive. Allegedly, many of the locks used on board this ship were musket locks. Thereafter, brass locks were supplied more regularly from 1782 and development continued slowly during the peace so that by the time of the French Revolutionary War they were in widespread use.
One of the problems with the adoption of locks in the RN was that they were suited only to pan-vented guns and it was probably not until about 1780 that the heavier guns in service were of this design.
It appears that the first new ship completely fitted with brass locks at her commissioning was the LATONA 38 in 1781.

The short answer to your question is that it would be reasonable for a ship on the Jamaica Station in 1796 to be equipped with brass gun locks.

See: Douglass: "Naval Gunnery1855", Conway, 1982. and Caruana: "The History of English Sea Ordnance The Age of the System 1715-1815". JeanBoudriot Publications, 1997.


Thu Oct 28, 2010 6:13 am
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Post Re: Naval Cannon
The latest newsletter from Hull Museums includes this announcement:

-=-=-
Hands On History, Trinity Square, HU1 1RR
Lunchtime Lecture: Cannon Bollards by Geoff Bell
Tuesday 8 February, 12.30pm - 1.30pm

Did you know that old cannons were sometimes made into street bollards? Geoff Bell presents a fascinating look at this curious practice.
-=-=-

Might be interesting. I don't know anything about Geoff Bell or his researches, but there are an awful lot of 'urban myths' about cannon-bollards. It is something that I have been quietly interested in, but it has not been easy to find out how and when. Even the Naval cannon were, apparently, not owned by the RN but by the Board of Ordnance. From time to time one sees (eg: in the London Gazette) announcements of the sale of scrap cannon and other ordnance. I suppose that as soon as the BoO had sold the surplus, no further official records were kept. The scrap value of brass/bronze guns would have been appreciable, but I don't know if old unservicable iron guns had much value. One can see that some boroughs, within easy reach of BoO depots, might find them cheap to use as bollards.

One sees many claims, on blogs and tourist web pages that London's bollards came from French ships captured at Trafalgar. Obvious nonsense, as most of the prizes sank in the storm, and the survivors were probably decommissioned at Gib, not in London.

Plenty of real M/L cannon still in use as bollards at Chatham dockyard, and I presume at other naval dockyards. How the dockyard management extracted them from Board of Ordnance, I don't know.

I am accumulating lots of photos of bollards: both real guns (eg at Chatham) and more recent commercial ones. It is interesting that the general shape often remains reminiscent of the M/L gun: embedded in the ground muzzle-up and with a round cap resembling a cannon-ball plugging the bore.

Are there many examples of real ordnance being used as "street furniture" in countries other than the UK? (I have a few photos of Greek ones, where they seem to favour embedding them muzzle-down).

Martin


Tue Jan 18, 2011 7:22 pm
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Post Re: Naval Cannon
Martin Evans wrote:
One sees many claims, on blogs and tourist web pages that London's bollards came from French ships captured at Trafalgar. Obvious nonsense, as most of the prizes sank in the storm, and the survivors were probably decommissioned at Gib, not in London.

Plenty of real M/L cannon still in use as bollards at Chatham dockyard, and I presume at other naval dockyards. How the dockyard management extracted them from Board of Ordnance, I don't know.

I am accumulating lots of photos of bollards: both real guns (eg at Chatham) and more recent commercial ones. It is interesting that the general shape often remains reminiscent of the M/L gun: embedded in the ground muzzle-up and with a round cap resembling a cannon-ball plugging the bore.

Are there many examples of real ordnance being used as "street furniture" in countries other than the UK? (I have a few photos of Greek ones, where they seem to favour embedding them muzzle-down).

Hi Martin,

How interesting! I assumed, I guess like others, that they were all real cannons (but not necessarily from Trafalgar ships).

You've made me curious now and I will have to have a look at my photos to see if I can find any.

How authentic-looking are the recently manufactured ones? And if they do look real, how can you tell if it is manufactured? Do they have some type of maker's stamp on them?

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Wed Jan 19, 2011 5:57 am
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Post Re: Naval Cannon
There is a blog dated July 26, 2009, with a photo of what looks like a real cannon bollard, in Wapping (London) and the comments have links to other photos - some with 'urban myth' stories!

The basic pattern, of a tapered post, often including rings resembling the 'reinforce' rings of M/L guns, continued to influence bollard design through the last 100 years at least. In the UK there are still commercial firms making these in cast iron, steel or even cast aluminium. If you check the web-sites of Bollards UK , Broxap and A.S.F. for example, you will find a few that are still patterned on the old cannon shape. Some of these sites specifically refer to this, even to the cannon-ball finial.

I have accumulated quite a few of my own photos of real cannon used as bollards (almost all taken during a visit to Chatham Historic Dockyard) and bollards made commercially in this traditional pattern. If anyone is interested, I will set a few up on a web page for general access.

Martin


Wed Jan 19, 2011 12:29 pm
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