These were in current edition of “The Monthly Bugle” newsletter of the Pennsylvania Antique Gun Collectors Assn. My article I think has already appeared here, sry for repeat if u already saw it.
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18th Century American 12-pounder Cannon by John L. Morris
The cast-iron cannon pictured was one of dozens of cannons deaccessioned by Fort Ticonderoga, NY, at auction ca. 2016. It was purchased by an east-coast militaria dealer who kept it in storage since the auction. Its condition, given its age of about 250 years spent mostly outdoors, is
actually very good, except for the trunnions and vent. The trunnions are extensively corroded, possibly from having been displayed on a wooden carriage while exposed to the elements. The vent is greatly enlarged, which normally results from extensive firing. Recently the cannon was measured to identify the date and country of manufacture. The critical measurements were: Bore diameter 4.6 in., nominal length 87.5 in., basering diameter 15.3 in. What remains of the trunnions are below the barrel’s centerline, which means it probably predates 1780, when the writings of John Muller convinced most cannon designers to place trunnions on the centerline. The dimensions of the cannon are very close to those of one version of the 12-pounder iron “garrison gun” called out in the English Board of Ordnance regulations of 1764 (length 90 in.). The weight given for the English piece, in hundredweights, is 29-1-0, equal to 3,276 lbs.
This gun’s profile differs significantly from that of contemporaneous English weapons, which had more “mouldings” (raised rings) than the ex-Ticonderoga piece. Also, English iron guns usually have a very conspicuous royal cypher cast in relief on top of the gun. The most familiar example on surviving specimens is “GR” for George Rex, meaning King George. The only easily visible mark on the Fort Ti piece is an incised numeral “2” which we know, by its off-center-right location, is probably the last digit in a multi-digit “hundredweight” marking. The overall contour of this cannon is greatly “streamlined” and simple compared to cannons of similar size cast in other countries. Harold Peterson’s classic book “Round Shot and Rammers” (Stackpole, Harrisburg, 1969) contains good drawings of similar-size cannons of the same timeframe made in Spain, France, Sweden, and England and all have much more complex contours than the Ticonderoga piece. In view of the information above, this gun is likely of American make, and almost certainly predates 1780.
This size and type of gun was known as a “Garrison gun” in English service, meant for use in fixed fortifications. It could also be used as a “battering piece” to lay siege to and destroy such fortifications or used in certain locations aboard ship. In 1778, Henry Knox, the American Chief of Artillery, specified in great detail the artillery he required for an Army brigade. His list included twelve 12-pounder cast iron battering pieces on traveling carriages. His requirement for traveling carriages, as opposed to garrison carriages (similar to ship’s truck carriages), meant he wanted them to be fully mobile, thus capable of offensive employment. The Fort Ti specimen
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could well have been pressed into service aboard ship as a bow or stern “chaser” but for various reasons beyond our scope, longer guns were generally used for broadside mounting. Some may be wondering if this gun could have been one of those moved from Fort Ti and Fort Crown Point to Boston by Henry Knox in December 1775. Knox’s “Noble Train” did include ten12-pounder iron guns. However, this particular gun most likely arrived at Fort Ti during the early 20th century, when the Pell family was gathering cannons from everywhere, including from the U.S. government, to display in the fort.
The Guns of Fort Ticonderoga by Isaac Makos
After the Battles of Lexington and Concord in April 1775, the British had retreated back to the city of Boston. There they found themselves surrounded and besieged by an army of armed colonists. British General John Burgoyne disparaged the colonists as “a preposterous parade” and “a rabble in arms,” but the new commander of this Continental Army saw potential. General George Washington wrote that “in a little time we shall work up these raw materials into very good stuff.” Farmers and artisans could be made into soldiers, but the colonists had very little artillery and cannons could not be summoned out of thin air.
Nearly three hundred miles away, on the shore of Lake Champlain, was a treasure trove of artillery. In May of 1775, Ethan Allen led a militia made up of settlers from present-day Vermont, called
the Green Mountain Boys, in a surprise attack that captured Fort Ticonderoga and its small British garrison without firing a shot. With this act of “burglarious enterprise,” as one British writer described it, the rebels took possession of two hundred cannons. Most officers thought that moving the guns all the way from Fort Ticonderoga to Boston was impossible, but Henry Knox thought otherwise.
Knox had been a bookseller before the outbreak of war, and his bookshop was known as “a fashionable morning lounge” that counted John Adams among its regular patrons. After Lexington and Concord, Knox and his wife snuck out of Boston in disguise. With a commission as a colonel in the Continental Army, Knox went to Washington and confidently predicted that once the cannons had been taken by boat from Fort Ticonderoga to the southern end of Lake George, it would take fewer than twenty days to move them overland to Boston.
Henry Knox left for Fort Ticonderoga on November 16, 1775. Once he arrived at the fort, he selected 58 pieces of artillery to take back to Boston. Most of artillery pieces were “12-pounder” or “18-pounder” cannons (depending on the weight of the cannonball they fired). Knox also brought one massive 24-pounder cannon, nicknamed “Old Sow,” that weighed more than 5,000 pounds and several high-arching mortar guns that weighed one ton each. In total, Henry Knox’s “noble train of artillery” weighed 120,000 pounds, or 60 tons.
On December 9, 1775, three boats loaded with artillery set sail on Lake George. Traveling forty miles down the ice-covered lake took eight days. Once the artillery was on the southern shore of the lake, Knox and his men used more than one-half mile of rope to secure the guns to 42 sleds. Hauling the heaviest guns required eight horses and sometimes additional oxen as well.
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The journey on land required crossing the frozen Hudson River four times. The leader of each sled team carried an axe, so that if a cannon fell through the ice they could cut the lines before it dragged the horses underwater as well. Henry Knox himself nearly froze to death while trying to walk through three feet of snow in a blizzard. In a letter to Washington, he wrote that “it is not easy to conceive the difficulties we have had,” but not a single cannon was lost. Henry Knox and his noble train of artillery arrived at the Continental Army camp outside Boston in late January 1776. The journey that Knox had estimated would take sixteen or seventeen days had taken forty.
On the night of March 4, the cannons were moved into position on Dorchester Heights, over- looking the city and the harbor. On March 5, when British General William Howe learned what the colonists had done, he exclaimed that “these fellows have done more work in one night than I could make my army do in three months.” On March 6, 1776, he gave the order to prepare for evacuation. On Saint Patrick’s Day 1776, 120 ships carried 9,000 British soldiers, 1,200 dependents, and 1,100 Loyalists out of Boston. On the deck of one ship, the merchant George Erving told other Loyalists, “Gentlemen, not one of you will ever see that place again.”
(photos on the way)
Cannons at Fort Ticonderoga