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I've noticed on a lot of the field carriages that there is a piece of chain that appears to go from the axle to the trail on both sides. What is the actual purpose of the chain? My best guess would be that it is to keep the axle from coming out from under the cannon when it is being towed should the axle come loose.
 

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I believe your talking about the brake chain . Usually only on one side is used to lock the wheel when going down a steep hill to give resistance as there are no brakes on the carriage, only what the horse can hold back . Should never be used during firing as the cannon must recoil.
 

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I only had a vague idea on how the chains could be used until I built my 1/3 scale 6-Pounder and built the chains to scale as well.



I had read that the chains would be used to prevent the wheels from rotating. This could be used if you were positioned just over the rise of a hill to prevent your piece from recoilling all the way to the bottom of the hill after each shot. If set up on a down slope, it would stop the cannon from rolling down the hill and becoming your enemy's cannon. In other situations, securing the lock chains to the wheels could be used simply to shorten the recoil distance.

When I had a chance to play with the 1/3 scale and experiment with the lock chains, I found there were a great many ways they could be used.
 
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