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Old 10th August 2019, 11:53 AM   #1
kronckew
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Default Grapeshot

Stumbled across this Photo of a bunch of Union Officers in the American War between the States. Remarkably clear and focused. It shows embrasures of cannon in a Union earthen-works, and more important, a sabotted stack of large diameter grape ready for loading. I note one of the two senior officers (Gold braid flourishes on the flat kepi tops) has a rather atypical sword, straight, crossguard but no knuckle guard...Medical Officer? He's got something shoved in his belt too.
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Old 10th August 2019, 10:58 PM   #2
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Thanks for sharing. I don't know anything about the sword you are inquiring about but can't help but admire the quality of the photographic image. Considering that this artistic medium was still in toddler stage in the 1860s and that the equipment was incredibly cumbersome by our standards.
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Old 11th August 2019, 02:45 AM   #3
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Question

Wondering how they managed the recoil on these great guns...……

A CW era hollow shell I was given by a friend recently.
The straight sword is either a Medical or Staff Officer's sword I think.
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Old 11th August 2019, 04:31 AM   #4
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Pretty sure that guy is wearing a M1840 Medical officers sword, these were by Ames (Chicopee, Mass.) and I take it pretty rare.
Curious about the guy second to the last, right. Think he was pulling the 'Napoleon' thing with his hand in his coat.
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Old 11th August 2019, 04:32 AM   #5
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Pretty sure it's medical officer's sword. These weapons fetch a pretty penny these days...

Ha! Jim, you and I nearly collided on that one!
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Old 11th August 2019, 07:30 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
Pretty sure that guy is wearing a M1840 Medical officers sword, these were by Ames (Chicopee, Mass.) and I take it pretty rare.
Curious about the guy second to the last, right. Think he was pulling the 'Napoleon' thing with his hand in his coat.

.....just dealing with an itch
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Old 11th August 2019, 07:52 AM   #7
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Thanks, all. Found the Medical staff officer's sword with your help, purely ceremonial, also found record of one Medical Officer that also carried a Colt revolver. No conscientious objector there. The swords were also made by Horstman,

I note the Officer far left is wearing a broad sash, as is the chubby guy far right. The 'Naploeon' guy appears to have his arm in a sling, possibly recovering from a wound or a break.

The cannon mounts of the period had no fancy recoil absorption mechanisms, depending entirely on brute strength and friction. The piece would recoil rearwards and had to be moved back into position after each shot, re-aiming was a big chunk of the reloading time. Fortress mounts for the big boys were on sloped rails with a central or front pivot, and gravity helped slow down the gun, it was reloaded in the recoiled position then laboriously hauled back into firing position. usually with the aid of capstan bars in mating holes in the wheels of the carriage. You can see the holey wheels on the Rodman 20" cannon mounting in the video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55ImdMV5qWw

Interestingly, long range coastal and naval guns of the period and into the 20c could not use high angle plunging fire, but 'skipped' the shot like a flat rock across the water into the sides of the target ship, not from above thru the decks (coastal guns, breach loaders with recoil mechanisms were deployed in coastal defence in the latter stages tho, but not in naval vessels). This influenced battleship design well into the 20th c. where side armour was many times the thickness of deck armour, making them highly vulnerable to aerial attacks that spelled the doom of the first line BB in modern navies, relegating them to shore bombardment rather than Fleet battles. The last BB was used in the Gulf war for a diversionary shore bombardment against Iraqi forces in Kuwait to concentrate their forces near the beaches while the main attack came well inland. The BB also was modified to fire cruise missiles at targets in Iraq itself. We had complete Air superiority, so an air attack on the Battleships were not a factor. In post WW1 the deck armour on first line ships were generally beefed up, they found that long range shots could plunge into the decks, Jutland saw a number of ships sunk that way at Jutland. The pride of the RN, HMS Hood, a Battle Cruiser, was scheduled to have it's deck armour strengthened but it wasn't done before the fateful day the Bismark dropped a shell thru the thin deck armour into the magazine on it's first salvo in early ww2.

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Old 11th August 2019, 12:45 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Philip
... Considering that this artistic medium was still in toddler stage in the 1860s and that the equipment was incredibly cumbersome by our standards.

Impressive indeed. Here a couple more from the same period...


.
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Old 11th August 2019, 12:54 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick
Wondering how they managed the recoil on these great guns...…… ...

At least Rick, these howitzers, not shooting tense straight but in angle, didn't kick back but risked entering the ground below .

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick
... A CW era hollow shell I was given by a friend recently...

You can see them waiting for the missing one ... .


.
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Old 11th August 2019, 01:17 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
... Curious about the guy second to the last, right. Think he was pulling the 'Napoleon' thing with his hand in his coat.

A prestigious "Napolifashion" in the period, Jim

.
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Old 11th August 2019, 01:29 PM   #11
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Default Bursting ... why ?

Was it 'over' heating due to intense discharges or 'over' loading of gunpowder ?


.
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Old 11th August 2019, 02:59 PM   #12
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I suspect, (from the video I posted above), that it was a casting flaw. Cooling a casting from the outside in makes the inside softer and changes the crystalline structure. Failure can occur early in it's life, or later after wear. Cannons were apparently NOT proof fired with a large charge.

The iron clad ship: Note the thickness of the gun-port covers. I've been on the HMS Warrior here, the UK's first iron hulled ironclad (after, they built a few for the Southern States navy) - equally thick shutters but the ironclad hull was a lot thicker. constructed from 4 ½ inch thick wrought iron plates bolted to 18" inches of teak, then mounted on the 1 inch thick plating of the hull itself, behind which were the frames and timber lining. In all this represented a total thickness of some 2 feet.
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Old 11th August 2019, 03:18 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fernando
At least Rick, these howitzers, not shooting tense straight but in angle, didn't kick back but risked entering the ground below .


You can see them waiting for the missing one ... .


.


More properly called 'Mortars' for their appearance, looking like the mortar of a mortar and pestle, they indeed were mounted so that they recoiled downward, they were also quite accurate, could clear fortress walls and their 'Bombs bursting in air' were devastating inside the Fort. There were ketch mounted versions with specially designed reinforced keels and rigging so that the shells (Bombs) could be fired up and out without. the Brits had some with them during the failed attempt on Baltimore, foiled by Fort McHenry, after they Brits shot down the Fort's flagpole, the men raised it up again with a huge Flag to prove they were still there. The Brits left soon after. The American national anthem is a poetic history of the battle. With few exceptions, the arrival of the siege mortars, the fate of a fortress was normally sealed, resulting in surrender, with few exceptions - like Ft. McHenry.

A howitzer is an intermediate form, like a short cannon, but mounted to fire at a steeper angle for indirect fire. More easily transported than a civil war mortar, it usually had a horse towable wheeled carriage. The 1841 Howitzer could be disassembled and carried by pack animals into terrain you could not take a normal cannon.
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Old 11th August 2019, 03:32 PM   #14
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Aren't they ugly, when you think of the charm of "normal" sailing ships ?

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Old 11th August 2019, 03:47 PM   #15
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One of their main problems were that cannon balls of the period bounced off the durn things, so they went back to old school, really old school an put a ram on the bow, much like a Greek/Roman trireme. If you can't shoot a hole in it, crank up the boilers and ram it. That bottom pretty one was built by the UK for the Confederate navy, but it arrived after the war was over.

The beak of a roman era trireme was called a rostrum. The Roman Forum had a speaking area where rostrums from defeated enemy warships were mounted as trophies. You would literally stand on the rostrum to speak to the crowds at the Forum, hence our use of the term to mean a speakers platform.

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Old 11th August 2019, 04:50 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kronckew
More properly called 'Mortars' for their appearance, looking like the mortar of a mortar and pestle, they indeed were mounted so that they recoiled downward.

Right Wayne; 'Morteiro' and not 'Obus'. Still you caught my drift in that they fired a (here technically called) 'vertical' shot and did not kick backwards... which was the subject.
Also in local military terminology cannons (or pieces) fire 'tense' shot, and howitzers a 'curved shot'.
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Old 11th August 2019, 05:57 PM   #17
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The artillery equation. For any given initial velocity, there is an angle Theta of elevation that will hit the target as long as it is less than maximum range, which is achieved at 45 degrees. The angle 90-theta will also hit the target. Differences in elevation, wind and air resistance may affect the results, as well as the earth's rotation at longer distances
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Old 11th August 2019, 06:09 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kronckew
... The beak of a roman era trireme was called a rostrum. The Roman Forum had a speaking area where rostrums from defeated enemy warships were mounted as trophies. You would literally stand on the rostrum to speak to the crowds at the Forum, hence our use of the term to mean a speakers platform.

Ephemeral, if i may; Romans borrowed the term used for the beak (snout) of an animal and we, Post Romans, later brought it back, this time for the face (rosto) of a human .
For the ships ram we here use 'esporão' (large espora=spur) also from latin 'sporõne'.
... just for perusal, of course .
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Old 11th August 2019, 07:39 PM   #19
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...and they called another 'weapon', a boarding ramp that let them put infantry on Carthaginian triremes rather than ramming, which the Carthaginians were better at, called by them a Corvus as it had a big curved spike at the end like a crow's beak to embed in the deck planking, blackbirds, crows, rooks, jackdaws, and ravens are all classified as Corvidae. The crow is a Corvus in latin.

..but we digress.
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Old 12th August 2019, 06:51 AM   #20
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Default merrily down the rabbit hole agan

Quote:
Originally Posted by kronckew
... called by them a Corvus as it had a big curved spike at the end like a crow's beak to embed in the deck planking, blackbirds, crows, rooks, jackdaws, and ravens are all classified as Corvidae. The crow is a Corvus in latin.

..but we digress.


The corvine analogy also also extends to the name of a late-medieval to Renaissance-era polearm used by infantry, essentially a war-hammer mounted on a long staff, whose French name is bec de corbin. The head consists of a transverse beak (slightly curved) with opposed poll, and a terminal spike to enable its use for the thrust. The weapon is alternatively known as a "Lucerne hammer".
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Old 12th August 2019, 07:00 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kronckew
The Roman Forum had a speaking area where rostrums from defeated enemy warships were mounted as trophies. You would literally stand on the rostrum to speak to the crowds at the Forum, hence our use of the term to mean a speakers platform.


You can still see the Rostra (named using the plural form of the neuter noun, since it was once adorned with several trophy beaks taken at Actium) today in the ruins of the Forum Romanum. History records that it wasn't only the beaks of ships that were displayed there. Recall the grisly fate of Roman statesman Cicero, who was assassinated in 43 BC on order of the Second Triumvirate -- his severed head and hands were displayed on the Rostra by Mark Antony, who was the target of Cicero's letters and speeches.
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Old 12th August 2019, 02:39 PM   #22
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Default Two in one ...

It would appear as one reads that, the fashion to exhibit ships rams of defeated enemies was first practiced by Gaius Duilius, eventually the same who first used the boarding bridge (corvus) against Carthaginians, in the battle of Mylae (260 BC); such rostra column formerly in the Roman Forum, presently replicated, including the original inscription remnants, is kept in Capitoline Museum.
Much has been written on the corvus, to the extreme point of its existence being denied by some scholars on basis that, once such bridge was raised would make a ship, with the design like that of the Roman galley, to roll over and capsize. More within reasoning is that of considering such apparatus only being viable in flat waters, opposite to those of high seas, due to problems with ship's navigability; it has been suggested that this instability led to Rome losing almost two entire fleets during storms in 255 and 249 BCE. Apparently this system was 'soon' abandoned in favor of the more orthodox a harpoon & winch system, known as the harpax.

.

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Old 12th August 2019, 04:32 PM   #23
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Yup, that's pretty much it, tho your image makes it look like a bit smaller than it probably was. It was more of an ungainly & heavy bridge with decking and railings to carry a section of Roman Marines in Armour charging across, and was pivoted so it could swing out to the sides as well as fore/aft. breaking loose in a storm would make the narrow warship disastrously unstable. The trireme while looking substantial was rather light and fragile so that it could be rowed for fairly long distances in battle. unlike the movies, they were manned by free men, sailors and Marines of the Roman Navy. The use of slaves and prisoners was a more recent late renaissance thing, the Venetian, Spanish and Turkish galleys were famous for their unpleasant aroma as the slaves were chained to the benches and there were no toilet or bathing facilities.
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Old 12th August 2019, 04:33 PM   #24
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Default design parameters in oared vessels

Quote:
Originally Posted by fernando
Much has been written on the corvus, to the extreme point of its existence being denied by some scholars on basis that, once such bridge was raised would make a ship, with the design like that of the Roman galley, to roll over and capsize. More within reasoning is that of considering such apparatus only being viable in flat waters, opposite to those of high seas, due to problems with ship's navigability;

.


Good point regarding stability. After all, oar-powered warships tended to be narrow of beam and shallow of draught. The Mediterranean, with its particular maritime conditions, favored the use of such vessels for many centuries before the age of steam -- providing that mariners were attuned to the yearly cycles of wind and current.

Ernle Bradford summarizes it nicely in his Knights of the Order, when writing about the galleys of the 16th cent,,
"...for its ancestry one must go back to the days of...classical Greece and
Rome. She was a vessel designed for speed and mobility, not for
carrying capacity or for weatherliness in anything other than the months
of summer. She stepped...short masts on which were set triangular
lateen sails. These had been known to the Romans..."

The tendency toward roilovers in oar-powered craft was a consideration when guns aboard ship were adopted at this later time. The only practical solution was to put them on the raised platform (rambades) ahead of the mainmast and pointing straight forward because the recoil of pieces fired abeam would de-stabiliize the ship. (exacerbating this problem was the fact that the guns, being on a raised platform due to the necessity of firing clear over all that manpower on the main deck, raised the relatively narrow vessel's center of gravity.) The guns also had to be of relatively small size and few in number, and aiming them required the rowers and helmsman to orient the entire vessel. No wonder that the use of the ram continued well into the gunpowder age.

So, getting back to the post: yes, the use of the corvus, and indeed the operation of oared warships in open seas, could well be problematic.
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Old 12th August 2019, 08:14 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kronckew
...Yup, that's pretty much it, tho your image makes it look like a bit smaller than it probably was...

I just picked that one as i could pick another. Meaning to say that images, even those carved not far from or even within the period may, or in fact, are less an evidence of facts than the author's imagination.
If you take the trireme, you then ought to acknowledge that there also were Mediterrnic monorremes, birremes, quadriremes and quinquerremes. Taking into consideration the presumption that each line of rowers of would need a different deck, imagine one of these ships with such a multi deck construction or, how long would the oars in the upper deck have to be to submerge into the water, besides considering that the different decks should have a reasonable distance between each other, to prevent the oars from getting tangled. A realistic reasoning is that what happened is that, there was only one row of oars, where two to five men would operate one oar, having inside the ship a number of pavements with different heights, with seats inclined towards aft ship, the lower one the thalamite, then the 'sigite', 'tranite' etc.
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Old 12th August 2019, 08:23 PM   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kronckew
... unlike the movies, they were manned by free men, sailors and Marines of the Roman Navy...

Basically, yes. What a temptation would be to draft the losers from a battle towards such a captive entertainment ... salary savings diving into the captain's purse .
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