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Old 20th July 2019, 01:07 PM   #1
fernando
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Default The Jaigarh Fort and its cannon ...

A resume extracted from an article posted in "The Cellar" ...

Jaigarh Fort is located on a hill called the Cheel Ka Teela, looking over the Amer Palace. It once held the treasures of the royal family of the Maharaja of Jaipur. It is the only fort in India that houses its own cannon factory. The art of cannon making was brought to India by the Mughals. The Maharaja of Jaipur, having collaborated with the Mughals, learned cannon making and built a cannon factory at Jaigarh.
This factory has produced some massive cannons, of which the most famous one is Jaivana - the largest wheeled cannon in the world! Jaivana was cast and forged in 1720 in the Jaigarh fort itself. The barrel has floral design. An elephant rests on the tip of the barrel and a pair of peacocks are carved in the center. The two thick rings on the barrel were used for lifting it with the help of a crane which, though incomplete, is still lying in Jaigarh. A pair of ducks also decorates the rear of the barrel. The barrel of the cannon weighs 50 tonnes. The carriage weighs a lot more! It is said that it took four elephants to turn the cannon around.The length of the cannon barrel is 6.15 mts. The diameter of the bore of the barrel is 28 cm and the thickness of the barrel at the tip is 21.6 cm. Jaivan rests on a high two-wheeled carriage. The wheels are 1.37 m in diameter. The carriage is equipped with two removable additional wheels for transport. The removable wheels are 2.74 m in diameter. About 100 kg of gunpowder fired a shot ball weighing 50 kg. The Jaivana Cannon was only fired once by the Jai Singh II, as a test-fire in 1720. The most exaggerated myth claims that the weapon had a range of 40 km, other sources say it is 35, 22 and 11 km, although the exact range could perhaps never be determined. After studies on the period ballistics,the highest probably muzzle velocity would be around 1500 to 1700 feet/second. This would give a maximum ballistic range of around 5000 yards to 3 miles.
Regarding this, i have a narration that an Indian cannon, way larger than this one, was dismantled in Goa by order of the Portuguese Vice-Roy in 1848, to be minted in bronze coins, which at the time were missing for chance money, thus over inflating the value silver coins.

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Old 20th July 2019, 10:01 PM   #2
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Thank you, Nando, for this contribution!

A magnificent piece of artillery. I notice that for something from the first half of the 18th cent., its design is somewhat conservative, for the presence of the loose-rings in integral "eyes" cast integral with the tube, on its upper surface. These, for the purpose of lifting via a crane, in lieu of the so-called "dolphins" characteristic of Western guns from the 16th cent. until the end of the muzzle loading period, second half 19th.

The system of rings, generally two sets of pairs, is characteristic of most cannons worldwide beginning in the age of bombards and lasting a century or so. There are early Portuguese guns in the Museu Militar de Lisboa which this design, and rather finely-cast at that which I'm sure you're familiar with.

Considering the influence of the Portuguese in the development of firearms and gunnery in the East, it's not surprising to see the feature on Indian guns as well. Robert Elgood's Hindu Arms and Ritual p 50 illustrates a massive wrought iron tube preserved at Tanjore, fabricated in south India in the 16th cent., with the same system of lifting rings. The shape and construction of that gun is reminiscent of what was used during the siege of Constantinople in 1453. For something made in the 1600s its design is quite dated by Western standards although similar albeit smaller cannon were made and used in China, Korea, and Burma until even later.
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Old 23rd July 2019, 06:10 PM   #3
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This is a fascinating post, and speaks well to the educational and research elements of these forums. While I admit to having little knowledge overall on artillery and ordnance, this huge cannon inspired me to learn more, not just on this amazing piece, but on others.
Further encouraged by Philip's insight, I found what I could online and recalled some time ago, another huge cannon, Mons Meg in Edinburgh, which is apparently a 'bombard'.

Mons Meg, which is 15ft. long and a 20" barrel, firing a 369 Lb. ball.

Jaivana is 20.2" long and an 11" barrel firing a 11 pound ball.

Focus on Jagargh Fort, which was apparently built overlooking Amber Fort and the palace to guard the royal family. It is on a promontory on the hill called Cheel ka Teela (as noted) and which means hill of eagles. Here in the Aravali range it seems there is an abundance of iron, clearly well providing for the casting of cannon, which they could cast in a day many of 16 ft.


It is said that the firing of Jaivana cannon took 220 lbs of powder , which had the handling soldiers taking refuge in water barrels to prevent burns from the intense heat generated. While Mons Meg had huge caliber, the Jaivana had range of up to 22 miles if I have read correctly.

Only fired once, as the Rajputs were allied with the Mughals in these times, it still represented a formidable threat to any attacking forces.

The Mons Meg cannon apparently burst in 1680, rendering it effectively inert and I wonder if that was from the manner of construction which consisted of iron staves rather than solid cast iron.

Thank you for this thread, and the opportunity to learn more on this dramatically large piece of artillery.

Images of Jaigargh fort as seen from Amber Fort and looking down from it to Amber Fort.
Bottom, Mons Meg at Edinburgh
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Old 23rd July 2019, 08:40 PM   #4
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Jim, while you have certainly read such notes about the Jaivana, let me please recall the data presented in my first post and the following further details i originally omitted, in order not to be so boring; this will perhaps gives us a more balanced contest with the Mons Meg, often approached in previous discussions. Besides my impertinent correction, the data is now in Royal units, as metrics could create some confusion.

The Jaivana barrel is 20.2 ft. long (not " ) and weighs 50 tonnes.
The carriage weighs a lot more! It was rumored that it took four elephants to turn the cannon around.
Its circumference at the tip measures 7.2 ft.
Its caliber is indeed 11", but fires a 110 pound projectile, expelled by 220 lbs of powder.
It rests on two wheels measuring in diameter 4.5 ft. Two removable wheels measuring 9.0 ft. are used for its transport.
The Jaivana Cannon was only fired once by the Jai Singh II, as a test-fire in 1720. The most exaggerated myth claims that the weapon had a range of 40 km (25 mi), other sources say it is 35, 22 and 11 km (6.8 mi), although the exact range could perhaps never be determined without adequate scientific computation.

And, in order to "defend my dame", i recall once more that a Portuguese Vice-Roy had one melted, twice its size, to mint bronze coins.
This was the reason for RD having published (within his circle) the Jaivana article.
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Old 23rd July 2019, 10:17 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall

Further encouraged by Philip's insight, I found what I could online and recalled some time ago, another huge cannon, Mons Meg in Edinburgh, which is apparently a 'bombard'.

Mons Meg, which is 15ft. long and a 20" barrel, firing a 369 Lb. ball.

Jaivana is 20.2" long and an 11" barrel firing a 11 pound ball.

It is said that the firing of Jaivana cannon took 220 lbs of powder , which had the handling soldiers taking refuge in water barrels to prevent burns from the intense heat generated. While Mons Meg had huge caliber, the Jaivana had range of up to 22 miles if I have read correctly.


The Mons Meg cannon apparently burst in 1680, rendering it effectively inert and I wonder if that was from the manner of construction which consisted of iron staves rather than solid cast iron.


You're most welcome, Jim. Thank you for taking an interest, I know that this subject is outside your bailiwick. It's great that you presented a comparison piece, Mons Meg, with essential technical info. Here are some comments on the interesting points you raise.

1. First, a question for you. Do you have R D Smith / R R Brown, Bombards: Mons Meg and Her Sisters (Royal Armouries Monographs series, 1989)? It quite clearly lays out the elements which define a bombard, a type of mega-artillery which originated in the final decades of the Middle Ages. We can see from this that they can be distinguished, by their design and construction, from large cannon of later eras. The most obvious difference, and which affected ballistics and field performance, was the fact that bombards were constructed of forged wrought iron, consisting of longitudinal staves forming a tube stabilized by an outer shell of forge-welded hoops and reinforcing mouldings. (hence, in English the word for the tubular portion of a gun is "barrel"). The inherent limitations of this method led to its abandonment by the turn of the 16th cent. in favor of cast pieces in bronze or iron.

2. The bursting of Mons Meg in 1680 makes a modern reader wonder who might have thought that it was still safe to shoot over 230 years after its manufacture, and apparently being exposed to the elements for much of that time. Here is an object built up of numerous iron pieces welded together with heat and hammer (a remarkable feat in and of itself) -- all those mating surfaces, interstices which are subject to slag inclusions, incomplete welds, etc., coupled with the corrosive effects of atmospheric moisture for many years...

Not to mention that between the mid-1400s and 1680, gunpowder manufacture had improved markedly. Early powder was ground to the consistency of flour or "meal" -- it tended to settle into its constituent ingredients during transport, and its consistency impeded efficient combustion because insufficient oxygen got into the mixture. During the 15th cent, it was found that powder of "corned" or granular consistency made for faster and more consistent rate of ignition: therefore more POWER. However this increased the internal pressure in the barrel, making the bombard construction woefully inadequate.

3. Re projectile size and weight. Because of the different ballistic profiles of bombards and later cannon, comparing bore diameter and weight of shot between the types is not all that meaningful. The reason that most large cannon made during the 16th cent. and later have smaller bores on average* than earlier bombards is that gunners realized, with the improved ammunition at their disposal (corned powder and precisely cast iron balls), that a shot traveling at greater speed packed more projectile energy and therefore more destructive force, not to mention being capable of greater range and accuracy (the latter due to a more consistent burning rate of granular powder).

* leaving mortars out of the discussion for now, since these specialized guns have a totally different role and function than the types of artillery we are considering here.

4. Performance of Jaivana: 22 miles is an impossibly long range. I recall from reading the text in Fernando's post that estimates vary considerably, but 3 miles is a more realistic figure. A lot of this depends on the quality of the powder used, and the elevation to which the tube could be raised. It is an axiom in ballistics that the maximum range that can be achieved by a gun, ceteris paribus, is at an elevation of 45 degrees, this principle proved by the Italian mathematician Tartaglia in the 15th cent. (he is said to have invented the gunner's quadrant which became essential in gunnery practice for the next 400 years). Do we have any idea of how the one test shot with Jaivana was conducted?

5. Fuel economy: 220 lb of powder to power an 11-in. diameter cannonball sounds like an awful lot. Would be interesting to compare this with the powder charges of the largest fortress guns of the 18th cent.; British and French gunnery manuals of the era would have this info. I'm wondering if for this firing, the earlier type of fine-consistency powder was used. For instance, bombards required a prodigious amount of gunpowder in order to function (the powder chambers of these cannons is a separate part of the bore so it's easy to estimate the volume of powder required) simply because the relative weakness of the explosive required it.

Now, for the gunners having to dunk themselves to avoid being toasted by the blast. I wonder where they were standing when Jaivana was touched off. I can imagine a frightful muzzle blast but who would stand near the front end of something like this? For a barrel that's 20 feet long, one would think that somewhere to the side and rear should be sufficient, and that ear protection would nonetheless be the order of the day.
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Old 24th July 2019, 11:47 AM   #6
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I assume i was more bringing in the 'curiosity' of the notes as they were published out there, that not worried to ponder on the accuracy of their technical assumptions.
We all know that exorbitation is the middle name of story tellers.
I have made a timeline chart with a few of the examples in exhibition and described in A ARTILHARIA EM PORTUGAL (1982), written by General Manuel F. T. Barata, when of an event in the Oporto Military Museum where, among other details, that of the guns reach is rather more realistic.
It is undeniable that (mainly) the evolution of gunpowder, added to the elevation angle of the piece and other parallel technologies contributed for an exponential reach and impact of projectiles.


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Old 24th July 2019, 11:59 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Philip
... Now, for the gunners having to dunk themselves to avoid being toasted by the blast. I wonder where they were standing when Jaivana was touched off. I can imagine a frightful muzzle blast but who would stand near the front end of something like this? For a barrel that's 20 feet long, one would think that somewhere to the side and rear should be sufficient, and that ear protection would nonetheless be the order of the day...

I wouldn't know, without researching, how loud was primitive gunpowder explosion noise in comparison to that of nowadays. In an episode i made part when 'punishing' a determined spot somewhere in the bush, with a 8.8 (1983) howitzer, all the gunner used to get away from the noise was a rough string extension with less than 2 yards.

---
However looking further, in a little publication i have in the Artillery in North Africa during the XV-XVI centuries, one can read episodes like accidents occurred with gunpowder burning, poisoning caused by thick smoke coming out of collective cannon mouths in closed quarters like towers, and the damage caused by the high sonority level produced when of gunpowder ignition. In fact, the boom of artillery caused so much horror, that were men that became deaf and for many days will not hear any thing.
Damião de Gois
J. Manuel Cordeiro
D.Manuel de Menezes.

Last edited by fernando : 24th July 2019 at 12:44 PM. Reason: POST SCRIPTUM
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Old 24th July 2019, 07:14 PM   #8
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Philip, thank you so much for the further information on this topic! As I noted, while not a field of study I have much entertained over the years, this thread has 'sparked' a genuine interest and I am enjoying learning more.
I am hoping that readers here will also have their interests piqued if not already involved in the study of artillery.

Actually I do not have the reference on 'Mons Meg' that you mentioned, however I had noticed material on it over the years, one that comes to mind was in JAAS many years ago.
I did not bring Mons Meg into the discussion as any sort of competition or contesting comparison, but merely an example of another 'notably huge' cannon.

I am intrigued by some of the elements of the firing of such cannon, and hope I might pose some questions regarding things brought up here.

I had noted (from the reference I read) that the gunners sought refuge from the enormous heat generated by this huge amount of black powder ignited, either in or behind water containers. While obviously the amount of powder is a matter of debate, it certainly was considerable.
The flash and sparks would come out the end of the barrel, but how much heat would be released from the touch end of it as it seems the explosion would be contained?

Obviously the sound of the explosion from such a load of powder would be enormous, but from what I have understood, not nearly the report from more modern cannon, would that be correct?

There seems to be a great deal of attention to the quality of powder, and I recall in study on the Seige at the Alamo, one of the pressing issues was the poor quality of the Mexican black powder that had been captured (not to mention lack of men to properly man them).
Would the grade of powder have notable effect on the nature of the explosion as far as sound, heat etc.

I recall reading on the Alamo battle that the Mexicans with their poor powder had to load extra to gain sufficient charge, thus they had to hold their muskets at the hip to avoid the pan flash which would burn their faces.
If I understand correctly, the powder used in cannon is different than that used in firearms.
Could the nature of the powder used in these large cannon be pertinent to the results of firing we are considering?

Could the same have been the result in firing, and damaging, of Mons Meg?

I did notice that Mons Meg's barrel consisted on longitudinal staves (fascinating note on the term 'barrel'!!) which may have contributed to its failure. Some time ago I did some research work on the deck guns used on 17th c. vessels (in this case a pirate wreck) and found that a number of these breech block guns were indeed 'staved'. Interesting note, in references on Mons Meg it was termed 'murderer', and a particular type of these deck guns was also termed 'murderer'.
One wonders if perhaps the term deviously referred to the potential danger to those firing them.

Returning to the Jaigargh cannon, it does not seem surprising this huge cannon was fired only once. While it seemed an impressive and formidable weapon,it does not seem that viable as a siege weapon due to its size and lack of maneuverability despite the ingenious oxen power device.
It would be no problem to redirect an attack on the fortress from another direction before this could be moved.

Also, much as (again) what happened at the Alamo, cannon were less than effective at short or immediate range as a rule as those on parapets could not fore downward. Obviously at reasonable range, they could fire cannister or langrage into oncoming mass of attackers.
Such would not be the case with these massive cannon.

I hope my Alamo analogies do not too much detract as I am just using them in comparative analysis.
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Old 24th July 2019, 07:56 PM   #9
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Unhappy Touché ...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
... I did not bring Mons Meg into the discussion as any sort of competition or contesting comparison, but merely an example of another 'notably huge' cannon...

Jim, do i gather that the only comment that you have over my previous humble contribution/s, are my using the 'contest' word ? meaning that, if it weren't for such flaw, you would simply ignore the rest of my entries ... .
So, if i resource my better English and say 'balanced parallelism' instead of 'balanced contest' are my notes worth a better reception ? .
Keep well .
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Old 24th July 2019, 08:29 PM   #10
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Default the big bang

Quote:
Originally Posted by fernando
I wouldn't know, without researching, how loud was primitive gunpowder explosion noise in comparison to that of nowadays.

---
However looking further, in a little publication i have in the Artillery in North Africa during the XV-XVI centuries, one can read episodes like accidents occurred with gunpowder burning, poisoning caused by thick smoke coming out of collective cannon mouths in closed quarters like towers, and the damage caused by the high sonority level produced when of gunpowder ignition. In fact, the boom of artillery caused so much horror, that were men that became deaf and for many days will not hear any thing.
Damião de Gois
J. Manuel Cordeiro
D.Manuel de Menezes.


Yes, Nando, we can't travel through a time warp with decibel meters in order to find out

Seriously the points you raised were a considerable factor faced by commanders and soldiers until the end of the black powder era (1880s, orthereabouts, when "smokeless" powders first hit the market). Turkish chronicles describing preparations for the Ottoman siege of Constantinople (1453) mention that when a giant bombard made by the Hungarian renegade engineer Orban was tested in a nearby town, the noise caused women to miscarry from fright. The reason that armies wore bright colored uniforms and carried large regimental flags through much of the 19th cent. was so that troops and their leaders could distinguish friend from foe in the dense smoke generated by the volley fire of muskets, on top of the smoke of larger-bore weapons like cannon and the explosion of mortar shells.
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Old 24th July 2019, 09:00 PM   #11
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Default Noise, smoke, and fury

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall

I am intrigued by some of the elements of the firing of such cannon, and hope I might pose some questions regarding things brought up here.


The flash and sparks would come out the end of the barrel, but how much heat would be released from the touch end of it as it seems the explosion would be contained?

There seems to be a great deal of attention to the quality of powder, and I recall in study on the Seige at the Alamo, one of the pressing issues was the poor quality of the Mexican black powder that had been captured

I recall reading on the Alamo battle that the Mexicans with their poor powder had to load extra to gain sufficient charge, thus they had to hold their muskets at the hip to avoid the pan flash which would burn their faces.
If I understand correctly, the powder used in cannon is different than that used in firearms.

Could the same have been the result in firing, and damaging, of Mons Meg?

.


Having stood near a fair number of muzzle-loading cannon when fired, I can say that most of the combustion byproducts would emerge from the muzzle end. The touchhole is typically 1/4 inch in diameter or a bit less, there will be some spark and smoke spurting upwards out of it but not enough to pose a real risk in and of itself. The thing to remember about these guns is that there is no recoil-absorbing mechanism so the entire cannon rolls back on its carriage if fired with a full load + shot. That is why artillery drill called for the crew to stand back and to the side at moment of firing. The cannoneer, in particular, had to be completely clear of the wheel(s) or the carriage trail when he applied the linstock, or jerked the fulminate primer cord. The recoil of a large gun could crush a man to death. Also, standing back was especially beneficial to all, in order to avoid inhaling a snoutful of sulphurous smoke, made worse if the wind was contrary.

Re the quality of gunpowder. It depends not only on the formulation and care taken in manufacture, but the conditions of storage and transport. Black powder is notoriously unstable. It is hygroscopic (moisture-absorbent; consider that carbon and saltpeter are primary constituents) and thus has a limited storage life (compared to modern nitrocellulose powders) unless kept well sealed in very dry conditions. Jim, have you found out anything about the manufacture of powder in Mexico during the period in question, or the level of the country's military supply and logistics?

If Mexico was anything like the late Qing Dynasty, corruption had its effect on military provisioning. A common trick played by contractors supplying gunpowder during the Opium Wars period was to adulterate it with sand. So much so that it sometimes failed to explode. The cannon-founders realized this so they took shortcuts in the casting process, and used inferior alloys. The result being that most 19th cent. Chinese cannon, with the exception of those made in French-supervised plants in southern China, were not much more dependable than the wrought iron bombards of late medieval Europe. The ruling Manchus were apparently too fixated on their heritage of shooting arrows from galloping horses to take the problem seriously enough.

So why did Mons Meg burst in 1680? Not having seen a metallurgist's report, I can surmise that it was likely due to structural deterioration of the forged iron components over two centuries, and moreover that it was probably loaded with the more powerful corned or granular powder as opposed to the early, weaker meal powder with its slow and inconsistent combustion rate (see my first post explaining this in some detail). The evolution of barrel construction tended to go lockstep with progress in propellants. This is why today's shooters of black-powder weapons, including replicas made to modern metallurgical standards, are warned never to load with nitrocellulose powder.. Even the breech loading double barrel shotguns, made of damascus steel, from the late 19th cent must always be used with black powder shotshells.

Last edited by Philip : 24th July 2019 at 09:12 PM. Reason: added content
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Old 24th July 2019, 09:05 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Philip
... The reason that armies wore bright colored uniforms and carried large regimental flags through much of the 19th cent. was so that troops and their leaders could distinguish friend from foe in the dense smoke generated by the volley fire of muskets, on top of the smoke of larger-bore weapons like cannon and the explosion of mortar shells.

Ah Filipe ... the colored uniform resource didn't occur to me but, reading chronicles of the Peninsular war (1807-14), the impossibility to discern a thing whilst battling, with all that musketry and artillery smoke, is repeatedly mentioned.
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Old 24th July 2019, 09:14 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fernando
Jim, do i gather that the only comment that you have over my previous humble contribution/s, are my using the 'contest' word ? meaning that, if it weren't for such flaw, you would simply ignore the rest of my entries ... .
So, if i resource my better English and say 'balanced parallelism' instead of 'balanced contest' are my notes worth a better reception ? .
Keep well .


Fernando, I could not possibly ignore your entries, in fact they are profoundly thorough, and the only reason I brought up the contrasting Mons Meg was indeed as a parallel comparison. My concern was that you might perceive my addition of that gun as detracting from this most interesting Indian gun.

As I mentioned, the subject of artillery is far outside my regular purview so I have been trying to address this topic so as to learn as much as I can. Philip had presented some elements that I wished to go further on, so I asked some questions.
My off center position is easily seen in the faux pas you kindly corrected where I noted inches instead of feet in the 20 ft. barrel! Oops!

I very much appreciate the expertise of both of you in this thread, and it is exciting to learn more on such a fascinating topic. It's great that you posted this in this thread.....great subject and interesting history.
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Old 24th July 2019, 09:42 PM   #14
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Default size, mobility and deployment

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall

Returning to the Jaigargh cannon, it does not seem surprising this huge cannon was fired only once. While it seemed an impressive and formidable weapon,it does not seem that viable as a siege weapon due to its size and lack of maneuverability despite the ingenious oxen power device.
It would be no problem to redirect an attack on the fortress from another direction before this could be moved.



At least it went bang! once. The Russians like to say that the Tsar Pushka, or Emperor Cannon, standing in the Moscow Kremlin is the largest artillery piece cast in pre-industrial times. Be that as it may, it is humongous. And it has never been fired. It was more likely intended as a visual reminder that the country's ruler had some big toys and that other kids on the block must take heed. (The Russians also have the world's biggest bell, the Tsar Kolokol, which tradition says was never rung; a fire that broke out before it was ready for use caused it to fall and break, it's on display in Moscow with the detached chunk lying beside it; s child could crawl through the gap as I recall from seeing it.)

I agree that Jaivana was likely intended to be an intimidating piece of garrison artillery and not a siege gun due to the mobility issue. Keep in mind that gun carriages of the 17th cent. were ponderous, and that roads in many parts of the world were dicey. Accounts of European military campaigns during that time and prior do contain mention of road quality (along with the effects of seasonal weather) as a factor in logistics, especially the movement of heavy guns. This was one of the reasons that commanders preferred to limit their campaigning to when the ground dried after spring rains, and onward til before the climate turned problematic in later fall.

A comparison of the two Ottoman sieges of Vienna (1529 and 1683) is instructive. The earlier effort was marked by the extensive use of artillery by the Turks in an attempt to breach the city walls. The Ottos had to haul their big guns up through Rumelia and the Balkans to reach the theater of operations, and the siege was lifted because the invaders could not take the city as fall approached and their troops were getting restive.

In 1683, the Turks tried something else, realizing that the now-stronger defenses required even heavier guns which had to be laboriously transported north. So they relied instead on their fabled engineer corps to supervise teams of sappers to dig an extensive network of approach trenches, and tunnels going under the moat and thick ramparts to penetrate deep under what is now central Vienna. The tunneling endeavor was ultimately stymied because the defenders developed ingenious methods for detecting underground activity, and in most cases were able to dig counter-mines to neutralize the threat.
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Old 25th July 2019, 01:19 AM   #15
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Philip, in answer to your question on Mexican powder and arms logistics in the Alamo period, during my research on that fell short as no specific mention of the source of their powder was found.
I can only presume that the British, who supplied most of their arms also provided black powder as well.
The main issue in the powder that remained in the Alamo among numbers of captured arms and cannon, was (as described by Mrs Dickson in her account) 'damaged'.
It was March in Texas, known for damp, cold conditions, and it is not hard to imagine the powder becoming unreactive or insufficient for normal use.

The Mexican army rifles were notably insufficient in firing, and extra charge as well as buck and ball were used to compensate. While the Mexican army was said to have steadily bombarded the Alamo for over a week before the attack, it was noted that none of the fire had caused notable damage or casualties. The powder charges were apparently inadequate to effectively reach their target.

I agree that the Jiavana cannon was probably an intimidating element, despite the fact that its maneuvering was not particularly expeditious.
Its rather like, if they've got that huge thing up there, who knows how many other pieces are about.
Your notes on moving huge siege guns through horrible transporting conditions remind me of the movie "The Pride and the Passion" with the troops struggling with ropes and oxen etc. trying to move one through muck and mire.

These insights into the artillery aspects of warfare are fascinating, and provide great overall context and dimension in understanding the logistics of these weapons and battles.

Fernando, looking back at the chart of guns in the Portuguese report, it is fascinating to see the different terminology used in the variant types. I had not been aware of differences between a bombard and other guns, nor what a howitzer was exactly.

These discussions make me appreciate more the profound contributions our late friend Matchlock made here, and wish I had paid more attention then.

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Old 25th July 2019, 04:29 AM   #16
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Philip, in answer to your question on Mexican powder and arms logistics in the Alamo period...
I can only presume that the British, who supplied most of their arms also provided black powder as well.

It was March in Texas, known for damp, cold conditions, and it is not hard to imagine the powder becoming unreactive or insufficient for normal use.

The Mexican army rifles were notably insufficient in firing, and extra charge as well as buck and ball were used to compensate. While the Mexican army was said to have steadily bombarded the Alamo for over a week before the attack, it was noted that none of the fire had caused notable damage or casualties. The powder charges were apparently inadequate to effectively reach their target.



Hey Jim, muchas gracias por esta información. My knowledge of a lot of New World military history is quite thin, so this is helpful. You are teaching me new things. The British supplying Gen. Santa Ana's army, for instance. So, would his troops be armed mostly with Brown Besses, and English-made cannon? If the Brits provided the powder, I can imagine what it went through on the sea voyage across the Pond, then goodness knows the storage conditions in Mexican depots (and for how long), then the damp of Texas spring (this is an eye opener for me since I have no experience with that state except for changing planes at Dallas/Ft.Worthj airport, and I never stepped out of the terminal.).

Regarding small arms in the 1820-30s Mexican service, were there many rifles in use? In the US and the advanced European armies of those decades, smoothbore muskets were the norm, since arms with rifled barrels were issued to special units like sharpshooters who had more advanced training and justified the additional cost of producing the weapons.

My interest in firearms of the Iberian Peninsula has sparked my curiosity about military and sporting small arms used in the Spanish colonies and their successor states shortly after gaining independence. My impression is that the firearms of that region and time were, like swords, primarily imports from Spain, or local copies thereof. Eudaldo Graells, in Les Armes de Foc de Ripoll, includes excerpts from documents that demonstrate a thriving export trade from the gunmaking town of Ripoll in Cataluña to Mexico and Cuba in the 18th cent.

Miquelet pistols with a colonial Mexican or American Southwest provenance do show up in collections and at gun shows; mostly they are low- to medium-grade, some are now composite thanks to period overhauls, and they tend to be in well-worn condition. Signed work by Latin American gunsmiths is rare, as are top-flight Spanish imports for the carriage trade -- there is a gorgeous pair in the collection depot of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the stocks overlaid with filigree and chased silver undoubtedly done by a Mexican artisan in the 18th cent. Also a rare Ripoll miquelet pistol stocked in the Brescian manner, probably end 17th cent but stylistically earlier, with pierced brass overlay depicting Aztec-looking warrior figures battling sea monsters and playing music, sold at Czernys auction house 8 June 2008, lot 1899.

Finally, do you have Howard L Blackmore's Guns and Rifles of the World? Photoplate # 67 shows a curious matchlock, of a form clearly derived from 16th cent. Spanish musket (including the tiller trigger), though with insufficient patina to be that old, with Latin American folk motifs inlaid in brass and a crude inscription with the improbable date 1844 on the lockplate whose lower contour has a bulge reminiscent of the shape of a wheellock (Royal Scottish Museum, Edinburgh, inv. no. 1894.133). A real oddball!


If you have info on what models of British military long arms and pistols were supplied to newly-independent Mexico, please share that info -- maybe a new thread would be nice since we seem to be drifting away from India, and cannons in particular with this discussion.

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Old 25th July 2019, 05:04 AM   #17
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Fernando, looking back at the chart of guns in the Portuguese report, it is fascinating to see the different terminology used in the variant types. I had not been aware of differences between a bombard and other guns, nor what a howitzer was exactly.

.


Jim, the names of artillery pieces is a fascinating subject in itself. First off, our term "gun" is derived from the word "gonne" which was first applied during the late Middle Ages to mechanical catapults.

The "falconet" in Fernando's museum table was a common term for a very light artillery piece, its long but slender barrel having a bore as small as about an inch or slightly bigger. The names of birds were often applied to artillery pieces, generally of lighter caliber. Thus, the "robinet" which incidentally was earlier used to identify another type of catapult. And there's the "saker" which is, as I recall, a species of hawk.

Reptilian names, of real or mythical beasts, were used for some larger bore weapons. There was the "culverin" , from culebra or serpent. And the "basilisk".

To answer your question, a howitzer (Ger. Haubitz) is a gun of large enough bore to shoot an explosive shell, but of fairly short barrel length, mounted to fire at medium elevations (around 20 to 45 degrees), usually for the purpose of breaking up enemy formations in the open field with bursts of shapnel.

At the extreme are mortars, very short large bore guns shooting bombs at very high elevations, designed to drop their bursting shells behind enemy fortifications, to clear or penetrate the decks of ships, or to hit troop formations behind hillocks or other obstacles. (small hand-held versions in shoulder stocks and fitted with flintlocks were even made to launch grenades)
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Old 25th July 2019, 11:24 AM   #18
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It is undeniable that, the first efficient component in artillery was not its wished purpose but the noise, that imposed fright among the enemy's hordes.
Aside from the first registered use of artillery in the Peninsula, which took place in the siege of Algeciras (1342-1344) where Yusuf I, Sultan of Granada, "fired iron projectiles from primitive gunpowder bombards, which caused extensive damage*, we have the Battle of Aljubarrota (1385), in which the Spaniards were equipped with 16 trons**, which only managed to kill two Portuguese and a British (ally) in the in the defenders right wing, with one of the volleys; however the trons fuss causing great consternation among the Portuguese horde, as our men of arms did not know such weapon.
* I am not certain of the type of the damage; a plausible inferrement would contextually be the psycho impact, rather than physical.
** Trom is the onomatopoeic name given after the noise caused by these devices (troooom).
In the Portuguese Navy museum, there is a device called Aljubarrota Trom, recognized as neither having being in the Aljubarrota battle, contrary to tradition, nor being a whole trom, but a loading chamber for one of the trom kind. With 1.7 yards in length and weighing 1.5 ton, must have served a 5 to 6 yards gun, basically due for beating walled fortification gates.

In a timeline as from then, artillery pieces were given a countless series of names, from those of birds, beasts, and other, until they ended up being named after their caliber (six pounder, twelve pounder), still not forgetting that, before a caliber 'standardization' was 'imposed', yet long after it was 'idealized', calibers existed for all tastes, through all such timeline, which caused great difficulty to check on what ammunition to introduce in each barrel.
It is amazing to see a (Portuguese, for one) list (never complete) of early cannon variants:
Besides gross an small bombards, bombardetas, and cradles we had ...
Eagles ... large and small,
Falcons and falconetes,
Lions (large cannon),
Camels and cameletes (ex-Moroccan wars and after in India),
1/4 cannon (circa 1/2 ton, for field use by King Dom Sebastião)
Bears,
Dogs (small bronze piece),
Serpentines (short culverins),
Serps,
Culverins and half culverins,
Culverins, bastards and legitimate,
Basiliscs (for siege),
Sacres and half sacres (1/4 and 1/8 culverin, used by Dutch),
Aspides,
Esperas (waits) and half esperas (short cannons),
Espalhafatos (fusses; threw stone balls 5 to 7 spans around ),
Selvagens (savages),
Roqueiras or forneiras,
Pedreiros (after stone projectiles),
Passa-volantes (Italian inspired).
Passa muros (one in Arzila thew 127 pound balls)
Mortars (from Latin mortarium=pestle),
Trabucos,
Esmerilhão (like a falconete, used in Alcacer Quibir)

To be continued ...


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Old 25th July 2019, 06:15 PM   #19
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Hi Philip,
I have been fascinated with weapons of the Spanish colonial era for as long as I can remember, but as I have noted it has been with focus on edged weapons.
With the Mexican Independence of 1821, they had of course huge stockpiles of Spanish weaponry.
What I recall is that the use of the lance as a primary weapon as well as for hunting etc. in 18th century New Spain was due to poorly maintained guns and lack of powder.
With that it does not seem that Mexico had the necessary facilities or resources for producing black powder, and this extended apparently into the 19th c.
While they acquired considerable numbers of British arms in the mid 1820s it is unclear whether the powder was also from them.
With its poor substance it sounds more like they were attempting to produce their own powder, but lacked the necessary skill and materials to do so.
One Texian grumbled that the Mexican powder was 'like ground charcoal'.

The Mexican army did use rifles in degree, which were India pattern Baker rifles, but the bulk of their weapons were India pattern British muskets. There were some French Charleville muskets I believe and of course varying Spanish weapons.

While this subject matter is of course some deviation from the OP cannon in Rajasthan, but the topic concerning powder has led indirectly to this course in discussion. I totally agree that a new thread on the arms of Mexico would be in order, and I will try to put together notes to do that.

Again, I wanted to thank you for the great further insight into the terms used for various guns and artillery, and Fernando for the detailed supporting material on these. I am always intrigued by the terms used in Portuguese parlance in weapons which he always furnishes in these discussions.

Fernando, thank you, and to be continued, YES!!!
Learning a lot here, and I hope to continue much further.
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Old 25th July 2019, 06:41 PM   #20
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Default Return to the Jaivana cannon

From most of what I have been able to find online, there seems to be a lot of myth and hyperbole on this gun. As I mentioned in an earlier post, it seems to have inspired the 1933 CS Forester novel "The Gun", which later was made into a movie in 1957, "The Pride and the Passion", about the travails of trying to transport such a huge cannon.

While most accounts say this gun was fired only once in 1720, others claim it was fired numerous times, as evidenced by fire marks inside the barrel. The disputes over the actual range have apparently been largely exaggerated in accord with the huge size of the gun.

It also seems that a water tank was often placed near guns, particularly large ones, for gunners to literally dive into to avoid the shock wave and it seems the heat from the explosion. I would think more research would be necessary on the validity of that perspective.

With the huge gun, it would seem the very noise of firing it would be a profound declaration of power, and disconcerting to any potential attackers as well as the surrounding populace. We have at times been located near Ft. Hood here in Texas, and often we would hear resounding report booming in the distance, and a sense of concussion almost as the practice firing of their artillery took place. It is very convincing!

Though this is a huge cannon, firing 110 lb ball, it is hard to imagine the explosion from 220 pounds of powder! I would not wish to be standing next to this kind of explosion as these poor gunners must have. Another account claimed the gunner was killed by the detonation of this huge gun before he could make the water tank. Naturally it is hard to determine the truth from the lore in these things.
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Old 25th July 2019, 08:01 PM   #21
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Jim, just an intermediate note to say that, it was already established that, the 220 pounds gunpowder load is definitely unreal data, in the best, a miswriting flaw from the article author or of the article text itself.
More to come .
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Old 25th July 2019, 09:26 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by fernando
Jim, just an intermediate note to say that, it was already established that, the 220 pounds gunpowder load is definitely unreal data, in the best, a miswriting flaw from the article author or of the article text itself.
More to come .



Thanks Fernando, it seems there have been a lot of those in these many entries I have come across...kinda like the 25 mile range. 220 pounds.....yikes, wouldn't want to be within blocks let alone next to it...not even in a water tank!
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Old 26th July 2019, 12:25 AM   #23
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It also seems that a water tank was often placed near guns, particularly large ones, for gunners to literally dive into to avoid the shock wave and it seems the heat from the explosion. I would think more research would be necessary on the validity of that perspective.

With the huge gun, it would seem the very noise of firing it would be a profound declaration of power, and disconcerting to any potential attackers as well as the surrounding populace.



So true, Jim. Consider that when guns appeared at the close of the Middle Ages, their mechanical inefficiency, slow rate of fire, and general unreliability was more than offset by their psychological power. Think noise, smoke, flames, and the stink of sulphur -- just the way that the clergy had been describing Hell from the pulpit for centuries, to an impressionable and superstitious populace. It is not hard to imagine the poor Turkish women miscarrying their babies from sheer fright after a test shot from the bombard that Orban made for Sultan Mehmet II's assault on Constantinople.

The water tank idea is worth researching. I can imagine its utility for gun emplacements in confined quarters within a system of fortifications, such as covered casemates in bastions and towers, or from embrasures located at the base of adjoining ramparts that would confine the effects of muzzle blast on the gun crews. (Recalling, from previous posts, that cannons recoiled some distance when fired and black powder emits a tremendous amount of flame and smoke which open air can only partially dissipate)

Siege narratives from the period describe the hellish conditions to be expected. Especially graphic are the memoirs of knights and soldiers who defended Malta during the Ottoman siege of 1565, where the impact of incoming cannonballs and the detonations of return fire made it feel like the massive walls of Fort Sant' Angelo were rocking like a boat at sea. Losing one's hearing for days afterward was probably just the beginning of some men's misfortunes after enduring this and other privations, especially in a siege which lasted for many weeks, in the heat of a Mediterranean summer no less.
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Old 26th July 2019, 12:48 PM   #24
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On the Mons Meg ...
I know you guys are more focused on why it cracked, but i find it also interesting to find when it cracked... as attached down below.

On the cannons recoil ...
A problematic issue with artillery aboard ships; even considering that their carriages were tied to the ship walls, to limit their course.
This fell into the complexity of bringing gross artillery aboard, as opposed to earlier conviction that ships could only carry relatively small guns, given to their structure, namely then vessels width (narrow breadth).
In order to achieve success in their sea adventures, the Portuguese invented or took advantage of previous inventions, upgrading their basics. For a start, the heavier guns (camelos) * were mounted aboard the lower board ships (caravels) thus avoiding the tilt caused by such guns on high board carracks (naus), those which were equipped with smaller ordnance for their defense purposes. This was the start of advantage in sea warfare.Then a new idea was to build watertight gunports ** in the ships hull by a lower deck level, thus gaining more fire power and the possibility to shoot fire at the waterline (ao lume d'água), an extraordinary asset, as the ball would take a horizontal trajectory, keeping to bounce off the water surface and hitting the enemy's more lightly built (Turc) ships at water level, causing their quick sinking.


On the water tank episodes ...
Not that this did not take place but, there would be a difference between shooting a gigantic gun in confined spaces, which dual occurrence is not the general rule, and shooting them in the open field, like in siege or beating situations where, apart from the environmental fuss ***, somehow the smoke burn and air dislocation find ways to escape. Notwithstanding that, during artillery primitive ages, all kinds of accidents would take place, where hardly gunners stood safe. For come reason the French used convicted men to operate them .

On the gunpowder quality, Alamo and all ...
It takes a few contextual reasons for gunpowder not being successfully effective; from early times where the invention still had an incipient condition, passing by the difficulty in acquiring the ideal ingredients ***, and ending wth the ineptitude of non specialized makers ... not forgetting climate conditions (humidity) most depending in the place where it is stored.

* As these guns shot stone projectiles (pelouros), their lower density, as opposed to iron, made thin barrels feasible, and the resultant pieces were remarkably light when compared to their destructive power.

** This revolutionary idea is attributed to a Descharges, but other nations started by declining it, with fears to weaken the ships hull structure. But the Portuguese, circa four years earlier, took the risk, by placing them in pondered hull spots, as it was fundamental to lower the artillery center of gravity.

*** Philip is right in that the Constantinople crowd ran for their lives over Mehmed's massive cannon firing endlessly on the walls, but maybe the effect from the assailants side was not so unbearable, specially spaced by the extremely slow rate of its reloading; adding by the way that (as i've read), its imprecision gave the besieged the opportunity to repair most of the damage after each shot, limiting the cannon's effect.
Is such story plausible, Philip ?
This being true, such cannon reloading procedure gave a chance for the Turcs to dry their bodies between each diving into water tank.

**** Such look for precious gunpowder raw materials may be observed in the third attached text.

So long ...


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Old 26th July 2019, 05:42 PM   #25
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Cannons were usually fired with the muzzles outside their embrasures, and the heat, smoke and pressure waves were mostly (but not all) directed forward away from the crew, who learned quickly not to stand forward of the muzzle, or behind the carriage. A 'loose cannon' was a danger to all.

Any excess powder un-burnt outside the barrel is essentially wasted as it has no effect on propelling the projectile, just in making noise and heat. Establishing the correct charge would require a few firings of it or a close 'standard'relative and would also depend on the quality of the powder. Originally the overly hygroscopic powder was rather finely ground before mechanically mixing and tended not only to absorb moisture, but would rapidly separate if shaken during transport or storage. It also had a nasty habit of exploding and killing the mixers. Early Cannon masters on average were not old men as they had their own secret and personal recipes as to it's constituents and how to grind and mix the stuff. They learned not to use any iron/steel fittings, tool, nails, just brass or bronze, which is non-sparking. (felt slippers, as iron boot nails were also a no-no.)

Wet mixing and extrusion into known sized strings of known lengths along with sieving, corning, was not only more consistent, but less hygroscopic, and did not settle out. standardising the grains into the F system resulted in standard and consistent results. As did sealing it into tins rather than wood barrels. Even ww2 Iowa class battleships stored their bagged powder in non-sparking sealed tins in their magazines.

Now on to the mystery behind the letter 'F'. The letter 'F' stands for "Fine" and dates back to the time when the grains were designated F or C (for "coarse" grains). The number of times the letter F occurs in the powder grade shows the average size of the powder grains. The more times the letter F occurs in the name, the smaller the grains. What this means is that the size of "FFFg" grains are smaller than "FFg" grains, and "FFFFg" is even smaller than these two. When black powder is manufactured, the grains are sorted through sieves of standard sizes and classified that way.


Powder-Grade----Mesh-Size----Average-Size-in-mm.

Whaling------------4-mesh-------4.750-mm.-(0.187-in.)
Cannon-------------6-mesh-------3.35-mm.-(0.132-in.)
Saluting-(A-1)----10-mesh------2.0-mm.-(0.079-in.)
Fg-------------------12-mesh------1.7-mm.-(0.0661-in.)
FFg-----------------16-mesh------1.18-mm.-(0.0469-in.)
FFFg---------------20-mesh------0.85-mm.-(0.0331-in.)
FFFFg-------------40-mesh------0.47-mm.
FFFFFg-----------75-mesh------0.149-mm.


Note that the first 3 grades are intended for use with cannon. The A-1 grade is generally used for artillery blanks used for firing gun salutes. Fg is made for using in large bore rifles and shotguns (8-gauge and larger). FFg powder is used for historical small arms such as muskets, fusils, rifles and large pistols. FFFg powder is for smaller caliber rifles (below .45 caliber), pistols, cap-and-ball revolvers, derringers etc. FFFFg and FFFFFg are mostly used as priming powder for flintlocks. In the image above, the two grades of powder were intended to be used in a historical re-enactment and the FFg powder was meant for the main powder charge of a flintlock rifle, while the FFFFg powder was intended to be used in the pan of the flintlock as a priming powder.

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Old 26th July 2019, 05:44 PM   #26
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Guys, these are amazing and powerfully informational entries, thank you so much! I have been hitting the books for it seems countless hours of every day trying to augment the thorough detail and insight you have both been adding here. As someone who has studied weapons most of my life, it is amazing to finally have growing understanding of these dynamics.
Fernando, your post of 'interest' in an unusual cannon has led this thread to develop into a diverse discussion on artillery which I think will warrant intriguing discussions on separate threads on these diverse topics.
Gratefully, may I say,well done...again it is exciting to learn from you guys which bolsters the research I am doing as well.

Philip, thank you for your detailed response!
As you note, the psychological effect of these huge guns must have been powerful, as the dramatic effect of gunpowder from its early development in China to the advance of firearms eventually in Europe are well known.

From what I have learned on gunpowder (I know that technically it was 'black powder' ironically not really black but grayish)..this compound of varied components was often termed 'serpentine'.
This goes to the nicknaming of many cannon using that term, and perhaps allusion to fire breathing dragons etc.
With that, the curious gun terms we have discussed brings to mind, the 'dragon' a term for a cavalry (?) firearm, hence the term 'dragoons' for mounted soldiers.

As you have described, it must have been hellish in confined spaces no matter in what degree with the expulsion not only of heat, but the debilitating if not deadly gasses discharged with firing. The shock wave and deafening noise had to have been equally threatening.

In early times and in cultures even into the Middle Ages, the susceptible nature of people to superstition, myth and lore must have brought to mind the same 'hellish' associations as with blacksmiths who worked with fire and mysterious materials in their craft. These aspects of warfare and weaponry are fascinating historically, and certainly come to mind with these huge cannons.

Fernando, absolutely intriguing synopsis of the elements of this discussion and its diverse topics featured. I especially very much appreciate learning more on the appropriate placement of the cannon aboard ships, which is something I don't think is often thought of in the study of naval warfare.
I think the Portuguese were way ahead of the game in these considerations as it seems ships like the 'Vasa' in Sweden toppled over due to improper distribution of weight, most likely the abundance of cannon.
I believe I once read that the curious numbers marked on naval cannon (besides weight) were indicating what position on the ship the guns were to be placed.
Lowering the CG (center of gravity.....I well learned in the airline business with weight and balance for aircraft) is brilliantly noted as well as its additional purpose in hitting the target at the water level ).

I agree that the numbers and sorts of accidents taking place with the firing of artillery must have been many, as the volatility and conditions involved were pretty much the recipe for disaster with the slightest oversight. I think that accidental explosion with too fast reloading and possibility of residual embers sparking ignition was probably a problem. It makes sense that a certain and timely procedure was prudent if not essential to complete the protocols of loading properly.

With the considerations of powder, as has been noted in the Alamo context, the production of gunpowder is a curiously overlooked figment of history as far as many military situations. Saltpeter, an essential component, was a tightly controlled commodity, and while it can feasibly be processed 'naturally' using handy and openly available materials, it takes skill and knowledge to compose it effectively.

I have noted that in the positioning of the Texian forces in the Alamo compound, ironically there were numbers of weapons, guns, and materials captured from General Cos who had previously held the Alamo earlier. Again, ironically, the Texian forces had captured it from him, and in their assault had pummeled the structure with their cannon.

When the decision came to defend the Alamo came months later, the order was to remove the guns and destroy the remaining structure. When Neill, the commander of Texian troops realized he had insufficient means to transport the guns, that bolstered the decision to stay.

Unfortunately , the pummeling of much of the Alamo structures by the Texians had weakened them so they were difficult to fortify when the decision to stand was made. In actuality, the consistent bombardment of Santa Annas weak artillery contingent was more of an annoyance than effective barrage. The guns were antiquated, insufficient in size and the miserable powder (as discussed) was entirely inadequate. Only minimal damage was caused mostly in already weakened sections.

I had though that perhaps General Cos, in his departure from the Alamo, might have purposely 'fouled' the powder stores left there as he had a penchant for disabling abandoned material. However it sounds as if the Mexican powder was so bad that it was hardly necessary to try to make it worse. This store of powder was unfortunately the stock that the Texians had left to use, and one of the reasons the idea of abundant artillery as a factor in a potential siege in this case was pure folly.

On that note, I hope to start another thread on the Alamo topic, pending further research, as has been suggested to keep the focus here on the original topic, which as I say is a fascinating foray into the subject of artillery.

Thank you again guys!!!


Wayne, we crossed posts and I just saw yours. Outstanding!! This is just the kind of information I was up half the night trying to find on powder grade and composition...thank you!!!
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Old 26th July 2019, 07:29 PM   #27
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Wayne, interesting entry and wise words on what concerns risks involving proximity to cannon discharges and fabrication of gunpowder. Let me guess however that your last paragraph/s on powder classification and those 'FF' specs skip over a few centuries to a fresh context ... re-enactment purposes and all .
On the saluting and warning salvos, i wouldn't know whether (Portuguese) gunners used weaker powder for those or, even if that used with the warning discharges was 'convincingly' accompanied by ammo; i have read about both salvos in chronicles, but it would be such a task to go looking for such details in bulky books.
Still we can not forget that gunners in such (discoveries) period would not leave home without doing their home work. To add that they would be competent enough to empirically deal with the necessary components they had to resource in wherever location with whatever quality out there, when running out of the stocks they took with, at departure ... something i know for sure did happen. We also know that eventually they also taught locals here and there how to mix the stuff; no secrets resist a fair price .
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Old 26th July 2019, 08:01 PM   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
... I especially very much appreciate learning more on the appropriate placement of the cannon aboard ships, which is something I don't think is often thought of in the study of naval warfare...

Professor John F. Guilmartin Jr. (deceased) is one that weaved comprehensive considerations about these issues, having eventually present them in congresses. However he is himself the one surprised for such basic historical stuff not being more widespread

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
... I think the Portuguese were way ahead of the game in these considerations ...

Indeed the Portuguese experienced naval hegemony with such advanced gains ... but for no more than two short centuries. Still, what could they do, coming from a nation the side of a backyard, having to provide for human and material means for the zillion places they were in, at the same time.
Still, they had their moments of glory ... even if ephemeral.
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Old 27th July 2019, 04:05 AM   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fernando
Wayne, interesting entry and wise words on what concerns risks involving proximity to cannon discharges and fabrication of gunpowder. Let me guess however that your last paragraph/s on powder classification and those 'FF' specs skip over a few centuries to a fresh context ... re-enactment purposes and all . ...


Picky, Picky,Picky.

the "F" classification was a US thing from the latter half of the 19c & still in use for 'modern' Black powder weapons which are still very popular for target shooting and hunting,
...and re-enactments.

Earlier gradations can be found in the US Ordinance manual. See below, handy thing to keep a copy of, you can download a 20 mb pdf version from the link I enclose below. (too big to attach here)

UK designations:

For larger cannon, a powder designated as "Large Grain" or L.G. was used, until the advent of rifled cannon, at which point a powder called R.L.G (Rifled Large Grain) was introduced. This powder worked well for cannon of smaller calibre, but when guns of 7 inches and larger calibres were introduced, it was found advisable to use a slower burning powder than R.L.G, at which point, Pebble powders (P and P2) were introduced. These were larger grain powders of cubical-shaped grains. P powder grains were about 5/8 inch per side and P2 powder grains were 1.5 inch cubes.

For small arms, a more rapidly burning powder is required, and therefore these are much smaller grains on average than the ones above. In England, there were four grades of powder produced for small arms:

Fine Grain (F.G.) powder to be used by smooth-bore firearms (e.g.) the Brown Bess musket. This powder was also used for the charge of 7 pounder muzzle loading cannon and for the bursting charge of shrapnel shells.
Rifle Fine Grain (R.F.G.) powder, to be used by most rifled small arms, except the Martini-Henry rifle and pistols.
Rifle Fine Grain 2 (R.F.G.2) powder, to be used by the Martini-Henry cartridge.
Pistol powder, to be used by pistols and revolvers such as the Colt Single Action revolver and the Deane-Adams revolvers. This is a quick burning powder and is suitable for shorter barrels, where a slower burning powder would not finish burning within the barrel completely. Since it is a very quick burning powder, it was also used for shrapnel shells.

These powders were classified based on grain size and density and were separated by passing the grains of powder through sieves. Sieves are designated according to the number of divisions per linear inch. Therefore, a 4-mesh sieve has 16 holes per square inch, an 8-mesh sieve has 64 holes per square inch and so on. R.F.G. powder should pass through a 12-mesh sieve, but not through a 20-mesh sieve, and have a density of about 1.6. R.F.G.2 powder should also pass through a 12-mesh sieve, but not through a 20-mesh sieve, however the density is higher than R.F.G. powder at 1.72. F.G. powder should pass through a 16-mesh, but not through a 36-mesh, while pistol powder should pass through a 44-mesh, but not a 72-mesh.

In addition to these powders designated for service small arms, there were also powders classed as "Blank powders", used for training purposes. As with the above powders, these were also made in different grain sizes, (e.g. Blank R.L.G., Blank R.F.G., Blank F.G. and so on). These were made from recycled gunpowder from old shells and broken ammunition boxes and only used for firing salutes and training rounds, where the full power of ammunition was not considered critical.

Serpentine Powder charge table for various bore sizes is attached.

The US Army 1862 Ordinance Manual can be downloaded from:
https://books.google.co.uk/books/do...mw1ENDvkigVCrZA

It contains the American seive sizings from the period. It also has an extensive section on formulation, chemicals used, actually making black powder from scratch, both dry mix 'serpentine' used thru the 17c into the 18th, and corned.

Serpentine powder charge chart for naval cannon sizes:
Attached Images
 

Last edited by kronckew : 27th July 2019 at 04:33 AM.
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Old 27th July 2019, 04:54 AM   #30
Philip
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Default the hazards of powder residue

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall


I agree that the numbers and sorts of accidents taking place with the firing of artillery must have been many, as the volatility and conditions involved were pretty much the recipe for disaster with the slightest oversight. I think that accidental explosion with too fast reloading and possibility of residual embers sparking ignition was probably a problem. It makes sense that a certain and timely procedure was prudent if not essential to complete the protocols of loading properly.



Yes, Jim, gunnery drill was a pretty intensive exercise requiring a high degree of coordination and teamwork on the part of the crew, with requisite attention to sequence and detail. Elements of the process that modern gun crews are free of include loading and seating the powder, wads, and projectile separately and in correct order from the muzzle, and (due to the lack of recoil-dampening mechanisms) rolling the piece back "to battery" before firing.

Black powder combustion creates not only a thick cloud of smoke, but also deposits a lot of residue in the bore and touchhole, which build up noticeably with each shot. If not properly addressed at prescribed intervals, this can lead to some undesirable effects. Seating the projectile and the wads with the rammer can be impeded; ideally the components should be in contact, without excessive tamping nor (more seriously) air spaces in between which could result in a dangerous rise in internal pressures causing the barrel to burst. A clogged touchhole is a recipe for a misfire.

The residue, being largely carbonaceous, can also harbor hot spots or embers left after firing, creating the hazard that you mention.

The proper and timely use of some important tools made this problem manageable. The cannonier, in addition to his quadrant, firing tables, and other aiming equipment, carried a pricker to clear out the touchhole between shots. The crew needed several long-handled implements besides the linstock, rammer and powder scoop -- these included a stiff-bristled bore brush, a cylindrical swab surfaced with sheeps-wool, and a barrel scraper consisting of opposed semi-circular blades spring-mounted on a staff. Old military prints also show a bucket swinging under the axle-tree of a caisson (the two wheeled ammo and equipment cart hitched to the gun carriage for transport). Water was essential for washing out the bore after use, and also to cool down a barrel which became too hot from firing in succession.

(The messy nature of the propellant made frequent cleaning necessary on users of small arms as well. Since we started out on the subject of India, I'd like to close by mentioning the common appearance of touchhole pricks on little chains attached to the stocks of Indian matchlocks or toradors. On specimens where these are missing, you can often see the eyebolt which held the chain as well as the slender conical metal pocket to hold the pick when not in use.)
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