Four Napoleon Cannons in Augusta
There are four examples of Civil War era cannons and two mortars on display in Augusta. In addition several others are on display at Ft. Gordon.
Three cannon are displayed on the Summerville campus of GRU, two Confederate Napoleon guns and one Federal Napoleon. The light 12-pounder or Napoleon was the most common field cannon of the Civil War and was preferred by artillerymen of both sides. French Emperor, Napoleon III, nephew of the famous Napoleon, conceived the idea of a standardized battery of light 12-pounder guns to replace mixed batteries of light guns and howitzers. The 12-pounder designation means that an iron cannon ball for this cannon would weigh twelve pounds. A 12-pounder has a bore of 4.52 inches. Solid iron cannon balls were seldom used, except for pounding down the walls of masonry forts. Against opposing troops explosive shells and canister were used, but the 12-pounder designation persisted. Napoleons were employed at ranges of up to 2,000 yards.
At Walton Way and Katharine St., on the north east corner of the Summerville campus, in front of the Guardhouse is a Confederate, 12-pounder on a field carriage. Its rimbase number is 53. This cannon was cast in New Orleans in 1862 by Leeds & Co. and used by Semples (later Goldwaites) Alabama Artillery Battery during the Civil War. Semples battery surrendered in Augusta in 1865. Thus these guns have been associated with the Augusta Arsenal since 1865.
Another Leeds gun, #45, also from Semples battery, is displayed on a field carriage in the quadrangle. Leeds made approximately 20 Napoleons, all closely resembling but having a smaller muzzle cavetto, than the Union patterns. There are 13 known survivors.
Two other Leeds & Co. guns, rimbase # 46 & # 54 are at Fort Gordon on display beside Alexander Hall, (named for Barry Whitneys grandfather, General E. Porter Alexander). They were moved to Fort Gordon when the old Augusta Arsenal was transferred to the Junior College of Augusta. The plaque beside the two Leeds guns at Ft. Gordon says they were cast from church bells, but Dr. Russell K. Brown thinks this is an apocryphal story.
Since there are few if any records showing to which unit guns were issued, having all four guns of a particular battery in the same or in close proximity is rare. The only other four guns from the same battery that I know of are on the parade ground at VMI where Mathew, Mark, Luke, & John; the six-pounders of the Rockbridge Artillery are displayed.
The third Napoleon is in front of the Headquarters building, Summerville campus. It is a Federal Model 1857, light 12-pounder gun. The markings on the muzzle are No. 96, 1862, A.M.Co., 1223, and A.B.D. That tells us that it was the ninety sixth gun made in 1862 by the Ames Manufacturing Company of Chicopee, Massachusetts, that it weighs 1,223 pounds and was accepted for the U.S. Army by Ordnance Officer Alexander Brydie Dyer, commander of the Springfield Armory.
There are also two Coehorn 24 pound mortars inside the Guardhouse. They are Federal guns made in 1863 by the Ames Manufacturing Company of Chicopee, Mass.
On display at the Augusta Museum of History is an Augusta Foundry made Napoleon. The Augusta Cannon Foundry is believed to have made about 100 guns. The muzzle markings on the cannon in the Museum are: #72, 1864, 1170, G.W.R. Thus it is the seventy second gun made in 1864, weighs 1,170 pounds and was accepted by George Washington Rains, commandant of the Arsenal, Powderworks and Foundry.
This cannon is a rare artifact because of its association with Augusta history. The largest collection of Augusta cannon is in the Gettysburg Park on Seminary Ridge. This is ironic since I believe most Augusta guns were issued to the Army of Tennessee in the West and would not have been at Gettysburg. The Confederate Army of Northern Virginia that fought at Gettysburg would have been issued guns from Tredegar Iron Works of Richmond, Va.
Field Artillery Weapons of the Civil War, rev.ed., Jas. C. Hazlett, Edwin Olmstead, M. Hume Parks, p 101, lists 5 known Leeds guns, #19 Petersburg, #38 John Browning Museum, Rock Island, Ill., #45 Augusta Arsenal, #49 Carlisle Barracks, #53 Augusta Arsenal.
Augusta Richmond County History, Sutherland, C. Tom and Sutherland, Nancy G., Plowshares Into Swords, 28:1 (Wi 1997):11-16.
Augusta Richmond County History, Sutherland, C. Tom, Campus Coehorns, 30:1 (Su 1999):3-6.
Russell K. Brown, "The Guns of Semple's Battery," unpublished manuscript in progress.
By C. Tom Sutherland