|Field Piece Operations,
Boleslaw's Orlicki's Light Artillery
(c) 2001 Richard J. Orli
An Operator's manual for
A Falconett Two-Pounder,
Model 1698, No. 1, of French DesignAdapted from Kent Aists Cannon Manual
(c)1995 Kent Aist
other material (c)2001 Richard Orli
Above, lady Kismet (Fortuna) Kismet was manufactured by Cannon Ltd of Coolsville OH in 2000. It (and the carriage) was patterned off the French Novelle Artillery diagrams in Diderots Le Encyclopedia Des Armaments, 1730. The specific design originated in 1692, and is typical of mid 17th C. to late 18th C. guns. In 1711 the French standardized on this design in 4, 8, and 12 pounder sizes. Prior to this period a large variety of sizes were cast and placed into service. Cannon Ltd did not follow the pattern exactly, and so this is more of a generic late 17th C. culverin than an exact replica (the term cannon was applied only to a class of large guns). A culverin of this period would likely have been more ornamented. While many late 17th C. guns had plain dolphins, usually one or more devices (guns name, General of Artillery coat of arms, Kings crest) would have been cast into the barrel. Many plain barrels were, however, made; some have recently been found in a recovered shipwreak in Sweden.
This gun has a 2 1/4 inch bore and weighs 230 pounds. We describe it as two pounder when being honest, but call it a three pounder or a 90% reduced scale 3 pounder if you like. An actual iron ball of this size (2 3/16) weighs 1.6 pounds, and a lead ball (2 1/8) weighs 2 lbs. A two inch steel ball (typical range ammunition - like a scrap ball bearing ) weighs 1.2 lbs). The barrel is large and thick enough to have safely supported a 2 ½ inch bore.
The barrel was cast out of naval gun bronze (copper, tin, zinc; period bronze was 90 copper- 10 tin) and its bore was drilled out. This technique was not used until the mid 1700s, but makes for a stronger, safer gun. Bronze has over twice the ductile strength of Iron, and is stronger than any steel or Iron barrel, will not fragment when burst, and is proof from most damaging corrosion. It is the safest type of barrel. The manufacturer rates the piece for 5 ounces of grade F powder for blanks, and 3 ounces for shot. Standard load is 3 ounce for blanks in re-enactments, 4 oz for demonstrations.
The carriage was designed for a full-scale two pounder, rather than as a scale model. This particular carriage design was chosen because it is of the same general design as Polish horse artillery carriages of the period, and because the specific French design would have been used in America from the French and Indian war through the War of 1812. While most armies used 3 pdr and larger, Polish horse artillery was often 2 pdr, and literally hundreds of 2 pdr barrels from the 17th C. exist today.
The pieces carriage cheeks were manufactured by Rick Orli of oak laminated to fir, with breast, axle, trail and other blocks of maple, oak and other hardwoods. The hooks, screw, and trunnion caps and fittings were manufactured by Mitch Smith, blacksmith; Rick did the other metalwork, with some sheet-metal cutting by a local metal shop. Robert Gonia helped with the carriage work. The wheels were also manufactured by Cannon Ltd. The wheels were constructed with hoop-tyres, which is achronistic until the 1830s, but are modified to appear strake-constructed. Strake bands may be added at some point, which would have been typical though most of the 17th C.
The carriage varies from the design primarily in having a wood axle, instead of an all-metal axle. We believe that the all-metal axle came into use after 1700. The quoin elevation screw is probably also a post 1650 invention - an alternate quoin platform and wooden quoins (wedges) will be available to switch in for prior-to 1650 impressions. All other aspects of the carriage, including the alternate traveler position, trunnion hardware, etc. is accurate for at least 1630 through to the Napoleonic era. The carriage is painted blue, because my research at the time lead me to believe that was the color of French artillery (who usually picked blue to go with Bourbon white), and it would work well enough for a Swedish or Polish or American Rev War militia gun. I have since learned that French artillery was painted bright red in the late 17th C., but they likely were varied colors prior to 1680, or even in 1690 the red color may have applied only to the larger ordinance. (Spanish guns were painted all black).Kismet is one of those ancient Indo-European words, re-imported from the east, but that survives in English from ancient times as the word 'magic'. Kismet means something like 'fate'. It's an appropriate name for a Polish cannon; Poles were fascinated by the opposing Islamic culture, and might be much amused that it would be the kismet of more than a few Turks to earn their place in paradise via our KISMET.
Before use, the bore should be inspected for any residue buildup or pitting. The vent should be checked as well. The bore of the tube may be scrubbed with a circular brass wire brush.At the end of firing, the piece should be double searched, and double sponged using the commands and methods described. Additional clean sponges (old socks) and water could be used and the piece then dried out. To close the piece down, a lightly oiled sponge or rag (using any non-salted oil) should be run down the piece, and around the muzzle and vent. The tampion and vent cover should be oiled and put on the piece. Since bronze does not (unlike iron) require oil per se, it should be applied with a very light touch. The carriage unpainted Iron parts should, however, be cleaned, dried, and carefully greased. In particular, the screw and quoin hinge require attention. The screw assembly should be removed, cleaned and greased. The powder must be put in a safe place.
The piece should be kept highly polished. Active field guns were never allowed to grow a greenish patina.
Once or twice a year, the wheels should be pulled off and additional grease put on the cones.
The sponges are sheep skin strips, about three inches wide and ten inches long, they are tied on, and tacked down with brass or copper brads. Brass is used to reduce the risk of bore damage; and because they hold up better in the wet, caustic condition; and because they are easier to remove when replacing the cover. For a fine seam, the two edges can be stitched with heavy thread and leather needles. The wet sponge will not last more than about two separate weekends of firing and will need to be replaced frequently. The dry sponges last longer or get turned into wet sponges. A rinse of the sponges is recommended before allowing them to dry.
The trunnion cap design allows field removal of the barrel, by unlatching the pin, and the barrel may be placed in the rear position in horse-transport mode.
The gun can be disassembled as follows:
The standard charge for the piece should be 3 ounces of black powder, 2.5 for shot. The gun is rated by the manufacture for a maximum 5 oz black powder for blanks, 3 oz for shot. Blanks and live shooting should only use grade F or Cannon powder. Cannons historically used prepared cloth cartridges (larger ones often used loose powder during this period). Because loose powder and powder dust is dangerous, the powder should only be introduced into the piece in triple layer aluminum foil cartridges. An internal plastic baggy is recommended to lower powder dust and to prevent powder from settling into folds in the aluminum foil where it might not ignite.
These are made by placing a trimmed plastic baggy on a 2 1/8 2 1/4 inch diameter form such as the rammer, or the special wooden form, and taking several lengths (ten inches plus) of foil and wrapping them around. After completing one rotation on the form, the additional 3+ inches of foil extending below the form should be folded over and rolled in with the remainder of that square. This creates a flat bottom to the cartridge. Repeat this step with one or two more layers and remove the foil cup from the form. Fill the cartridge with the measured amount of correct grade powder (don't guess) and twist close the end of the charge tightly, forming a "pig tail". If the form was 2 1/4 inches in diameter, the cartridge should be rolled between the hands to compress it so that it will fit easily into the bore. Store the cartridges in a dry, moisture proof, cool and secure container, preferably in a plastic container within the ammo box. The powder should not be kept in unlined aluminum foil for more than six months since black powder will attack the foil.
Priming powder should be FFFF. Since it is placed in the touch hole which could contain a spark, only a limited quantity should be used in the priming operation. Either use a very small charger, or half lengths of drinking straws prepared with priming powder as follows: dip one end of the straw in melted wax and let cool to seal that end; then fill the straw with priming powder and seal the other end with tape. In use, the wax can be bitten or popped off the straw. If too much powder is going down the touch hole, check to make sure that the main charge was seated properly.
Wads are not needed for blanks. For live fire, a medium to heavy weight wool patch four inches square will suffice to seal the windage and hold the shot in place. Shot not in contact with the powder bag can cause the barrel to burst.
The shot should not weigh more than two pounds. It should not be larger than 2 1/8 inches around. A proper size hole gage or tube should be used to ensure that the shot is not too big. Note that 12 gauge shot (.72 inch) takes 24 balls to make two pounds.
The gun is brought onto the firing line or battery position with the implements arrayed as follows:
Crew of One
Crew of Two
Crew of Three
Crew of Four
1 Gunner who also could do one other task
1 Sponger - Rammer
1 Searcher - Loader
1 Vent Tender
2+ Powder Handlers - one at the box and runners
Advancing and retreating the piece.
The pieces carriage is equipped with hooks for rope harnesses and slots for maneuvering handspikes on the side and rear, as illustrated in Figure 1 (showing crew for a much larger 12 Pounder).
On Advance. With a crew of five, two pull on harnesses attached to the front hooks, one is on the side handspike, one is on the rear handspike. The rear and/or side handspike can also be used to help quickly aim or re-orient the piece.
On Retreat. With a crew of five, two pull on harnesses (short) attached to the trail hooks, two are on the side handspikes on opposite sides.
The fifth carries the implements; the coffret and bucket are attached to the piece. With a sixth, the coffret can be carried separately.
With only four, the implements except linstock can be attached to the piece as well, and only one harness can be used. Or the implements and coffret can be positioned in advance.
After falling in on the piece, the Gunner will run the crew through the operations that follow. Although each operation must be carefully thought out while being performed, familiarity is important.
THE GUN IS ASSUMED TO BE CAPABLE OF FIRING AT ALL TIMES THE TAMPION AND VENT PLUG IS REMOVED. Even when just fired it is possible a substantial charge of powder would remain unburned, either because it was wet or because trapped in a pocket of foil. Also, in the heat of battle, it is possible to get confused about the step or not realize the gun had not fired, and to try to sponge a loaded piece or to load a second round. For this reason all steps of the drill assume the piece may be loaded.
PUT BACK THE PIECE
ORDER THE PIECE TO LOAD
SEARCH THE PIECE
SPONGE THE PIECE
ADVANCE THE POWDER
LOAD THE PIECE
While standing behind the muzzle, either between the wheel and tube, or from outside the wheel, and while observing the vent to ensure that it is properly stalled, the loader places the right hand on top of the muzzle for stability and to neutralize static electricity, and the charge is swiftly introduced into the muzzle with the "pig tail" out and the flat side toward the breach. This is done using one hand (usually the left) placed under the charge with the thumb pointing away from the gun.
THRUST HOME THE CHARGE
The next group marked in parenthesis are for live fire or demonstration drills only.
(ADVANCE THE SHOT)
(REGARD THE SHOT)
(PUT HOME YOUR SHOT GENTLY)
(THRUST HOME YOUR LAST WAD WITH THREE STROKES GENTLY)
GAGE THE PIECE
PRIME THE PIECE
GUNNERS HAVE A CARE (Na Obatchnonc)
GIVE - FIRE (DAI - OGEN)
If all goes well, the gun would have fired, and the process could be run through again. If the piece did not fire from the ignition of the priming charge, the following procedure should be followed:
It is possible that the priming powder ejected the cartridge. If the vent pick does not make
contact with the cartridge, after another 3 minutes the barrel may be searched to ensure it is clear.
The cartridge may have burned going through the barrel or just outside, but the downrange
should be checked.
This situation is extremely dangerous, since the flooding operation will not penetrate much of the powder, leaving it still active and potentially explosive.
The Carriage is illustrated in Figure 2. The main change in the design shown is that the metal axle, which came into use in the early 1700's, was replaced with a wood axle.
c. Quoin Board, Quoin Screw (elevating screw)
d. Breast Hook
e. Trail Hook
f. Lateral maneuvering handle and shaft socket
g. Trail maneuvering shaft socket
h. Trunnion Cap (with head and foot)
i. Coffret (ammo box)
B. Tampion (Muzzle Plug)
D. TrunE. Vent or Touch hole and Vent Plug
A. Powder shovel (lanterne)
B. Linestock (Boutefeu)
C&D. Quoins - elevation wedges (coins de mire)
E. Rammer (refouloir)
F. Worm (tireboutte)
G, I Sponges (e'couvillons)
H. Scour. Cleaning/scouring implement of brass wire
K. (chapiteau dont on fe fert pour couvrir la lumiere)
L. (fronteau de mire)
M. Vent prick (regorgeoir)
Below, manovering harness-lines (man-powered)
The Carriage Design, appropriate for Horse Artillery use.