The development of rifled cannon changed the face of warfare forever. Most notably it made the concept of brick and stone fortifications obsolete. With greater accuracy and power, field artillery could now do the job of larger smooth bore weapons.
Civil War era rifled projectiles come in a bewildering variety of types and variations, but all were designed to engage the rifling while in the cannon barrel which spun the projectile as it left the muzzle. How that was best achieved was a matter of diverse opinion.
To simplify identification, artillery can be classified into basic groups, each according to the way each shell's design engaged the rifled barrel.
The inventor's name often became associated with theses rounds. Here is just a quick reference, not intended to be all inclusive, but just to give a general idea.
|Dyer 3" Case Shell, Federal U.S. Army
Diameter: 2.93 inches
Gun: 3-inch wrought iron (ordnance) rifle
Length: 7 1/8 inches
Weight: 10 pounds 9 ounces
Construction: Case shot
Sabot: Lead cup
Fuzing: Zinc fuse plug, paper time fuse
This is a "Case" or Shrapnel shell for use against infantry.
The internal construction is basically the same as spherical case but in an elongated projectile.
It has a lead sabot with a zinc Dyer fuze adapter for a paper time fuse.
Smooth bore cannon projectiles had a loose fit in the bore which was required for ease of loading and allowed flame to ignite time fuzes located at the top of the shell. The base cup on rifled artillery shells sealed that gap, often keeping the fuze from igniting. This example has four flame grooves cast into the lead sabot, which allowed enough flame to bypass the shell and reach the fuze.
Often the sabot of the 3-inch Dyer projectile became separated during firing.
Patented by U.S. Army Officer Alexander Byrdie Dyer, a West Point graduate and who was put in charge of the Springfield Armory in August 1861. He later became the Chief of Ordnance and promoted to Brigadier General in September 1864.
(A later development - the British 13Pdr.) =>
|Hotchkiss 3" Solid Shot, Federal U.S. Army
Diameter: 3.67 inches
Gun: 3.67 Caliber Rifle
Length: 6 11/16 inches
Weight: 12 pounds 14 ounces
Construction: Solid Shot
Sabot: Lead Band
The Hotchkiss patent was for a projectile consisting of three main sections. When fired, the moveable base compressed
a central lead band, pushing it outward squeezing it into the rifling.
Solid shot, commonly known as a "Bolt", used in conjunction with rifled cannon made an effective combination for use against fortifications.
At right is a Hotchkiss 3.67" bolt complete with its driving band, recovered at Manassas, Va.
Andrew Hotchkiss patented this pattern of projectile on October 16, 1855. He was the Brother of Benjamin Hotchkiss, machinist / inventor, who later founded the firm Hotchkiss and Company in 1882. At the time of his death, Benjamin Hotchkiss had the reputation of being the finest artillery engineer in the world. Hotchkiss guns and ammunition were adopted by many nations and is one of the most recognized names associated with artillery and ordnance.
|Schenkl 3" Shell, Federal U.S. Army
Diameter: 2.92 inches
Gun: 3-inch Ordnance Rifle
Length: 9 3/16 inches
Weight: 8 pounds
Fuzing: Schenkl Percussion, Brass
Schenkl is one of the most easily recognized Civil War era projectiles due
to its unique shape.
A cylindrical PapierMaché sabot was wrapped around the tapered cone base. When fired the sabot was forced forward and was expanded into the rifling by the cone. There are vertical raised ribs on the tapered cone to insure rotary motion was imparted to the projectile.
The paper sabot disintegrated as the shell left the muzzle which made this type safer than metal sabot types when firing over the heads of friendly troops, as there was no danger of injuries from separated sabot fragments. On the negative side, the PapierMaché was very sensitive to moisture. Too damp and the sabot would swell, interfering with loading. Too dry and the paper would crumble before it performed its function, often causing the shell to tumble as it left the gun.
This is the "common shell", with a bursting charge cavity that does not contain case-shot material. Case-shot versions, containing shrapnel, are identified by a more rounded nose profile.
The brass percussion fuze is stamped: "J.P. SCHENKL PAT. OCT. 16, 1861."
||Unknown 3.4" Shell, French
Diameter: 3.30 inches
Gun: 3.4-inch French Rifle
Length: 6.51 inches
Weight: 8 pounds
Sabot: 12 Zinc Studs (.65" dia.)
Fuzing: Brass Time (Missing)
|One of the earliest ideas for rifled cannon was suggested by Frenchman
Cavalier Treulle de Beaulieu in 1842, consisting of a barrel with deep helical grooves firing a shell with studs on it
to ride in the grooves. About 15 years later, that idea was successfully developed by British inventor Sir William Armstrong.
The design is simple, reliable and made for a highly accurate weapon.
Armstrong guns were often found on larger ship and seacoast artillery.
Armstrong supplied both armies in the American Civil War.
This example has zinc studs, where Armstrong shells use copper alloy. The 3.4 inch French Rifle was not used by either side in the Civil War, but there is evidence that the Confederates may have been evaluating it.
The studded projectile concept continued to be used to the end of the 19th century.