MANUAL OF INSTRUCTION
VOLUNTEERS AND MILITIA
The Washington Artillery
BY MAJOR WILLIAM GILHAM,
INSTRUCTOR OF TACTICS AND COMMANDANT OF CADETS
OF THE VIRGINIA MILITARY INSTITUTE
*And as modified for reenacting*
LIGHT ARTILLERY TACTICS.
SCHOOL OF THE PIECE.
633. Light artillerymen
should, before receiving instruction in their duties at the piece,
be familiar with the manual of the Washington Artillery and understand
their duties as pertaining to the before mentioned treatise. The
purpose of this treatise is to define the duties of the cannoneers
and to lay out the methods of instruction of the same, in order
that they may become familiar in their duties, both in drill and
in battle. When in battle artillerymen should at all times take
advantage of natural and man made features to protect themselves
from fire yet maintain their duty to the unit. In battle certain
positions are required to wear gloves as noted in this treatise.
Notes are included to these instructions to conform to the battle
requirements. In drill they shall maintain a military bearing, standing
at the position of attention and making their movements with deliberation
634. The cannoneers of a piece,
when united, constitute a gun detachment, which is composed ordinarily
of six men, one of whom --- the gunner who commands the detachment,
should be a Sergeant..
The detachment is formed by the gunner, who causes the cannoneers
to form in two ranks, eighteen inches between them, elbows slightly
touching. He tells the detachment off from the right, No. 1 being
on the right of the rear rank, No. 2 on the right of the front rank,
No. 3 on the left of No. 1, No. 4 on the left of No. 2, and so on,
the even numbers being in the front, and the odd numbers in the
rear rank. The chief of caisson should there be one, is told off
as No.8. When the detachment is composed of more or less than six
men, the chief of caisson should be the highest even number. When
the detachment, from any cause, consists of less than six men, the
higher numbers are left out, and additional duties are imposed upon
the cannoneers present.
When the first sergeant, is present, and takes command of the detachment(s)
the gunner, then takes post one yard in rear of the right file,
and acts as a file-closer.
For the purposes of instruction, after drawing equipment, each
detachment should be halted in front of, and facing the piece, the
latter being unlimbered (1), and the different numbers called upon
successively, or the respective duties performed by the instructor
in detail, while the rest of the detachment are required to attend
to the instruction, and to the manner in which the motions are performed.
For purposes of instruction, the gunner may call "by detail"
at which time each man performs his duties by specific command of
****(1) The piece shall be
placed in position with the limber removed from the body, and carried
to the rear 25 feet, the tongue facing the gun. The horses unhitched
and removed to a safe position.
The chest shall be made up with the ammunition and primers in the
right side compartment all in separate containers. The remainder
of the equipment shall be in the left side and shall consist of
the ammunition pouch containing the thumbstall, priming wire, brush
and mirror. The tube pouch containing the lanyard shall also be
in the ammunition pouch. Gauntlets for No.1 and No.2 and light gloves
for No.4 to be used for battles shall also be in the left compartment.
The piece is then prepared for firing, or for action.
Mount the right hand trail spike on the trail
Remove the vent cover and tompion and place them in the left
compartment of the limber with the rammer holders.
Remove the sponge bucket, fill it with water and place it
to the right of No.1 position.
Place the worm and dry sponge on the stand
Place the wet sponge head on the sponge bucket
||Refrain from placing sponges on the ground
where they may pick up dirt, rocks etc. Do not lean or
place wet sponges where they will drip on painted wood.
Inspect bore with mirror.
Mark the limits of the "safe Zone" with fire wood,
logs or any suitable marker that can be seen clearly by the
gun crew. The distance of this marker shall be a minimum of
50 feet unless otherwise directed.
The cannoneers shall draw the following equipment from the ammunition
Nos. 3, 4, 5 will find their equipment in the ammunition
No. 3 takes, vent wire, brush, gimlet and thumbstall, hangs
brush, and gimlet on right side trail spike hook and holds
vent wire in right hand.
No. 4 takes Halyard and tube pouch and primer block containing
10 primers. No.5 takes ammunition pouch. Ammunition pouch
should have a mirror in the pocket.
For battles No.4 shall wear light gloves and Nos.1,
2 and 5 heavy gauntlets. No.3 may use light gloves instead
Posts of the cannoneers. Piece unlimbered.
635. The gunner is at the end
of the trail handspike; Nos. 1 and 2 are about two feet outside
the wheels, No. 1 on the right, and No. 2 on the left; with howitzers,
they are rather in rear of the muzzle; with guns, in line with the
front part of the wheels. Nos. 3 and 4 are in line with the knob
of the cascable, covering Nos. 1 and 2. No.5 five yards in rear
of the left wheel; No. 6 in rear of the limber, which is turned
about so as to face towards the piece;
The first Sergeant places himself so that he may view the entire
section, the "Safe Zone" and all gunners may see
Loading and firing.
636. The piece is supposed
to be upon the drill ground, unlimbered, and ready for action; the
limber is in position behind the piece, and facing towards it, the
end of the pole six yards from the end of the trail handspike; and
the detachment in front of and facing the piece.
Before commencing the individual instruction of the cannoneers,
the instructor should enter into an explanation of the different
kinds of field guns, their names, and the names and uses of the
different parts of the gun and carriage before them. This done,
he commences the instruction with the gunner, who commands and points
the piece in action.
637. Commanding and pointing.
--- The gunner is responsible for the manner in which the numbers
discharge their duty. He communicates the orders which he receives
for the kind of ammunition to be fired; sending No. 6 (who is charged
with preparing the fuze) the time of flight or the distance for
each round, when firing shells or spherical-case shot. He should,
when the firing is slow, see that each fuze is properly prepared,
and make such corrections as are necessary; for this purpose, he,
as well as No. 6, should be provided with a fuze-gouge.
On receiving the command, or signal to commence firing, or to load,
he gives the command load; takes hold of the handspike at
the end with the right hand, and at the centre with the left; places
his left knee against the left hand, bending over it, the right
knee being slightly bent; looks over the top of the piece, and gives
the direction. He then steps to the breech to give the elevation,
which he does by placing the hausse on its seat, taking hold of
a handle of the elevating screw, drawing back his right foot, bending
over his left knee, and sighting through the slit in the hausse.
When the piece is sighted he steps back indicating by raising both
arms and gives the command piece is sighted to No.3 and No.4
so they may prick and prime the charge. He watches the position
of the priming wire to see, with No.3, that the wire sits on top
of the charge before the wire is pressed down. Stepping clear of
the wheel to the left side where he can best be seen by No.4 and
best observe the effect of his shot and the field of fire, gives
the command "ready" in a loud and firm voice He gives
the command "fire" when all are in the ready position
and he has ascertained that the safe zone has not or does not appear
to be encroached upon. As soon as the piece has been fired,
he causes it to be run up to its former place, if the recoil has
made it necessary.
When the, instead of receiving the command "commence firing",
receives that of "load," the gunner repeats it,
and performs his duties as before, except that he does not command
"fire" until the manner of firing and the order
to fire is given. When the command commence firing is given, the
action is continued by the gunners without further command from
the instructor, until one round of ammunition is fired.
638. Sponging and ramming.
--- Until the command load, No. 1 stands faced to the front, in
line with the front of the wheels, holding the sponge about the
middle of the staff in his right hand, (in battle he will wear
heavy gauntlets) and trailing it at an angle of 45, sponge head
up. The sponge shall be wet but not dripping with water. The sponge
may be "spinned" to remove excess moisture.
The instructor commands:
At the command load, No. 1 faces to the left, steps obliquely
to the right with his right foot, without moving his left, and at
the same time brings the sponge to a perpendicular position by drawing
his right hand up in line with the elbow. The sponge is grasped
firmly in the hand, the rammer head held over the right toe, and
the elbow kept close to the side.
Second motion. He steps
obliquely to the left with his left foot, planting it about half
way between the piece and the wheel, and opposite the muzzle, bringing
the sponge at the same time across his body to the left, so that
his right hand may be opposite the middle of the body, the sponge
staff being inclined at an angle of 45 across the front of it.
Third motion. He takes
a side step to the right of thirty inches with the right foot, and
bending the right knee, brings the sponge to a horizontal position,
extending the hands to the ends of the staff, the sponge head to
the left, the back of his right hand down, that of his left up,
the sponge head pressing against the face of the piece.
At the command sponge, No. 1 fixes his eye on the vent to see that
it is closed. He inserts the sponge head, drops his left hand behind
his thigh, shoulders square, feet equally turned out, straightens
the right knee, bends the left, and, leaning over it, forces the
sponge home then gives two turns to the sponge, pressing it at the
same time against the bottom of the bore. The sponge should not
be dripping wet.
Second motion - He draws
out the sponge, at the same time straightening his left knee and
bending his right, seizes the staff near the sponge head with his
left hand, back of the hand up, and places the sponge against the
face of the piece.
Third motion.. He turns
the sponge by bringing his hands together in the middle of the staff,
giving a cant with each hand, throwing the sponge head over, at
the same time turning his wrists so as to bring the staff to a horizontal
position; the back of the left up, that of the right down.
During the whole time of sponging, No. 1 keeps his eye on the vent.
If at any time it is not closed, he will discontinue the manoeuver,
and command, " stop vent."
Fourth motion. He introduces
the rammer head into the muzzle as soon as No. 2 has inserted the
Two pauses and three motions.
First motion.. At the
command ram, No. 1 rams home, The charge is rammed by sliding it
carefully down the bore, bending over his left knee, with the right
arm only, and back of the hand down, in a horizontal position. He
shall ensure that the charge is seated at the breach by giving a
slight "tap" with the ram. At no time shall the charge
be "pounded" into place.
Second motion. He jerks
the sponge out with his right hand, allowing it to slide through
the hand as far as the middle of the staff, when he grasps it firmly,
and seizing it close to the rammer head with the left hand, back
of the hand up, places the rammer head against the face of the piece,
straightens his left knee, and stands erect, eyes to his own front.
Third motion. He then
draws the sponge close to his body, and immediately steps back outside
the wheel, first with the right, then with the left foot; so that
when the right foot is brought to it, the right hip may be on a
line with the front of the wheel. In drawing the right foot to the
left, he gives the sponge a cant with his left hand, at the same
time quitting it, and brings the sponge to a perpendicular position
in the right hand, the rammer head resting on the right toe. In
Battle he steps to the hub and places the rammer head on the hub.
Ready. At the ready
command and the firing about to commence, No. 1 breaks well off
to the left with his left foot, bending the left knee and straightening
the right leg, drops the end of the sponge staff into the left hand,
back of the hand down, and fixes his eyes on the muzzle and his
field of view for encroachment into the "Safe Zone". The
heels should be parallel with the wheel, the body erect on the haunches,
and the sponge and rammer held in his left hand covering the right
ear with his right hand. (In battle he shall go to the ready
and take the ram from the hub on the gunner's ready command, made
after the charge has been pierced and primed).
The piece having been fired, No. 1 rises on his right knee and he
resumes his position outside the wheel, and faces to the muzzle.
At the command load, he steps in and performs his duties in the
same manner as before.
When the loading is not by detail, No. 1 goes through all his duties
at the command load, and returns to his position outside the wheel.
In sponging and ramming, if the length of the piece requires it
the sponge and rammer are to be pressed home in two motions, No.
1 extending his right hand to the end of the staff, as soon as it
reaches the muzzle.
639. Loading --- The
instructor places No. 2 on the left of the piece, where he remains
faced to the front until the command load. ( In battle
he will wear heavy gauntlets) At this command, he faces to his
right, and by two oblique steps, corresponding to those of No. 1,
the first with his left foot, the second with his right, at the
command two he places himself near the muzzle of the piece.
At the command three, he brings up his left foot to the side
of the right, and faces to the right, bringing his hands together
to receive the ammunition from No. 5; the cartridge in the right,
the shot in the left hand. As soon as the sponge is withdrawn by
No. 1, he faces to the left, and puts the ammunition into the muzzle,
taking care that the seam of the cartridge does not come under the
vent, and then steps back, commencing with his left foot, to his
position outside the wheel, in the same manner that No. 1 does.
At the command ready, he breaks off well to the right, with
his right foot, bending the right knee, and straightening the left
knee; the body erect on the haunches, the eyes fixed on the muzzle
and his field of view watching for encroachment into the "Safe
The piece having been fired, No. 2 raises on his left leg, and resumes
his position outside the wheel, and faces the muzzle in preparation
to "clear the piece". (in battle he takes up
the worm when the gun is fired and faces the muzzle in preparation
to "clear the piece")
640. Serving the vent. ---
The instructor places No. 3 on the right of the piece, on a line
with the knob of the cascable, and covering No. 1; he holds the
priming wire in his right hand, the thumb stall on the left thumb.
Alternately he may use light gloves in battle.
At the command load he steps to his left, wipes the vent
field (or surface around the vent) with the thumbstall, which he
then holds pressed upon the vent, keeping his elbow raised; his
fingers on the left side of the piece, so as to allow the gunner
to point over his thumb; the right hand to his side. When the piece
is sponged, and the charge inserted by No. 2, he jumps to the end
of the trail handspike, and seizing it with both hands, prepares
to move it to the right or left, on a signal from the gunner, who
taps the right of the trail for a movement to the left, and the
left of it for a movement to the right. As soon as the piece is
pointed, the gunner raises both hands as a signal to No. 3, who
then resumes his post.
At the command ready he steps to the piece, pricks the cartridge,
with two fingers on the outside of the ring, taking care that the
vent wire is sitting on top of the charge before pricking. As soon
as the friction tube is inserted he places his thumb on the lanyard
link, taking care to be clear of the vent. At the second command
"ready" he steps to his right, clear of the right
wheel, covers his left ear, faces to the front to watch for incursions
into the "safe Zone". At the command load, serves the
vent as before.
No. 3 must keep the vent closed from the time the sponge enters
the muzzle until the charge is seated by No.1 and the ram removed.
641.a. Firing. --- The instructor
places No. 4 on the left of the piece, opposite No. 3, and covering
No. 2; he is equipped with a tube pouch on his right hip and lanyard.
(in battle he shall wear light gloves)
At the command load, No. 4 inserts the lanyard hook into
the ring of a primer, taking care not to foul the lanyard with knots
and stands fast.
At the command ready, he steps in with the right foot, drops
the tube into the vent, takes the lanyard in his right hand, moves
to the rear so far as to keep the lanyard slack, but capable of
being stretched, without altering his position, which should be
outside the wheel, the left foot broken to the left and rear. He
shall face the gunner and raise his free hand to indicate to the
gunner that the piece is primed and ready.
On the command "fire" or as directed by the gunner
in case of battery commands, no. 4 pulls the lanyard briskly and
firmly, passing the hand, back up, in a downward direction to the
rear, so as to keep the lanyard hook from flying back in the direction
of the face.
In the absence of No. 4, No. 3 discharges his duties; after pricking
the cartridge, he prepares and inserts a friction tube, steps to
his post, faces the vent, breaks to his rear with his left foot,
and at the command fire, discharges the piece. He then resumes his
post and tends the vent as before.
641. b. Immediately
upon firing and the gun being run back up into position the gun
shall be cleared of ammunition debris. (In battle this shall
be done without further command) in drill it shall be done with
the command "clear the piece" to differentiate
the action as not required when using proper ordnance.
The gun shall be cleared in the following manner.
Each man shall perform the duties in clearing the gun as in serving
the piece called out above.
No. 3 shall brush the vent, and shall stop the vent until all actions
are completed. No. 3 shall take care that if undue resistance is
met to the entry of the brush that he inspects to see if the primer
shaft was not ejected, if so he shall remove it with the gimlet.
No. 2 shall take up the worm and worm out the debris, showing it
to the gunner or #3 to ascertain it is complete and deposit it under
No. 1 shall sponge the bore, inspecting the sponge to ascertain
that no hot debris exists. If so he shall remove the debris and
sponge the bore as before.
No.2 shall take up the dry sponge and sponge the bore.
The gun may not be loaded until three minutes has been expended
from the last firing unless the wet and dry sponging is repeated
then the time may be reduced to two minutes. The gunner shall mark
641. c. Should the tube fail
to explode the charge, the gunner immediately commands, don't
advance, the primer has failed.
Nos. 1 & 2 shall cross their
rammers over the wheels making an "X"
The gunner shall attempt to
determine the cause.
If the primer has fired a three
minute delay shall be observed before any further action is taken.
At the end of three minutes the gunner shall step steps inside the
wheel, close to and in front of, the axletree, received a priming
wire over the wheel from No. 3, and with the vent wire probe to
see if the charge is under the vent.
If not, the charge is to be carefully re tamped with the ram in
the bore no longer than necessary and the "Safe Zone"
If under the vent, the charge is to be re pierced
The gun shall be re-primed by the gunner with a primer attached
to the lanyard that he has received from No.4 over the wheel from
his position at the axle. And fired as if just loaded.
If the gun does not fire after three attempts, water will be placed
in the vent and down the bore and the charge removed with the worm
and placed in the sponge bucket.
If the primer has not fired the gunner shall re-prime from his position
inside the wheel in front of the axel with a primer attached to
the lanyard that he has received from No.3 over the wheel and re-fire
the gun without the three minute delay.
The gunner shall record the misfire, the action taken and the determined
cause in his daily report.
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