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Glen A Cleeton




Location: Nipmuc USA
Joined: 21 Aug 2003

Posts: 1,803

PostPosted: Tue 06 Dec, 2005 3:53 pm    Post subject: An Odd Artillery Reference         Reply with quote

Hamster brain that I am, I got sidetracked during some Missouri cavalry research and found this reference to one of the "famous" cannon of the conflict.

Quote:

One of Bledsoe's guns was captured by the Missourians in the Mexican war at the battle of Sacramento. It was presented by the general government to the State of Missouri and for years stood on the bluff overlooking the Missouri river at Lexington. Bledsoe brought it out with a yoke of oxen. There was a considerable percentage of silver in its composition, which gave it a ring when fired that could be distinguished on the field amidst the firing of a hundred ordinary guns. Bledsoe's battery was always in the thickest of the fight, and the soldiers of the State Guard, as well as the Federals, soon came to know "Old Sacramento's" voice. It became so badly grooved from use that it was finally condemned, sent to Memphis to be recast with other guns, and its identity lost.

http://www.civilwarhome.com/missouri5.htm

Now, I've read some other reference to the gun in the past but the remark concerning the gun containing considerable silver content gave me pause. The author doesn't present another source for that and I can't find the use of silver mentioned in bronze cannon alloy.

So then I move briefly to gunmetal and bell metal but kind of give up the pursuit when I find a nifty page about the Liberty Bell and the foundry that cast it.

http://www.whitechapelbellfoundry.co.uk/liberty.htm

The history of how the gun ended up in Missouri wasn't a totally unrelated subect in my quests but the "considerable silver content" is now going to bug me every time I see the word artillery.

Anyone have the definitive reference for Spanish cannon casting? I've found some neat galleries of other captured pieces but the alloy makeup is what seems to be elusive.

Cheers

GC
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Gordon Frye




Location: Kingston, Washington
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PostPosted: Wed 07 Dec, 2005 10:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Glen;

As I recall, the gun in question was in fact of Mexican manufacture, rather than Spanish. Mexico produces huge amounts of high-grade copper, and has since the 16th Century. Mexico also produces a lot of Silver as well, and (if my memory serves correctly) the two are found in an amalgam, so most Mexican copper ore has a fairly high silver content. Or should I say, most silver ore contains a lot of copper? At any event, I believe that the two are found together in the mines of Zacatecas. (Not being either a mining engineer nor a geologist, I might be way off base here, but this is what I recall.)

In any event, the guns cast in Mexico may well have therefore contained a certain amount of silver, though I don't know that it would make the gun "ring" per se. But it sounds good.

One interesting side line here is that the Mexican Army of the 1840's period used copper cannon balls. Not only do they cause less wear on the bronze tubes that everyone was using at the time for light artillery (we, and most everyone else were using iron cannon balls) but copper has a higher specific weight, thus would get slightly better range.

If you want to turn this into a good long thread about Alexander Doniphan and his 1st Missouri Mounted Volunteers, I'm game. What a bunch of wild characters!

Cheers!

Gordon

"After God, we owe our victory to our Horses"
Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada
http://www.renaissancesoldier.com/
http://historypundit.blogspot.com/
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Glen A Cleeton




Location: Nipmuc USA
Joined: 21 Aug 2003

Posts: 1,803

PostPosted: Thu 08 Dec, 2005 7:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for that Gordon,

That sounds pretty resonable to me.
The copper shot is a new one to me too. What's not related in the account I pasted is that Bledsoe had the gun rebored as a 12 pounder. That and the loads would explain how they managed to use it up pretty quickly (relatively) in the later conflicts.

I had read some of the accounts of Doniphan and crew. I'd like to find a good roster list. There don't seem to be as many online resources for that war.

There was quite a bit of artillery captured in the battle at the Sacramento. The battle itself almost makes one go "Huh. how'd they do that?". Only a small handful killed, with significant casulties and prisoners taken on the Mexican side.

Cheers

GC
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Gordon Frye




Location: Kingston, Washington
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PostPosted: Thu 08 Dec, 2005 8:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Glen;

Yup, reboring a 6-pounder to a 12-pounder would definitely "use it up" quicker! Eek! Yikes. But then, such were the ways of those halcyon days... I've been to Lexington, Missouri and seen the court house with the cannon ball stuck into the wall. Pretty cool!

Per copper shot, there had been some mention of it, but nothing "solid" as it were, until the NPS did an archaeological survey of the Palo Alto Battlefield a few years ago. There they found, you guessed it, several copper "shot" of the proper diameter within the American positions, fired from the Mexican lines.

A good synopsis of the travels and excitements of Doniphan's Missourians can be found in "Year of Decision: 1846" by Bernard de Voto. Written just before WWII, it has a certain enthusiasm which most popular history of this day and age doesn't have, but it's fun to read. He of course leaves out the ugly sides of things, but his description of the Battle of Sacramento is pretty amusing, and as you say, it's astonishing to all concerned that a bunch of backwoods yahoo's with no military training at all could assault and overrun a professional military position such as the Mexicans had set up, but there it is. As Frederick Ruxton noted, they were full of fight as game cocks, and all excellent shots as well.

Speaking of Ruxton, check into his works. Frederick Ruxton was a half-pay captain on leave from the British Army, and had a rather mysterious adventure in Mexico during the 1846-48 war with the US. His is the description always given of Santa Anna while being allowed through the American blockade early in the war, btw. Anyway, the book "Ruxton of the Rockies" is compiled from his notes and journals from that and other North American adventures. Quite a character, well liked by all he met, American or Mexican. He also wrote an interesting novel based on his experiences: "Life in the Far West" that contains much information of interest.

Another good source for info on the Missourians is in "Wah-To-Yah and the Taos Trail" by Lewis Garrard. He actually knew Ruxton, which is interesting as well. He was involved as a local volunteer in Pap Price's suppression of the Taos Revolt of 1847, with the 2nd Missouri Mounted Volunteers.

Anyway, it's a subject that I've spent some time digging into, so feel free to email me for more. Or I can throw out more here, too. Big Grin

Cheers!

Gordon

"After God, we owe our victory to our Horses"
Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada
http://www.renaissancesoldier.com/
http://historypundit.blogspot.com/
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Glen A Cleeton




Location: Nipmuc USA
Joined: 21 Aug 2003

Posts: 1,803

PostPosted: Thu 08 Dec, 2005 2:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the references Gordon. As I started my first post, I'm a bit of a hamster brain and take off on a lot of tangents. Price is another name I'm kind of trailing.

Most of the sites I'm reading about the gun list it as a nine pounder originally but still.

I'm really just working on some paternal family stuff in the pre Civil War era of Missouri. I'm working Beck, Crawford and Morgan as well as my family name. All four families were kind of shadowing the surge of westward expansion. I'm looking mostly for some better detail between the Kentucky and Missouri years (1790-1830).

Cheers and thanks again

GC
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