Artillery through the ages has played a very
important part of the History of Man. The evolution of Artillery
has sculpted the way wars were fought and won. In the United States
history from the Civil
War through the Spanish American War, it appears that very little
changed. Upon close inspection the notable changes
were tremendous and made a tremendous impact. Some of those
have lasted through modern day weaponry. When the Civil War started,
bronze-barreled smoothbore cannon dominated the Union’s
The introduction of rifled guns during the Civil War greatly improved
the accuracy of our cannon warfare.
The next improvement for the U.S. cannon, which
happened after the Civil War, was changing from muzzle (front)
loading to breech (rear) loading cannons.
One of the breech-loading field cannons adopted
for the United States services was the 3.2-inch field rifle.
Field Cannon – U.S. model 1885
The newly designed 1885 3.2 Field Gun, unlike its predecessor
the 3" Ordinance rifle (a front muzzle loading gun), was
developed to load from the rear. This enabled the crew to load
and fire at a more rapid rate. Its Indian War Era service record
includes Wounded Knee in 1890. This gun was used in the Spanish
American War battle at Santiago de Cuba and the Philippine Insurrection.
These breech loading unique weapons were the
1st to use dampening recoil brake systems throwing the gun forward
and back, giving it the nickname "grasshopper". Barrel
length is 88" long with a 3.2" bore giving it an accuracy
range of 5000 yards.
3" Mountain Gun
4 of these 3" breech loading mountain guns are on record as
being purchased by the U.S. Army in the early 1890's. It was to
see limited use in the Spanish-American War. The “Astor battery”
used these guns in the Philippine Insurrection of 1899, making this
a very rare U.S. Artillery specimen.
The projectiles used for this gun were: #1 a
common shell (6.3 oz. fine-grain powder) percussion fuse, #2 a
shrapnel shell loaded with 160 steel balls packed in sulfur with
a timed fuse to explode directly above the target, and #3 a canister
with 125 lead balls used for short range (like a shotgun). They
weighed approximately 12 lbs. each. The 3" caliber gun has
a maximum range of 4000 yards. It can be transported by pack mule,
as described with the 1.65" mountain gun.
Hotchkiss 1.65 Mountain Gun
U.S. military forces around 1881 adopted the Hotchkiss two-pounder
mountain gun. Primarily used for western campaigns due to their
lightweight and portability. They were generally broken down onto
a mule pack by removing the barrel, wheels and carriage separately.
The barrel length is 46" long weighing 121 lbs. the wheels
each 66 lbs. and the carriage 220 lbs., plus the standard load of
56 rounds of ammunition. Best known use of these cannons was deployment
in the Nez Pierce war of 1877 and at the Wounded Knee battle in
Two types of projectiles were issued, common
shell with a percussion fuse and canister. The caliber was 1.65
in. Maximum range was about 4000 yds. The slow moving projectile
had only a velocity of 591 ft per second at maximum range but
an initial velocity of 1298 ft per second.