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[ Weapons of Antietam ]

Model 1857 12-pounder light gun-howitzer


Napoleon (with limber)
Napoleon (with limber)

Common name:   Napoleon

Description:   This famous gun was French-developed under Emperor Napoleon III in 1856, and the US War Department obtained license to produce it in 1857. There were more of these pieces on the Campaign than any other type.

The gun tube was made of bronze, and had a smooth bore. It was the most popular and widely used Light Artillery weapon of the War in Federal service, and was by far the most common piece (on either side) on the field at Sharpsburg.

Accurate at all ranges, it was especially effective using cannister at close range much like a giant shotgun. It was extremely well built and highly reliable, even after firing 200 or more rounds in a day's engagement.

Most Federal Napoleons were manufactured in Massachusetts by the Ames Company and the Revere Copper Company. The Confederates reproduced the Napoleon design at foundries located in Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, Virginia, Georgia and South Carolina.

Employment at Sharpsburg:   There were about 130 Napoleons in Federal Service at Antietam and 30 or more pieces in Confederate batteries. Find units equipped with these.

Ammunition Used:   solid shot (12.3 lb), spherical case, common shell, cannister

Manufacturer:   various Federal Arsenals    Where made:   various    Model:   1857    Year(s) made:   1857-

Maximum Range:   1619 yards     Muzzle Velocity:   1485 fps

Barrel/Tube Length:   66 inches     Bore:   4.62 inches     Weight:   2355 pounds

Other notes:   Weight figure is for standard gun carriage (1,128lb) + tube (1,227lb).
Max range is for 2.5 lb black powder charge behind a 12.3 lb. solid shot.

More on the Web:   See more about this and other Civil War artillery at the comprehensive Civil War Artillery Page, by Chuck Ten Brink or the very nice Basic Facts page from Jack W. Melton, Jr. The NPS has a fine general introduction to Civil War artillery in a 3-page presentation.

Source Information:   Johnson, Curt & Anderson, Richard C., Artillery Hell: Employment of Artillery at Antietam, College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press, 1995.

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