site logo

Antietam Artillery Weapon

Model 1857 12-pounder light gun-howitzer



Manufacturer: various Federal Arsenals

Where made: various

Model: 1857

Year(s) made: 1857-

Napoleon (with limber)

Napoleon (with limber)


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 131 Napoleons in Federal Service and 30 or more pieces in Confederate batteries on the Campaign.


Find units equipped with these.

Ammunition Used

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


4.62 inches

Maximum range

1619 yards

Muzzle Velocity

1485 feet per second

Barrel Length

66 inches


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.


« to Weapons Index