Survey "Artillery, 1300-1870"
Contributed by John Morris
Artillery is a vast topic. Use of solid chemical propellant Artillery spans the period from the birth of the gonne, perhaps in the 13th century, to the current sophisticated mechanisms capable of firing electronically-guided projectiles. Land-based artillery has for about the past three centuries been divided into three basic classes of weapons, the mortar, howitzer, and gun. Mortars, with very short barrels, traditionally fired explosive projectiles with the tube elevated to 45 degrees. Mortars were and are very efficient weapons, lobbing heavy shells to relatively long ranges at low velocities. Howitzers, with somewhat longer barrels, fired at lower elevations. Their primary projectile was the explosive shell, used at medium ranges. They could fire deadly anti-personnel grape or canister shot at short range. Guns had the longest barrels, in order to develop the highest possible muzzle velocity for their usual projectile, the solid shot. They were used to batter the walls of fortifications, hulls and rigging of ships, or to devastate formations of troops. Guns fired at low elevations, typically under five degrees.
The relatively large number of surviving weapons from all periods of artillery development and use make the subject fairly limitless, and certainly beyond the mastery of any individual. Definitive research on early artillery weapons, accoutrements, and their development and use is in its infancy. Still, a few excellent works exist. Blackmore, H.L., The Armouries of the Tower of London, v. I The Ordnance, HMSO, London, 1976 is representative. One of the more intensively researched sub-categories is artillery of the American Civil War. The original work, which surveyed and classified surviving weapons, is Warren Ripley's Artillery and Ammunition of the American Civil War, Litton Educational Publishing, New York, 1970, revised in 1984. This classic, is in this writer's opinion, the most readable, interesting and informative work available for general audiences. Later works by Olmstead et al have gone deeper into field artillery and big guns respectively. Another classic, basic work full of illustrations and recommended to anyone new to the field is H.L. Peterson's Round Shot and Rammers, Bonanza Books, New York, 1969. It covers the primary types of artillery used in America from about 1680-1865.