The Union Army used this cannon during the American Civil War, which was fought between 1861 and 1865. Called a siege cannon, it was too big and heavy to be used in most battles. Instead, it was used during sieges, which were lengthy assaults used to capture fortified cities or seaports.
This particular type of siege cannon is called a Parrott Rifle. It was invented in 1860 by a former U.S. Army captain named Robert Parker Parrott, who designed a series of spiral grooves, called riffling, inside the iron barrel, or bore. The riffling made the cannon fire much farther and more accurately than previous bronze cannons that had smooth bores. As a result, this rifled barrel could hit a target almost two miles away. This is one reason more people were killed in the Civil War than in any other war in American history.
Rifled cannons used different types of projectiles: solid shot cannon balls for knocking down brick walls and fortifications; shells with time fuses for making explosions; or case shot, which contained dozens of small iron balls. These balls flew through the air like bullets, killing any soldier in their path.
Today, our Parrot Rifle rests on a modern steel stand so it can be displayed safely. Originally, it would have been on a wooden carriage with wheels, which allowed soldiers with eight horses to move the cannon where it was needed. The wheels also absorbed the shock when the cannon was fired.
4.2-inch (30-pounder) Army Parrott Rifle, Model of 1861
Manufacturer: West Point Foundry, Cold Springs, New York
Date of manufacture: 1862
Materials: Cast iron with wrought iron breech band
Range: Approximately 2,500 yards
The Union Army used these guns in the sieges of Savannah, Charleston, Vicksburg, Mobile, Richmond, Petersburg, and many other places. It is not known where this particular gun was used.
Gun Crews of Company H, 3rd Massachusetts Heavy Artillery at Fort Lincoln - Defenses of Washington, District of Columbia, 1865