Fort Ethan Allen had emplacements for 36 guns.
The forts that formed the Defenses of Washington were placed at half-mile intervals, supplemented with artillery batteries and rifle pits, making a nearly continuous connection between them. The armaments were chosen for their range of fire and positioned to ensure that the line of defenses had no gaps. The strategy worked—no Confederate attack on Washington succeeded.
The 20-pounder Parrott rifle (replica) in front of you—like other field guns—was portable, transported on a gun carriage, and called into service where needed.
What Ammunition Did They Fire?
· Solid shot
A spherical shape (cannon ball) made from a desne material such as iron: it smashed its target.
A thin-walled metal cylinder filled with lead pellets and sawdust: it turned a cannon into a giant shotgun, scattering the contents in all directions.
· Explosive shells
Hollow casings filled with black powder or powder and shot: casings burst into large pieces.
What Is Artillery
Operated by a crew of soldiers, artillery consists of a variety of large-caliber weapons, collectively known as cannons.
· Guns, howitzers, and mortars
These cannons fire ball-shaped
ammunition from barrels with smooth interior bores.
These cannons shoot elongated, bullet-shaped projectiles from barrels with spiral-grooved boxes. Typically, rifled artillery is more accurate and can fire longer distances than smooth-bore cannons.
Fort Ethan Allen's artillery inventory in 1865 included:
· three 6-pounder guns
· four 24-pounder guns
· three 32-pounder guns
· two 8-inch howitzers
· three 32-pounder howitzers
· three 10-poundr Parrott rifles
· eleven 30-pounder Parrott rifles
· six 12-pounder Napoleon guns
· four 10-inch mortars
· two 24-pounder Coehorn mortars
The term "pounder" refers to the weight of the ammunition the cannons fired. The range of fire for most cannons is approximately one mile.
Positioning the Guns
Fort Ethan Allen's configuration of guns would have been similar to this one at Fort Lincoln in Washington, D.C.
How many men did it take to fire a cannon?
Firing a cannon was an art requiring skilled team effort. A well-drilled gun crew, consisting of seven men (1-7) plus a gunner (G), could fire two to three rounds per minute from a field cannon. Gunners and their crew followed a strict set of rules to load, ready, aim, and fire—a sequence that demanded coordinated precision and practice.
6 and 7 cut fuses and distribute rounds to 5, who carries them to 2. 1 sponges barrel. 2 puts round in gun. 1 rams round into barrel while 3 closes vent with thumbnail. G sights the gun and gives commands.
1 and 2 step clear. 3 pricks cartridge with priming wire. 4 hooks lanyard to primer, puts primer in vent, and moves to the rear. G stands clear.
3 steps clear. G gives the command, and 4 pulls lanyard, firing the gun.