This Armstrong gun was one of two presented to the Confederate government by English admirers in 1864. Made by the firm of Sir W.C. Armstrong & Company, New Castle-Upon-Tyne, the two guns were placed at Forts Fisher and Caswell, North Carolina, to guard the port of Wilmington. The Fort Fisher gun was captured on January 15, 1865 and sent to West Point. The Fort Caswell gun was captured by the Navy about the same time, was sent to Annapolis, and is believed to have been scrapped during World War II. West Point's gun is believed to be the only survivor of its type.
Weighing 15,737 pounds, it was described by one Union officer as " . . . the most elegantly finished piece of artillery I ever saw . . . " Though a muzzle loader, it was one of the most advanced weapons of its day. Made of steel with iron bands, it used a unique "shunt" rifling system that allowed easy loading; studs on the shell loosely guiding the round on the way down the bore. When fired, the round was "shunted" to a set of shallow grooves and tightly nipped on the way out, insuring accuracy. The gun fired two types of rounds; a shell which anticipated the modern "shaped charge" with a heat activated fuze, and a flat nosed armor piercing round for short range work against ironclad warships. Though it could be deadly against Union vessels, the gun's effectiveness during the fighting for Fort Fisher, the Confederacy's last blockade running port, was limited by a shortage of ammunition.
The Armstrong gun has been an important part of the West Point landscape since 1865. It is the most photographed artillery piece among the many on Trophy Point, and it both dominates and defines Trophy Point. As such, it is an integral part of this National Historic Landmark. The original teak and mahogany carriage deteriorated long ago, and the gun is mounted on a steel replica carriage incorporating the original fittings.