The Modern Battery

Bankhead’s Battery was re-formed in 1972, again in Memphis, in honor of its namesake and his gallant Tennesseans. Our gun crews specialize in the use of our two smoothbore 6 pounder field cannons, the showpiece being an 1861 Noble Brothers 6 pounder founded in Rome, Georgia, and rescued from the ignominy of a discarded and rusty death by Division Commander Tarry Beasley, also a Memphis attorney. The Noble Brothers is fully restored and still delivers a throaty Confederate Welcome at both live shoots and at reenactments of the War of Northern Aggression.

Bankhead’s Battery is very active, participates in numerous reenactment events annually, and was involved in filming the television special “The Mississippians”, the remake of the Shiloh National Battlefield visitor center video “Shiloh: Fiery Trial” (2011), as well as the motion pictures “The North and The South, Part II” and “Glory.” The objectives of Bankhead’s Battery are:

  1. To further understanding of the War between the States and the principles on which it was fought;
  2. To honor our forefathers who honorably served the Confederacy and stood to protect their homelands;
  3. To actively and authentically demonstrate the skills of the Artillery of the 1861-1865 period;
  4. To actively participate in historical reenactments of the War between the States for the benefit of the public;
  5. For the fellowship benefits derived by members of the Battery in the foregoing activities.

The Civil War Battery

During the Civil War, artillery batteries often consisted of six field pieces for the Union Army and four for the Confederate States Army. Batteries were divided into sections of two guns apiece, each section normally under the command of a lieutenant. The full battery was typically commanded by a captain. As the war progressed individual batteries were often grouped into battalions under a major or colonel of artillery.
Civil War artillery included the use of the 6-pounder Gun, M1857 12-pounder “Napoleon”, 12-pounder Howitzer, 12-pounder Mountain Howitzer, 24– pounder Howitzer, 10-pounder Parrott rifle, 3-inch Ordance rifle, 14-pounder James Rifle, 20-pounder Parrott rifle, and the 12-pounder Whitworth breechloading rifle.
There were two general types of artillery weapons used during the Civil War: smoothbores (included howitzers and guns) and rifles.
Ammunition came in wide varieties, designed to attack specific targets. A typical Union artillery battery (armed with six 12-pounder Napoleons) carried the following ammunition going into battle: 288 shot, 96 shells, 288 spherical cases, and 96 canisters.
* Shot (or bolt) was a solid projectile that had no explosive charge.
* Shells included an explosive charge and were designed to burst into fragments in the midst of enemy infantry or artillery.
* Case (or shrapnel) were anti-personnel projectiles carrying a smaller burst charge than shell; more effective against exposed troops.
* Canister shot was the deadliest type of ammunition, consisting of a thin metal container loaded with layers of lead or iron balls packed in sawdust.
* Grapeshot was the predecessor of, and a variation on, canister, in which a smaller number of larger metal balls were arranged on stacked iron
plates with a threaded bolt running down the center to hold them as a unit inside the barrel.
Horses were required to pull the enormous weight of the cannon and ammunition; on average, each horse pulled about 700 pounds (317.5 kg). Each gun in a battery used two six-horse teams: one team pulled a limber that towed the gun, the other pulled a limber that towed a caisson.
The limber was a two-wheeled carriage that carried an ammunition chest. It was connected directly behind the team of six horses and towed either a gun or a caisson. The combination of a Napoleon gun and a packed limber weighed 3,865 pounds (1,753.1 kg).
The caisson was also a two-wheeled carriage. It carried two ammunition chests and a spare wheel. A fully loaded limber and caisson combination weighed 3,811 pounds (1728.6 kg).
The limbers, caissons, and gun carriages were all constructed of oak. Each ammunition chest typically carried about 500 pounds (226.8 kg) of ammunition or supplies. In addition to these vehicles, there were also battery supply wagons and portable forges that were used to service the guns.

Limber and Gun

Limber and Gun

Caisson and Limber

Caisson and Limber

Traveling Forge and Battery Wagon

Traveling Forge and Battery Wagon

Operation of the Gun

The chief of the piece (Sergeant) has charge of the platoon, consisting of the cannoneers, drivers, and corporals (gunner and chief of the caisson). The equipment in his charge is one piece (the gun), two limbers, one caisson, and thirteen horses. He oversees the operation of the platoon and insures the gunner gives the proper range and direction during firing, that proper ammunition is readily available, and horses are properly stationed. The gunner (corporal) gives all commands for the gun in action. He communicates the orders which he receives from the chief of the piece for the kind of ammunition to be fired.

Detail Commands: Non-Detail Commands: Misfire Commands:
Load by detail
Load
Sponge
Ram
Ready
Fire
Cease Firing
Load
Ready
Fire
Cease Firing
Do no advance the primer has failed
Reprime
Fire

Cannoneers Positions and Duties

Number 1: sponges the barrel clean, rams (or seats) the ammunition
Number 2: loads the ammunition, removes debris (using the worm) from the barrel after each fire
Number 3: clears the vent after each fire, covers vent to prevent accidental fire, pricks the gun powder
Number 4: inserts primer into vent, fires gun
Number 5: delivers ammunition to No. 2
Number 6: issuers ammunition to No. 5
Number 7: assists No. 6 and may alternate with No. 5
Gunner: commands the gun

gun crew positions