The word "cannon" is derived from the Latin canna, meaning tube, pipe or gun and dates back to the 13th Century. In the 1400's, the term described a cylinder made from iron bars "soldered" together and fortified with iron hoops.
By the 18th Century, cannon barrels were cast in one piece and designated by the weight of the shot they fired. The largest weapons at Fort Lee were the 32 pounders which had an overall length of 10 feet and were able to develop a high muzzle velocity of up to 1,300 feet per second.
Loading and Firing
The gunnery crew, consisting of 7 to 12 men, inserted the powder charge and compacted it with a rammer. The projectile, either a solid shot or bar shot for ripping and splintering masts and rigging or an incendiary shell for setting ship decks afire - was loaded into the barrel. The cannoneer, sighting the target and depending on experience and long hours of practice, aimed the piece and ordered the cannon fired. A burning stick, or lint-stock, was used to ignite the powder in the vent.