In 1822, Lieutenant Colonel Paixhan, of the French artillery, submitted a plan for using long-chambered cannon at slight elevations to throw large heavy shells at a long range in the same way as solid shot.
Other countries, the United States included, recognized the advantages of this system and quickly adopted it for their own armies and navies. The U.. Navy produced a number of these "shell guns," in both 8-Inch and 10-inch calibers, and they were common weapons on the navy's warships before the Civil War. Large amounts of arms and equipment were captured by the South from Federal naval bases and army arsenals at the beginning of the Civil War. These "shell guns" were some of the most effective cannons to fall into Southern hands.
Length - 117 inches
Weight - 7056 Pounds
Bore Diameter - 8 inches
Range - 2600 yards
Spherical-case Shot Weight - 52 pounds
Shell Weight - 52.75 pounds
Grape Weight - 53.25 pounds
Canister Weight - 50 pounds
Powder Charge - 4 - 8 pounds
8 - inch Shell Gun
The marking on this gun show that it was manufactured in 1842 for the U.S. Navy at the West Point Foundry arsenal in Cold Springs, New York. It was inspected by Alexander Scammell Wadsworth, and its registration
number is 264. In its early history, it served as part of the armament of the U.S.Navy steam frigate Merrimack.
The Merrimack was decommissioned at the Gosport Navy Yard in Norfolk, VA., on February 16, 1860. The Federal nave burned her when they abandoned the navy yard on April 20, 1861. The ship's remains and cannon fell into Confederate hands. By March 1863, the shell gun had been moved to Port Hudson and placed in River Battery No. 9.
"Most of the guns that arrived were old-fashioned ordnance. There were a couple of 42-pounders, a couple of 32-pounders, and a couple 24-pounders all smooth bore, with one 8-inch sea-coast howitzer"
Lieutenant Howard C. Wright
30th Louisiana Infantry Regiment
On the night of March 15-15, 1863, Admiral David Farragut's seven ship flotilla attempted to pass the Confederate batteries at Port Hudson. This 8-inch gun, along with eighteen other heavy guns in nine river batteries, sank one ship and severely damaged four others. Only two ships were able to pass the batteries
"During this battle, heavy shells were falling fast and thick, and plowed the air...and it seemed as if the whole heavens were ablaze with thunder and lightning."
Lieutenant J.W. Harmon
35th Alabama Infantry Regiment
When the Union army surrounded the Confederate garrison on May 23,1863, they
brought up many heavy siege cannon to batter the defenses. One of the Confederate counter moves was to change the position and carriage of the shell gun.
"...and took the 8-inch howitzer from the low battery on the bluff, placing it on a pivot carriage, so as to be enabled to operate with it on land as well as on river defenses."
Captain Louis J. Girard
Chief of Ordnance