A Special to longcamp.com


Paul R. Rosewitz, Lt. Colonel, US Army
Night Chief of Operations
HQ ISAF (NATO)
Kabul, Afghanistan
Copyright© 2008

 

Bob,

Thanks very much for forwarding Herb Kuehne's mountain howitzer carriage photos. I have just returned to Kabul from Bagram and saw these.

This is all very exciting! I have long suspected that the first 13 [Cyrus Alger] tubes [barrels] were on this type of carriage. It makes sense that they would adopt the carriage, as it was the test carriage that the French tube matched. There were complaints almost immediately, and alterations being made along the way. The axle was one of the chief complaints and was modified--then replaced all together. The metal skean through the middle of the axle was a later addition, just before the 1848 plans were printed, causing the prints to be modified in their final version that went to press.

I am now homesick to leave Afghanistan for the first time, because I have none of my data with me on howitzers! When I return I will pull the French plans and memoire and see what else I can glean, but I am a bit limited as my files are in a container on a ship in the Atlantic right now! Three weeks ago my wife could have pulled them out of my shipping containers, but alas, timing is everything, huh?

Okay, the items in the photo are upside down. The larger curved piece is the bottom and is the axle strap, the band that holds the axle onto the stock. The smaller round piece is the trunnion plate. This goes on the top of the carriage and is inlet into the wood. The trunnions sit down in the rounded piece and the capsquares fit over it to hold the tube on. The bar on the bottom (beneath the assembly in the picture) comes through the trunnion strap, and the capsquare hooks under the little notch on it to hold the capsquare plate to the carriage. The other end of the capsquare fits over the other piece that is sticking out, and then a key holds it on.

Now I am sure the next question is, can this be the Frémont carriage? I have to be careful with my answer here, because, obviously, I am looking at photos and not the actual item. But the shape of the irons match the French configuration of the mountain howitzer. The French model did indeed have a rounded axle band. The second bolt did go through the axle band to hold it on, and the iron was lighter than the later US version of the carriage.

I would like to be able to measure these pieces to more accurately say this is a mountain howitzer. There are still questions, since if the trunnion straps are the wrong size, this could still be some other type of carriage, but I am sure the configuration is at least correct.

Watervliet was the Arsenal of Manufacture for all Mountain howitzer carriages and equipment. Other arsenals would make up individual carriages or modifications but Watervliet was always the arsenal of manufacture for the MH. They had the special equipment to made the carriages, pack saddles, boxes, etc. in mass. Other arsenals, such at Fort Monroe and St. Louis (designated an arsenal of storage and manufacture of small arms ammunition) would only made examples or test pieces. St. Louis made up a prairie carriage and painted some prairie carriages in special paints for the "American Desert" Service.

But what that means is there were multiple early carriages, and this one may, or may not have been, Frémont's. But it is an extremely early and previously unknown version of the carriage. That is exciting. It fills a gap. I really want to get measurements so we can say it is definitely a mountain howitzer, but I do not know of any other carriages that has specifically this shape of irons.

If the location on these artifacts matches where the howitzer was supposed to be, then we can say that these are the earliest mountain howitzer carriage parts in existence, and that the first few carriages did indeed follow the French design extremely closely. Up to now, we have only been able to speculate on what the early carriages look like, because all the carriages in existence follow the 1848 version of blueprints that incorporate the lessons learned from the Mexican War.

That being said, I do believe this is an American manufactured version of the French model--not a purchased French piece. We [US Army] had the blueprints of the 1828 French carriage, and the memoire of all the parts required, so it would be natural for us to produce a copy of their equipment. In any event, we know that the US tube is nearly the same as the French, and there were no dolphins on either. I think this find further reinforces that if this is the Frémont Carriage, then the howitzer was a standard howitzer, and did not have dolphins--that detail in the Pruess litho is just wrong.

There are three tires in the photo for wheels. That is strange! The pack carriage would only use two. So, are these artillery wheels, and if so, were there four, indicating a limber arrangement as I proposed in other writings, or was there a spare wheel along? Or are these just random tires in the pile? This I can not speculate on, but would love to know the diameter of the wheel. There is much discussion on height of wheels at different periods prior to the standardization of 1848. The rivet holes for the tires should be countersunk, round holes. There would be six on the tire, one for each fellow on the wheel (which had two spokes per fellow), and the bolt would be countersunk into the tire and have a nut on the fellow side.

As far as Fremont having a later tube, the first contract for tubes called for 12, 13 were delivered and the next contract was not delivered until 1846. His could only of been one of the first 13.

Best, Paul

 

May 4, 2008

Bob,

Okay, It is good to look these things over and then step away and come back. I have realized that the strap is the axle band. The problem I was having was with it having the chin bolt running through it, but looking at the drawing again, it is now clear. The axle band is one piece with two holes that the chin bolts go through, and the end pieces are separate and go on the nave portion of the axle and are nailed. The axle retaining bands hold this assembly in place on the axle. Does that make sense? It is very clear now that I reflect on it for a bit. Also, It appears that the chin bolt and the key bolts are reversed. I can't see the tops well, but they seem to be assembled backwards. The key bolt would be in the front and the wedge key would fit into it and be attached to the front of the carriage by a chain. The chin bolt would be in the rear and the capsquare would lock under it. I can't really tell in the photo, but they seem to be reversed.

see Paul's images

I also can not make out what the piece of flat iron is that is pinned in the middle. It would have been interesting to see other items also, such as the elevating screw box, which was different on the French than the US, and its arranged at a different angle because of the US trunnions being in line and the French trunnions being under the axis of fire, so the elevating screw contacts the tube at a different angle. The nave boxes of the wheels would be of interest also. These are bronze (as is the elevating screw box) and may be the reason they did not find them--they could have been taken long ago or missed because they are not iron.

Well, I am intrigued to say the least.

Paul

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