Civil War Artillery

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Civil War artillery was awkward and clumsy. It was difficult to move over the roads of the period and of limited effect in field engagements. It was very useful however in the numerous siege operations conducted by both sides and also in the role of damaging an enemy's morale.

Nevertheless, against the closely packed formations of both Horse and Foot employed on the battlefields of the period, well served artillery could be extremely damaging. Therefore the train of artillery of any army was regarded not as a lumbering impedimenta but as a vital constituent of its fighting capabilities.

Many varieties of gun existed and classification varied widely, however the most common forms and their most widely accepted specifications are listed below.


Name Calibre (ins.) Weight (lb) Length (ft) Weight of shot (lb) Weight of powder (lb) Men Horses
Robinet 1.25 120 0.75 - - -
Falconet 2 210 4 1.25 - - -
Falcon 2.75 700 6 2.25 2.50 16 2
Minion 3 1500 8 4 3.50 20 4
Saker/Drake 3.50 2500 9.50 5.25 5 24 5
Demi-Culverin 4.50 3600 10 9 9 36 7
Culverin 5 4000 11 15 18 50 8
Demi-Cannon 6


12 27 25 60 10
Cannon 7 7000

10 47 34 70 12
Cannon Royal 8 8000 8 63 40 80 16

The figures quoted in the table for men and horses refer to the requirements to actually move the piece and do not include gun crew. As an example crews might consist of three gunners and six matrosses (assistants) for a demi-cannon and two gunners and four matrosses for a culverin. The stores and ammunition required to service the guns also required a great deal of logistical effort. A Royalist bye-train of four big guns detailed to attack Banbury Castle in 1642 needed the services of fifty-seven wagons. Horse teams were ponderous enough, but teams of oxen, used when horses could not be had were even slower. Melton Mowbray in the shadow of Belvoir Castle was an important centre for draught horses.

Rates of fire tended to be slow (eight shots per hour from a cannon), and gunnery was often inaccurate. For instance, the gunners at Blackburn over Christmas, 1642 were so poor that though they fired their demi-culverin “most of the night and the day following .... the greatest execution it did .... a bullet shot out of it entered into a house .... and burst the bottom of a frying pan”, after which the Royalists withdrew “that they might eate their Christmas pyes at home ....”. When facing the guns in person and without the security of stone walls not all soldiers could afford to be so glib.

Round shot were usually of cast iron or stone where necessary. However case shot, also called hail or “Murdering Shot” was another type of projectile made up of numbers of musket balls or scrap metal loaded into canisters of tin, lanthorn or canvas bags and were used against men and horses at close range. Such tactics were especially effective when defending a breach or narrow approach. Many outmoded guns were retained in use on fortifications for such purposes delivering devastating blows on unfortunate storming parties. Elias Archer proclaimed how attackers might fall foul of case shot in his description of the seige of Basing House where men of Sir William Waller's Company were caught, “Sir William's Captaine Lieutenant by an unfortunate mistake in the way to the place where he was designed to goe on, went with his party which he then commanded up a lane where the enemy had planted two drakes with case-shot, which being fired slew both him and many of his men, whose losse was very much lamented.”

Another powerful siege piece was the mortar. Mortars fired explosive shells, or granadoes, along a high trajectory. Such shells could be huge and capable of causing the most damaging of physical and morale sapping effects. At the seige of Lathom House mortars ”struck most fear into the garrison .... The mortar peice was that that troubled us all. The little ladyes had stomack to digest cannon, but the stoutest souldiers had noe heart for grandoes .... The mortar peece .... had frightened 'em from meat and sleepe.“

Also in the arsenal of the artilleryman was the petard, a bell shaped device containing explosives which needed to be set against a gate or wall in order to blow a breach in it. The petardier, presumably having survived placing his lethal cargo in the face of the concerted attention of the defenders, still ran the very real risk of being blown up in the explosion, or ”hoist by his own petard“. Many petardiers, including a man named George Cranage who blew down the doors of Oswestry Castle, had to be “well lined with sack” (made drunk on course wine) before the attempt was made.

As with soldiers of other times Civil War gunners serving a major war machine often gave their weapons individual names. At least two were called ”Roaring Meg“, and two huge demi-cannon were both known as ”The Queen's Pocket Pistol“, whilst other names included ”Gog“, ”Magog“, ”Sweet Lips“ (named after a renowned whore), and less inspiringly, ”Kill-Cow“.