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Civil War Artillery projectiles

Civil War Artillery projectiles

There were three general types of artillery projectiles in use during the Civil War, shot, shell, and shrapnel. Shot, the oldest artillery projectile dating to the 12th century, is intended to strike its target as a single piece, a shell, dating to the 16th century, is intended to be fired as a single piece, then explode before or when striking the ground. Shrapnel, or spherical case, was invented in 1784 to carry case shot longer distances.

Shot - Although the term does not designate a specific shape, most round Civil War era cannonballs seen today on battlefields are shot, solid iron projectiles intended to strike a target in a single piece and damage the target with kinetic energy. The introduction of rifled cannon saw the creation "spherical shot," a cylinder tapered at one end. The base of the cylinder would flare to take advantage of the rifling on the cannon barrel.

Smaller versions of shot were packed together and dispersed after firing by any number of techniques. This smaller shot, most commonly called grape (or grape-shot) and canister, were highly effective anti-personal devices at ranges up to a quarter-mile. By the Civil War use of grape shot on land-based targets (mostly infantry) was limited because it was not as effective as canister.

Shell - While most surviving Civil War cannonball are shot, round cannonball from the era could also be shells, a hollow ball packed with explosive and ignited with a fuse. These contained enough gunpowder to blow the shell apart, and send pieces of the shell into enemy infantry. Explosive shells were not new when they were perfected for cannon in 1823. In common use by the 1840's, shells revolutionized naval warfare (it made wooden ships obsolete for military purposes) but were far less revolutionary on ground forces.

Shells for rifled cannon were long, tapered cylinders that flared at the bottom to take advantage of the rifling on the barrel. Shells featured a paper fuse in a brass fitting. They could also be fitted with a percussion fuse that exploded on contact with the ground or other hard object. During The Civil War the paper fuses were slowly replaced with other manual timing devices designed to detonate the shell before it hit the ground.

Shrapnel - After returning to England from Newfoundland in 1784, Royal Artillery First Lt. Henry Shrapnel began investigating increasing the distance limitations of canister shot with his own time and money. He used a shell packed with small shot triggered by a timed gunpowder charge to extend the effective range to more than a mile. Shrapnel was also packed with a smoke charge, that was set off when the projectile exploded so the artillery could be accurately ranged.

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Civil War Artillery projectiles was last changed on - May 8, 2007
Civil War Artillery projectiles was added on - April 19, 2007

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