The Mountain Howitzer

    A smaller piece of artillery compared to the 3" Ordnance Rifle or a 12 pound Napoleon, to look at it caused many not to take its effectiveness seriously. Upon first glance many would laugh as the Confederates under Partisan John Mosby had once done. Employed in special terrain and short-range situations however, this weapon proved its worthiness to roll into position along the front line. The Confederates would affectionately call it the "Bull Pup."

    The load could handle the same as any 12 pound gun, however, the small scale on which it was designed from barrel to wheel carriage weighed less than the standard barrel on Confederate Artillery. It weighed in at slightly over 500 pounds as a whole.

     One was given to Colonel John Mosby by his commander Major General James Ewell Brown Stuart. Believed to be one of the pieces captured from the Federal Force under Colonel Edward (Ned) Baker at Ball's Bluff in October of 1861. To use this piece in the mountain style warfare along the Blue Ridge, the weapon was convenient in that a mule rather than a team of horses can draw it.

     The United States Army first saw these weapons in the year 1837, and the Ordnance Departments during the Civil War mentioned them as 1841models. The government making modifications to their field effectiveness already.

     The Mountain Howitzer had seen plenty of action during the Great War. Employed mostly during short clashes known as skirmishes and affairs, one battery, the 18th Indiana Artillery had employed them during the hell at Chickamauga in Georgia.

     Wonderfully suited for engaging the enemy at short range in terrain a standard artillery officer would think twice to deploy, the mountain howitzer could lob shot and shell into fortified positions with better accuracy because of its ability to fire at a higher trajectory.

     Field operations by regulation called for a battery of mountain howitzers to consist of a six gun battery drawn by thirty-three mules. Riding along with the animals would be a spare carriage, maintenance tools, and 48 assorted rounds of ammunition per gun. In common practicality, however, they were normally deployed by four gun batteries in two sections.

     Each piece had a crew of six men. The gunner and five soldiers known as numbers 1 through 5. The ammunition mule stood fifteen yards behind the piece. Looking backwards, all of the guns support would be aligned straight behind it.

     Although looked at rather humorously during the war's very beginning, the mountain howitzer was a prized possession by all armies, particularly that of the cavalry branch. It would serve well to earn itself an honored name among Civil War field pieces, and become a revered part of artillery history.

Daniel Moran
© 2001

Editors Note: Mr.Moran is a new feature writer on the US-Civilwar.com writers staff.
He may be contacted with your questions, ideas and requests at dmoran@us-civilwar2.com