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Author Topic: Whitworth Muzzle loader projectiles  (Read 490 times)

Joe Walker

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Whitworth Muzzle loader projectiles
« on: October 02, 2019, 05:54:36 AM »
Related to my "general discussion" topic, I was trying to confirm what type of projectile (had to be a bolt) would the muzzle loading Whitworth fire? It is hard to imagine the No.! man with his rammer forcing the "standard" configured Whitworth round down the tube. Could it have been smooth, or even a spherical solid shot?

speedenforcer

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Re: Whitworth Muzzle loader projectiles
« Reply #1 on: October 02, 2019, 09:10:02 PM »
I think you are right. that would not have been a fun job.
It's not always "Survival of the fitest" sometimes the idiots get through.

CarlS

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Re: Whitworth Muzzle loader projectiles
« Reply #2 on: October 02, 2019, 10:27:26 PM »
Joe,

I moved your other thread to the artillery section as a better fit.  Plus some people rarely look at the Miscellaneous section.
Best,
Carl

Lamar

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Re: Whitworth Muzzle loader projectiles
« Reply #3 on: October 03, 2019, 01:56:41 PM »
Weren't most of the breech loaders converted to muzzle loaders?
I don't know of (but I'm no where close to being an expert!) any projectiles fired from a Whitworth that weren't six sided.

speedenforcer

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Re: Whitworth Muzzle loader projectiles
« Reply #4 on: October 05, 2019, 07:27:29 PM »
Still curious about this would it have even been possible especially in battle under fire to load a muzzle loader whitworth. im no expert I didn't even know there were muzzle loading whitworths. shows my ignorance and how much I have to learn.
It's not always "Survival of the fitest" sometimes the idiots get through.

Lamar

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Re: Whitworth Muzzle loader projectiles
« Reply #5 on: October 17, 2019, 09:08:09 PM »
Joe & speedenforcer - Colonel John Biemeck's Volume III Confederate Rifled Projectiles has 34 pages on Whitworths.  He reports "Projectiles were heavily greased when rammed down muzzle loaders", and has plenty of other info that you might find interesting.

The acknowledgement page has a bucketful of familiar names.

Woodenhead

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Re: Whitworth Muzzle loader projectiles
« Reply #6 on: October 28, 2019, 05:48:43 PM »
I don't see any recorded evidence suggesting variant projectiles were used in the Whitworth Rifles. Col. Beimeck's coverage of the topic is thorough and seems complete. There are just a few conclusions about CS production and their usage that I have learned from my years of handling examples and studying the records that are worth noting. First - I think that all the Whitworth guns were breech-loading when imported. The ammunition was supposed to be "fixed" using a shaped tin can like the example pictured below. During 1862 and 1863, the Rebel artillerymen fired fixed rounds. A "lubricating wad" or "lubricator" was positioned between the charge and the iron shell bottom for obvious reasons. Many of those tin cans might have come from England with the gun barrels and limited quantities of shells. But there are contemporary letters to the CS purchasing agent in Europe to avoid buying any items like carriages, implements and ammunition that could be made cheaper by Southern manufactories. After reading the Col's Whitworth section, I realize that this particular tin cartridge could have come more recently from South America or England. I do believe the South made some, I just don't have absolute proof right now. But they clearly used them.

Is there any proof that Sir J. Whitfield exported muzzle-loading guns? I have found convincing evidence that the Whitworths used at Fredericksburg and Chancelorsville fired "fixed" rounds employing these shaped tin canisters, and I strongly suspect that the two guns (the same two guns) fielded at Gettysburg remained breech-loading. However, the several 1864 invoices from the Fayetteville Arsenal to Petersburg, where they were used extensively, do not include any of the tin cartridges or references to fixed ammunition. I believe that was because the CS Ordnance officers had decided to convert the guns to muzzle-loading by the spring of 1864.

The second item below is an August 18, 1862 letter from the Fayetteville Arsenal to a CS agent ordering him to pickup a Whitworth gun with carriage and implements to bring to Richmond.  It was from the blockade-runner Modern Greece and included "as many rounds of "fixed" ammunition as can be spared." I assume this refers to imported British rounds but its possible they were finished rounds supplied by Fayetteville earlier. It appears that this was the first Whitworth gun sent to Virginia and fired from the heights along Mine Road (i.e., the green water tower today) at the Federal batteries posted along the Old Colonial Road where several bolts have been dug (by friends of mine). The second Whitworth gun was sent to Virginia by the Augusta Arsenal in late March 1863 and used at Bank's Ford by Hardaway. Tucker Williams dug four intact projectiles - all made by Augusta - shells with ridged (star cavity) interior. I believe these were the two Whitworths sent to Gettysburg.

The third item below is a December 1862 invoice from the Fayetteville Arsenal confirming the shipment of 420 Whitworth projectiles, lubricators and tin canisters for the guns at Wilmington, NC. The vast majority of Whitworth ammunition made by the South came from Fayetteville. Their Whitworths are the "long" pattern identified by Col. Biemeck. Fayetteville had a machine for finishing them acquired from the inventor in England. Augusta made a shorter projectile using a bolt as a mold pattern. So all of theirs are the same length. They hand finished using lathes and probably a grinding stone.

The 4th item below is a Fayetteville invoice including Whitworth canister rounds with copper bottoms. They are mentioned on other invoices. I believe that Fayetteville actually made these but they might have arrived on a blockade runner. What a rare item this would be for a serious collector's bucket list.

Enough for now,
Woodenhead

Woodenhead

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Re: Whitworth Muzzle loader projectiles
« Reply #7 on: November 07, 2019, 05:12:41 PM »
I am no overall Whitworth expert. For that, you must turn to Vol. III of Col. Biemeck's great series of shell books. But I have learned a few things I want to share with this crowd. Collectors in the future will have to rely on the knowledge and experience of this generation. So, I give my strong opinion having handled many Whitworths and their shrapnel still in the hands of the diggers from doing my Gettysburg Relics book which I started in 1985 and finished in 2008. Physical evidence has been confirmed by extensive research in the Archives records.

The first page below shows a fine Whitworth shell made in England and owned by Tom Dickey at the time (its in his and Pete's book). Tom wasn't 100% sure, but he believed it was an early pick-up in America. I also choose to believe that (although I can't prove it) because it was the pattern recovered from the wreckage of the Modern Greece during the 1960. We know the Rebels received many shells from England along with the finished breech-loading barrels. I think this was one of them.

Page 2 below is an invoice showing the shipment of 29 Whitworth shells to Wilmington that were manufactured by the renowned Fayetteville Arsenal. Each shell had an Archer's percussion fuze. About one week later, an agent was dispatched to retreive the Whitworth ammunition along with a single gun and take them to Richmond.  There  is additional correspondence backing this up.

Page 3 below shows what I believe was one of those 29 Fayetteville Whitworths sent to Richmond and fired at Gettysburg. Tom Dickey owned this and it was so finely made he thought it might have been imported. Now we can say with certainty that it was CS handiwork looking good because Fayetteville had a special machine for finishing these purchased directly from Sir Joseph Whitworth. So, no lathe cuts or lathe dimples on Fayetteville's Whitworth's. An old Gettysburg collection has an exploded nose section including the percussion fuze, and before they blew up the old Watervilet Arsenal collection, there was one of these long, sleek shells rolling around on the floor with "Gettysburg" painted on the side. This was from Union General Gilmore's extensive shell collection (commanded actions against Charleston in 1863) which I assume was donated after his death. This site reported on the destruction of a few hundred shells from Watervilet a few years ago. Authorities said they were all round balls. Sadly, I suspect they destroyed the entire collection which included many of the rarest and best documented CS shells I've ever seen.

Page 4 below shows an identical Whitworth shell with a copper fuze plug instead of percussion. This should be the most common pattern of shell sent to the field from Fayetteville. Some of these should have been found in the Fredericksburg area, Gettysburg and later Petersburg. By 1864, Fayetteville was sending almost entirely 12 pdr. bolts to the Whitworth batteries. I don't know if that was requested by the gunners or was just the easiest style to produce.

In conclusion, if you are lucky enough to have one of these long Whitworth shells, be happy that it was CS-made and not imported. The Fayetteville Arsenal was the primary source of 12pdr. (and 6pdr.) Whitworth ammunition in the South. Many projectiles were imported but we don't know the exact number.

Woodenhead

Woodenhead

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Re: Whitworth Muzzle loader projectiles
« Reply #8 on: November 12, 2019, 12:49:47 PM »
This posting will complete all I have learned about Whitworths that is worth noting. It is not a complete story, but reflects what I have learned by comparing what has come from the ground with the written records. I believe I have pinned down what type of shell Fayetteville was making and the style that came up from Augusta in March 1863. The bolts are a little harder to work out.

The first page below shows an Augusta Whitworth shell in all its glory. I photo'ed it many years ago shortly after Tucker Williams dug this one shell and 3 bolts at Banks Ford fired by Hardaway's battery around May 3, 1863. Tucker had found an account of the Whitworth gun firing at some enemy wagons on a far distant ridge. He located the spot and was rewarded with great finds. He also dug an identical Whitworth shell that had burst in the ground. It had Augusta's ridged interior. We now can say with certainty that only Augusta added these ridges to the interior of their field artillery projectiles. Unlike the polygonal cavities, it was never officially adopted by the CS Ordnance authorities. Augusta got special permission to add the "star cavities."

The second page below shows what should be an Augusta Whitworth bolt. It was one of several found by Tucker with the previous shell. It is about the same length and weight. Probably cast from the same mold pattern. It has no lathe dimple which presents a problem because I have seen no evidence that Augusta had access to Sir Joseph Whitworth's patented machine for finishing his projectiles. Those Georgia boys must have finished their projectiles by hand. Yet, here is an example without obvious lathing the should have originated with Augusta.

The third page below shows a 12 pdr. Whitworth bolt dug by Tom McLaughlin about 30 years ago. He dug a couple of these as did his digging buddy Steve Hall. I have examined them all and photo'ed a couple. This example was finely finished with no lathe dimple but a sizing cut can be seen around the nose. It was clearly CS-made probably by Fayetteville which made most of the CS Whitworth ammunition.

The 4th page below shows the most readily identifiable CS made Whitworth bolt. It was finely finished with traces of lathing along its entire length. This present a problem. What CS foundry was making so many bolts with lathe dimples? Excavated evidence suggests neither Augusta nor Fayetteville had dimples in their bolts. But somebody did. There are so many of these lathed bolts around that I suspect there was a third CS maker of 12 pdr. Whitworth ammunition. Probably somebody in the Richmond/Petersburg area. Maybe the big Naval Works. If not, then I would suspect Fayetteville added this lathing to their production process during 1864 when they sent more than 1,000 Whitworth projectiles to the Virginia theater. 

Wooden Head