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Appendix C Rifled Projectile Sabot Designs

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Appendix C

Rifled Projectile Sabot Designs

Correct identification of rifled projectiles often requires accurate identification of sabot designs. This appendix provides specific information to assist the student of projectiles in identifying sabot designs of both field and large caliber rifled artillery projectiles used in the war.

The three steps to accurate sabot identification are to identify: (1) the material the sabot is made of: iron, brass, copper, lead, or papier-maché; (2) the form or shape of the sabot: ring, cup, disk, or band; and (3) the distinguishing characteristics of different sabot designs. Each step is described in more detail in the rest of this appendix.

Sabot Materials

Sabots were made of four types of materials during the war: wrought iron, lead, copper or brass, and papier-maché. Each is described below.

• Wrought Iron. Wrought iron can usually be identified by its appearance. In battlefield-recovered projectiles, the wrought iron sabot is often more corroded than the projectile body. When preserved with electrolysis, it takes on the same black color as the cast iron shell body. Wrought iron sabots were made separately and the projectile was cast around the sabot.

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Rust

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Steel

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Pottery

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Ivory or Bone

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Canister

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Canister

Canister are always cylindrical. They were designed as antipersonnel projectiles used at short range against enemy troops or naval crews. Canister contain no explosive charge.

They are usually made with thin sheet metal sides that disintegrate as the canister is fired. At very close ranges, cannon crews might be ordered to use double canisters for each firing, creating a deadly wall of balls and metal debris directed against enemy troops.

However, canister did virtually no serious damage to enemy guns, ships, or equipment.

By the beginning of the Civil War, canister was recognized as the most deadly form of short-range antipersonnel weapon. Charges of double canister were even more deadly.

The larger number of smaller canister shot created a wide cone of destruction immediately in front of the cannon. For example, a single 7-inch canister contained 112 iron shot 1.3 inches in diameter compared to 9 shot 3.15 inches in diameter for a 7-inch grape stand.1

In large calibers, the canister shot used were iron.

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Rugs

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Mirrors

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Wicker

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Miscellaneous Bolts and Shells

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Miscellaneous Bolts and Shells

With the experimentation so widespread during the war, there are a number of types of projectiles that were one-of-a-kind experimental or single battlefield recoveries. These include Abbot, Dimick, Emery, French lugged projectiles, Gorgas, Rodman, a number of finned shot and shells, and two unidentified Confederate projectiles. Each is described briefly below.

Abbot

The Abbot design has been attributed to a single type of rifled bolt in several calibers, for which S. C. Abbot (not Gen. Henry Abbot) was awarded a patent in 1861 (#31099). A bolt in the 5.82-inch caliber is included in this book. Another in a 3.67-inch caliber is shown in Ripley and Dickey and George. Both bolts appear to have used air pressure from the rifle’s firing to expand the sabot (made of some unknown material) through vents in the shell base.

About the only relationship between the actual bolts and the patent drawings is the faceted nose. The key element in the patent application was to use air pressure from the cannon’s firing to multiply the force of the bursting charge. This design feature is completely missing from the actual projectiles attributed to Abbot. The actual bolts used air pressure only to force a midshell sabot into the rifling. The actual bolt design is much more like Dr. John Read’s patent #18707 awarded in 1857, which relied on air pressure through vents in the shell to expand the sabot. No battlefield recoveries are known of the

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Blakely

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Blakely

Capt. Theophilus Alexander Blakely, a British inventor, designed a number of rifles and projectiles in a wide variety of calibers, which were sold before the war to individual

Southern states and later to the Confederacy. At least two batteries of Blakely rifles were also sold to Union units. It is well known that South Carolina had acquired a 3.5-inch

Blakely rifle before the war, which participated in the initial bombardment of Fort Sumter.1

Less well known is the fact that Virginia had acquired a 7.5-inch Blakely rifle just before or after hostilities began. That rifle fired some 900 rounds at Union forces at Shipping

Point at the mouth of the Potomac River before being abandoned by Confederate forces in mid-1862.2 It survives today and is located in the gun park at the Washington Navy Yard.

Most Blakely-designed rifles used projectiles designed by Sir Bashley Britten, who received a British patent on the design in 1855, but was unable to obtain a U.S. patent until after the war. Britten’s projectiles are described in the next section. The Blakely rifles firing Britten projectiles used conventional square land and groove rifling. Two other projectile designs—both flanged—were used in Blakely rifles that used the shunt system of rifling. Both are actually Blakely designs, but one is called the Preston-Blakely design and the other is known as the flanged Blakely. Battlefield recoveries of the PrestonBlakely design have been noted in 3.5-inch and 4-inch calibers. In addition, an 8-inch

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Plastics

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Plastics

For this section we will use the generic word plastic to describe Celluloid, Lucite, Plexiglas, Bakelite, Catalin, and other polymer acrylic products.

Celluloid, the first synthetic plastic material, was developed in the 1860s and 1870s from a formulation of nitrocellulose and camphor. It is a moldable material that was capable of low-cost production in a variety of colors.

Celluloid was made into toiletry articles, novelties, photographic film, and many other mass-produced goods.

Celluloid is highly flammable and its popularity began to wane toward the middle of the 20th century, following the introduction of plastics based entirely on synthetic polymers. Lucite and Plexiglas are trademarked names of synthetic, colorless, and highly transparent materials with high stability and good resistance to weathering and to shock. Lucite and Plexiglas can be tinted or rendered opaque by the addition of other substances. They are usually fabricated by molding into solid articles or casting into sheets. Bakelite, invented in 1907, is a phenolic resin used for making vintage radio cases, jewelry, kitchen utensils, and a myriad of other highly collectible items.

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Guide to Using Data Sheets

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Guide to Using Data Sheets

For the convenience of users, the data sheets for projectiles and torpedoes use a standard format. Descriptions of the information in each category are provided below.

Users should read this guide before using the data sheets.

Projectile Photos

Most projectile data sheets have photographs of the side, top, and bottom of the projectile. The ruler scale applies only to the side view of the projectile. It is important to note that the scale does not include the height of the fuze, only the length of the projectile.

The torpedo data sheets normally have only a side view and a close-up photo of the fuze or detonator mechanism. Most torpedo data sheets do not include a scale bar, because the torpedoes are too long for the scale numbers to be legible.

Projectile or Torpedo Identification Title

The projectile identification provides several key pieces of information. It first identifies the origin of the projectile or torpedo. Origin defines who manufactured the projectile or torpedo: CS, British/CS, or US. Next it identifies the caliber (e.g., bore size) of the cannon that fires the projectile.

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Bronze

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Tennessee

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Tennessee

(Formerly Mullane)

Establishing proper credit for the design of Tennessee projectiles has been a challenge for decades. Period documents refer to them by a variety of names including, “Tennessee

Shell,” “copper saucer,” and “copper cup.” Even Cdr. John Brooke referred to the design as “Tennessee Sabot” in correspondence to the Confederate secretary of the navy and to

Catesby Jones at the Selma Foundry in 1863.1

In a postwar paper written in 1883, Gen. Edward P. Alexander, formerly Longstreet’s chief of artillery, gave credit to both Mullane and Read for the design of at least the fieldcaliber Tennessee projectiles. In the paper, Alexander stated:

This shell (with the saucer shaped copper sabot attached with bolts after the shell was cast), called the Mullane or Tennessee shell, was the invention of Dr.

Read of Tuscaloosa, Ala., the well known inventor of what are usually but improperly called Parrott shell. . . . A patent was refused the Mullane shell by the

Confederate Patent Office, on the ground that it was anticipated by this patent of

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