The Guns of Southampton

by BOB ENRIONE

So what do all those guns in town mean and where did they come from? Most are big guns so I would hazard that they came from big ships or big forts. From the style of the visible parts I would say that they date from 1800 to 1865 with one exception. Starting with the guns in the square let us examine these monsters. Since most of these guns are buried muzzle down there will be an element of uncertainty as to size.

THE GUNS AT MONUMENT SQUARE (the foot of Jobs Lane)

The Guns at Monument Square, Southampton, NY 11968

Some of the Guns of Monument Square in Southampton Village

The first pieces worth checking out are the 32 pounders. They are the ones with the squared off breech end with a ball shaped protrusion. On the top is a flat area, about 6×3 inches, with a hole in it. That is the touch hole in which a fuse was inserted. On a newer gun there will be fittings for a fire lock. This would have been a flint lock before 1840 and a percussion lock after that. Prior to 1810 the gunner would have leaned over and jammed a burning match into a pile of powder on the touch hole the leaped back when it was ignited. After the gun lock was adopted, the gun captain would tug on a lanyard from well out of the way of the recoil to trip the lock. A gun this size would have been mounted on a low carriage with four solid wheels of wood if used at sea. The fortress carriage would have been sturdier with larger iron wheels. Prior to 1815 thirty two pounders were only used as fortress guns for we did not have ships big enough to carry them. When we built our first ship of the line (battleship) thirty odd of these guns composed her main armament. Some of our later big frigates also carried these guns as main armament. Prior to 1850 these guns were smooth bored then they started rifling them. Many of these pieces were used during the Civil War both ashore and afloat even though they were somewhat obsolete. They were called thirty two pounders because the fired a spherical ball of solid iron that weighed 32 lbs. the spherical object protruding from the stern of the gun was the cascable an it was what recoil restraining ropes were attached to.

The next type of gun is the one with the round breech. These were called Dahlgren rifled guns. They came in 7, 9, 11, and 15 inch sizes. They fired shells that hopefully exploded on target. I am going to guess that your guns are 9 inch guns for they were the most common. This was the gun that won the civil war for the US Navy. They were used on almost every class of ship and many shore side forts. After the war this was the standard heavy gun of our military. These guns were cast from 1855 to 1865 and used till the 1880s.

The last two canons in the square are the two set on concrete plinths. They are Parrot rifles and are distinguished by their sleeved breach. They are of a later design and were fairly common in the civil war. They are also measured in size by inches. Judging by their size they could have been used afloat or as heavy field pieces with the army. The navy used them but preferred the Dahlgren. That leaves the two small squat pieces that are pointed at an up angle. These are mortars. They were used for indirect fire against field forts. These were probable army guns for the navy only used gigantic mortars of 13 inch bores in specially designed vessels against forts. These guns fired shells that were fused thus left a trail of sparks. When they were not fused correctly you had bombs bursting in air.

THE GUN AT THE FORK OF NORTH MAIN STREET AND NORTH SEA ROAD

The Carronade at the Fork of North Main Street & North Sea Road, Southampton, NY 11968

The Carronade at the Fork of North Main Street & North Sea Road in Southampton Village

The gun at the fork of main is definitely a naval gun. It is called a carronade and was used as secondary armament on big sailing ships. From her size I would guess that she is a 32 or 42 pounder piece. Invented in Scotland in the late 1770s and adopted by the British immediately, it was the gun that proved decisive in the Napoleonic Wars. We copied the design and used it as light secondary armament on frigates in lieu of lighter long guns. They gave up range for fire power at close range. Rifled canon made them obsolete by the Civil War. From the looks of it, I would date this gun from the 1840s or later.

THE GUN AT DUNE CHURCH

The gun at the Saint Andrew's Dune Church at 12 Gin Lane, Southampton, NY 11968

The Gun at the St. Andrew’s Dune Church, 12 Gin Lane, Southampton Village

That leaves the church gun. Definitely a carronade. From the size of it I would say a four or six pounder. She is off HMS SYLPH, a sloop of war that was wrecked in the War of 1812.  I will have more on this one in a week or two when I dig out the right books so expect part two.

Bob Enrione

Robert U. Enrione (February 5, 1947 - June 28, 2011)

Robert Ugo Enrione (February 5, 1947 – June 28, 2011)

(Unfortunately respected Emmy award-winning video journalist, naval historian, neighbor, and dear friend Bob Enrione met an untimely death before completing his research.  He will be missed by all. –  Joan & Paul)

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