Model 1841 12-Pounder
Towed Mountain Howitzer
The Model 1841 12-pounder mountain howitzer gave the United States military good service from the Mexican-American War through the American Civil War.
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For battlefield armies of the 19th Century, howitzers attempted to fill the gap between line-of-sight field guns and indirect-fire mortars. During the American Civil War (1861-1865), there were several prominent artillery pieces in play and one of these was the Model 1841 12-pounder mountain gun howitzer. Howitzers were generally characterized by their shorter barrels and reduced powder charges and fired their projectiles at a high trajectory to bombard hidden forces from above. Mortars were similar in battlefield function but relied on even higher trajectories and shorter ranges to achieve the same effect.
These howitzers seen during the war years were arranged either as part of batteries (typically two assigned per battery) or organized into all-howitzer units when the situation warranted.
The Model 1841 12-pounder gun appeared as a traditional artillery piece of the time, spoked wheels made up a portion of the carriage which incorporated a crossbar and extended tow arm. The gun sat atop a mounting straddling the wheels. No protection was given to the gunnery crew, which numbered as many as eight personnel and each given a specific role to play in the gun's function. The gun would most likely be operated behind the actual fighting lines, somewhat distant from direct danger but this was not always the case. Because of its wheeled carriage, the Model 1841 could be towed into action by "Beast of Burden" and this came along with the associated ammunition supply. However, since a viable artillery recoil mechanism was still some decades away, the gun had to be repositioned after firing due to the recoil forces at play.
The 12-pounder weapon offered considerable carnage-dealing at medium-to-close ranges and fired a shell or shot projectile. The guns were also more mobile than the Model 1841 6-pounder guns being fielded as their barrels were shorter and lighter. In time the design was superseded by the capable Model 1857 "Napoleon" 12-pounders when its strengths were finally realized across the many battlefields of the Civil War. Regardless, the Model 1841 howitzer continued in service to the war's final days.
Both sides of the conflict used the Model 1841 12-pounder howitzer and some were featured by the Confederates in the famous defense of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor (South Carolina).