Artillery - Cannoneer

Artillery Crew

Eight men (six shown here) were detailed to load and fire the cannon. Each man was assigned to a specific position and each position had certain duties to perform to successfully load and fire the cannon. Due to the threat of casualties, each man was trained to perform all eight duties.

Cannoneers Cannoneer 1-With Sponge RammerCannoneer 2 with WormCannoneer 3-with Thumbstall and Vent PickCannoner 4 with LanyardCannoneer 5 with Haversack

Cannoneer #1 - ran a damp sponge through the barrel to extinguish embers from previous firings. Burning embers could ignite prematurely. If this occurred while the crew was loading the gun, serious injury could result. Once the round was inserted, #1 then rammed the ammunition down the bore.

Cannoneer #2 - placed the ammunition in the muzzle for #1 to ram home. Also used a worm to remove any remnants of the powder bag left over in the barrel after the firing.

Cannoneer #3 - covered the vent hole with a thumbstall to prevent air from entering the bore while the gun was being loaded. This helped prevent premature firings. Used a trailspike to assist the gunner in aiming the gun. At the command of Ready, #3 would use a vent pick to puncture the powder bag, thus exposing the powder.

Cannoneer #4 - inserted a friction primer in the vent hole after #3 punctured the powder bag. Attached a lanyard to the friction primer, and working in conjunction with #3, pulled the lanyard taut and fired the cannon at the gunner's command.

Cannoneer #5 - brought the gunner's choice of ammunition from the limber to #2.

Cannoneers #6 and #7 - manned the limber chest and prepared the rounds that the gunner called for.

The Gunner - aimed the gun, and gave all commands to load and fire.

In normal situations, a trained crew could fire one aimed shot every minute. In extreme conditions, the crew could increase the rate to one round every 15 seconds.

Information for this section came from the National Park Service Manual for the Handling and Firing of 19th Century Field Artillery in Interpretive Demonstrations.

Visit our keyboard shortcuts docs for details
10 minutes

Artillery Demonstration. Section on Cannon Crew and Firing. Labor Day Weekend 2009.

Cannon at Fort Scott
Next Page

Last updated: July 30, 2016

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

PO Box 918
Fort Scott, KS 66701


(620) 223-0310

Contact Us