The types of rounds fired out of the 6-pound field gun were solid shot, spherical case, and canister. All three rounds were fixed ammunition. This means that the ball and black powder charge, a flannel bag filled with powder, were connected with metal straps.
Solid Shot - this is classically known as a cannonball. The weight of the solid shot that a gun would fire determined whether a cannon was a 6-pounder, 12-pounder, etc. Solid shot did serve as an antipersonnel weapon, but its main purpose was to batter down walls, buildings, and other fortifications.
Spherical Case, or Case Shot - this round was the same size as the solid shot. The one major difference was it was hollow in the middle. Inside the hollow case or round was black powder filled with iron balls. Initially, when the powder bag was ignited, the fire would encircle the round inside the cannon tube, igniting a paper fuse that was inserted into a wooden plug at the top of the round. As the ball traveled down range, the fuse would burn until it reached the inside of the round and the black powder would be ignited. The case would burst in the air and above the enemy causing fragments of iron and balls to reign down upon the unlucky foe.
Canister - this round was also an antipersonnel weapon. The size of a large orange juice can, it was packed with layer upon layer of 1 inch diameter iron balls and sawdust. When fired, it was basically a gigantic shotgun shell; the powder charge disintegrated the can and it would mow down anyone in its path by spraying out iron balls 400 yards down range within a width of 25 yards as it was being propelled out of the tube.
The information for this section was written by staff at Fort Scott NHS.
Last updated: July 30, 2016