Robert Parrott

Photo of a Parrot gun in Union Fort Brady
A Parrot gun mounted in Fort Brady along the James River.

Library of Congress

Quick Facts

Robert Parker Parrott was a West Point graduate, inventor, and businessman. He invented the Parrott rifle, a muzzle-loading cannon used extensively by the Union in the Civil War and immediately recognizable by its thick reinforcing band of iron wrapped around the breech. These rifled cannon greatly aided the defense of key positions during the Second Battle of Manassas and the Battle of Antietam. Parrott guns also reduced brick and mortar fortifications, previously deemed indestructible, into ruins. They were used with devastating effect by the Union against Confederate-held Fort Pulaski in 1862 and against Fort Sumter from 1863-1864. 

Developed in 1860, when Parrott was superintendent of the West Point Foundry and patented the following year, the Parrott rifle imparted a spin to its specially-designed, elongated projectile that made it a much more accurate weapon than its smoothbore predecessors. It was also more accurate than other rifled cannon of its era but less reliable because of its cast iron components. Parrott continued to experiment with projectile and fuse design at his foundry at West Point, New York and later his ironworks in Orange County until his death in 1877.


Fort Pulaski National Monument, Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park, Manassas National Battlefield Park

Last updated: January 12, 2022