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

Significance:
Inventor
Place Of Birth:
Lee, NH
Date Of Birth:
October 5, 1804
Place Of Death:
Cold Spring, NY
Date Of Death:
December 24, 1877
Place Of Burial:
Nelsonville, NY
Cemetery Name:
Cold Spring Cemetery

From the Peninsula to Maryland: Parrott's role in the summer of 1862

Robert Parker Parrott was a West Point graduate, inventor and businessman who is best remembered for the invention and development of the Parrott rifled cannon, a muzzle-loading weapon used extensively by both sides in the Civil War and immediately recognizable by its thick reinforcing band of iron wrapped around the breech. Parrot cannons were used extensively during the Maryland Campaign and greatly aided the defense of key positions during the Second Battle of Manassas and the Battle of Antietam.

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 smooth-bore 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.

Last updated: June 17, 2015