Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 1200: Bronze 12-Pound Field Howitzer with Carriage

Auction Date: September 7, 2019

Extremely Rare Civil War Confederate John Clark & Co. of New Orleans Pattern Bronze 12-Pound Field Howitzer with Carriage

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $175,000 - $300,000

Extremely Rare Civil War Confederate John Clark & Co. of New Orleans Pattern Bronze 12-Pound Field Howitzer with Carriage

Manufacturer: None
Model: None
Type: Other
Item Views: 4257
Item Interest: Very Active
Catalog Page: 118
Class: Other

The howitzer itself measures approximately 58 inches from the muzzle to the cascabel and has a 4.62 inch bore diameter, smooth bore, and 48 inch bore length (including the powder chamber). The barrel is three-stage and has a small blade front sight near the muzzle and a groove at the breech for a rear sight. There are some obscured markings on the trunnions and on the tube near the trunnions. Among those markings "IC" is legible, the foundry marking of John Clark (historically I was used in place of J). The lower marking on the trunnions "NO" for New Orleans. The full-scale reproduction carriage has black painted iron components and olive green painted wood. The wheels are approximately 57 inch wheels in diameter, and a rod and sponge is fitted on each side. This gun is similar to the U.S. Model 1841, 12-pounder howitzer. 12-pounders of varying designs were the most widely used smoothbore artillery pieces used during the Civil War and were made both within the U.S. and C.S.A. and imported from abroad. In "Field Artillery Weapons of the Civil War" by Hazlett, Olmstead, and Parks, the authors note that John Clark field howitzers could be easily misidentified as Model 1841s and note that six others have been located, and only one has identifying markings ("JOHN CLARK./MAKER./N.O." at Shiloh). One other Clark field howitzer has been sold at auction that has markings as well. This could be the only surviving example with abbreviated markings. A Clark howitzer is illustrated and listed as at Shiloh National Military Park on page 80 and matches this piece as do others that have been photographed at Civil War battlefields. The book also indicates the following features can be used to identify Clark's howitzers: unusual muzzle swell and chase astragal (feature unique to Clark howitzers), coarseness, the lack of fillet at the forend of the neck of the knob, cylindrical powder chamber, and imperfections in the bronze. These are all found on this piece. Craig Swain of "To the Sound of the Guns: Civil War Artillery, Battlefields and Historical Markers" indicates there are two John Clark howitzers at Shiloh, two more at Manassas, and one other at Petersburg. He states: "Before the war, John Clark owned a foundry at the intersection of Race and Tchoupitoulas Streets in what is today the Lower Garden District, close to the Mississippi River. At the outbreak of war, Clark announced his firm could produce bronze field pieces for interested parties. From June 1861 to the fall of New Orleans to the Federals in April 1862 the firm produced over 100 cannons. Most of these were for private contracts. Many of these went to the artillery batteries from New Orleans. For the most part, the foundry produced two types – 6-pounder Field Guns and 12-pounder Field Howitzers. Orders by the Confederate government for Armstrong pattern guns were unfilled when the city fell."

Rating Definition:

Very fine with dark aged patina along the bronze, a patch of "etching" from tape on top, imperfections in the bronze (a noted aspect of Clark artillery), some general dings and scrapes, and moderate age and storage related wear. The modern carriage is excellent with mild wear. A sensational rarity worthy of any public institution, advanced Civil War collection or for the discerning investment buyer. Confederate bronze cannons are very rare. Many were melted during and after the Civil War and the bronze reused for other purposes. Some were even melted for the Grand Army of the Republic who had medals made from the bronze and marked as made from Confederate cannons in the 1890s. Confederate bronze cannons in private collections are the rarest of Civil War ordnance.

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