How a cannon crew operates
If I were to hand you my “orders” they might describe Ned Hector something like this:
March 10, 1777
Let it be known that Edward “Ned” Hector has been assigned to Captain Hercules
Courtney’s unit of the 3rd Pennsylvania Artillery Company. From there he is
ordered to report to Colonel Proctor’s Regiment in Brandywine, Pennsylvania for
the defense of Philadelphia. There under the command of General Washington he
is to serve to halt and repel the advancing British forces.
General George Washington
Commander-in-Chief of The Continental Army
Edward Hector is listed in the "Pennsylvania Archive" book as a bombardier. A bombardier is a soldier with the artillery that is capable of operating in the two rear position of the cannon. A cannon could be manned by as many as 15 soldiers and as few as 3. Three to five would operate the cannon, the rest would defend it. The positions would vary from army to army, but in general would be like the following:
The five uniformed soldiers (for identification purposes, 1 to 5 going from left to right) had the following functions when the cannon was fired:
(not seen here is an officer who would issue the commands)
Did you notice the man and woman dressed in civilian (non-military) clothing? The man could be a teamster or wagoneer (wagon driver) like Ned. Ned, being a soldier bombardier, could step into position #2 or #3 if either were killed or wounded. The woman would be like Molly Pitcher, bringing water to the cannon.
#5 - the powder monkey - would run to a spot about 30 yards behind the cannon where the bags filled with gun powder would be. (Why 30 yards? Would you want to be next to this gunpowder when a lucky enemy shot struck and ignited it?) He would grab a charge (bag) and carry it to #4.
#4 would receive it behind his back, and then throw the charge down the cannon's barrel.
#1 would ram (push) it completely down the barrel.
Buy now #5 would have given a cannonball to #4 would would place it in the barrel.
#1 would ram it snuggly against the gunpowder .
#2 would use a long thin spike to push in to the touch hole at the top and rear of the cannon to puncture the gunpowder bag inside.
#2 then would prime (fill the hole with gunpowder) the touch hole
#3, who has been holding a slowly burning piece of rope on the end of a pole, upon hearing the command to fire would touch the glowing end of the rope to the gunpowder and the cannon would fire.
#1 take the other end of the ram, dip it into water and push it into the cannon to put out any burning embers still in the barrel. (Who wants to put gunpowder into a barrel with red hot embers? Not I!) Then the wormer (the stick #4 is holding) is used to remove anything remaining in the barrel that might cause it to clog. The heat of the barrel dries the barrel or sometime a swab (a piece of dry cloth on a stick) is used to dry it.
Now we're ready for another volley (shot).
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