of these guns, carrying them to and from the magazine while serving the piece, when continuous firing is required. To lighten this task, I have had in our later firing fatigue parties regally detailed for this work.
It was the practice, in obedience to instructions, to wash the guns out thoroughly after about the 20th round. I do not know as this was absolutely necessary, but it insures a batter service of the gun, when dirt and sand are so liable, as in field works, to get into the bore of the piece, and it was found a useful measure of precaution, as time was thus taken to allow the gun to cool, as it became quite hot after about this number of rounds.
The projectiles were also carefully greased, and latterly an oiled sponge has been use, in addition, after every third or fourth shot. The very great liability, though, of having dirt and sand adhere to the projectiles and sponge when thus greased, notwithstanding every care may be taken, make these expedients very doubtful. If permitted to be used, close attention must be given it at all times.
As with the smaller Parrott rifles, when the projectile failed to take the groove, it received a wobbling motion and frequently capsized. The remedy of slightly separating the band of brass from the base of the projectile, to allow the gas to penetrate, was quite effectual in stopping it. This required one or two men more in each battery, to attend to this duty alone. Great care must be taken to avoid the danger of separating the brass to such extent as to wedge the shell in the gun, which is liable to occur.
But few instances occurred of the brass stripping from the projectile.
The frequent premature explosion of shells while in the piece or just after leaving it, attracted attention, and led to the belief at first that the powder was ignited but the flame passing around the thread of the fuse. every precaution was immediately taken by the use of white lead applied to the thread when inserting the fuse-plug, but without correcting the evil.
A close examination through a long of firing, with many examples, has finally led to the opinion that it is due to defects in the iron at the base of the shell when it comes from the foundry.
Flaws and cracks, which are frequently detected by the eye, permit the flame of the burning powder in the gun to penetrate and ignite the charge in the shell. This was a series evil, producing a rapid destruction of the gun, and cause d a suspension of fire entirely whenever it became necessary to throw troops in advance of the batteries. I understand it is now being corrected by a change in the mode of casting the shell.
Two kinds of percussion fuses were used, both of Parrotts, invention. In the one, to the plunger is attached two metallic prongs for retaining it in a fixed position for transportation and which are designed to be wrenched off by the rifle motion of the projectile in the first moments of flight, before the inertia of the plunger is overcome; in the other, the plunger is kept in position by a wooden washer over the nipple, and which is broken by the concussion when the projectile strikes. The metallic prongs in the former were found to be too stiff to be always wrenched off, as it is expected they will be, or, when broken off, they caught the plunger and retarded its motion sufficiently to prevent its striking with a force necessary to explode the cap. It therefore became necessary to take off these prongs before inserting the fuse in the shell. In this shape, this kind of fuse used exclusively.