by Brian Mumford, Friends of Saratoga Battlefield President
On October 17, 1777, British General John Burgoyne surrendered his Army at Saratoga (present-day Schuylerville), New York, to American General Horatio Gates at the location of the recently dedicated Saratoga Surrender Site. Burgoyne surrendered his Army and their "arms" which included their artillery.
During the Bicentennial in the 1970’s the Park commissioned the casting of replicas of the surrendered British cannon barrels. More recently, as part of the dedication of the Saratoga Surrender Site (“Site”) on October 17, 2019, the anniversary of the Surrender, Friends of Saratoga Battlefield, (“FOSB”) with the support of FOSB Members and community donors, commissioned TR Ordnance Co., a Tennessee carriage-maker, to produce field carriages for two of the replica British barrels.
The iron 6-prdr barrel (also known then as “chase”) had a drilled bore just larger than the 3.5-inch diameter of the six-pound shot. It was loaded through the muzzle by using a long-poll ram to push a prepared cartridge of paper or cloth which contained the gunpowder down the bore to the breech, followed by ramming the cannonball down to rest against the cartridge.
During the War the flask trail carriage was the primary mounting method for field cannons. The design entailed two long side-frame boards of heavy wood (“flasks”) which ran the length of the carriage to form two rear beams (“trails”) which rested on the ground. The flasks were connected to each other by three cross-pieces, called “transoms.” The carriages were referred to as “flask trail,” “split trail,” or “double bracket trail” carriages.
Fig. 9 AT TR Ordanance, Brian Young and John Hartman plan the shaping of the flask trail.
Three transoms joined the flasks together. The rear-most transom (“trail transom”) had a “pointing ring” and “trail handle” which were used by the cannon crew to lift the trails to aim the cannon or when moving the carriage. There also was a “pintle hole” used to connect the carriage to a “limber” which was a two-wheel cart that provided stability to the cannon carriage when being moved a distance. A perpendicular spike (‘pintle”) on the limber was fitted into the pintle hole.
During the War cannon carriages were generally painted colors according to national dictate. England adopted a lead gray, France used blue, and Russia an apple green. Later in the War, Gen. Washington ordered all American carriages painted a light blue in recognition of the support rendered to America by France during the War.
Accordingly, since the Surrender Site is displaying replica British cannon tubes, the cannon carriages are painted gray, the color used by the British in the War. TR carriage-makers selected the paint color of homberg gray … as in the hat.
Transporting and firing field cannons during the Revolutionary War required a trained crew, referred to as “cannon cockers.” A crew was comprised of no fewer than six men and occasionally ten or more. The “gun commander” was an officer who had overall command of the gun and crew.
Fig. 33 Six-pdr Worm
Fig. 34 Sponge and Ram