The twelve-pound cannon "Napoleon" was the most popular smoothbore
cannon used during the American Civil War. It was named after Napoleon III of France and was widely admired because of its safety, reliability, and killing power, especially at close range. In Union ordnance manuals it was referred to as the "light 12-pounder gun" to distinguish it from the heavier and longer 12 pounder gun (which was virtually unused in field service.) It did not reach the United States until 1857. It was the last cast bronze gun used by the United States Army. The Federal version of the Napoleon can be recognized by the flared front end of the barrel, called the muzzle-swell.

Confederate Napoleons were produced in at least six variations, most of which had straight muzzles, but at least eight catalogued survivors of 133 identified have muzzle swells. Additionally, four iron Confederate Napoleons produced by Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond have been identified, of an estimated 125 cast. In early 1863, Robert E. Lee sent nearly all of the Army of Northern Virginia's bronze 6-pounder guns to Tredegar to be melted down and recast as Napoleons. Copper for casting bronze pieces became increasingly scarce to the Confederacy throughout the war and became acute in November 1863 when the Ducktown copper mines near Chattanooga were lost to Union forces. Casting of bronze Napoleons by the Confederacy ceased and in January 1864 Tredegar began producing iron Napoleons.

Napoleon cannon in The Guns of the SouthEdit

Brigadier General Edward Porter Alexander used a pair of Napoleon cannon to wreck the Long Bridge during the storming of Washington City. This prevented Union General Ulysses Grant from effectively counter-attacking and allowed the Confederates to consolidate their occupation.

Napoleon cannon in "Lee at the Alamo"Edit

Colonel Benjamin McCulloch of the Texas Militia finally ended the siege at the Alamo after a couple of months by seizing and using some Napoleon cannon. The cannon fire breeched a wall forming a 10-foot wide crack. This forced Lt. Colonel Robert E. Lee to surrender as his forces could no longer defend themselves from being taken by storm.

Napoleon cannon in Southern VictoryEdit

Napoleon cannon were used by both sides during the War of Secession. Twenty years later during the Second Mexican War, the cannon were now obsolete, as they weren't very accurate and weren't as devastating as exploding shells. They were still in use by the Kentucky militia to destroy the river steamer Queen of the Ohio.

During the Battle of Tombstone, the defenders managed to employ the cannon one last time. However it did little except make the attackers keep their heads down.

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