The United States Army adopted the Model 1857 12-pounder Napoleon Field Gun, or “light 12-pounder gun,” as a replacement to the M1841 6-pounder field guns and M1841 12-pounder howitzers. A combination of both weapons, it fired round shot shell, canister shot, common shell, and spherical case shot. Named after Napoleon III, nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, the weapon was originally manufactured for the French military before its design was licensed by the United States. Cast in bronze, the Napoleon used a 2.5-pound charge of black powder, had a range of 1,700 yards and 1,440 feet per second, and weighed over 1,220 pounds.
Put into use just a few years prior to the Civil War, the Napoleon was more common among Federal armies than rebel forces and became the most common smoothbore cannon used during the conflict. By 1863, it was estimated to comprise 39% of artillery armament in both the Army of the Potomac and Army of Norther Virginia. While industrial advancements in the north allowed more than twice as many cannons to be manufactured for the Federals, rebel armies added to their arsenal during and after battles. Research has determines that the United States Army manufactured over 1,100 Napoleons during the war, while their rebel counterparts produced only around 500.
The Lincoln Memorial Shrine’s reproduction M1857 Napoleon 12-Pounder field gun dated 1864 is now on display in Smiley Park. Come see it in person. It’s the perfect selfie location! Make sure to tag #lincolnshine and use the hashtag #lincolnshrine to share your photos.