Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Canon de Campagne de 4 - Modèle 1858 La Hitte.

The French Model 1858 La Hitte 4 "pounder" remained a puzzle for me since the days of fielding French guns on the tabletop Mexican battlefield during the French Intervention.  Why would the French field such a comparatively small caliber gun in such large numbers?  During the French Intervention and the earlier Franco-Austrian War, Orders of Battle were dominated by these 4 "pounders."  I always wondered why until recently.
Recently, that is until re-reading Richard Brooke's Solferino 1859 book.  Therein he mentioned the French pieces de quartre fired a 4kg shell.  A 4 kg shell rather than a 4 pound shell?  Maybe there was some confusion?  Providing even more confusion was Luigi Casali's, The Second Italian War of Independence listing the French as having 37 batteries of 4 inch rifled muzzle loading guns.  Even Dr. Stephen Summerfield's recent The Italian Campaign of 1859 describes the French as having a 4 pound rifled muzzle loading gun.  Pounds, kilograms, and inches all given as units of measure for the French pieces de quartre.  What is going on?  Many game rules also list a French 4 pounder as the dominate gun platform.  Bruce Weigle in his excellent 1859 rulebook lists the French as having a 4 pounder but later clarifies that it, indeed, fired a 4 kg shell.

After investigation into this seeming anomaly, evidence points to the French Canon de Campagne de 4 - Modèle 1858 La Hitte as firing a 4 kg conical shell.  Actually the weight of the projectile is listed as 3.7 kg.  Could the confusion stem from the caliber or bore of the gun?  Firing solid shot, this caliber tube fired a 4 pound projectile.  With the introduction of rifling and conical shells, the weight of the projectile could almost be doubled.  Thus a "four pound" gun firing a four pound shot could now fire a four kg elongated shell.  Even though that same bore could now fire a four kg projectile, perhaps the old nomenclature was hard to drive out.  Or, like the French name of the gun, itself, no mention to the unit of measure was made.  The gun was simply the Canon de Campagne de 4 - Modèle 1858 La Hitte.  
    

7 comments:

  1. Very interesting - you are likely aware of this but there is a nice detailed account of several pages in the Edinburgh review starting at page 499. Link below

    https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=quoEAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA499&dq=Treuille+de+Beaulieu+La+Hitte&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false

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    1. Norm! I was not aware of this document. Had I known beforehand, all of my confusion would have vanished upon reading this passage. Passing this along is much appreciated. Thank you.

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  2. It is an interesting little conundrum.

    Why the French couldn't just speak and use English as the lingua franca of the Industrial Age is beyond me. If they'd had done so it would have made all those hours I spent trying to learn the French language at school redundant, and I wouldn't have had to of skipped class so often. Very inconsiderate of them!

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  3. One of my social studies teachers once said "I don't trust the French..they hide letters." I think I was in the 3rd grade before I realized that the "Sue" and the "Swix" Indians were the same tribe. (Sioux)

    Interesting piece, even as I was reading it I was trying to puzzle it out in terms of logistics and mobility. Thoughtful piece.

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    Replies
    1. Funny story, Jake!

      Glad you enjoyed my little path towards discovery.

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