A Useful Discovery /
By William M Dame
BATTLES OF SPOTTSYLVANIA COURT HOUSE...
In this fight, necessity, the mother of invention, put us up to a device that served us well here, and that we made fullest use of, in every fight we had afterwards. When we had kept up that rapid fire, with a scant gun detachment, in plowed ground, and under a hot sun, for an hour, we were nearly exhausted. After Hardy was wounded, and left us, it was still worse. The hardest labor, and what took most time, was running up the guns from the recoil. We had stopped a moment to rest, and let the gun cool a little, and were discussing the difficulties, when the idea occurred to us. There was an old rail fence near by. Somebody said “let’s get some rails and chock the wheels to keep them from running back.” This struck us all as good, and in an instant we had piled up rails behind the wheels as high as the trail would allow. The effect was, that when the gun fired it simply jerked back against this rail pile, and rested in its place, and so we were saved all the time and labor of running up. We found that we could fire three or four times as rapidly, in this way. So that a chocked gun was equal to four in a fight. We found this simple device of immense service! We were told by the knowing ones that we ran the greatest possible danger. The ordnance people said that if a gun was not allowed to recoil it would certainly burst. But we didn’t mind! A device that saved so much labor, and enabled us to deliver such an extraordinarily effective fire on the battlefield, we were bound to try. We found it acted beautifully. We then knew the guns wouldn’t burst for we had tried it.We used it afterward in every fight. The instant we were ordered into position, two or three cannoneers would rush off and get rails, or a log or two, to chock the guns. And on two or three very desperate emergencies, during this campaign, this device enabled us to render very important service. It made a battery equal to a battalion, and a good many other batteries took it up, and used it. I believe it added greatly to the effectiveness of our artillery in the close-range fighting of this campaign.Well! even with this relief, the labor of working our guns in this furious and prolonged fight was fearful! At last the welcome order, “Section cease firing” was given. We limbered up, and drew the guns a short distance to the side, out of the line of fire, and utterly exhausted, we cannoneers, threw ourselves right down on the plowed ground beside the guns, and slept like the dead