Our Drill

There are several positions that have to be manned in order to work and fire a Civil War era Cannon. In this you will find a description of each manís job on how to work the gun. We of the Jeff Davis Artillery attempt to follow as closely as possible to the period drill manuals. Muzzleloading artillery technology was at its peak during the Civil War and that the drill developed was also at its peak both in terms of safety and effiency.

Number One Man

The number 1 man is responsible for sponging and ramming on the gun. He must be equipped with a good pair of heavy gauntlets and hearing protection. Until the command LOAD is given the number 1 man stands on the right side of the gun, in line with the front part of the wheel. Once the command LOAD is given the number 1 man faces to the left, and steps in between the tube and the wheel. After completing his steps he dips the sponge into the bucket and then raises it smartly to the bore and inserts the sponge into the bore immediately after Number 2 removes the worm. Once the sponge is in the number 1 man fixes his eyes upon the vent and pushes the sponge to the breech of the gun. Once reaching the back of the gun he turns the sponge two times to the right and two times to the left. He then extracts the sponge from the bore, once clearing the bore he gives the staff a quick turn bringing the rammer end to the bore. Number 1 gives a small tap on the underside of the gun when he is ready for the charge. Once number 2 inserts the charge into the bore number 1 rams the charge home. After the charge is seated number 1 withdraws the rammer and goes to his post position. Once the READY command is given number 1 goes to his ready position.

Number Two Man

The number 2 man is responsible for worming and inserting the charge into the bore. His position is on the left side of the gun inline with the front part of the wheel, and is equipped with heavy gauntlets and hearing protection. Until the LOAD command is given number 2 stands at his post position. Once the LOAD command is given he steps in between the wheel and the tube and inserts the worm. He sends the worm to the back of the bore and gives it a minimum of two turns. Making sure that all foreign matter is out of the bore he pulls the worm out of the bore and places it across the axle. After this he turns and faces the axle and awaits for the charge. Once the charge arrives he reaches in the bag and withdraws the charge. He then turns to the left until he faces the bore and number 1, he then places the charge into the bore and goes to the post position. He will remain in this position until the command of READY is given.

Number Three Man

The number 3 man is responsible for serving the vent and assisting in sighting the gun. He will be equipped with hearing protection, vent pick, and a thumbstall or gauntlet. His position at post is directly behind the number 1 man and inline with the cascable. He will remain in this position until the LOAD command is given. Once this is done he will move in and insert the vent pick to make sure that the vent is clear, and cover the vent with left thumb. He will keep constant pressure on the vent while numbers one and two are serving the front of the gun. Number 3 left arm will be kept with the elbow raised and his remaining fingers along the left side of the tube. After the piece is charged and the rammer removed, number 3 then goes to the end of the trail and seizes the handspike with both hands and awaits instructions from the gunner. Once the gun is sighted number 3 returns to his position as described before and awaits the READY command. Once this is given he will insert the vent pick into the vent. Once the pick is in the vent the number 3 man will give the pick one stroke with the back of his hand pricking the charge. He then will grasp the pick with his thumb and index finger around the outside of the pick and withdraws it from the vent. He will then await number 4 to insert the primer in the vent. Once that has occurred he will hold the lanyard against the bore until number 4 nods him off. He then will return to his position of post.

Number Four Man

Number 4 is responsible for the firing of the gun. His position is inline with number 2 and inline with the cascable. He will be equipped with the lanyard, primer pouch, hearing protection, and primers. He will remain at his described position until the command of READY is given. Once number 3 has extracted the pick from the vent number 4 will insert the primer in the vent. The primer will already be attached to the lanyard. Once the primer is in the vent the number 3 man will hold the lanyard against the side of the bore until number 4 has stretched the lanyard taught. Number 4 will then give number 3 a nod signaling to him that he may let go of the lanyard and go to his position. Once number 3 is in his position, number 4 will then raise his left arm signaling the gun is ready to fire. Once the command of FIRE is given number 4 will pull the lanyard in a downward motion behind his back and firing the gun.

Number Five Man

Number 5 delivers the charge to the gun which he retrieves from the limber box. He will be equipped with hearing protection and the gunnerís haversack. Number 5 will retrieve the charge from the ammunition chest and place it in the haversack, and await the order of ADVANCE THE ROUND from the Gunner. Once this command is given the number 5 man will walk to the gunner and stand on his left side so that the gunner may inspect the charge. Once the gunner inspects the charge he will command the number 5 man to go forward. He will then walks to the left front wheel of the gun and waits for the number 2 man to retrieve the charge. Once number 2 has gotten the charge he will then return to the ammunition box and retrieve another charge from the box and await orders.


The gunner gives all commands for the gun in action. He communicates the orders given to him to the men on his gun. The gunner is responsible for sighting the gun and making sure all procedures are done correctly and safely.

Misfire Drill

In the event of a misfire the following procedures are followed. Any member of the crew will give the command of DO NOT ADVANCE THE PRIMER HAS FAILED. When this command is given all members of the crew will remain in their positions except for number 1 who places the rammer on the hub of the wheel to signal a hot tube. The gunner advises the Chief of the Piece of the misfire and all wait for 3 minutes to elapse. Once the time has passed the gunner will command READY. At this command number 2 steps inside the wheel refusing his body to the muzzle. This is done by hugging the wheel and follows it until he reaches the axle. Once reaching the axle he executes a left face. Number 3 will take a position in line with the axle on the right side outside of the wheel. Number 3 will the give number 2 the vent pick and number 2 will then insert it into the vent and gives it a blow with the back of his hand forcing it down the vent into the charge. He will then extract the vent pick and hand it back over to the number 3 man and number 3 will return to his post. Number 4 then steps up inline with the axle and outside the left wheel and hands number 2 a primer that is attached to the lanyard. Number 2 then inserts the primer into the vent and holds the lanyard on the left side of the tube until number 4 can make the lanyard taught. Number 4 then gives a nod to number 2 and he lets go of the lanyard and exits in the same manner he entered. Once he is outside of the wheel all men go to the ready position. The gunner makes sure that all men are in the ready positions and gives the command of FIRE. If the piece does not fire and misfire a second time the same procedures will be followed as explained above. If the gun misfires a third time all men will wait a minimum of 5 minutes before approaching the gun. The Battery and Battalion commanders are notified and the gunner retrieves a large syringe from the limber box. If is then filled with water and the gunner will flood the vent. Number 2 having the worm will then secure it onto the handle or chain of the sponge bucket and raise it to the same level as the muzzle. Number 1 will then tip the bucket with his rammer emptying the contents into the bore of the gun. After this is done all men will wait 2 minutes or until there is no smoke coming from the bore. Number 2 will then take the worm and insert it into the bore carefully and easily until it reaches the charge. He will then turn the worm hooking onto the charge and then slowly remove it from the bore. Once the charge is outside of the bore number 2 will place it in the sponge bucket and remove it from the field.