Artillery in the seventeenth century did not have the same meaning as it does today, but described any missile weapon.
As in I Samuel xx, 40: “And Jonathan gave his artillery unto his lad …”; thus Bariffe’s Military Discipline, or the Yong Artilleryman (1635) is concerned only with the musket and pike, and Niccols’ London Artillery (I616) is so termed because “the French word Infanterie would be scarce intelligible to any common Reader”.
Fieldpiece upon split-trail field carriage
Comparative sizes of cannon-barrel from top to bottom: cannon, demi-cannon, culverin, saker.
The decorative lifting handles were often cast in the shape of stylized dolphins.
Civil war cannon were clumsy, difficult to move and of limited effect except in siege warfare and in damaging morale; Turner quotes Monluc: “Il fait plus de peur, que du mal” (it frightens more than it hurts). Nevertheless, an army’s artillery train was regarded not as lumbering impedimenta but as a vital part of the army, and although many varieties of cannon existed the most common are listed below:
|Falcon||2 .25||700||6||2.25||2.5||2 / 16|
|Minion||3||1,500||8||4||3.5||4 / 20|
|Saker/Drake||3.5||2,500||9.5||5.25||5||5 / 24|
|Demi-Culvern||4 .5||3,600||10||9||9||7 / 36|
|Culvern||5||4,000||11||15||18||8 / 50|
|Demi-Cannon||6||6,000||12||27||25||10 / 60|
|Cannon||7||7,000||10||47||34||12 / 70|
|Cannon Royal||8||8,000||8||63||40||16 / 90|
The “team” quoted above refers to the number of horses or men required to drag the piece. Missiles were principally iron (or even stone) balls, though case shot could be used at close range; the rate of fire was slow (eight shots per hour from a cannon, 10 from a demi-cannon, 12 from a saker, etc.), and gunnery was frequently inaccurate. For example, so unskilled were the gunners at Blackburn at Christmas 1642 that although a demi-culverin blasted away ‘most of the night and the day following… the greatest execution it did… a bullet shot out of it entered into a house… and burst the bottom of a fryen pan’, after which the Royalists withdrew ‘that they might eate their Christmas pyes at home ….
Artillery crews consisted, for example, of three gunners and six matrosses (assistants) for a demi-cannon and two gunners and four matrosses for a culverin. Different in efficacy was the mortar, which dropped explosive shells from a high trajectory into beleaguered garrisons, often with the greatest physical and morale damaging effects. At Lathore House, for example, these pieces ‘struck most fear with the garrison… The mortar peece was that that troubled us all. The little ladyes had stomack to digest canon, but the stoutest souldiers had noe heart for granadoes … The mortar peece … had frightened ’em from meat and sleepe’.
Different again was the petard, an explosive, bell-shaped device which had to be fixed manually against a gate or even a wall to blow a hole through it; the petardier, even if he survived he attentions of the garrison, risked being killed by the explosion, or ‘hoist with his own petard’. Before the petardier George Cranage blew down the door of Oswestry Castle with his petard, he had to be ‘well lined sacke‘ before he would attempt it.
An interesting practice was to give individual cannon their own names; at least two were called ‘Roaring Meg’, and two huge demi-cannon were both known as ‘The Queen’s Pocket Pistol’, whilst other names included ‘Gog’, ‘Magog’, ‘Sweet Lips’ (named after a renowned whore), and ‘Kill-Cow’.
Extracts taken from Haythornthaite’s The English Civil War