Williams Gun

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The Williams Gun was a Confederate gun that was classified as a 1-lb cannon. It was designed by Capt. D.R. Williams, of Covington, Kentucky, who later served as an Artillery Captain with a battery of his design. It was a breech-loading, rapid-fire cannon that was operated by a hand-crank. The barrel was 4 feet long and 1.57-inch caliber. The hand crank opened the sliding breech which allowed the crew to load a round and cap the primer. As the crank was continued, it closed the breech and automatically released the hammer. The effective range was 800 yards but the maximum range was 2000 yards.

Approximiatly 40 were made to supply 7 different Confederate batteries. These were made at F. B. Deane Jr. & Son, Lynchburg, Virginia, Tredegar Iron Works, Richmond, Virginia, and Skates & Co, Mobile, Alabama. At the end of the war, 4 examples of this gun were captured to sent to West Point. The West Point Museum retained one gun. Other examples are now located at Kentucky Military History Museum and the Watervliet Army Arsenal Museum.

During the early trials of the gun, the Richmond Daily Exchange dated May 20, 1862, reported that: “General Floyd attended a trial of the Williams’ mounted breech-loading rifle, which is claimed will throw twenty balls a minute a distance of fifteen hundred yards". Some sources say it could fire 65 rounds per minute but accuracy was greatly reduced due to the manual loading. The Union troops did not know what the gun was. Some describe it as a rifled cannon. Others reported that it fired nails, probably on account of the noise the projectile made as it tumbled. The Williams gun was not perfect and Union had much better rapid-fire weapons than the Confederacy


  • Article from "The Artilleryman" magazine by Lyle Hegsted.
  • Rowland, Dunbar & Howell, H. Grady, Jr., "Military History of Mississippi, 1803-1898", Chickasaw Bayou Press, 2003, Library of Congress Number 2002117732.
  • The Machine Gun, Volume 1, George M. Chinn, Bureau of Ordnance, United States Navy, 1951, No ISBN.
  • "The Long Arm of Lee" by Wise.
  • "Confederate Cannon Foundries" by Gunter and Daniel.
  • "Ironmaker to the Confederacy" by Dew.
  • "Civil War Collector's Encyclopedia" by Francis A. Lord (contains photo of gun from West Point Museum)
  • "Kentucky Cavaliers in Dixie-Reminisces of a Confederate Cavalryman", by George Dallas Musgrove.
  • War of Rebellion Official Records