SCHOOL OF THE PIECE
Below are listed the commands and procedures to be followed by the National Civil War Artillery Association in the firing of artillery pieces. All verbal commands and responses are CAPITALIZED while all actions are in normal print. When specific cannoneers are involved in an action, the individuals illustrated are darkened.
This sequence of activities (steps) commences after the cannoneers have completed the loading sequence and are posted as in Position E of the loading sequence. As stated previously, any of the following activities may be interrupted by the command "Cease, Stop or Halt." "Cease, Stop or Halt" may be ordered by any cannoneer at any time. The command "Commence Firing," ordered by the Gunner reinitiates the action.
Gunner orders: READY or READY THE PIECE
(This command alerts the cannoneers that the firing sequence has begun. Numbers 3 and 4 prime the charge.)
Position A: Numbers 3 and 4 simultaneously step inside the wheels. Number 3, while keeping his face away from the vent, inserts the priming wire holding the shaft or the bow of the wire between his fingers. Number 3 punctures the powder bag and removes the Priming wire. Number 4 hands the friction primer (Hooked or Not) to Number 3 who places it in the vent. Number 4 then hands the hook end of the lanyard to Number 3 (if not hooked previously) and steps outside the wheel (facing forward or back) setting himself in position so that he can see the cannoneer that will give the fire order. Number 4 nods to Number 3 who attaches the lanyard hook to the primer (if not already done). Number 3 may announce: PRIMED. Number 3 then steps outside the right wheel to his original post.
Number 4 reports: PIECE IS READY
Satisfied that the gun and the cannoneers are ready to receive the fire order, the Gunner may issue the "Prepare” command, or if other orders are standing, he may report to the Chief-of-the-Piece or the Section Officer that the piece is prepared to fire. In some units Number 1,2 and 3 come to the PREPARE or FIRING POSITION when Number 4 reports the piece ready. This adds an extra measure of safety if the “Prepare” command is omitted.
Gunner orders: PREPARE or, he may relinquish control of the fire order and report: NUMBER (x) GUN IS PREPARED
(The "Prepare” command is directed to the cannoneers. The "Gun x, Prepare -- ----" report is directed to the Chhief-of-the-Piece. When the "Prepare” order is initiated by either the Gunner or, by his proxy, another NCO or Commissioned Officer, the cannoneers respond. (Note: it is important that the Gunner stay involved, if even as an echo to the officer giving the command. This alleviates confusion that may result in a Number 4 picking up the FIRE command from another crew. It is essential that the Number 4 has eye contact with the individual giving the command, and as such, keeping the Gunner involved, no matter what, provides that connection.)
Position B: Number 1 removes the rammer from the hub and steps to his original post where he assumes the position for firing by bending his left knee, placing the shaft of the rammer into the crook of his left elbow and covering his right ear with his right hand. His eyes are on the muzzle of the gun. Number 2, on the opposite side of the gun takes a mirror image position to Number 1. His eyes are on the muzzle of the gun. Number 3 assumes a position for firing similar to Number 1. His eyes are on the vent. Number 4 faces the cannoneer that will give the fire command. The lanyard is extended and taunt. Number 4, holding the handle of the lanyard at knee height, grips the handle in his right or left hand so that the back of the hand is toward the primer with the lanyard protruding between the second and third fingers close to the knuckles. The command to "Fire" or "Cease Fire" order follows immediately after the cannoneers are in the Prepare to Fire Positions
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