The gun captain watched through the port waiting for that perfect moment when the ship rocked just high enough to see the barrel of the 24 pound cannon line up with the mast of the enemy ship. At that moment he lit the fuse on the cannon from his spot just off to the side of the cannon and leaned back as the fuse burnt down quickly and then a burst of fire spit up out of the fuse hole and left a scorch mark on the wood decking above. The carriage of the 24 pounder heaved back as it fired the 24 pound shot to strike the mast of the enemy ship splintering it into thousands of pieces.

The gun captain immediately examined the vent where the fuse had been, once he seen that it was clear he readied the next. A man near the front right of the cannon grabbed a pole with a wet sponge on it and used it to clear the barrel of burning fragments from the shot that was just fired. Then a young boy of maybe 10 came up with a canvas tube type bag filled with gunpowder and handed it to the man next to the cannon. The man then took the powder cartridge as it was called and pushed it as far as he could reach down into the barrel of the gun. The man on the other side then used another pole to shove the powder cartridge along with some cloth down and to the bottom of the barrel. Then the shot was inserted by the man on the other side along with more cloth and this was rammed down into the barrel. The cloth was inserted to make sure the shot did not roll out with the rocking of the ship or aiming of the cannon. Once this was done the gun captain called “run out!” and the men grabbed various lines and hooks and pulled to move the cannon out to its firing position. The gun captain then ordered the raising of the barrel and the men on the side adjusted it as he ordered. Everyone stepped back from the cannon and the gun captain once again watched and waited.

This time he had no mast in sight to aim at however as the ships rocked and rolled into sight came an even better target. Just as the ship came up on the roll of a wave the other ship rolled down and inward toward them and into sight came the ships wheel and navigator. Just at that moment he lit the fuse and this time did not move as far back to keep sight of his target. The fuse burnt down and up came the burst of flame again this time singing the hair on the side of his face and making him flinch in pain as he received burns to the side of his face. In his mind this was all worth the price to get a good view of what was already in progress. He watched in pain as the 24 pound shot flew across and hit his intended target taking out the enemy ships wheel and sending wood shards and the current navigator flying. He watched as the navigator flew back and into the railing of his ship with several large shards of the wood wheel stuck in him. Even from this distance he was able to see the blood gushing from the shards of wood and knew he just struck a critical blow to the enemy that would win them this battle.

Even injured and in pain this hardy gun captain continued his duty which did not last much longer as without navigation the other ship was quickly overcome and the gun captain rewarded hansomely for his superior gunnery skills all ofcourse after a visit to the doctor aboard to care to his burns.

If you enjoyed this article then you may also enjoy Age of Sail Gun Crew!

Works Cited

Biesty, Stephen, and Richard Platt. Corss-sections Man-of-War. New York: Dorling Kindersley, Inc. 1993.

Burney, C.. The Boy’s Manual of Seamanship and Gunnery. London: Trubner & Co. 1871. An ancestry.com

community, 25 April 2009 http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~pbtyc/Naval.html


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