Thursday, September 17, 2009
Breechloaders and chambers
One issue that I see writers frequently misunderstand is to count the chambers associated with breechloading guns as some sort of gun. For example, Dutch ships in the 17th Century, specially prior to 1648, carried "steenstukken" (literally, stone guns). The Roode Leeuw, in 1629, carried 8 steenstukken and had 16 chambers for them. That allowed the breech loading guns to have a higher rate of fire, so that while one chamber was being loaded, the other could be in the gun, ready to fire. The English ships in the 16th and early 17th Century carried port pieces and fowlers, which originally fired stone shot. They were breech loaders, as were the early steenstukken. Often, lists in the late 16th Century would show that a ship carried so many fowlers and twice that number of chambers for them. Some of the summary lists of English ships would add the chambers to the overall numbers of guns carried, which is obviously a mistake. Archibald's book about wooden English warships had some of these lists from the period of 1590 to 1620. These are generally pulled from Charles Derrick's classic book from the early 19th Century.