Friday, February 8, 2013

12-pounder carronade at Port Clinton, OH

Last week I traveled to Fremont, Ohio for the Living History Fair. On the way back to Columbus I decided to take a short detour up to Port Clinton, which lies just west of Sandusky Bay and the Marblehead/ Catawba peninsula. Port Clinton sits at the mouth of the Portage River, which winds lazily southwards to the interior of the state. In the summertime this is the Lake Erie vacationland, a poor man's Riviera. In the winter its largely deserted, save for ice fishermen.

A small carronade (the sawed-off shotgun of 18th century naval artillery) sits near the beach, pointing out to sea. I measured the bore to 4.5 inches, which is the right caliber for a 12-pounder piece. The plaque stated that the gun had been used during the Battle of Lake Erie. According to's well-researched page, the American vessels at the battle only carried 32-pounder carronades. The only ships bearing 12-pounder carronades were the brig HMS Hunter and the schooner HMS Lady Prevost.

Looking out across the frozen lake. The Port Clinton channel breakwater is to left.

The carronade. Whereas a 12-pounder naval gun would weigh over a ton, the carronade is much smaller and lighter, so it was popular for arming small vessels like the Lady Prevost.

The cascabel, or knob at the breech of the gun with its characteristic loop for the cable to secure it to the side of the ship. The touch hole is still open, so you could load and fire this weapon if you had the notion.

Carronades like this one were commonly used for smaller ships, because they were much lighter than the long gun equivalents. The reduced range was a major drawback, so naval commanders frequently traded between small vessels mounted many carronades, or one or two big guns mounted on pivots (the predecessor of the modern turreted warship). Most of the American schooners and sloops on Lake Erie mounted big pivot guns, which made them into the naval equivalent of sharpshooters.
Bonus picture: the big walleyed pike that Port Clinton drops for New Years Eve. Port Clinton claims to be the walleye capital of the world for the large fishing fleet that congregates there. Maumee, Ohio also claims this distinction, because of the massive walleye run every spring on the Maumee River.