The siege cannon is an early artillery weapon. It was the long-range weapon of Joan of Arc.
In the 800s the Chinese were the first to make gunpowder. The Song Dynasty created the first cannon known as the Fire Lance in the 900s. Chinese cannon technology would be widespread by the 1100s. With the rise of the Arabic Empire, the technology traveled from China westward to the battlefield of Europe. The Arabs had a monopoly on cannon warfare until their wars against Europe allowed the Europeans to steal the technology for themselves.
One of the earliest French cannons was the Iron Pot or Pot-de-fer (aka Vasi or Vasii); used during the early Hundred Years War. As the names suggest; the cannon was in the shape of a pot or vase. The base of the barrel was large and bottom heavy, with an hourglass neck, ending with a trumpet head. This barrel design was incredibly imprecise since the cannonball's trajectory was almost random. Later cannon designs were shaped with narrow tubes as the cannonball would be forced to contact the inner lining and travel down the strait cavity, thus leaving the cannon parallel to the inner walls of the barrel. This way, if the cannonball were to bounce off within the barrel, it will hit the opposite side instantly and be forced to have a (relatively) strait trajectory. The majority of Pot-de-fers fired arrows, and many historians debate if this weapon was ever effective as a cannon due to its unusual shape. The earliest recorded use of cannons in European naval combat was the Battle of Arnemuiden on 23 September 1338: and even then it was only onboard the English ship Christopher which had three cannons and one hand gun.
The French use of cannons were considered to be a major factor in their victory of the Hundred's Year War against the English. Jean and Gaspard Bureau were revolutionary in their use of artillery on the French battlefield, most noticeably the Battle of Castillon on 17 July 1453. John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury advanced his English army into the range of the defensive line of French Hand Cannons and siege cannons: Talbot, unaware of the effectiveness of these guns, saw his forces get slaughtered by gunfire before making any gains in the battle. The English suffered 4000 casualties while the French suffered only 100 casualties.
By the 15th century: cannons became more mobile, flexible, and longer ranged. This was due to the cannons having wider wagon-style wheels, a chassis that allowed the cannon to aim at steeper angles, and longer and more advanced barrels.
As cannon technology evolved, the sizes and types of cannons created diversified. The Chinese introduced the concept of a portable Hand Cannon; which led to the creation of muskets and the modern gun.
The first cannonballs were called Gunstone; as they were made from dressed-stone. Gunstone was eventually replaced by Round Shot (Iron Shot or Lead Shot) in the 1600s. Ogival Shot replaced the cannonball during the American Civil War: being more aerodynamic and thus more accurate and longer ranged.
Explosive shells existed as early as 1376 AD by the Venetians: but become commonplace during the mid 1800s. By the late 1800s, the Round Shot was completely replaced by the Shell.
Muzzle-loading cannons continued to be used until the late 1800s. The breach-loading Armstrong Gun was revolutionary; allowing faster reloading by loading the shell from the rear of the barrel instead of forcing it down the front of the barrel. Modern artillery would continue to use similar breach-loading mechanisms.
The most deadliest portable siege weapon created was the Davy Crocket created in the 1950s. It was a mortar with a 10-20 Ton (of TNT) nuclear warhead. The weapon was successfully tested; but considered too dangerous for conventional warfare and the prototype was scrapped.
The siege cannon was a cast iron barrel mounted on a wooden cart, with an overall weight of 1,350 lbs. The cannonballs were made from granite and weighed between 10 and 12 lbs. The range was measured at 2,200 yards.
- Total weight: 1,350 lbs
- Ordinance: 10-12 lb stone ball
- Range: 2,200 yards
- Ignitor: Fuse
- Average reload time: 1:24 (user dependent)
- Fastest reload time 1:05
The siege cannon was used to bombard the walls of the castle, continually blasting it until the wall eventually collapsed under its own weight.
Bombards are cannons exclusively designed to attack fortified walls; although they could still be used against armies. Most large cannons were bombards. Field Guns are cannons designed to be anti-infantry; with the most noticeable features being a long thin barrel (to maximize range and accuracy without making the cannon too heavy) and large wheels for easier movement and aiming.
Howitzers existed in the early 1400. Their small barrels made them flexible by being able to fire like a regular cannon or aim at high trajectories to lob projectiles into the air like a mortar. The Hussite Wars (July 30, 1419 – May 30, 1434) were one of the first examples of Howitzers being used effectively in battle.
The Fall of Constantinople in Spring of 1453 was the first recorded use of Mortars. These guns have small barrels but are aimed at high trajectories to lob projectiles.
Artillery is still used today; primarily as an anti-tank weapon. Long range bombardment is normally done by rockets, missiles and aircraft; who have superior range to artillery.
The siege cannon was pitted against the Torsion catapult of William the Conqueror. The siege cannon was tested against a wall, made to medievel specifications, and given 5 shots to bring it down. The wall was heavily damaged and after 3 shots, a ballistics gel torso was added to test for accuracy and lethality. The cannon hit the gel on the fifth shot, giving an instant kill and doing extreme damage to the wall (Geoff stated that if it were a weight bearing wall, it would have collapsed) with an average reload of 1 minute and 24 seconds: with the fastest reload being 1 minute 5 seconds. The catapult was tested against a mock castle wall and village with 5 shots to hit as many villagers or guards along the wall as possible. The catapult killed 2 villagers and one guard with an average reload of 1 minute and 1 second. The edge was given to the siege cannon due to its intimidation factor, the sound of the cannon causing a morale drop on the castle defenders when facing a long time of hearing the cannon blasts, and ability to breach a castle wall. www
- Small cannons were mounted on camels; making it a Camel Gun.