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Old 31st May 2022, 04:27 AM   #1
M ELEY
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Default A cannon chainshot

Hello folks. I've been away from the Forum for a while after some family issues, but I wanted to post again on a new addition to my pirate/maritime colletion. Here we have a piece of chainshot late 18th/early 19th (?) century. The piece measures approximately 12" long with each ball approx 8" in diameter. As most know, these ordenance were specifically made to take out sails, spars and ropes/rigging on enemy ships. They could be used offensively to slow the craft you are trying to board or defensively to disable a pursuing enemy.


I wanted to go into a little more detail on these pieces from what I have learned through research over the years. Chainshot is in a 'family' of unique items for the above said purposes of dismantling a ship's movement. Other members from this grouping include barshot, which are two cannonballs attached by a square bar (variations of this pattern include two half cannonballs and bar, called 'angels', wedge-shaped bars, two balls with two bending bars allowing for motion/spinning, two disc-shaped weights with attached square bar, etc), spike shot and spider shot. Spider shot consisted of a base with hinged expanding baldes that sprung open in flight. Here are some early pics of different types of shot-
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Old 31st May 2022, 04:30 AM   #2
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The earliest type of specialty shot I have come across dates back to the Elizabethan times and consisted of a cannonball with a spike driven through it, as in this one on the left. Some spike shot had spiked projectiles protruding from both ends of the ball, however-
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Old 31st May 2022, 04:38 AM   #3
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One can began to realize just how much rarer these types of shot were compared to typical cannnballs. They were made mostly for shipboard use with rare exception, they often weren't recoverable and they were more difficult to forge. Obviously, they would have been used by navies, privateers and merchant class ships, but I wondered if pirates would have used such to capture a fleeing prize. My research showed that indeed the sea rovers did use them. On the wreck of the famous Whydah (Sam Bellamy's pirate vessel) were found multiple pieces of bar and chain shot, likewise the Queen Anne's Revenge, Blackbeard's infamous ship. Here's a pic of bar and chainshot dating to the American Revolution-
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Old 31st May 2022, 04:45 AM   #4
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Although rare, on certain occasions, bar and chainshot have been used as anti-personnel weapons. Two famous incidences are noted during the English Civil War.

I attach Michael's amazing thread from times past here for more great info on these 'whirling instruments of disctruction'.
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Old 31st May 2022, 04:47 AM   #5
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Although rare, on certain occasions, bar and chainshot have been used as anti-personnel weapons. Two famous incidences are noted during the English Civil War.

I attach Michael's amazing thread from times past here for more great info on these 'whirling instruments of disctruction'.

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showth...ght=chain+shot
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Old 31st May 2022, 04:57 AM   #6
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Default Closed auctions more chainshot

https://www.liveauctioneers.com/item...non-chain-shot

https://www.liveauctioneers.com/item...non-chain-shot

https://www.bidsquare.com/online-auc...in-shot-782352

https://www.alexautographs.com/aucti...hot_03246C395F

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Old 31st May 2022, 03:31 PM   #7
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On a final note, forgot to mention that chainshot were always smaller than the muzzle of the cannon they were being fired from. The difference in size was reduced by wrapping the projectile in sailcloth. The cloth would shred on firing, allowing the chains to unfurl. Many types of chainshot pieced together to form a full 'ball', allowing for insertion into the cannon tube, but again would spread out like a net when fired. Both chain/bar/spike and spidershot were inaccurate at long range, but effective when closing in on the target. Judging for how long this ordenance was around, they must have been quite useful for taking out sails.

It is my personal oppinion that they probably ceased being manufactured shortly after the first quarter of the 19th century (official end of Age of Fighting Sail despite masted ships still seeing combat i.e. CW blockage runners,British merchant ships attacked in Malay islands, etc). Although used up until mid-late 19th, my suspicions is that those later uses were from surplus ordenance. With maritime weapons, this was an extremely common practice, seen with re-issued cutlass, boarding axes and pikes (the latter still seen on some WWI vessels!!)
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Old 31st May 2022, 03:40 PM   #8
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Interesting projectiles and ferocious looking. Here is a 24 lb solid ball and marked so you know who sent it to you. Fired in 1760 at an island fort near Montreal.
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Old 31st May 2022, 04:43 PM   #9
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Default Listen to this, guys.

Traditionally, the main objective of these devices was to breake and destroy the rigging and masts of enemy ships. However these projectiles were also used on land, where they had a devastating effect on cavalry and infantry.
According to the American historian, Albert C. Manucy, there is an account from the beginning of the 18th century, which mentions a failed attempt to use a shackle bullet, in which instead of inserting the two bullets into the same artillery piece, each of the two bullets was inserted into two different cannons, arranged side by side, with the chain partially from outside.
The objective of this experimental maneuver was to cancel the rotation effect characteristic of chained bullets and shackle bullets, so that the bullets would be fired in a straight line, with the chain stretched to the maximum. In this way, the firing would be more stable and accurate and, therefore, it would be possible to increase the effectiveness of this type of ammunition, as anti-infantry projectiles. However, this experiment was unsuccessful, as the artillery pieces were not able to fire at the same time, which caused the bullet that was fired first to revolve around the cannon that had not yet fired, wrapping itself in it and destroying it, having still catching and tangling with the current all the troops that were around.
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Old 31st May 2022, 09:49 PM   #10
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Thanks, Will. That is a big ball, indeed! I had always assumed the broad arrow mark was just to let the Brits using it that it was from a foundry that was their own. I would agree that it would make an excellent 'calling card' to the enemy, though!
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Old 31st May 2022, 09:54 PM   #11
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Hello 'Nando and good to hear from you. I remembered reading about this somewhere and the disasterous result! I do know that chain and bar were used against the Parlimentarians in one battle of the English Civil War and again against the Royalists. I haven't had time to look up the reference, but I'll try and find it in my notes.
Do you remember that movie I mentioned to you (and others on the Forum) a few years back called '1612', about the Polish invasion of Russia. There's a great scene involving the use of barshot against the Poles as they ride through the gate of the castle. Brutal! I don't know if it is historically accurate to that battle, though-
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Old 31st May 2022, 10:13 PM   #12
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The piece measures approximately 12" long with each ball approx 8" in diameter.

8" diameter equates to a 68pr which were larger than guns carried by the English for example (except for the odd Carronade or two) so I assume that you mean some other measurement, 8cm dia or 8" circumference?

Would it be possible to see close up photos of the welds of several of the chain links please? They almost seem to be proud of the surface in the main photo, as one finds with modern factory welded links; is that build up corrosion or metal?
Also photos of the attachment of the links to the balls please - cast integrally or welded to the surface?
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Old 31st May 2022, 10:27 PM   #13
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Here is a 24 lb solid ball and marked so you know who sent it to you.

That is a super example - the broad arrow only seems to appear on very early shot, quite why they went to the trouble is a mystery to me - why do so few have this? I have collected British muzzle loading projectiles, fuzes etc for nearly two decades and while old British cannon balls with provenance are not too difficult to find - museums, private collections, etc - any marked examples are rare.
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Old 1st June 2022, 01:25 AM   #14
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Oops!!! Adrian, you are absolutely correct! Sorry, no math major! I meant 8 inches in total circumference (meaning literally wrapping my measuring ruler around it). It is only 2.5" tall, if you know what I mean. It's nearly exactly as big as my 2 lb cannonball (a common size for the American 'grasshopper' cannons from the Revolution. Likewise, the 2 pounder balls were used in some swivels). in simpler terms, the size of a small orange or tangerine. Thanks for that correction and I need to go back to shool!

The 12" length is correct, though-

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Old 2nd June 2022, 05:19 PM   #15
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Capn, thank you so much for posting this amazing example of an unusual aspect of maritime ordnance! While obviously, as your research has shown, these rather devastating things had terrible effect on personnel also so found use ashore as well, and the results must have been horrifying.

Its great to have the addendums and thorough details you have placed here also, and I hope others can add some other insights and examples. I know of an example from Dutch resources and will try to locate the pics. I had no idea that these were in scenes from one or two of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" films, and that the Disney studios went to great lengths to use as much accuracy as possible in weaponry, a growing trend for many Hollywood films over the years (despite occasional missteps).
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Old 2nd June 2022, 05:26 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by adrian View Post
Here is a 24 lb solid ball and marked so you know who sent it to you.

That is a super example - the broad arrow only seems to appear on very early shot, quite why they went to the trouble is a mystery to me - why do so few have this? I have collected British muzzle loading projectiles, fuzes etc for nearly two decades and while old British cannon balls with provenance are not too difficult to find - museums, private collections, etc - any marked examples are rare.
It does seen unusual as the shot was obviously an expendable item, so why add markings? I think it was more a matter of an attempt at marking anything considered Royal property and if not mistaken was in the reign of Henry VIII in his concerns over military weapons and supply. It does seem the 'broad arrow' was around considerable years before.
This was in fact marking of ordnance items in storage, rather than an 'in your eye' note. As you say, typically the projectiles are not marked, and the markings on cannon have key meanings aside from what is often perceived.
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Old 2nd June 2022, 09:43 PM   #17
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well, this topic has sent me on a quest to learn more, and Capn thank you for the link to that 2009 discussion, indeed poignant seeing the words and wonderful posts of our departed friend Michael.

In "The Archaeology of Ships of War" (Menson Bound, 1995. p.34), there was an Elizabethan shipwreck found off the French coast near island of Alderney, whose nationality is uncertain but quite likely Spanish, as numbers of 'Spanish spike shot' were found. It is said that Drake invented this ordnance to use against Spaniards, but the design of course was adopted by them and others.
What is interesting though in this c. 1590s wreck were about 6 concreted 'BAR SHOT' with 3" diameter 'half ball shot" connected by 12" wrought iron bar.

In the same book (p.118) an English East Indiaman named the "Hindostan' built 1789, has listed in armament 24 twelve pounders with 352 rounds shot and 37 DOUBLE HEADED SHOT. Also there were 37 six pounders with 112 round shot and 23 DOUBLE HEAD SHOT.

These East Indiamen were prepared to defend against French vessels (during war with France) as well as ever lurking pirate vessels.

That pirate vessels were also long familiar with these kinds of shot is told by Angus Konstam ("Blackbeard", 2006, p.179)..."one final ammunition type that was relatively WIDELY used was CHAINSHOT....roundshot linked together by a rod. This spun through the air and was designed to bring down masts".

Apparently this term was used broadly for both types, connected by chain, as well as by bar. It was necessary to be at close range firing this as a normal charge might explode the gun barrel. These were apparently well wrapped in rags or wadding to maintain mass going through barrel which of course fell away at exit.
The main idea was of course to destroy the masts to prevent the vessel from escaping, but the destruction of the ship structure was also a factor. With any type shot, the key factor was to cause casualties, with deadly splintering the result, not to sink the valuable ship itself.

While teak was always a great seaworthy wood, its drawback was that its splintered shrapnel was deadly causing gangrene and death, while oak was essentially 'clean' in its wounding. Thus oak became the structural choice due to this factor ("The Gun Deck" , in 'Campaigns' magazine editorial , Sept Oct 1977).

These deadly projectiles, even if not hitting a victim directly, would launch the dreaded splinters, (some pieces even feet long) to horrible effect against the men on the vessel.
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Old 3rd June 2022, 04:12 AM   #18
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Curious about where these kinds of ordnance might have come from,

From ; "The Arsenal of the World: Dutch Arms Trade in the Seventeenth Century", Jan Piet Puype and Marco van der Hoeven,1996 p.69
glossary of some terms pertaining to cannon shot:

los schwerp: chain shot, two cannon balls linked with a chain
schuiftang: expanding bar shot, 'boutkagel' with expanding bar

bout, boutkagel,schietbout: bar shot; bar shaped cannon ball or two cannon balls connected with bar.

kneppel: two cannon balls linked by an iron bar

kruisscherp, kruisbal: cannon ball with transverse bar

lang scherpp: rectangular cannon projectiles

Arms merchants in Dordrecht and Liege sold these products, many of which were made in Germany, Poland or Sweden.
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Old 4th June 2022, 05:40 AM   #19
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Default Ahoy!

Jim, you snuck up on me with your awesome replies! A fellow pirate, indeed!

Thank you for coming in on this conversation, as always! I appreciate that info on the Spanish shipwreck off the isle of Alderney (I'll have to research it. I'm learning a lot from the study of certain wrecks). Confirmation of my research showing that spike shot was the earliest and used by the Elizabethan sea dogs. I must say I was surprised that bar shot was also found on this wreck from such an early period. Here's another-

https://www.numisbids.com/n.php?p=lot&sid=3497&lot=1371

The 'teak vs oak' explanation is also a fascinating take from your comments. The 'shivered timbers' so deadly from the impact of standard cannon balls and specialty shot such as these. A 'cleaner' wound from oak is fascinating. Speaking of shivers, anyone interested in naval battles should check out the 2017 Dutch film 'Admiral', with some heinous scenes of just how deadly these wood projectiles could be.

Thank you also for the breakdown of what other nations called these items. Much like the various names for boarding pikes, axes, cutlass in other countries, it is always interesting to see the similarities in these items (hache de bord, marine sabal, etc). The one on this list that still intrigues me just for its odd shape and how someone came up with it is the 'lang scherpp' or rectangular cannon projectile, sort of dumbell-shaped, but with widened/squared ends. I'll also have to check out that reference you mentioned by Bound, Jim. As I said, shipwreck sites and books have really helped me build m knowledge on these things.

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Old 4th June 2022, 09:37 AM   #20
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Speaking of shipwrecks and recovered artifacts, here's one of my favorite sites featuring the wreck of the privateer French vessel Machault. Check out page 38 for some interesting folding bar shot-

https://sha.org/assets/documents/Leg...lt_English.pdf
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Old 4th June 2022, 11:00 AM   #21
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Great link, Captain. Note the French 12 pounder marked with a fleur de liz; as this subject was (also) approached here.


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Old 4th June 2022, 01:22 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by M ELEY View Post
... Much like the various names for boarding pikes, axes, cutlass in other countries, it is always interesting to see the similarities in these items (hache de bord, marine sabal, etc)...
In the Oporto Military Museum, we see chain shot tagged with the generic name "Balas encadeadas" (chained bullets). Note one example has piramid coupling indentations, and the other, round ones.
The bar shot, we call it here "Palanqueta", diminutive for palanca (pole).
The last image is a French example where the half balls are hollow. They call these Boulet ramé (ramé like (tree) branch ?). Not particulary this 'atypical' pattern but again the French generic term for chain shot.


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Old 4th June 2022, 07:52 PM   #23
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Great link, Captain. Note the French 12 pounder marked with a fleur de liz; as this subject was (also) approached here.


.
This is excellent Fernando! Thank you!
The fleur de lis was a 'state' ownership mark, much like the broad arrow, and was I think used by the arsenal at Paris c. 1740. The sword blades from St.Etienne often found in British context had this mark blade center.
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Old 4th June 2022, 07:53 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by M ELEY View Post
Jim, you snuck up on me with your awesome replies! A fellow pirate, indeed!

Thank you for coming in on this conversation, as always! I appreciate that info on the Spanish shipwreck off the isle of Alderney (I'll have to research it. I'm learning a lot from the study of certain wrecks). Confirmation of my research showing that spike shot was the earliest and used by the Elizabethan sea dogs. I must say I was surprised that bar shot was also found on this wreck from such an early period. Here's another-

https://www.numisbids.com/n.php?p=lot&sid=3497&lot=1371

The 'teak vs oak' explanation is also a fascinating take from your comments. The 'shivered timbers' so deadly from the impact of standard cannon balls and specialty shot such as these. A 'cleaner' wound from oak is fascinating. Speaking of shivers, anyone interested in naval battles should check out the 2017 Dutch film 'Admiral', with some heinous scenes of just how deadly these wood projectiles could be.

Thank you also for the breakdown of what other nations called these items. Much like the various names for boarding pikes, axes, cutlass in other countries, it is always interesting to see the similarities in these items (hache de bord, marine sabal, etc). The one on this list that still intrigues me just for its odd shape and how someone came up with it is the 'lang scherpp' or rectangular cannon projectile, sort of dumbell-shaped, but with widened/squared ends. I'll also have to check out that reference you mentioned by Bound, Jim. As I said, shipwreck sites and books have really helped me build m knowledge on these things.
Its an exciting topic, and outstanding example you posted Capn, how could I resist!!
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Old 5th June 2022, 03:36 AM   #25
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Thank you gentlemen for your replies. Fernando, I had completely missed those munitions, so thank you for enlarging and posting them. Jim, thanks for clarification on the state ownership marks found on some of these cannonballs. I'd love to own one, truthfully! Also a thank you, 'Nando, for the names of these ordinance in other cultures. I hope to obtain an 'angel' (a bar shot with square bar and two half balls) one of these days as well-
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Old 5th June 2022, 03:47 PM   #26
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Going with this topic, I remember at the Copenhague Tojhuset they have a machine to make red hot shot. It has a couple of rails in spiral around an oven.
I think this was for a fort, not to use on board, but they existed too.

I also remember some Dutch account from a XVIIth century Pacific raider chasing a Spanish ship making the route from Peru to Panama.
The pursued ship run out of ammunition and started shooting fresh minted patacones.

This is a patacon. Of course what they probably shot were pieces of eight that went into the wood (some 20% larger).
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Old 5th June 2022, 04:46 PM   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by midelburgo View Post
Going with this topic, I remember at the Copenhague Tojhuset they have a machine to make red hot shot. It has a couple of rails in spiral around an oven.
I think this was for a fort, not to use on board, but they existed too.

I also remember some Dutch account from a XVIIth century Pacific raider chasing a Spanish ship making the route from Peru to Panama.
The pursued ship run out of ammunition and started shooting fresh minted patacones.

This is a patacon. Of course what they probably shot were pieces of eight that went into the wood (some 20% larger).
This is incredible! and takes the use of 'langrange' to a new level!
I am not familiar with 'Pacific raider' term, though of course it suggests Dutch by your note. I know there were English pirates who traversed the Isthmus of Darien to operate in the Pacific theater.
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Old 5th June 2022, 04:53 PM   #28
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Default Speaking of names;what is an angel ?

Quote:
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... I hope to obtain an 'angel' (a bar shot with square bar and two half balls) one of these days as well ...
From Revolutionary War Journal ...
Bar shot was similar to chain shot except a metal bar attached the shot at each end. The bar was one to two feet long. A type of this was referred to as a sliding shot. The connecting bar was actually two bars which, upon firing, would slide over each other by connecting grommets that expanded the distance between shot as well as its destructive force. All forms of bar shot were called angel shot for its appearance in flight to deliver a not so angelic impact.
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Old 5th June 2022, 05:46 PM   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by midelburgo View Post
... I remember at the Copenhague Tojhuset they have a machine to make red hot shot. It has a couple of rails in spiral around an oven.
I think this was for a fort, not to use on board, but they existed too...
Maybe not the one you saw, but we may see a mobile one operated by the same Royal Norwegian Navy (circa 1860).
The ones for fortification facilities are pretty massive, like this French one at Fort-la-Latte and the other at Fort Mc Allister US.


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Old 5th June 2022, 08:47 PM   #30
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It seems an 'angel shot' is the bar shot with two half spheres connected by a bar.
Spider shot is chain shot but with a number of chains.

The destructive force of any sort of cannon shot was unimaginable and horrifying even though low velocity, some moving seemingly slow through the air could have gruesome effect. With that capacity with a simple round shot ball, one can only imagine what these more elaborate devices could do.

Obviously, with chain shot, the bolo effect against a mast or rigging would seem more effective than with a ball with more localized damage on strike. As noted, these were not especially accurate with their erratic aerodynamics, so would only be close range use. The idea was to immobilize the opponent vessel to prevent escape.

In the superb book on piracy by Benerson Little, "The Golden Age of Piracy: The Truth Behind Pirate Myths" (2016), p.101, he cites a reference from "A Relation of Three Years Suffering" (Robert Evard, 1746). In this the authors narrative describes being aboard the English ship Bauden out of London attacked by pirates off the coast of Madagascar in 1686. Apparently the pirates had made several contacts with the ship, but finally in the process of boarding, the author says, "....his SHOT cut many of our shrouds".

While as often the case in recorded accounts, the 'type' of shot used is not specified, however as per our discussions, it would suggest that the type would have been chain shot.

It would seem that pirate vessels would have favored this type of weapon to immobilize the targeted ship to prevent it from escape...without damage that might sink the vessel before thorough plundering.

While not specified in actual accounts, this lack of mention is contrarily well portrayed in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" fiction with Jack Sparrow shouting, "...load your guns with chain shot! Aim for their rigging! We must slow them down". Hooray for Hollywood!
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