Cannon

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See Artillery

History

Early European history
The word cannon is derived from the latin canna, tube. The word bombarde was used for cannon but from the early 15th C came to refer only to the largest weapons.

The use of cannon was first recorded in the battles of the early 14th C. At the siege of Metz in 1324, and by the English against the Scots in 1327. The earliest listing of firearms in an army inventory is in 1326. But the new weapons popularity is indicated in that by 1350 cannon were regarded "as common and familiar as any [weapon]". The first cannons were of two types, either small guns of cast bronze or larger banded wrought iron cannons. Developments in gunpowder in the 1400s helped speed the military adoption of cannon. However, the actual effectiveness of these early weapons is not clear, the battle reports of the time tend to exaggerate.

The early cannon did not always fire spherical projectiles. For smaller cannon arrow-like rounds were used in the 14th C, sometimes with brass fin stabilisers or inflammable heads. Initially round shot was made of iron but this was soon replaced with stone balls, particularly for larger pieces due to the cost of metals in the 14th C (this situation lasted until the late 15th C). The round shot were sometimes covered in lead to reduce windage. For anti-personnel use massed lead pellets were quickly adopted, but in extremis any small stones, nails or iron scraps would be used as hailshot.

The introduction of wheeled carriages for cannon did not occur until the 15th C. Prior to then the weapons were mounted on sturdy wooden frames. The largest siege bombards would be strapped down to large timber baulks on earthwork platforms and aimed with either the initial platform or by hammering wedges under the front. Timber props supporting thick wooden planks were positioned to absorb the recoil.