From Academic Kids

The carronade was a short smoothbore, cast iron cannon, similar to a mortar, developed for the Royal Navy by the Carron Company, an ironworks in Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland. It was designed as a short-range naval weapon with a low muzzle velocity, and is said to have been invented by Lieutenant General Robert Melville in 1759 and developed by Charles Gascoigne, manager of the Carron Company from 1769 to 1779. It was adopted by the Royal Navy in 1779, and its early years was also known as a "gasconade" or "melvillade". The lower muzzle velocity of a carronade's round shot was intended to create many more of the deadly wooden splinters when hitting the structure of an enemy vessel, leading to its nickname, the smasher. However, they were only able to project a heavy cannonball over a relatively limited distance.

A carronade was much shorter and half the weight of an equivalent long gun. They were manufactured in the usual naval gun calibres (12, 18, 24 and 32 pounders, but 6 pdr and 68 pdr versions are known) but were not counted in a ship's rated number of guns. As a result, the classification of Royal Navy vessels in this period may misleading, since they would often be carrying more pieces of ordnance than they were described as carrying.

Although the carronade, like other naval guns, was mounted with ropes to restrain the recoil, the details of the gun mounting were usually quite different. The carronade was typically mounted on a sliding, rather than wheeled, gun carriage, and elevation was achieved with a turnscrew, like field guns, rather than the quoins (wooden wedges) usual for naval guns.

As a result of irregularities in the size of cannon balls and the difficulty of boring out gun barrels, there was usually a considerable gap (known as the windage) between the ball and the inside of the gun barrel. The windage of a cannon was often as much as a quarter of an inch and caused a considerable loss of projectile power. The manufacturing practices introduced by the Carron Company reduced the windage considerably. Despite the reduced windage, carronades had a much shorter range, typically a third to a half, than the equivalent long gun because they used a much smaller propellant charge. However, typical naval tactics in the late 1700s emphasised short-range broadsides, so the short range was not thought to be a problem: indeed, their much lighter weight allowed a ship to carry more carronades, or carronades of a larger calibre, than long guns, and carronades could be mounted on the upper decks, where heavy long guns could cause the ship to be top-heavy and unstable. Carronades also required a smaller gun crew. HMS Victory used the two 68 pdr carronades which she carried on her forecastle to great effect at the Battle of Trafalgar, clearing the gun deck of the Bucentaure by firing a round shot and a keg of 500 musket balls of through the Bucentaure's stern windows.

Lack of range against an opponent who could keep well clear and still use his long guns led to its disappearance in the Royal Navy from the 1850s with the development of steel, jacketed cannon by William George Armstrong and Joseph Whitworth. A few experimental ships were fitted with a carronade-only armament but suffered because enemies could stay outside their range. Carronades were used in the American Civil War.

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