The Vandenburg Volley Gun

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The Vandenburg Volley Gun

A weapon of questionable value, this large volley gun was manufactured in England and saw limited use in Europe and in the American Civil War.  Different models could have anywhere from 85 to 150 barrels that fired all at once. The method of ignition was unique in that the center charge was fired by percussion and ignited the whole volley simultaneously. However, by plugging off the vents, or ignition galleries, in advance, the discharge of the piece could be regulated to fire by clusters or rows of one-sixth, one-third, or one-half of the group. The other sections remained charged, ready to be fired by inserting a new percussion cap, and opening the formerly plugged orifices. The gun was loaded from the breech with the back unscrewing to expose the chambers. A loading machine for facilitating the charging of the many chambers in the breech. The device, when placed on dowels, was in proper position over the holes in the chambers. By manipulating a lever, measured charges of powder were dropped simultaneously into every chamber. This mechanism could be removed quickly, to be replaced by another containing lead balls. When properly positioned, the latter dropped the bullets into place. A ramming device was then put on, and all charges were compressed at once by the action of a lever on the loading plungers.  Unfortunately the gun was big, heavy, and hard to move, making in difficult to place in order to achieve maximum effect.  Plus the tightly grouped shot pattern of the gun was not large enough to cover a large area, and cannon grapeshot was considered to be a more effective weapon.