US NAVY 3"/15 Mk12 HOTCHKISS MOUNTAIN GUN

One of the rarest guns to have entered into US service seems to be the Hotchkiss 3" Mountain Gun. The Navy officially lists the gun as the USMC 3"/15 Mk12 Mountain Gun. A small number of them were said to have been in use during the Spanish- American War (1898) and also in the Philippine-American War (1899.) Last October, what I thought to be an old tin can on the dirt floor of our barn turned out to be a crumpled cartridge case that was once used in one of these guns. Once I realized the rarity of my find, I decided to take a little time to restore it to a presentable appearance. A rainy day gave me enough time to do the job. As you can see from the photos, the lower portion still needs to be taken in a little. I found that a lathe and a strap wrench does wonders to restore the size and shape. I also believe that I’ve found the Navy gun that used the early Armstrong or Armstrong-pattern fuze that was found in numbers at the site of the 1926 Lake Denmark Naval Depot explosion at Picatinny Arsenal. The fuze has central ignition, a chimney and a single-bank 10-second time ring which would make it one of the oldest Armstrong or British T & P fuzes. The 10 seconds is more than enough for shrapnel shells fired from the 3" Hotchkiss Mountain Gun. Their range was limited to 4000 yards. Now onto the next restoration project – 1918 US Navy 1Pdr cases…

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Wow! Really a great job you did there!

Thanks! But that’s just metal working. The job I can’t seem to do is to identify that Armstrong or Armstrong-pattern fuze. If it’s Armstrong, then it’s later than an Armstrong MkII. If it’s British, then it’s before the No.55 MkI, probably after the No.52 Fuze because it incorporates the added passageway to improve chances of igniting the combustion ring. All the specimens are marked “I” in three places so it should be a MkI, possibly a British No.53 (which along with No.52’s, were discontinued early-on because of weak shear wires.) The big question is what was the Navy doing with so many of them. They were found in equal numbers as the Scovill MkXI-1. Here’s a few pics showing early time fuze elements together with later-developed percussion fuze elements.


The thing is that when it was made for the US and adapted to the caliber it was to be used with it may not fit any British designation as MK numbers are UK military and what Armstrong exported was not related to this. So you may waste time looking for a British military designation on your US fuze.

Did spend a lot of time, but it wasn’t a total waste. In my searching I found some interesting tidbits… found that Shrapnel shells with the Scovill fuze are officially US listed for use as anti-aircraft as late as 1944 (but without percussion fuzing.) Also found that these Armstrong- or British-like fuzes were likely made in Philadelphia and not in UK (I’ll recognize the name of the company if I hear it, just can’t recall it at the moment.) Also learned to identify a Navy fuze from an Army one, seems that Navy fuzes have to be all “gunmetal” (brass) to resist corrosion. They’re early fuzes though, not quick-set. The top nut has to be loosened to set the fuze, then tightened before loading. Too bad they weren’t stamped with the Navy’s anchor like the Scovill in photo – the anchor’s the nicest thing about Navy ordnance (and rocket engines!)

Some of the early Armstrong-pattern (British) fuzes were strictly for training purposes too. They were identified for such by their Mk designation.

Not saying you were wasting time on those other things of course.
As so often in the course of researching one thing other valuable info and details comes to light.
This is what makes our field of interest so satisfying.

I also agree on navy stuff, it is usually less around and contains lots of brass (or colored metals) and is often designed and marked in a different way as per the naval requirements.

Yes. And after having reviewed every(?) US Navy and USMC gun and shell that was in use prior to and during WW1 and finding that the Hotchkiss 3" Mountain Gun was the only one that used an Armstrong-pattern fuze (BUT ONLY WHEN NOT IN US SERVICE), I believe I can safely assert that the unmarked Armstrong-pattern fuzes found at the site of the 1926 Lake Denmark Naval Depot explosion are probably just training fuzes. That would certainly explain why they’re not marked and why there was so many of them. At least my time researching gave me reason to restore this unusual Hotchkiss cartridge. Now, on with straightening up those 1Pdrs too!

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One more thing with regard to the fuzes… It’s also quite possible that the US bought the Armstrong-pattern fuzes to prevent Spain from acquiring them for their 3" Hotchkiss Mountain Guns (and other guns.) The US did buy two Armstrong-Mitchell ships and Armstrong guns to prevent Spain from using them in the Spanish-American War. This would also explain the large number of fuzes around the site of the Lake Denmark Powder Depot. Maybe I’m not done researching after all.

You suspect Spain would not have had other sources for time fuzes back then?

Examples of two fuzes in use by Spain in the late 1890’s a time fuze & a TP fuze.

http://www.realcolegiodeartilleria.es/wp-content/uploads/NOSOLOCANONES/nuevosproyectiles.html

FWIW

Armstrong Combination Fuze, Chief of Ordnance Report 1891, Appendix 38

Armstrong Combination Fuze, Chief of Ordnance Report 1891, Appendix 38,.pdf (3.5 MB)

Nice save. I have a 37 MM Hotchkiss round that I got from the local gunshop. Maunfactured by Winchester and dated 1-91.

Been going through all the Chief of Ordnance reports myself (and Annual Reports of the Secretary of the Navy as well.). I found the same illustration for the FA M1891 Combination Fuze as well as one for the FA M1894 Combination Fuze (attached.) I also saw that the Army purchased their four and only four 3" Hotchkiss Mountain Guns the following year (1892). Of course they had to fire 1000 rounds with it at Sandy Hook, NJ to try it out (see attached.) With regard to the 1888 Armstrong fuze, the report stated that Frankford Arsenal was going to improve upon it before reproducing it (see attached conclusion on the Armstrong fuze.) So it seems that the fuzes are of American manufacture after all!fa-combination-fuze-1894 Hotchkiss-mountain-gun-3 m1891-armstrong-pattern

Thanks USMC69. I saw in the Navy reports that Winchester was under contract for the 37MM Hotchkiss ammunition. The American Projectile Company (later as American Ordnance Company, and lastly as the American and British Manufacturing Company) supplied the 3" Hotchkiss ammunition as well as all Hotchkiss guns for use by the Navy. Maybe the Hotchkiss Ordnance Co. couldn’t deal directly with the Navy.
Don’t ever pass on an old shell just because it’s a little beat looking. I just straightened and cleaned these 1Prs, and three were in pretty bad shape.

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FWIW, possibly some relevant drawings-

3 inch Mountain Gun Cartridge Case, Bethlehem Steel Co., 1905, WRA Co…pdf (777.2 KB)

1 Pdr. Heavy Cartridge Case (37 x 137mmR), Bureau of Ord. 1894, WRA Co. File.pdf (1.3 MB)

Thanks. I can see that the 3" case I have has been cut off to about 5-3/8" - the same length as a 1Pdr. Perhaps it was turned into a salute round and maybe some VFW in the area still actually has one of the guns.
Did you happen to see any drawings of the 1897 Navy Combination Fuze that was developed by the American Projectile Company of Lynn, MA and also of Bridgeport, CT? It was described somewhat the same as an Armstrong fuze, but lower in profile, and as being “about 11-seconds.” It was stated in the Bureau of Ordnance report that 11-seconds was more than enough for the 3" Shrapnel shells. I’ve been going through the Secretary of the Navy’s reports but maybe should have just gone through the Bureau of Ordnance reports to the Secretary of the Navy. Anyway, the 1898 and 1899 wars ended detailed reports and soon after, the Navy began developing their own fuzes. At least that’s how I understand it.

Do you mean this fuze?

Good enough. Looking at the threads on this one (let’s just call it a Model 1897) and looking at the threads on the Army’s Model 1894 it’s obvious that neither have the tapered 3/4" pipe thread which both the Armstrong fuze and the Army’s Model 1891 have. (Pipe thread is same for both US and UK.) These later fuzes seat against a flange and therefore must use straight threads. This means that the fuzes found at Lake Denmark Naval Depot do go back to the pre-1894 era. It’s all been interesting.

I think I have 2 of the 1-PDR Brass Cartridge Case marked 1917.