Military and War Weapons the Cannon

About the military and war weapon the cannon, origins and history, the first notable use by the Turkish armies, the cannonball today.



Description. A cannon is a gun too heavy to be hand-held, which is mounted on a stationary or mobile carriage or in a tank, airplane, or ship. It employs an explosive to fire some type of large projectile from its barrel. Cannons are classified either according to the weight of the missile they can fire, such as a 24-pounder, or according to the diameter of the gun barrel's bore, such as an 88-mm. cannon.

Origin. Where and by whom the cannon was invented are debatable questions. One theory holds that Arabs in Spain first devised and used cannons called madfaa around 1250. The madfaa was a wooden bowl which was packed with gunpowder and had a stone laid over its muzzle. The powder was ignited and, when working properly, threw the stone in the general direction of the enemy. According to another theory, cannons in the form of metal tubes using gunpowder and firing wooden arrows first appeared in China around 1300.

Yet another account alleges that an alchemist monk named Berthold Schwartz invented the cannon in Freiburg, Germany, in 1320. Called "Berthold the Black" either because of possible Moorish ancestry or because of the color of his monastic robes, the monk combined charcoal, sulfur, and saltpeter (potassium nitrate)--the ingredients of gunpowder--in a mortar, which he covered with a stone slab. A stray spark accidentally set off the powder, hurling the stone slab through the roof of Berthold's laboratory. Supposedly, he recognized the military importance of his discovery and proceeded to construct the first cannon.

First Notable Use. In 1453, the first significant and decisive use of cannons occurred at the Turkish siege of the Greek Christian city of Constantinople (modern Istanbul), the greatest of all medieval fortresses, with 13 mi. of city walls.

Called the "Precursor of Antichrist" by Christians because he was a sadist, a bisexual, and a sodomite, Sultan Mohammed II of the Ottoman Turks laid siege to Constantinople in April, 1453. He brought with him 68 Hungarian-made cannons, the largest of which was a gigantic 26-ft.-long gun that weighed 20 tons, fired a 1,200-lb. stone cannonball, and required an operating crew of 200 men. For 50 days, the Turkish cannons bombarded Constantinople and ripped holes in its walls, but each time the Turks charged into the gaps, the defenders repulsed them and hastily rebuilt the walls. Finally, on May 29, 1453, a destructive cannonade toppled a wide stretch of the walls, and 12,000 elite Turkish troops successfully rampaged into the city.

The Turkish cannons were put on permanent display in Constantinople, but 354 years later, in 1807, the Turks used them again in battle against a British fleet. The ancient cannons managed to hit a British ship with two 700-lb. cannonballs, killing 60 sailors. In 1867 Sultan Abdul Aziz gave Queen Victoria of England one of the cannons used at the siege of Constantinople. Called the "Dardanelles Gun," this 17-ton cannon is now on exhibit at the Tower of London in England.

Weapon Today. Since 1453, cannons have evolved into intricately manufactured and operated artillery, with a destructive potential a thousand times greater than the Constantinople cannons. Today U.S. 152-mm. artillery fires Shillelagh missiles, which are guided to their targets by infrared beams, while U.S. High Altitude Research Project (HARP) artillery can fire shells 75.75 mi. above the earth's surface.

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