Cannons and Columns: The Phoenix Iron Company and the Civil War

By Laurel Wilson ’19

Anyone who has visited a Civil War battlefield is familiar with the sight of artillery pieces dotting the landscape, marking the places where artillery units were positioned on the field. Gettysburg National Military Park has one of the largest and most diverse collections of these now silent sentinels, ranging from bronze Napoleons to breech-loading Whitworth rifled guns. One of the most common types of cannon found at Gettysburg is the 3-inch Ordnance rifle. The Ordnance rifle is interesting for a number of reasons, not least of which are its connections to Phoenix Iron Company of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania.

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A 3-inch Ordnance rifle at Gettysburg National Military Park. Photo by Hal Jespersen via Wikimedia Commons.

John Griffen was superintendent of Safe Harbor Iron Works, which was a subsidiary of Phoenix Iron Company. He designed the first “Griffen Gun” in 1854, which would later evolve into the 3-inch Ordnance rifle. Girffen’s production method for creating wrought iron cannon tubes resulted in extremely strong and durable artillery pieces. His method, which was improved upon and perfected by Samuel Reeves of Phoenix Iron Company, was able to overcome the problems associated with the brittleness of iron, a feat that other manufacturers of iron cannon tubes at the time were unable to replicate. Continue reading “Cannons and Columns: The Phoenix Iron Company and the Civil War”

Bravely on the Battlefield: 1st Lieutenant George A. Woodruff

Throughout the Civil War, many West Point graduates chose either to fight for or against the United States. In the first days of July 1863, many of these West Pointers fought against each other on the battlefield in Gettysburg, and many of them lo…

This post was first published on the Civil War Institute’s previous blog901 Stories from Gettysburg.
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Throughout the Civil War, many West Point graduates chose either to fight for or against the United States. In the first days of July 1863, many of these West Pointers fought against each other on the battlefield in Gettysburg, and many of them lost their lives. One particular West Point graduate, 1st Lieutenant George A. Woodruff, fought bravely during the battle but lost his life on July 4th after being mortally wounded during Pickett’s Charge on July 3rd. He was a member of Battery I, 1st United States Light Artillery. While he never saw the end of the Civil War, Woodruff contributed to the Union’s victory through his actions on those three days in Gettysburg.

Continue reading “Bravely on the Battlefield: 1st Lieutenant George A. Woodruff”