Napoleonic artillery

Jan 2020

I'm new to this forum and seeing that it deals, among others, with European history, I was wondering if I could get some help with respect to the cannons used by the Napoleon regime (during the Napoleonic wars). Particularly, I'm intrigued by their aiming angle (or elevation, if they're interchangeable). Would it be fair to assume that they weren't designed to reach an angle of 45 degrees, for example?

Thanks in advance


Forum Staff
Aug 2016
On a Napoleonic era cannon elevation was controlled by a device called a trunnion. In the photo below, the trunnion is that gray X-shape under the rear of the barrel. The trunnion is a screw mounted on the gun's trail. By turning that X handle you can raise or lower the trunnion. You can see that on this gun the barrel only has about 10 or 20 degrees of elevation possible. I've seen other guns with a little more elevation potential but never near 45 degrees.


If someone wanted that kind of a trajectory, mortars did exist in the Napoleonic era. So did howitzers which were similar to guns but were intended to fire with more arc in their trajectory. I'm not sure howitzers could reach as high as 45 degrees but maybe 30 or 35 degrees. Mortars were mostly used for firing over the walls of forts. Howitzers were used to hit troops hiding behind hills. Buildings were also more vulnerable if you could drop in through the roof rather than trying to punch in through the walls.
May 2019
These books might be of use to you: