ARTILLERY TREATISE OWNED, SIGNED, AND WITH NOTATIONS, BY JOHN MERCER BROOKE, INVENTOR OF THE BROOKE RIFLE AND PROJECTILES, DESIGNER OF THE IRONCLAD C.S.S. VIRGINIA

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This is Volume 1 of an original 1809 first edition of Louis De Tousard’s American Artillerist’s Companion, or Elements of Artillery, given to John Mercer Brooke by William Green of Richmond, Va., likely a short time after Brooke’s arrival in the city in April 1861 following his resignation from the U.S. Navy. Brooke is well known as a principal designer behind the conversion of the USS Merrimac into the ironclad CSS Virginia. He was even more active in ordnance development, designing a series of large bore rifled cannon (and a few smoothbores) produced at the Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond and the CS Naval Ordnance Works at Selma. He was equally prolific in the design of projectiles, large bore explosive shells and armor-piercing, or at least armor-punching, bolts. He received several promotions because of his work, becoming chief of the CS Navy Bureau of Ordnance and Hydrography. Two of his early 6.4-inch rifled guns, using wrought iron reinforcing bands to strengthen cast iron barrels, were completed in time to be aboard the CSS Virginia. Examples of his shells are sought after by collectors and form collecting category of their own.

The technical sections of Tousard would have been particularly useful to Brooke for reference and notes show he read it. The phrase “air space” appears next to sections on pages 341-42 dealing with testing mortars of different alloys and reducing the chances of their shells breaking, and also on pages 351-52 next to a discussion of cannon ball and muzzle diameters. Brooke obviously retained the book after the war as well. A postwar notation proudly notes (in the third person) one of his innovations: “Trunnions filletted first by Mr. Brooke C.S. at Richmond during the Civil War, adopted by the U.S."

Brooke (1826-1906) graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1847 and rose to the rank of lieutenant. He participated extensively in marine surveys and exploratory expeditions, was an inventor, and played a key part in mapping the sea floor and enabling the transatlantic cable to be laid. He returned to the U.S. in 1860 after a Pacific expedition and upon Virginia’s secession from the Union tendered his resignation from the Navy on April 20, 1861, was dismissed from the service in response, and then promptly commissioned a lieutenant in the provisional navy of Virginia a few days later and in the CS Navy in early May. Brooke’s journal records tests of armor plating in 1861, but also shows his strong interest in artillery and projectiles, for which the technical sections of this volume of Tousard would be particularly useful, covering the material and construction of artillery pieces – the characteristics of brass, iron, and steel guns, different types of iron and steel, proper length and bore size of barrels, as well as the casting, configuration and velocities of cannonballs, etc.

Brooke twice signed the book: once in ink on the flyleaf and once in pencil, both times with the notation that it had been given to him by William Green of Richmond, Va. Green had signed it once in ink over the date 1859, most likely the date he acquired it. (An earlier owner’s name appears in ink on the flyleaf above Brooke’s flyleaf inscription.) Green (1806-1880) was one of Virginia’s most famous attorneys and legal scholars. More to the point, he was a renowned bibliophile with a personal library of more than 15,000 volumes. The 1859 date suggests he may have developed an interest in military matters from the John Brown raid, as did so many other Virginians. Green’s connection with Brooke is unclear, but Brooke was in Richmond by April 23, 1861, had Virginia connections through his wife’s family, was dealing in person with CS Secretary of the Navy Mallory and Robert E. Lee, and access to such technical material would have been essential for his ordnance work. Brooke survived the war to teach physics and astronomy at VMI, retiring in 1899 and dying in 1906.

This volume is scarce in itself. Tousard had served the Revolution, returned to the U.S. in 1795, and played a key role in establishing West Point as a school for engineer and artillery officers. In addition to designing fortifications, testing artillery, and promoting the idea of interchangeable parts, this artillery treatise became a basic U.S. manual for decades, fully titled: “American Artillerist's Companion, or Elements of Artillery. Treating of all kinds of Firearms in Detail, and of the Formation, Object and Service of the Flying or Horse Artillery, preceded by an Introductory Dissertation on Cannon.” The publication information for this edition is: Philadelphia: Published by C. and A. Conrad and Co. And by Conrad, Lucas and Co. Baltimore; Somervell and Conrad, Petersburg; and Bonsal, Conrad and Co. Norfolk 1809. The book is bound in brown leather with blindstamped gilt title on red and volume number on the spine. The covers show some wear and chips, a slight gap to the front joint and slight bowing. The text block shows foxing but is in place. A frontispiece portrait of Washington is present, but detached. Everything else is in place: title page with the copyright statement on reverse, Preface and Table of Contents running to page XXVIII and Introduction to LXXV, followed by main text to final page 546. This is Volume 1 only, which contains the technical information on cannon and projectiles that Brooke would have found most useful.

This is an important manual belonging to an innovator and inventor who lent his considerable talents to closing the gap in technology and arms between the south and the north. It is historically important and would be a great addition to a Confederate ordnance or artillery collection. [sr]

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