SCARCE U.S. HALE ROCKET

$1,500.00

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Item Code: 490-1797

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Excavated specimen of the federal Hale rocket. Rockets played a small role during the Civil War, but they were used in a few campaigns with both Union and Confederate leaders showing an interest in them. General P.G.T. Beauregard campaigned for a rocket battery. On the union side, Brigadier General William F. Berry had a rocket battery named in his honor. There were strong arguments supporting rockets. Rockets were portable, cheap, free of recoil, could be discharged rapidly, the size of the projectile was almost unlimited, and the noise and fiery tail they produced wrought havoc among mounted troops.

In 1804, Sir William Congreve of England turned his attention to rocket improvement, using more powerful rocket fuel in an iron case with a rear guide stick. These improvements were enough to qualify rockets for 19th century warfare. The next significant improvement came in 1844, when a British Civil Engineer, William Hale, discarded the “broom stick” tail which had always been thought necessary for stability. Hale added five small exhaust vents known as tangential vents, on the base arranged around the main rocket thrust vent. These vents caused the rocket to spin on its longitudinal axis like an artillery shell. The arrangements of small tangential vents on the base caused the rocket to “wallow” or “keyhole” and in 1855 Hale reduced the number of vents to three.

The solid fuel was composed of a mixture of 10 parts nitre, 2 parts sulphur, and 3 parts charcoal put into the case under pressure. Then a tapered hole was bored down the longitudinal axis with the largest end at the base. Civil War rockets were launched from a tripod stand. One is an iron tube and the other is formed by three iron rods arranged spirally and fastened together by collars to form the bore.

The United States paid Hale $25,000 in the period 1847-1865 for use of his design. The two sizes used by the federals were 2 ¼” and 3 ¼” in diameters. They came in solid shot, shell, and case-shot variety. General George McClellan had a rocket battery in his Army of the Potomac and employed it during the spring of 1862 in the Peninsular Campaign. Several of the 2 ¼” Hale rockets have been unearthed in the vicinity of the Battle of Seven Pines. They all had the solid heads and three rear tangential vents.

This example is the 2 ¼” version, approximately 13 ½” long with the three rear tangential vents. The iron surface exhibits heavy ground action with some surface fissures resulting from long term exposure to the elements. The shell has been coated. The recovery location is unknown. [jet]

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