Loading and firing
Muzzle loading cannon were loaded by first of all ensuring that the barrel was empty. The “wad-worm” - a pole with tines of copper or brass at the front end was used to ensure that there wasn't any debris left behind by a previously fired charge inside the barrel.
A sponge made from sheepskin on one end of a pole, which was dipped into water, was used before the cannon was loaded and also after it was fired, to ensure that there was no sparks in the barrel, before loading the next charge.
The charge (in a bag) was pushed to the rear end of the barrel and firmly rammed with a rammer made of wood.
Sponging the barrel
Charging the cannon
Sometimes the charge was placed inside the barrel using a ladle, which also served as measure for measuring the right amount of powder, when the powder could not be measured and poured into bags beforehand.
Loading the shot
The charge was followed by a wad made of pieces of rope that were tied together, or of straw or a piece of fabric, which had to keep the charge in the back of the barrel.
Next a projectile was placed inside the barrel, followed by another wad, which had to prevent the projectile from falling out of the barrel. The projectile and wad was then rammed firmly against the charge and first wad at the back end of the barrel.
Priming the charge
Next the charge was primed by filling the vent hole with black powder.
Igniting the charge
Slow match on a linstock
The cannon was fired by igniting the priming powder in the vent hole with a piece of string, called a "slow match", which was attached to a stick called a "linstock".
The gas created by the explosion of the charge pushed the projectile out of the barrel.
The recoil caused the cannon to roll back on its wheels to a position where the gunner could repeat the loading process through the muzzle.
Cannon balls were sometimes heated in ovens until red hot before they were loaded into the cannon. The purpose of this was to set the enemy ship or fortress alight.
When hot shot was used, a wad of wood or rope soaked in water was used between the hot shot and the charge to prevent the hot shot from igniting the charge.
Cleaning the vent hole
Worming the barrel
A reamer of copper or brass was used to ensure that the vent hole, through which the charge will be ignited, is open and clean.
Charging the cannon with a ladle
Next the reamer was used to prick a hole into the charge through the vent hole.
The elevation of the barrel was adjusted by inserting a wedge, which is called a "quoin", underneath the back end of the barrel.
The primed cannon was then ran out through the cannon port hole of the ship.
SOUTH AFRICAN CANNON ASSOCIATION
Pricking the charge
Adjusting the elevation