The Confederate Double Barrel Cannon,
The double barrel cannon is not a new idea, going back at least to the mid 17th century. The idea behind a double barrel cannon was not a weapon to fire solid shot, but to fire chain shot, a pair of cannon balls connected together by a chain. Each cannon ball was loaded into a separate barrel, and when fired in theory the two balls should rotate around a central axis, mowing down anything in it’s path like a weedwacker mowing down grass. The trick was firing both barrels simultaneously. Any flaw in timing, uneven combustion of gunpowder, or flaws in the barrel could cause the chain shot to careen out of control. It was nigh impossible to fire a chain shot cannon with any semblance of accuracy, hence why chain shot cannon were relatively rare.
In 1862 during the American Civil War, a Georgia dentist named John Gilleland attempted to design and build his own double barrel chain shot cannon for used by the Confederate Army. Gilleland’s cannon was caste in one piece at a cost of $350, and featured two 6 inch caliber barrels. The barrels diverge three degrees so that when fired the cannonballs would diverge and the chain would be drawn taught.
On April 22nd, 1862 Gilleland’s cannon went through official ordnance testing. Testing consisted of firing at two poles in a field. On the first shot the cannonballs wildly struck the ground, tearing up over an acre of the field but nowhere near the intended target. On the second shot the chain shot flew over the poles, taking out a grove of trees far behind the target. On the third shot the chain broke, with one cannonball veering to the right and taking out a chimney on a nearby cabin, while the other flew to the left and killed a cow.
Despite the failure Gilleland continued to advertise his cannon for military use. The Confederate Army said “thanks but no thanks” and refused to adopt the cannon. Today the cannon is on display on the front lawn of the City Hall of Athens, Georgia.