Skip to primary navigation Skip to content Skip to footer
Back to Blog

Does FAME really have cannon?

Our FAa man that is standing in the waterME has two swivel guns: small cannon that are mounted on the rail and can be quickly aimed and fired. They are cast-iron guns that fire black powder, ignited by a musket cap. We often fire the cannon as demonstration during our cruises. No, we do NOT fire cannon balls or grapeshot!

We know the original FAME carried two six-pounder cannon, which were much larger guns mounted on heavy oak carriages with wheels — the kind of cannon you see in pirate movies  These cannons were also cast iron, about six feet long, and fired a solid iron ball that weighed six pounds — thus the name “six-pounder”. The cannon on larger ships fired 9-pound, 12-pound, 18-pound, 24-gun, and even 32-pound shot!

Sadly, even six-pounders are too heavy for us to carry on our modern FAME. Together the cannon barrel and gun carriage would weigh almost a thousand pounds! But the original FAME almost certainly carried a number of swivel guns, which were very popular with privateers.

Remember, privateers hoped to capture and sell vessels and their cargoes, so they didn’t want to damage them too badly. What they wanted was to intimidate the other crew into surrendering their ship. Or, if intimidation didn’t work, they wanted to take out the rigging and sails, rather than put a hole in the hull. For that reason they only fired solid shot while chasing; solid shot flew much farther and could knock away a mast or spar, slowing down their prey. When closer, they would often switch to firing grapeshot, using the cannon and swivel guns as shotguns. This was only effective at short range, but it was very discouraging to the crew that was being fired at.

Of course, FAME’s prey could and sometimes did fire back, but merchant vessels carried much smaller crews than privateers and would have struggled to keep up a steady fire. Often when merchant vessels realized they could not escape, they would surrender before anyone got hurt. Even if the merchant captain (who was sometimes an owner of the vessel, the cargo, or both) preferred to fight, he would have a hard time persuading his hired crew to try to beat off a well-manned, well-armed privateer.

Although FAME captured 20 vessels during the War of 1812 cruises, there is no evidence that anyone on either side was killed in battle.


a man sitting in a boat on a body of water