"Caissons Go Rolling Along"  
Composed by 1st Lt. Edmund L. Gruber - 1908
Synthesized by Diversified Software Research

Field Artillery Half Section

A standard Field Artillery battery consisted, at full strength, of six guns. Each gun was attached to a limber pulled by six horses, and was supported by a caisson, also attached to a limber pulled by six horses. The caisson carried two ammunition chests (also a spare wheel), and there was one chest on each limber for a total of about 1,200 rounds for the battery. There were drivers on the left side horses, each responsible for two horses. When horses were in short supply, (a battery needed about 125) mules were used, though they tended to shy in battles, so horses were used for the guns unless unavailable. There was also a battery wagon, a forge wagon and an ambulance, for a total of 18 vehicles.

A battery had five officers; one captain commanding, one lieutenant in charge of the caissons, and one lieutenant in charge of each of the three sections. A section consisted of two guns and their crews, and were referred to as "left","center" and "right", even though in a battle, the "left" section might be deployed to the right of the "right" section.

A detachment (or half section) was one gun and its crew. The Chief of the piece was a sergeant, in charge of the gun; there was a corporal in charge of the caisson, and another who was the gunner that aimed the piece. The duties of the cannoneers were:

  • #1 - who swabbed the bore and rammed the load;
  • #2 - inserted the charge and projectile into the muzzle;
  • #3 - tended the vent;
  • #4 - primed and fired the piece at the command of the sergeant:
  • #5 - carried the round to #2;
  • #6 - had charge of the limber;
  • #7 - carried the round to #5.

When in action, the gun would be driven into position, the gun would be removed from the limber and brought to bear on the target. If need be, the #1 man would use the 'worm' to remove any material from the bore and swab it with a damp sponge rammer, then with a dry one. #7 would carry the round to the #5 man who delivered it to the #2 man standing by the muzzle of the gun. He would position it in the muzzle of the gun for the #1 man to ram down the bore.

All this time, the #3 man has covered the vent to keep air from any embers that may be present. When the round is seated, the #3 man would use a pick to pierce the powder bag. Then the gunner (a corporal) would mount the sight, and aim the gun. #1 and #2 at the wheels of the gun and #3 at the trailspike would assist him by moving the gun left or right. After the gunner is satisfied with his job, he removes the rear sight and steps back from the gun. The #4 man inserts a primer into the vent, attaches the lanyard and steps back keeping it taut. At this time, with the cannoneers safely away from the gun, it is ready to fire. Upon command of the Chief of the piece, #4 pulls the lanyard firing the cannon. #1, #2 and #3 move it back into battery (correct position), and the cycle starts again.

[Verse 1]

Over hill over dale we have hit the dusty trail
As our caissons go rolling along.
Up and down, in and out, Countermarch and right about,
And our caissons go rolling along.


For it's hi-hi-hee in the Field Artillery.
Shout out the number loud and strong (2, 3, 4)

[Verse 2]

Till our final ride, It will always be our pride
To keep those caissons a rolling along.
(Keep them rolling - keep them rolling)
Keep those caissons a rolling along.


For it's hi-hi-hee in the Field Artillery.
Shout out the number loud and strong (2, 3, 4)

"Days' End"

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Copyright © 1996, Cavalry Outpost Publications ® and Trooper Wm. H. Boudreau, "F" Troop, 8th Cavalry Regiment (1946 - 1947). All rights to this body of work are reserved and are not in the public domain, or as noted in the bibliography. Reproduction, or transfer by electronic means, of the History of the 1st Cavalry Division, the subordinate units or any internal element, is not permitted without prior authorization. Readers are encouraged to link to any of the pages of this Web site, provided that proper acknowledgment attributing to the source of the data is made. The information or content of the material contained herein is subject to change without notice.

Revised 04 Apr '11 SpellChecked