NAVAL CANNON - Loading and Crew
To prepare a gun for firing a charge of gunpowder in a cloth bag was pushed down the barrel by a ram-rod and followed by the round shot. This is held in place by a wad. The gunner followed by pushing a spike down the "touch-hole" on the top near the rear end of the barrel to break the powder bag where he poured a little fine powder down the hole. The gun was then run out through the gunport by the ropes attached to the carriage.
In earlier times the gunner would have fired by lighting the powder in the touch hole with a "slow match", a glowing piece of material, but later a flintlock as on a pistol or musket was used to produce a spark to fire the charge. When the gun fired it recoiled violently back into the ship, restrained by the `breeching ropes` attached to the carriage. The bore was swabbed out with water to remove any glowing pieces of residue, and the process repeated.
The gun`s crew for the great guns consisted of six men, the Captain of the Gun, the Second Captain, the Loader, the Sponger, the Assistant Loader, and the Assistant Sponger. Up to nine more men, depending on the size of the gun, were required to man the breeching ropes, whose job it was to check the recoil, and to man the tackles. They also performed the duties of firemen.