Howitzer (earlier points 1739 and 1759)

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Tue Jun 1 13:25:59 UTC 2010

1)   My OED has "howitzer" from 1761, although admittedly for the
shell rather than the gun.

2)   1739 -- I once read the following in the Boston Evening-Post,
1739 September 3, page 2, col. 1.  [Now taken from the much-ignored
Early American Newspapers.]

"Yesterday the following Bomb Vessels were put into Commission at the
Admiralty Office ... Each of them carries one 13 Inch Mortar, and one
10 inch Nowitzer, with 40 Shells and 40 [...]casses for each Mortar
and Nowitzer."

I will claim that this is an antedating for the spelling "howitzer",
"Nowitzer" being a type-setter's error, misreading an H in an
unfamiliar word for an N.  (The news item is surely a transcription
from a London newspaper.)  I don't find "nowitzer" in the OED.

(I assume "[...]casses" is "carcass, carcase, n.", "7. Mil. A
spherical iron shell, filled with an inflammable composition, and
having three holes through which the flame blazes; fired from a
mortar or gun to set fire to buildings, wooden defences, etc.
Formerly also of other shape and material; ...".)

3)  1759 -- If the above is tossed out, EAN yields "howitzer" from
the Boston Evening-Post of 1759 November 12, page 3. col. 1, near the
end of an article stating the articles of capitulation of Quebec:

"1   8 Inch Howitzer."

4)  1736 -- And for another spelling, I once read the following in
the Boston Gazette, 1736 November 1, page 2, col. 1:

"The Brass Mortars were in Number 11 ... and there was a Hawitter of
the same Metal."


At 6/1/2010 04:23 AM, Victor Steinbok wrote:
>The OED has "howitzer" variants going quite a ways back, but the
>spelling with the -o- is only dated from 1812.
>I accidentally came upon an earlier piece with the same spelling. This
>is not particularly significant, I suppose.
>The Annual Register, With a View of the History, Politics, and
>Literature, For the Year 1775. J. Dodsley, London: 1775
>History of Europe. Chapter 8. [Bunker's Hill battle] p. 134
>>A heavy and continual fire of cannon, howitzers, and mortars, was from
>>thence carried on upon the works, from the ships, floating batteries,
>>and from the top of Cop's-Hill in Boston. ... The attack was began by
>>a most severe fire of cannon and howitzers, under which the troops
>>advanced very slowly towards the enemy, and halted several times, to
>>afford an opportunity to the artillery to ruin the works, and to throw
>>the provincials into confusion.
>In fact, GB finds nearly 500 raw hits for "howitzer" pre-1800. Only 68
>show up for pre-1776. Either there was significantly more war writing
>following the American revolution, or the use of howitzers--and spelling
>their description in this manner--became widespread around this period.
>In GB, the form "howitzer" appears in 1761 and does not appear to be a
>novelty (also hits for 1762, 1763, etc.)
>The Gentleman's and London Magazine, and Monthly Chronologer. Volume 30.
>September 1761
>The French account of the attempt made on the 8th of April. [Genuine
>Account of the Siege of Belleisle.] p. 424
>>But during the night, and all that morning,
>>three twenty-four pounders, one twelve-pounder, and
>>one howitzer, besides thirty or forty cohorns, kept insessantly
>>playing, which made it too hot for the French.
>I made no attempt to antedate the gloss in general, just the updated

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