Cannon in the Middle Ages
Naval artillery in the Age of Sail
Field artillery in the US Civil War
List of cannon projectiles
A field gun is an artillery piece. Originally the term referred to smaller guns that could accompany a field army on the march and when in combat could be moved about the battlefield in response to changing circumstances. This was as opposed to siege cannon or mortars which were too large to be moved quickly, and would be used only in a prolonged siege.
Use by Napoleon
Perhaps the most famous use of the field gun in terms of advanced tactics was Napoleon's use of very large wheels on the guns that allowed them to be moved quickly even during a battle. By moving the guns from point to point during the battle, enemy formations could be broken up to be handled by the infantry wherever they were massing, dramatically increasing the overall effectiveness of the infantry.
World War I
As the evolution of artillery continued, almost all guns of any size became capable of being moved at some speed. With few exceptions, even the largest siege weapons had become mobile by road or rail by the start of World War I, and evolution after that point tended to be towards smaller weapons with increased mobility. Although the Germans fielded a number of super-heavy guns (which were ineffective at best) in World War II, even these were rail or caterpillar-track mobile.
In British use, a Field Gun was anything up to around 4.5 inches in calibre—larger guns were Medium and the largest of all Heavy. Their largest gun (as opposed to howitzer) was the 5.5 inch (140 mm) Medium, reaching about 16,000 yards.
World War II
Since about the start of World War II, the term has been applied to long-range artillery pieces that fire at a relatively low angle, as opposed to howitzers which tend to fire at higher angles. By the later stages of World War II the majority of artillery in use was in the form of howitzers of 105 mm to 155 mm, and the only common field gun of the era beside the British 5.5 inch was the US 155 mm Long Tom (a development of a French World War I weapon).
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