Gun Salute

A saluation is any mode of greeting or of kindly or respectful or reverential address, by word or gesture when persons meet, whether equals with equals or inferiors with superiors. A military salute is an essential form of discipline regulated and enforced by military law. All officers salute on meeting and on making or receiving official reports. Military courtesy requires the junior to salute first or when the salute is introductory to a report made at a military ceremony or formation to the representative of a common superior, as for example to the adjutant or officer of the day, the officer making the report, whatever his rank may be, is required to salute first; the officer to whom the report is made will acknowledge by saluting that he has received and understood it. When under arms the salute is made with the sword or saber if drawn, otherwise with the right hand, and a mounted officer always dismounts before addressing a superior who is not mounted.

A salute with cannon is a certain number of guns fired in succession with blank cartridges, in honor of a person, to celebrate an event, or to show respect to the flag of a country. Governmental instructions gave the number of guns that shall constitute a special salute; the rapidity of which the pieces are discharged depends upon their calibre; field-guns having five-second intervals between discharges, siege-guns eight seconds, and heavy calibre ten seconds; with a minimum number of pieces to be used, two for field, four for siege, and six sea-coast guns; that salutes shall be fired only between sunrise and sunset (as a rule, never on Sundays), and that the national flag shall always be displayed. No vessel mounting less than six guns is allowed to salute. Under no circumstances is the flag of a military post dipped by way of a compliment or salute. When several persons, each of whom is and that the entitled to a salute, arrive together at a post, the one highest in rank or position is alone saluted; if they arrive suecessively each is saluted in turn.

The national colors are always displayed at the time of saluting. The salute to the flag is the only salute which is returned, and this must be done within 24 hours. United States vessels do not return the salute to the flag in United States waters if there is any fort or battery there to do it. Nor do United States vessels salute United States forts or posts. If there are several batteries or forts within sight or six miles of each other, one of them is designated as the saluting fort, and returns all salutes of foreign men-of-war. In New York, Castle William, on Governor's Island, was the saluting fort.

  • The salute to the Union - one gun for each State - is fired at noon of the Fourth of July at every military post and on board commissioned naval vessels belonging to the United States.
  • 21 guns - the National Salute for the National flag, the President of the United States (given on both arrival at and departure from a military post, or when passing the vicinity; no other personal salute is fired in his presence), presidents of foreign republics or sovereigns of foreign states visiting the United State, members of the royal family, the heir-apparent and consort of reigning sovereign of a foreign country. The international salute is the only one that is returned.
  • 19 guns - the Vice-President of the United States and American and foreign ambassadors
  • 17 guns - the president of the Senate, Speaker of the House of Representatives, members of the Cabinet, the chief justice, a congressional committee, governors within their respective States or Territories, viceroy or governor-general of provinces belonging to foreign States, general of the army, admiral of the navy and same ranks in foreign armies and navies
  • 15 guns - American or foreign envoys, or ministers plenipotentiary, assistant secretaries of the navy or war, lieutenant-general or a major-general commanding the army, and corresponding ranks in the navy and foreign armies and navies
  • 13 guns - ministers-resident accredited to the United States, major-general, rear-admiral and corresponding ranks of foreign armies and navies
  • 11 guns - charge d'affaires, brigadier-general, commodore and corresponding ranks in foreign armies and navies
  • 9 guns - Consuls-general accredited to the United States. Commanders of divisions, of squadrons of divisions, of a senior officer present, and the narrow pennant of other officers, no salute; but when these officers salute an officer of superior rank, they are to receive, if a captain, nine guns; if a less rank, seven guns.
  • 7 guns - A Consul shall be received by the Commanding Officer, and saluted with seven guns.

A 100 gun salute is sometimes used as a unique form of celebration. The Union garrison at Fort Sumpter was led by Major Robert Anderson. Prior to evacuating the Fort on 13 April 1861, Anderson was permitted to fire a 100-gun salute to the US flag. During this salute a pile of cartridges caught fire and exploded, killing Private Daniel Hough and mortally wounding Private Edward Galloway. The two men were the only fatalities to occur during the bombardment. The 50th round was the last. When the on the Thirteenth Amendment which abolished slavery was announced the Capitol cannons boomed a 100-gun salute. On April 4, 1865, a 100-gun salute fired to celebrate fall of Richmond.

About 480 aircraft participated the Soviet Aviation Day display at Tushino airport, Moscow, on Sunday, 08 July 1951, and spectators are said to have numbered 250,000. Marshal Stalin's son, Lt.-Gen. Vasili Stalin, commanded a mass fly-past, in which jet fighters spelt out "Glory to Stalin," to the accompaniment of a 100-gun salute.

Every country determines for itself the salutes to be paid to its own authorities, and it will hardly be expected that any higher compliment will be paid to those of other countries of the same rank.

The number of guns with which her Majesty's civil, naval, and military functionaries were saluted when in their official capacities is as follows, but these salutes are not given on all occasions, nor within all limits :

  • 19 guns - the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, an ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary, the Lord High Admiral, or the Lords Commissioners for executing the office of Lord High Admiral, 19 guns ; the commander-in-chicf of, or the officer commanding in chief, the whole army of the United Kingdom,
  • 17 guns - the governor or high commissioner of any of her Majesty's colonies, foreign possessions, castles, or fortresses, the first lord commissioner of the Admiralty, the admiral of the fleet, the field-marshal,
  • 15 guns - envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary, and others accredited to sovereigns, with the exception of such as are accredited in the specific character of minister resident, the admiral, the general,
  • 13 guns - the lieutenant-governor, if administering the Government, and if holding a commission direct from the Queen, or acting temporarily for an officer so commissioned, lieutenant-governors not administering government, if holding a commission direct from the Queen, a minister resident, diplomatic authorities below the rank of envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary, and above that of charge d'affaires, the vice-admiral, the lieut.-general,
  • 11 guns - a charge d'affaires, or a subordinate diplomatic agent left in charge of a mission, the rear-admiral, the major-general,
  • 9 guns - a consul-general, the commodore (no senior captain being present), the brigadier-general,
  • 7 guns - the consul, the captain of the Navy, and officer below that rank,

In British India the following salutes were given

  • 101 guns - The Queen and Empress, when present in person,
  • 31 guns - members of the Royal Family, royal standard and royal salutes, or the Viceroy and Governor-General of India
  • 19 guns - ambassadors
  • 17 guns - governors of Presidencies, the President of the Council of India, or governors of her Majesty's Colonies, the Governor-General of the Portuguese Settlements in India and the Governor of Pondichcrry
  • 15 guns - lieut.-governors of provinces in India, members of Council, plenipotentiaries and envoys, or lieut.-governors of her Majesty's Colonies
  • 13 guns - agents to the Viceroy and Governor-General, Residents, or chief commissioners of Provinces, and commissioners,
  • 11 guns - political agents and charge's d'affaires,
  • 9 guns - the Portuguese Governor of Damann, or the Governor of Dew

In India, a Salute state was a princely state (i.e. reigned by a native ruler of princely rank) which the British colonial paramount ruler has granted a gun salute; i.e., the proto-collary privilege for its ruler to be greeted - originally by Royal Navy ships, later also on land - with a number of gun shots, as recognition of the state's relative status. For the British in India, the ceremonial (and political) structure within which the princes were placed was determined by the number of ceremonial "guns" each ruler was allowed in his (or, rarely, her) formal salute.

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