Q: Militiaman Loading a Brown Bess with loose ball

Discussion in 'Revolutionary War' started by JB67, Dec 25, 2019.

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  1. Dec 25, 2019 #1

    JB67

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    When paper cartridges were not at hand, how was the loose ball loaded? Pre-patched with a cloth patch tied on? Separate cloth patch? A piece of paper wrapped around the ball, with a bunch pre-wrapped in the pouch? A separate piece of paper placed over the muzzle, then place the ball and ram home?

    Seems there's a lot of ways it could have been done, was there and set way or "best practice" that was followed?
     
  2. Dec 25, 2019 #2

    Cruzatte

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    Interesting questions. I have a few more to add. Wasn't ammunition issued before battle was expected? How many vollies were fired before a bayonet charge was ordered? No bayonets for the militia? Did a militiaman carry a belt axe instead? What do the orders from the various states/colonies specify as to what equipment, arms, and accountrements each man was to have when reporting for duty?
     
  3. Dec 25, 2019 #3

    Brokennock

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    I'm betting almost none of the above. I can't remember seeing/reading any evidence/examples of muskets being loaded with a patch, and it wouldn't seem likely they would try to use paper in the same way a rifle is loaded with a patch (placed over muzzle and ball pushed into it and down bore) as they really would not seem to have experience using patched balls. If they have used up all the cartridges in their box, and haven't gotten to close with the enemy with bayonets, knives and/or hawks/hatchets, they are probably in a pretty bad situation. I'm thinking the gun is pretty dirty and they are now just dumping powder down the bore and dropping a ball on top of it.

    Could be wrong.
     
  4. Dec 25, 2019 #4

    JB67

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    From what I've been gleaning, militiamen *generally* were expected to have either a cartridge box or shot bag and powder horn. Bayonets if one had one, axe otherwise.
     
  5. Jan 8, 2020 #5

    Outwater

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    The Continental Congress suggested that all militia carry: a smoothbore shooting a ball approximately 1 oz, a steel ramrod to fit it, a bayonet to fit, sword or tomahawk, a knapsack, 12 flints, and have a pound of powder and 4 pounds of lead at home to make cartridges.
     
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  6. Jan 9, 2020 #6

    JB67

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    I love hearing details like this. How about loose ball and powder in the field? At least as backup. I know cartridge boxes weren't always available, some militiamen might turn out with a pouch and horn. Maybe a handful of cartridges in the pouch, but I can't picture them holding together very long.

    Are you the Outwater of Jersey Militia fame?
     
  7. Jan 9, 2020 #7

    hawkeye2

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    Facing a British bayonet charge with an ax (or a clubbed musket) was another way of committing suicide. As a member of a rifle company I used to give a demonstration showing the futility of the act. I would give another member my Bess with an attached bayonet while I approached with a hawk. The person with the Bess could make contact with the bayonet with 6 feet separating us while I would have had to be within an arm's length to inflict a wound. Even fighting as militia they were expected to fire by volley or as fast as possible so there wouldn't be time to patch at the muzzle and if one had time to prepare a ball before the battle he would have had time to make a cartridge. I believe that once the cartridges were expended, if the battle lasted that long before a bayonet charge, they went to loose powder and naked ball.
     
  8. Jan 9, 2020 #8

    JB67

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    Yet they were required to have an axe if they did not have a bayonet.

    As one who did melee fighting with medieval weapons, there's a huge difference between one on one vs line engagements.
     
  9. Jan 9, 2020 #9

    hawkeye2

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    I do understand they were required to have an axe if they didn't have a bayonet. A hawk is a very effective weapon as is a club or knife fighting the indians or French in the woods and that is much like the melee but militia wasn't used that way and would only have been in that situation after being driven from the field and overrun (Bunker Hill). It seems that early in the war it was felt an axe and determination were a match for the British but they quickly proved the folly of that idea specially when they caught a rifleman without support.
     
  10. Jan 9, 2020 #10

    tenngun

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    ITHINK we tend to see fights as Vietnam or WW2. These guys fought close by. A ‘battle’ might last all day, but most of the time was moving men on foot around the field. Two or three shots may be all they had. Most of the American battle fields were near woods. A belt axe and the use of obstacles in the woods might offset the longer reach of the bayonet. We know of a few situations where indians did very well with hand to hand tactics against bayonet armed white soldiers.
    We know that before a battle at sea gun captains would inspect the ball shot in that first load, grabbing the best balls in the rack. After it was load the quickest.
    I would hazard a militia man might load his first shot very carefully followed up by shots as quick as possible. Then fire a few and fall back to cover. Militia had a history of not doing well against regulars. However at Concord and Bunker/ Breeds hill till they ran out of ammo, did pretty well against regulars.
     
  11. Jan 9, 2020 #11

    Artificer

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    Those this is not Militia, it may be of interest as it was done in the period.

    In the following link, scroll down to :

    Detail of a sketch of the back of a light infantry private in the 69th Regiment, 1778
    by Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg, R.A. (1740-1812)
    © Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection, Brown University Library

    Like their battalion and grenadier soldier counterparts, light infantry soldiers received 18-hole cartridge box assemblies with their firelocks. In addition, according to the light infantry uniform regulations of 4 March 1771, light infantry soldier accoutrements provided by the colonels of regiments were to consist of "a small cartridge box to contain 9 rounds in one row, to be worn before with a belt of tanned leather round the waist," and a powder horn and leather ball-bag for "running ball" firing.
    http://62ndregiment.org/soldier_arms.htm

    Gus
     
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  12. Jan 9, 2020 #12

    Artificer

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    While I agree it was futile to oppose a LINE of Bayonet Armed Soldiers with a Tomahawk and knife, I disagree that it was suicide one on one. Back in the mid 1980's and years before the movie "The Patriot," I demonstrated the practical use of the Tomahawk and Fighting Knife against a musket with bayonet. The problem in the period, though, was most Riflemen were not trained to do it. Instead they resorted to "the clubbed rifle."

    Gus
     
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  13. Jan 9, 2020 #13

    Dphar1950

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    The Clubbed rifle was pretty dumb and I can't see this as common at least not among survivors. The rifleman with a busted rifle feels about as useless as a second belly button. At least that seems to be how J. J. Henry felt when he lost his rifle enroute to Quebec. Better to be off to the side or rear 150-200 yards shooting aimed shots.They would have been ahead to learn how to parry and jab the end of the barrel in the guys face. Also in ranks there is no much that can be done since the guy that is BESIDE the guy to your front may stick you. But riflemen, for the most part, were not very interested in standing in a field being showered with Musket balls. I cannot blame them it was stupid then and it was stupid in WW-I and it was stupid doing "on line sweeps" when I was in the military. There was also the buck and ball load the British did not like. This was the main cartridge, from my reading, until the advent of the Rifle Musket. It increased the number of hits on the enemy line.
     
  14. Jan 9, 2020 #14

    Artificer

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    Let's face it, when a Rifleman got into a hand to hand situation with a soldier armed with a musket and bayonet AND the soldier knew how to use it, the Rifleman was already in VERY bad straights. Had the rifleman been trained to use the muzzle end of his rifle something like bayonet fighting, it would have been better than breaking the wrist of his rifle's stock, but not very effective. Better to have broken stock than a bayonet in your guts.

    Gus
     
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  15. Jan 12, 2020 #15

    Greg Wesley

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    "An act for Regulating the Militia of the State of New-York passed at Poughkeepsie, April 3, 1778 in the Second Session of Assembly. That every person so enrolled and notifies, shall, within twenty days thereafter respectively, furnish and provide himself, at his own expense, with a good musket or firelock, fit for service, a sufficient bayonet with a good belt, a pouch or cartouche box, containing not less then sixteen cartridges, suited to bore of the musket or firelock; each cartridge containing a proper quantity of powder and ball, or in lieu of such pouch or cartouche box and cartridges, with a quantity of powder and ball respectively, disposed of in a powder horn and shot bag, and wadding equivalent to such cartridges, and two spare flints, a blanket and a knapsack..."
    Sgt. G. Wesley
    3rd Tryon County Militia
     
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  16. Jan 12, 2020 #16

    Greg Wesley

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    I can't find the documentation, if militia did not have a bayonet they must have a belt axe. It's around somewhere in the basement. We also use the Manual Exercise, Evolutions, Maneuvres, &c. to be Observed and followed by the Militia of the Province of New-York by Colonel Guy Johnson, Adjutant General for the Northern District of that Province. I believe these pamphlets are still available at the Fort Plain Museum Fort Plain, NY.
     
  17. Jan 14, 2020 at 1:45 PM #17

    Loyalist Dave

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    OK so Militia arming laws, when they existed (PA had none) were not written for the militia to FACE the British line :confused:....we were all British at the time, folks.....,the laws were for the defense of the colony against Indians. ;) So having a fowler and a hatchet and nine, or twelve, or eighteen cartridges was good.

    BTW at the beginning of the AWI, the British charged in double ranks at open order..., and the Continentals and/or militia that stood got butchered, so normally the Continentals and Militia, bayonet armed or not, buggered-off. See With Zeal and Bayonets Only by Matthew H. Spring.

    Some of the regulations in some colonies mention powder, so the men were expected to bring horns, and some do not (likely because they were expected to use cartridges)

    In Maryland the colony issued "stands of arms" to the men. So that was a musket, a bayonet and scabbard, and a cartridge box (likely a belly box for 18 rounds). No extra ammunition was mentioned, so either it would be provided by the government OR they didn't expect that much ammo to be used.


    As for loading...,

    There is no period documentation of patching smooth bores in the AWI...or before. Yes it was a known idea to at least the militia in the colonies with good trade in rifles, but it simply wasn't done (enough) for anybody to document it. (It wasn't even done for hunting purposes.) So the safest "bet" is that they would pour the powder down the musket, and ram a loose ball down directly onto the powder.

    LD
     
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  18. Jan 15, 2020 at 1:41 AM #18

    Brokennock

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    For what it is worth to the discussion in inferences, there is a description of leather pockets being added to one of the updates of the British uniform for the purpose of holding extra roundball. I read it here the other night,
    340889214-An-Account-of-some-things-I-carried-in-my-Pack-The-Continental-Soldier-s-Burden-in-the-American-War-for-Independence
    Which I had previously downloaded from the 18th century material culture site. Unfortunately, even in a compressed file, the file is too big to share here, and, I am having trouble finding my way back to where I found the file. Please try here, https://www.scribd.com/document/340...s-Burden-in-the-American-War-for-Independence

    or here, https://www.scribd.com/user/209073354/The-18th-Century-Material-Culture-Resource-Center

    Copy and paste doesn't always seem to work copying from a pdf file but I will try to past the quote here, "
    By midpoint of that earlier war British commanders had begun a program of altering their troops’ clothing and equipment to match conditions in the North American wilderness. Perhaps the best-known was Sir Jeffrey Amherst’s 1759 directive, as reiterated by Gen. James Wolfe on 30 May 1759:
    The following order for the dress of the light infantry, as approved by his excellency General Amherst: Major-General Wolfe desires the same may be exactly conformed to by the light troops under his command: the sleeves of the coat are put on the waistcoat and, instead of coat-sleeves, he has two wings like the grenadiers, but fuller; and a round slope reaching about half-way down his arm; which makes his coat of no incumbrance to him, but can be slipt off with pleasure; he has no lace, but the lapels remain: besides the usual pockets, he has two, not quite so high as his breast, made of leather, for ball and flints; and a flap of red cloth on the inside, which secures the ball from rolling out, if he should fall."

    Okay, it worked, I added the underline. ( and seeing as it worked, I will use it for new thread asing about something here that confuses me)
     
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  19. Jan 15, 2020 at 4:35 AM #19

    Greg Wesley

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    As a good militia man, shoot once and run! Wadding or not:). I agree with Loyalist Dave about militia arming laws. In the Mohawk Valley I think they were worried more about Brant, Butler, and Yorkers than British Regulars in battle line.
     

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