Revolutionary War musket load questions?

Discussion in 'Revolutionary War' started by FlinterNick, Nov 28, 2018.

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  1. Nov 28, 2018 #1

    FlinterNick

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    any truth to the following ?

    Is there any truth to rocks being loaded in muskets ?

    and also using a small undersized ball, then tapping the butt on the ground to seat the ball on the powder so that the user wouldn't have to use the ram rod ?

    Nails and glass being used in muskets ?

    double ball loads ?

    I've always been told that you can shoot almost anything out of a musket ... but I've never actually tried it, other than shot and ball.

    Are there record reports of wounded British soldiers removing nails ? glass or rocks ?

    Thanks

    Nick
     
  2. Dec 9, 2018 #2

    tenngun

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    Some time someone may have throw random stuff down a bore, but it would have been a rare emergency only. Nails will ruin a bore, rocks won’t keep velocities very far and be more painful then deadly.
    Doubleball was done but more common was a buck and ball load.
    Bags of random metal was shot by cannon, as anti personal or at sea as anti rigging loads.
    Tap loading was done, but again was an emergency, after two or three shots a ball might not drop in a bore and a ball off powder can blow the gun.
     
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  3. Dec 10, 2018 #3

    Loyalist Dave

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    I believe that the musketeers under Hernan Cortés, resorted to gathering stones as round as possible for their miquelets when going up against the Aztecs. This was, of course, an emergency tactic, and I'm not sure if they were to be used single or in pairs, OR if they gathered round rocks the size of peas to make improvised buckshot loads. As for centuries later, sure it could be done.

    They did find four musket balls at Ticonderoga with nails pounded into them. This is assumed to be for ammunition...,
    Ticonderoga Musket Ball with Nail.jpg
    Double ball loads I think were what was used when folks said "loaded for bear".... so yes they could've been used, and would probably be less likely to get you into trouble than launching a nail jammed into a ball.

    The "tapping the musket" on the ground technique was made popular when the TV series "Sharpe's Rifles" hit the air from the BBC. IF it was used it was a field expedient method of speed loading, and Sharpe teaches it to troops that he's training to become a "crack" company of men. There is one flaw in the idea. Unless the group of musket men were suddenly caught unawares at the beginning of a battle...., if it were a prolonged fight, then the musket would already be dirty. So..., biting the ball from the cartridge and spitting it into the muzzle would work. YET if you're launching a series of quick volleys as fast as possible, your musket is getting very dirty on top of the dirt already accumulated during the battle when ramming. Without ramming which would move some of the crud down the barrel to the breech, the barrel is very dirty indeed, and just ripe for the ball NOT to reach the powder = a burst barrel. Still this was shown to be a last-ditch thing to do.

    It's been said by folks trying the Lewis Wetzel method of loading a rifle "on the run" that Wetzel was known to put rifle balls into his mouth for quick loading in a fast fight. Folks have tried it, and found that after dumping powder into the bore, and slapping the side of the rifle to get it to settle, you spit the ball into the (usually left) hand at the muzzle, which then directs the ball into the bore. Then as you run, you "thunk" the butt of the rifle on the ground, then turn and fire. It was said that the only way this works is if lock is at half-cock with the pan closed and the touchhole is large enough to fill the pan from the main charge...aka "self-priming". One CAN get a shot off into a target at 25 yards away or less, and has a reasonable chance of hitting a target from 25-50 yards. AGAIN this was for combat.

    LD
     
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  4. Dec 11, 2018 #4

    FlinterNick

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    Thanks Dave, excellent info !

    The tapping the musket load didn't seem like it would fly to well with the regimental quartermasters, due to the risks you had mentioned.

    I did see online that the French and Americans utilized a ranking system where pairs of 2-4 troops would shoot and reload in a sequential order to increase the rapidness of fire. The British two rank system where the rear rank wold step in to fire while the front rank reloaded seems to be the most efficient want to control the field of fire.

    Nick
     
  5. May 8, 2019 #5

    smoothshooter

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    There is a guy in Germany, Romania, or somewhere over in Eastern Europe that has a lot of You-Tube videos that is a serious muzzleloader shooter.
    "Cap and Ball" may be what he goes by.
    On one of his videos he shoots short pieces of chopped off bar lead about 2" long in a Charleville .69 musket at paper silhouette targets. He was doing this as a side experiment because they have been known to have been used when moulded balls were not available for various reasons. Normally, the longer bars of lead were in the supply systen of various armies and issued to the units to be melted down into musket balls for paper cartridges when time permitted between marches and battles, or when in garrison.
    What was interesting was the accuracy he was getting. I don't remember what the group sizes measured, but all or most of the shots were easily within the target area ( 50 yards, I think ) and would have been effective on massed infantry out to 100 yards, at least.
     
  6. May 8, 2019 #6

    yulzari

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    A section of round lead bar was still a common civilian Balkan load in my great grandfather's day. A nail in the ball was trialled successfully by France but not generally adopted. Ezekiel Baker commented that 'the Kings Muskets were generally self priming'. Matchlock musketeers before the 16th century did keep their musket balls in their mouths. There is a record of a company agreeing to surrender a town as long as they could leave freely 'with drums playing, matches burning and balls in their mouths'. A balle a rame was a recognised French load consisting of two balls connected by an iron pin. Enjoy the sensation of a nail jamming sideways in the bore as you shoot. Lead used to be stretched further by casting around a small piece of rock in the very early days or with tribal improvisations. I do know Zulus would empty captured Martini Henry cases for the powder and beat the bullets into a ball for their muskets (unless they had captured or bought a Martini).
     
  7. May 9, 2019 #7

    Artificer

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    Nick,

    By the AWI, even the British preferred a "Buck and Ball" load over just a standard single ball load. This as early as when they first took over Boston and had their Senior Artillery Officer order/make up 600,000 paper cartridges with that load.

    BTW, the British Artillery was always responsible for not only powder, but also the molds/forms/tools/cartridge paper/etc. for making small arms cartridges. Patriot Artillery did the same thing when attached to Infantry Units, but since that was not always the case with American Infantry Regiments, then the Regimental Quartermaster was responsible for these things.

    Gus
     
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  8. May 13, 2019 #8

    Loyalist Dave

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    ODD, I read where The Pioneers supervised by the "orderly corporals", or the Quartermster Serjeant, were responsible for rolling cartridges for the infantry, and the artillery was responsible for field-proofing of locally procured arms.

    LD
     
  9. May 13, 2019 #9

    Artificer

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    As considered the "Duty Experts" on Powder, the Senior British Artillery Officer was always responsible for ordering, storing and issuing powder and all such supplies both for the guns and for the small arms. Of course if there was no Artillery Officer with the Regular Regiment or larger Command, then the Quartermaster got that as an additional job.

    Cartridge making details were also normally supervised by the Senior Artillery NCO, again because of his expertise with handling powder and the issuing and recovery of supplies, tools and formers.

    Now as to the men who made up the actual "working parties," they had to be responsible soldiers, but it also depended on who was available. Actually, this is the first time I've seen the Pioneers mentioned, but they could have been detailed to the working party. Sometimes the Artificers were involved, when available. Bailey also mentions that responsible soldiers were detailed from the Individual Companies as required.

    Gus
     
  10. May 13, 2019 #10

    Artificer

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    Just went back and reviewed the chapter on Ammunition in "Small Arms of the British Forces 1664-1815 [De Witt Bailey]" and there are two or three period quotes where Soldiers were to be detailed to the "Artillery Park" to make cartridges in the field. There is one quote that must have been from a unit in garrison because the Artillery Officer reported having found a building in which 120 Soldiers could make cartridges.

    The following quote I have listed before, is probably the best documentation on just how high up the responsibility for making Small Arms Ammunition went in the British Army, here.

    "Probably the best documentation that can be found to show British Regulars used Buckshot from the very beginning of the AWI and in HUGE quantities.

    From Small Arms of the British Forces 1664-1815 [De Witt Bailey], Page 250, Under the section entitled “Buckshot.”

    “General Cleaveland, writing from Boston in May 1776, noted that the troops there had made up 600,000 cartridges containing 4 buckshot each, and requested five tons be sent out, which was complied with by September.” *40

    (Footnote: 40) WO/47/86, 9-10 July 1776. The Board said three Buckshot lay in the same circumference as a musket ball.

    Brigadier General Samuel Cleaveland, RA, was the Commander of the Royal Artillery during the American Revolution, 1776-1781.

    Now what is not explained is that the "4 buckshot each" was in addition to the ball in the standard cartridge."


    Gus
     
  11. May 14, 2019 #11

    Loyalist Dave

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    Really? Again I find that odd...,

    "The Pioniers, under the direction of the orderly Corporals, should make up the cartridges for Exercise, but if more are wanted than can be done in time, a proper number of men must be appointed to assist them, for which they are to be allowed a duty, in the Roster of fatigue."

    "The ball-cartridges should be made by the Pioniers under the direction of the Quarter-master-serjeant, at the rate of forty five to the pint of powder;"
    Cuthbertson 1776

    What is odd is that Cuthbertson never mentions the artillery in the powder issue nor the fashioning of the cartridges in any way. Yet his manual was reprinted many times over the years before and after the above date of the version which I accessed.

    LD
     
  12. May 14, 2019 #12

    DaveC

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    Loyalist Dave, sir, there were no miquelet locks in 1519-1521 when Spaniards and very, very many Tlaxcaltecs and other enemies of the Aztec/ Triple Alliance Empire assailed Tenochtitlán. The harquebus was a very inefficient matchlock weapon, not too far removed from the handgonne. Smoke, loud noise, and flying lead or iron projectiles were terrifying 'tis true, but far and away the most effective ranged projectile weapon during the conquest period of the early 16th century was the crossbow. Much greater range than the Mexica atlatl, bow and arrow, or rock sling.

    Start of thread:

    "Any truth to the following ?

    Is there any truth to rocks being loaded in muskets ?

    and also using a small undersized ball, then tapping the butt on the ground to seat the ball on the powder so that the user wouldn't have to use the ram rod ?

    Sentries were often told that they could not unload the musket by simply discharging the piece. In order to draw the ball out easier from the muzzle down whence it came, the powder would be poured in, and then the undersized ball unwrapped completely from the paper cartridge and dropped down the bore without ramming it. All muskets fired "small undersized balls" insofar as the fouling would make it very difficult to load. For example, in George Washington's day, the 19 to a pound, or 19-gauge .643 ball was used in a .69 caliber musket. In the U.S. Civil War, at least when it began, the .69 smooth bore was used with a .65 round ball and the buck and ball cartridge of a .65 round ball and 3x .310 buckshot.

    Nails and glass being used in muskets ?

    double ball loads ?

    Swedish infantry were issued double-ball cartridges for use against cavalry. It was part of the standard allotment of ammunition issued to them. Unless I am mistaken, Denmark also followed this practice. So double ball loads were known. U.S. practice, of course, hewed to the so-called "buck and ball" cartridge. Fully half of the cartridges issued to U.S. troops with smooth-bores were buck and ball types.

    I've always been told that you can shoot almost anything out of a musket ... but I've never actually tried it, other than shot and ball."

    Elsewhere, up post, it has been noted that lead rods were cut into pieces and used as musket ammunition by the Ottomans and others rather than melt the stuff down and pour it into molds. The Hungarian champion muzzle loader, Bálazs Nemeth in his online Youtube "cap 'n ball" series" does indeed have an episode devoted to this historical practice. Sort of "emergency" ammo.
     
  13. May 14, 2019 #13

    Artificer

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    Well, I must admit as many times as I have looked things up in Cuthbertson’s work, this is the first time I noticed he mentioned the pioneers twice when talking about making cartridges.

    From “A Soldier like way” by Gale

    Page 25

    Officials from the Board of Ordnance were often stationed with large garrisons and occasionally followed them on campaign. It was their responsibility to maintain and dispense ammunition. The Earl of Loudoun issued the following general order in July 1757:

    “The commanding off o y different regts to send to M Furnis Contractor of ye Ordnance to Know what time He will Appoint to Receive their Damaged Cartrages & Spare Bullets, for which He will Give a Recait”

    If no ordnance officials were available, the managing of ammunition usually fell to an officer of the Royal Artillery, as Captain Moneypenny recorded in June of 1758:

    “One Hundred men from the 42nd, 44th, & 55th Regts to be employed tomorrow in making cartridges, to parade at 8 oclock, & receive their directions from an Officer of Artillery.”

    Page 26

    On campaign, it was not uncommon for cartridges to run out, or become damaged by the elements. When more cartridges needed to be made, the camp colour men, sergeants, or other soldiers were employed in making them. An Officer was commonly present to make sure no powder was wasted. Gunpowder, paper, twine, lead, molds, and ladles for casting balls were supplied by the Royal Artillery. When no artillery were present, each Company could carry the necessities for making its own cartridges. When gunpowder got wet, it could be restored by drying in the sun, and mixing with an equal part of good powder. William Hervey wrote the following in August of 1760:

    “The arms to be cleaned, ammunition to be examined, any that is damp must be laid out to dry, and if any cartridges are so spoiled as to be unfit for service, they are to be given to the Artillery.”

    Gus
     
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  14. May 14, 2019 #14

    Loyalist Dave

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    " All spare Cartridges, after Exercise, must be collected by the Corporals, before the Companies are dismissed, and be by them returned to the Quarter-master’s Stores, …..

    …, the orderly Corporals must be answerable that no Firelock is returned to the Bell-tent, until the charge has first been drawn, …, and that he may likewise collect the Balls, to be returned to the Quarter-master..

    If the Ball Cartridges are not expended on duty, after being made some months, they should be broke up, and replaced by fresh ones…,

    The greatest precautions are necessary to preserve the ammunition delivered to a Regiment, not only from any accident, but also from being damaged by rain or damp ; the Quarter-master therefore, should always endeavor to provide such places for magazines, as will answer those ends, and it is his duty to take charge of it, …."

    So far, Cuthbertson is on record as showing the Quarter-master is the ammunition guy. The artillery is only mentioned once by Cuthbertson, and it's not regarding making ammunition.

    <shrug>

    LD
     
  15. May 14, 2019 #15

    tenngun

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    I’m thinking that in 1773 in Boston the colonist accused the Brits of foreign double ball loads in to the crowd. Since then forensic studies of the area , best that can be done two centuries after the fact demonstrated the wounds could have been caused by single ball loads.
     
  16. May 14, 2019 #16

    Artificer

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    Yes, it is curious Cuthbertson only mentions the Artillery once. I looked up both cartridges and Artillery in Cuthbertson after you first mentioned the pioneers further up the page. I was surprised he only mentioned the Artillery once.

    Based on the research from both Bailey and Gale (and others I have read before), it would seem that maybe there was no Artillery with Cuthbertson's Regiment when they were on the Continent in the Seven Years War and thus the Quartermaster had that duty, as mentioned further up the page. Perhaps because his Regiment served on the Continent, the Artillery was under a different or higher command, as it was in the Boston Quote.

    Having researched Artificers/Armorers as much as I have, I know they and other specialized troops were also attached to the Artillery when Artillery was present. I think that was also the case with the pioneers, but am not entirely sure about that.

    Gus
     
  17. May 14, 2019 #17

    Loyalist Dave

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    Well North America was a huge "variation-on-the-theme", was it not, for the British army in the 18th century? The artillery is documented as having "proofed" some of Rogers', American procured muskets, in the F&I. Normally they would've been fashioned with previously proofed and imported barrels, and only an armorer's inspection and stamp would've been needed at that point.
    LD
     
  18. May 15, 2019 #18

    Artificer

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    There is little to any doubt that Cuthbertson gives us the best general period documentation of the British Army in the period and even most of the specifics. However, we can't forget that his Regiment in the Seven Years War served some of their time in England and some time in a demonstration on the French Coast for a while and the capture of Cherbourg, but most of their war time experience came while stationed in or near the German States. So even Cuthbertson's experiences may or were out of the ordinary.

    Please see page 22 in the following link for where the 5th Regiment of Foot served in the 18th century and from when much of Cuthbertson's experience came.
    https://archive.org/details/cihm_48494/page/n21

    I agree the British Army did some to many things differently here in the FIW and AWI compared to the Regiments that served in Europe, and that was to be expected.

    What I get a kick out of and I'm paraphrasing to a great degree and with more than a little jocularity, was it seems here in the Colonies and when there was Royal Artillery present, how they sort of got stuck with a number of duties and "supporting soldiers" that may not seem directly attributable to the Artillery. I joke that when they could not figure out who to assign some responsibility or troops to, someone always seem to have said, "Let's assign them to the Artillery!" o_O:D

    Of course some of that naturally came from the fact that the British Quartermasters here spent much more time ordering and finding supplies than their counterparts in other British Units, because the "Supply Line" was so long from the British Home Islands and of course until the AWI, the Americas were on a much lower priority than the Continent.

    Gus
     
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