Rifleman's cartridge box??

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Frod733

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Hello all. Was thinking about this subject and thought I would post a question, and perhaps start a discussion. During the F/I war and Revolutionary war, were rifleman using cartridge boxes, and perhaps prepared cartridges at times? Conventional thinking is that they would use a horn and loose balls/patches. However, the British Baker rifle had variants of paper cartridges with patched balls. Also, just saw a drawing showing a rifleman using a Ferguson rifle having a cartridge box. Your thoughts?
 
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Conventional thinking at the time would issue Regular line infantry with cartridge boxes holding the wrapped powder and ball. Line infantry would have been using muskets so the wrapped powder and ball would be the most efficient. It is also true, that sometimes they used horn and loose ball with a wad of tow, but that would not have been common.
 

Frod733

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Thanks for the response. Was thinking more about riflemen and their possible use of a cartridge box. The British Baker rifle apparently used wrapped balls in a paper cartridge in one variant. BTW does anyone know how the British riflemen using the Ferguson used cartridge boxes? Thanks.
 
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The Baker was post American Revolution and the Ferguson saw such limited use, and that in the hands of the British, that it can be discounted. Are you looking at American riflemen like those lead by Morgan and Cresap?
 
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I read from a reprint of an original manuscript , a couple years ago , G. Washington , and a couple more "in charge " military planners" , requested leather shot pouches and powder horns to facilitate loading rifles more easily in the field. It was known that paper ctg. boxes for muskets were more of a liability than a benefit for use in rifle corps. Loose powder and ball in a rifle Shot pouch were best. Powder stored in a proper powder horn stayed dry , where paper ctg.'s could get wet , and be useless.
 

Frod733

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Just curious if they were used by American riflemen. Understood the Baker was later, but the principle is the same, a rifleman using paper cartirdges and box. What about the Hessians?
 
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I’ve never seen a reference to a ‘riflemen’ cartridge box, however I have seen a Hessian Jaeger’s cartridge Box.

I’d assume that a British Rifleman was considered a form of ‘light infantry’. The caliber weaponry used by these units varied from .62 - 66. Belly Boxes and Carbine Boxes would make sense to me.

American Riflemen Units of the War of 1812 and Mexican American War used a Riflemens Pouch with a shoulder .54 cartridge Box for the 1803 Rifle, Common Rifle’s and later Mississippi Rifle.
 

Red Owl

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I'd contact Valley Forge National Park- might be a historian there that would know. Off hand, (I THINK) riflemen loaded from a powder horn, the paper cartridges were for muskets.
 

Frod733

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Just curious if some riflemen, would have used cartridge boxes. Wandering minds want to know.
 

skwerleater

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In the Rev War I think that there were rifle shot pouches that were turned into cartridge boxes, but for use with muskets.
 
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I reenacted a Rev War rifleman for years and did extensive research. I have never found a single reference to a colonial rifleman carrying/using a cartridge box.

The only British carrying rifles that I have found evidence of in the AWI were Ferguson's Experimental Corps and several illustrations show them wearing what appears to be a black cartridge box. An illustration by Troiani shows one also carrying a powder horn.
 
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Not Riflemen, but some British Light Infantry used both a cartridge box (Belly Box) that was modified by adding a shoulder strap, balls and a powder horn.


"Nevertheless, cartridge box assemblies continued to be issued to recruits by the Boards of Ordnance. While the cartridge boxes may not have been commonly used in peacetime, they were used, as prescribed, during the early days of the war in 1775. However, fighting along the “Battle Road” in April and in so-called Battle of Bunker Hill in June demonstrated all too well the faults of the cartridge box design in combat, and the British command in America had a ready solution. According to the 3 August 1775 general order issued by the commander-in-chief of British forces in North America, Lieutenant-General the Hon. Thomas Gage, the soldiers were “to wear their Cartouch Boxes Over their Shoulders and not round their waists” (this is often cited as an order made by Howe, perhaps due to his interest in ordering uniform modifications). Extant pieces demonstrate how this modification was made. Although the order does not explain which shoulder the modified box was to be slung over, there are many corroborating examples in orders from the French and Indian War (1754-1763) and artwork from the American War for Independence which demonstrate how this was done."





69th_Regt_private_detail.JPG


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​



British Rank & File Arms, 1768-1784 (62ndregiment.org)

Gus
 

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Have read thousands of reprinted pages of the times between 1745 to 1800 , cartridge boxes , are for storage of preformed musket , "Cartridges"...A round ball and powder charge to prime the flint lock , and powder for the main charge. The cartridge is ripped open with teeth , the lock is primed and frizzen closed , the remainder of the powder in the paper ctg. gets dumped down the bore , and the ball and ctg. paper is rammed on top of the powder , and the gun is ready for action. Pre made ctg's. are almost necessary for massed army usage where most of the guns are the same caliber , making the needed ammo the same. The paper cartridges are unhandy for a rifle , in that they must be pre made ,and carefully stored in a waterproof container during transport. Rifles need a lubricated cloth patch , a slightly smaller than bore size ball , and dry black powder from a water proof container. ( Powder Horn) . Most rifles were all different calibers between .47 , to .62 , with a custom ball mold supplied for the custom made gun. Lead was transported , by the piece...say 1lb. to 5 lb. blocks , and the balls cast wherever a fire was made out on the frontier. And as stated many , many times , guns carried on the frontier , for use in war , and hunting lent them selves to shot pouches , and powder horns for "make as you go" , ammo. Military cartridge boxes do not fit into this situation.......(.Pardon me forgoing very basic in information level.) When the same question is asked repeatedly , tells me further explanation is necessarily. Best I can do for ya............oldwood :dunno:
 
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After the Revolution British planners saw the advantage of a rifle. However before they deployed them as their own force it took some planning and adopting. The rifle corps of the Napolianic wars, not just England but through Central Europe was the results of hard planning. It was one of the first military by purposeful adoption activities.
The French tried it but could not make it work. So they worked on neutralizing the rifle arm. Principally via light artillery and flying batteries.
Rifles were so limited in F and I as to not challenge military thinking
 
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I recall one original quote talking about riflemen using a second/smaller size ball for use after the barrel got fouled and the normal size ball/patch became difficult to impossible to load in battle. Of course now that I want it, I can't find it using even the advanced search engine.

However, the quote did not say HOW the rifleman used the smaller balls other than seemingly to suggest they were used similar to what was known as "running ball." The idea was the smaller size ball would fall down even a fouled bore and the rifleman tamped the buttstock on the ground to seat it before firing. Of course the problem with that was is the rifleman lowered the barrel below level, the ball might move forward or even fall out. Still it could be down by holding the buttstock near or even below one's waist, so the barrel pointed upwards at short range.

To my mind, though, the real problem with that would have been finding a smaller ball or ball mold that was still close enough to the bore size for this to work. They couldn't call tanner molds to order a precision made mold that would work well to do this.

Gus
 
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In the late 1970s & early 80s there was a fair amount of writing circulating in the magazines that riflemen often carried 2 different size balls. One was slightly smaller than the other and they were to be used for loading faster in a life or dearth situation. As I remember this was based on an exhumed Indian corpse that was found to have been shot with 2 different size balls with one of slightly smaller diameter. I took this with a grain of salt as it would have required the rifleman to have 2 molds, store the balls in an easily accessible manner but separate from each other and remember which to grab in a very tense situation. Another point against this is that with most original rifles in collections where a mold survived with the gun there is only one mold which was usually hand made by the barrel maker to suit that bore.
 
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Another point against this is that with most original rifles in collections where a mold survived with the gun there is only one mold which was usually hand made by the barrel maker to suit that bore.

EXACTLY!!

Shops in larger towns/cities did carry ball molds in various sizes, but I don't know about trading posts along the frontier. I can't document this, but I bet those shop keepers cast one ball and left it in the mold so customers could try the cast ball in the muzzle/s of their guns. HOWEVER, I just can't see most frontier riflemen going to the expense of two ball molds for his rifle

The way I figure they could have separated two sizes of balls is as follows. The normal size balls would most likely have remained in the rifleman's shot pouch. A small "ball pouch" or "belt pouch" like a lemuel lyman pouch could carry the smaller balls "before" or on a leather waist belt in front of his body for easy and fast access for close in fighting. Below is one by our own Capt. Jas.

1651938783525.png


However, I'm not comfortable at all to suggest they did carry two sizes of balls.

Gus
 
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Leads me to wonder how many rounds a rifleman might fire in a skirmish, or battle? As many as someone using an unrifled musket? Or fewer?

I have read that disciplined British soldiers could fire musket volleys in fairly quick order.
 
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When I was running the Continental Army camp at the Yorktown Victory Center, I was researching something else and came across an account from a British officer after the Battle of Harlem Heights or Long Island, one of the downstate NY battles. He said that they found dead riflemen with their pouches full of cartridges.
Can I find the stupid reference again all these years later? Not yet. 🤬
Jay
 
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