Was there a set punishment for a soldier who dry balled a gun??

Discussion in 'General Muzzleloading' started by Docgp, Feb 13, 2019.

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  1. Feb 13, 2019 #1

    Docgp

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    About once a year, especially when I am running my mouth, I dry ball, no powder,(whatever you want to call it) a muzzleloader. SO, as I am sitting at the range yesterday poking 3f powder through the touch hole of my rifle, the question came to mind about this.

    I am sure this could be quite detrimental during a battle, but has anyone read anything about this? For me, the punishment of sitting there losing shooting time while poking one grain after another in the touch hole helps me pull my head out of my backside.

    Just curious
    Doc
     
  2. Feb 13, 2019 #2

    Juice Jaws

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    Happens more than you think. Read several books talking about it. The only book I remember now talking about dry balling in battle was " Commerce of the Prairies". Just think about it, if you forget to put powder first just because you are talking to someone, image a whole of people shooting and yelling at you.
     
  3. Feb 13, 2019 #3

    Artificer

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    Hi Doc,

    18th and 19th century "Regular" Soldiers spent a LOT of time practicing the Manual of Arms for Loading/Firing, to preclude that from happening as much as possible. Period Recruits often did not understand it until AFTER they were in their first battle.

    The 18th century British Army had what I consider an interesting term for Recruits and those who did not have their Drill down to where they could do such things almost without thinking. The term for those men were "Awkward Soldiers." They were assigned much, MUCH more Drill Practice until their NCO's and Officers had confidence they could be relied on to load/fire almost without thinking.

    However, as late as after the Battle of Fredericksburg during the UnCivil War, there were Rifled Muskets found in the Confederate Trenches that had so many live rounds loaded into them, they were almost full to the muzzle. What was never said was probably the cone/nipple hole to the barrel was clogged and that's why the Musket didn't go off. With as many people firing at the same time, the men trying to shoot the musket may not have even realized it did not go off and just passed it back to the rear to be reloaded.

    Gus
     
  4. Feb 13, 2019 #4

    Melnic

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    This article comes to mind:
    https://www.guns.com/news/2017/03/2...-war-musket-finds-stacks-of-minie-balls-video

    "fog of war" affects the untrained tremendously.

    I had originally thought, how do you dry ball if you are loading from a cartridge? tearing it open and dropping powder down first? The comment from the article about dropping unopened cartridges ball first comes to mind on how it ended up happening. In the history of war, desperate times meant desperate measures. No matter how long it took to build a musket or build a biplane, you still had instances where young men were sent into battle with minuscule training. I don't recall where I saw it but I once read a letter where a french officer said, "why train a pilot for months when he is expected to only live for days" (and he wonders why he lived for days).

    Imagine if a major battle irrupted before Von Steuben had finished his couple month training of the recruits of Valley Forge in 1778? How many dry balls or double loads would have happened then?
     
  5. Feb 13, 2019 #5

    FishDFly

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    Why would there be in light of more important things to worry about in a battle?

    Forrest Gump again comes to mind.
     
  6. Feb 13, 2019 #6

    Artificer

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    As a Marine, I got a real kick out of Von Steuben swearing in German or French and then having Pennsylvania Officers translating the swearing into English for the Soldiers. However, he turned a bunch of armed men into real Soldiers.

    General "Mad" Anthony Wayne did the same thing in the Post AWI era in that instead of going after NA Warriors with raw recruits in the Northwest Territory, he first set up a period "Boot Camp" to turn them into Soldiers.

    Colonel and later General Thomas Johnathan Jackson was especially known for developing drill in loading and firing and with the bayonet, even during a time when it was known to other Regular Officers. Of course that training really paid off at First Manassas and future battles.

    Gus
     
  7. Feb 13, 2019 #7

    RedFeather

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    Yes, the penalty was getting shot during a battle.

    I always like comments about how could this happen, etc? Well, anecdotal evidence from after battles suggest that the noise level was so high that some soldiers actually thought their multiple-loaded muskets had gone off, thumbing back the hammer but forgetting to cap. Consider that a lot of hunters say they never notice recoil when firing at game. Now multiply that by the fog of war. Civil War soldiers did a LOT of drilling but drills don't always translate into action on the battlefield. And "the fog of war" was an apt description. There are accounts of soldiers with their faces completely begrimed with fouling from the ever present pall of black powder smoke. I cannot imagine what battlefield conditions were like during major engagements. Especially as they were proving grounds for new weapons, new tactics and untried commanders.
     
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  8. Feb 14, 2019 #8

    Stumpkiller

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    Hard to get that far "out of sequence" when you are loading from paper cartridges.

    Probably the standard punishment was that for the rest of the battle they had to rely only on bayonet.

    I read at one point that the average British soldier of the 18th century might fire five practice rounds annually. The officers had to buy the provisions. No need for a lot of practice when aiming was hardly encouraged.
     
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  9. Feb 14, 2019 #9

    hanshi

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    The punishment for dry balling in battle was certainly a chance of getting killed; that alone is bad enough.
     
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  10. Feb 14, 2019 #10

    no1_49er

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    I realise it's not the "traditional" thing to do, but why would anybody in this day and age persist with the tedious process of pouring tiny quantities of powder through the nipple/bolster/drum, when they could use something like this: - https://www.buffaloarms.com/b-i-d-co2-blowoff-inflator-discharger-rmc1082
    There are many varieties of it available. I have one that was marketed as the Silent Ball Discharger by Thompson-Center in my range box. Never had to use it myself but I do have a few colleagues who were most grateful that it was there.
    Not traditional, but a lot easier.
     
  11. Feb 14, 2019 #11

    tenngun

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    Unlike modren battle, well up to WW2 men were not locked in combat for hours in end. There would be a few min of furious fire, a push and one side or the other would fall back. Should the defending line break there was a rush to plug the hole and hand to hand along the rupture. Should the asaulting force not carry the position they would fall back to regroup. Most of the time in muzzelloading battles was spent marching, counter marching and forming up, only to never fight at that time.
    A man that did dry ball would have little or no chance to do any thing about it at that time. In a few minutes he would go hand to hand or fall back, or advance.
    Even a load of sixty rounds would only represent about 20 mins of fire. After the fight provided he didn’tt act cowardly as seen by the officer it’s unlikely any thing would be said about it.
     
  12. Feb 14, 2019 #12

    Straekat

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    During the black powder era, firearms were not serial numbered. Battlefield casualties frequently reached roughly 25% for units that were engaged, at which point they either broke, retreated, or were taken off the field before to reorganize before they did.

    A soldier that dry-balled while under fire might not have to wait long for a casualty and being able to get his hands on one that he could load and fire, and not bother with the musket he dry-balled.
     
  13. Feb 14, 2019 #13

    crankshaft

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    I think we had a case of " buck fever " , panic....if a soldier was coherent and couldn't hear the shot going off, at least when reloading he would notice the rod not going down to the proper depth ? ? Especially if there were multiple loads .
     
  14. Feb 14, 2019 #14

    Artificer

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    When I was reenacting the UnCivil War in the 1980's; we had anywhere between 140 to 165 Soldiers in Longstreet's Corps and I can assure you when we did volley fire, no individual Soldier could hear his individual musket going off versus the roar of the entire Corps. Of course most of us could feel our individual muskets recoiling, because no one was actually shooting at us.

    However, I could see how with adrenaline flowing and in the "fog of war," one might not or would not feel the recoil. Heck, most of the time when I was hunting small game or deer, I never noticed the recoil or even noise of my shot/s.

    In actual combat, I don't remember reloading my M870 Shotgun at all (though it went off each time I pulled the trigger), nor did I feel the recoil on every shot I fired.

    So I can see how they might not or would not have noticed the recoil of their individual shots, especially in the midst of a very big fight.

    Gus
     
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  15. Feb 14, 2019 #15

    Stumpkiller

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  16. Feb 14, 2019 #16

    FishDFly

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    Walter Cline discusses this subject in his book, it in not a new revelation at all.
     
  17. Feb 14, 2019 #17

    FishDFly

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    Back when I was training Labs, I read a lot, you learn by reading.

    If you watch a Lab mother teach her puppies, she gets nose to nose and growls for bad behavior, they learn very quickly what is not correct.

    Do you really think a Sgt. during a engagement is going to overly correct a Private for being less than correct?
     
  18. Feb 15, 2019 #18

    yulzari

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    In battle it is a difference between trained professional soldiers and hastily recruited citizens. The professional has practiced this so very many times over weeks, months and years that the stress of battle makes him cling to his automatic training. The citizen soldier has to think his way through the processes, which will inevitably go to pot under stress.

    To give the simplest of examples. I shoot in France where it is a necessity to greet each shooter with a polite 'bonjour' and a shake of the hand even when they are on the firing line. The same with an 'au revoir' as they depart. I soon learned to lay out my muzzle loading requisites in a neat obvious pattern so that I could check to see how far I had got before being interrupted by my colleagues good manners. In the case of a patched round ball I can look down to see if the phial of powder has been emptied and left open, the patch is gone and the ball is gone. The stress of deafening noise, heat and dense smoke and sheer bowel loosening fear is many, many magnitudes greater than a polite interruption on the range but I dry balled under even that minor stress. I can see a citizen soldier simply missing the muzzle when pouring the powder out of the paper cartridge and not noticing that, nor the gun not firing under the circumstances. I know that I would be in the market for a dry pair of trousers.
     
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  19. Feb 15, 2019 #19

    Rifleman1776

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    I thought you were describing what goes on at my club range. :eek:;)
     
  20. Feb 15, 2019 #20

    Loyalist Dave

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    YEP,
    Except are we talking rifle or musket?

    Because if a musket..., you first dump your powder, then load the cartridge with the ball. Unlike when loading from a flask, not really going to forget and ram a ball down on an empty barrel without the cartridge. If you did, the military load would allow you to simply dump the ball if it was a "bare ball".

    So let's say the shooter (recruit soldier or militiaman) was soooo unnerved that he got "the shakes" and very little of the powder got poured down the barrel. He rams home the cartridge, and when time comes to shoot, he gets a tiny little pop, and checking, he finds the ball only moved toward the muzzle a few inches. OR...ooops there's a sudden downpour and his powder is wet.....What's he to do?

    Well he can simply pull the ball in the cartridge....

    Cartridges were closed with a piece of string knotted around the end, the ball was inserted, then the same piece of string was continued around the outside of the cartridge where it went over the ball, and then the paper was crimped against the ball using the string, before the powder was added, and the cartridge closed. THUS a worm was all that was needed to snag the cartridge string going around the ball to extract same, and then a new cartridge could be loaded.
    This was also done to save the ball from the cartridges when used by sentries, etc....Cuthbertson wrote:
    "Whenever Soldiers return from Detachments or out Posts, on which they may have perhaps loaded, without expending their shot, the orderly Corporals must be answerable that no Firelock is returned to the Bell-tent, until the charge has fist been drawn, as a precaution against accident, that he may likewise collect the Balls, to be returned to the Quarter-Master,..."
    Here are some drawings of what I'm speaking, with color added to better see the string...
    Cartridge with Ball Drawing.jpg
    Cartridge with Buck and Ball Drawing.jpg
    Cartridge with Buckshot Drawing.jpg
    LD
     
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