View single post by Johan Steele
 Posted: Wed Sep 26th, 2007 11:58 pm
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Johan Steele
Life NRA,SUVCW # 48,Legion 352

Joined: Sat Dec 2nd, 2006
Location: South Of The North 40, Minnesota USA
Posts: 1060

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Both Chickamauga & Chanclorsville were big battles w/ units in the line for extended periods, I have come to see these as exceptions rather than the norm. When units were cycled out of the line to recive ammunition resupply they normally would have done a quick field clean. When I say this takes only a minute I'm not kidding, a mouthful of water down the barrel, thumb over the muzzle shaken a time or three and dumped out. If the barrel is extremely hot a good amount of that water will evaporate and a couple patches to swab out the worst of it and it's clean enough to fire again w/ the worst of the fouling gone.

I've read many period accounts of men cleaning their weapons while in the line. One was from the 2nd MN VI at Chickamauga, I think about 5-6 letters over the years have mentioned field cleaning, I've duplicated some of their methods on the firing line (I refuse to pee down my barrel though)all three methods worked.

As was mentioned earlier the cleaner bullets would help considerably but could cause problems if the washer broke off in the barrel and didn't exit it. Again another thing that could be attributed to fouling.

Wathall Brigade was largely carrying M1841's and Lorenzes IIRC which would have been .54 the situation at Chickamauga had them issued a box of .58 which they loaded on the advance causing the problem. Essentially the .58's would probably drop the first couple inches down the barrel but no further... and a couple raps w/ the ramrod would solidly stick the bullet. Major problem but not really related to fouling.

Something that we as re-enactors don't really understand or often grasp is that even in the hottest fights the average numbers of shots fired might only be 40 rounds or considerably less. We think of the big battles like Chancellorsville, Chickamauga, Shiloh, Atlanta... all can certainly be thought of as hot and intense fights but it's startling to realize that some regiments fired only 200 rounds per man across three days at Gettysburg (IIRC that was 2nd Wisconsin) needless to say I was quite suprised. But when you realize that the 3 aimed shots a minute we so often quote was not always a reality. I've live fired a lot w/ my M1841 a Parker Hale P53 and an original M1863 Springfield, I can't say as I ever managed 3 shots a minute. I know I did when I started w/ a round loaded but not consistantly. 3 shots a minute would use up a soldiers 40 dead men in under 15 minutes yet we often read of engagements that lasted hours w/out ammunition resupply; even taking into consideration an extra 100 or so rounds you can see there was no where near a 3 shots a minute rate of fire held.

Lets add one more bit to the mix, untrained troops. Many units both US & CS had green untrained or inexperianced troops see the elephent throughout the war. And firearms training was woefully inadequete for both sides. Did this contribute to fouling? Not really but if a man was a damned fool and didn't clean his rifle... here you get problems.

The manual used by both the US & CS on how to properly care for the weapon is very descriptive and effective, more time consuming than modern methods but frankly every bit as effective.

Something I have to remember is that not all soldiers were well trained, some lacked the brains to clean their weapons when needed etc.  To me the mini shows a man who is either inexperianced, poorly trained or perhaps in one of those hot fights.  But it doesn't ring to me; the fist stands out as just wrong.

Now one thing that has added to my curiousity was something mentioned about CW era powder being more fouling than modern... this is something contradictory to what I know, or think I know. If Joe Bilby states it I'm going to put my money on his work as he is one of the leading minds in the field IMO.

If I'm not careful I'll have to revise my opinion... but I'm not ready to eat crow just yet.


Regardless this has turned into a fascinating discussion.

Last edited on Thu Sep 27th, 2007 12:07 am by Johan Steele

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