View single post by Michael C. Hardy
 Posted: Thu Sep 27th, 2007 01:28 am
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Michael C. Hardy

Joined: Tue Sep 25th, 2007
Location: North Carolina USA
Posts: 48

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“A hot barrel, loose powder... a real danger of a cook off and I think most would rather lose a finger than the hand.”
I think one of the popular Civil War mags recently (maybe within the past year or so) did a photo article about men with parts of the their hands shot off. In my research, I have often wondered about men who are stated as having received hand injuries. Some of these were from enemy rounds. Others were from cook-offs and a few who shot themselves to take themselves out of combat.

And yes, severe fouling would be an exception. Most regiments fired few rounds during an engagement, or never got into combat at all, or, had time to clean their weapons. I recall one story of Federal regiments at Gettysburg rotating off the line and heading for a protected area to resupply and clean their rifles. I think it was in the Culp’s Hill area. And, in a combat situation, once your weapon became fouled, it would be easy to exchange it for a cleaner one.
However, we must also remember that the soldiers whose weapons did not foul did not write home about it. It was only those who had a problem. So, the letters home or the official reports will only contain those who had problems.
“And firearms training was woefully inadequate for both sides.”
That’s a understatement. If I remember correctly, the 54th Mass. went into the fight at Olustee with new Spensers. But no one showed them how to reload them once they had gone through their seven rounds. So they threw them down and ran.

Since there is virtually no target practice, why would there need to be a weapon cleaning class? I will qualify the above statement. For the Confederates, they did start creating sharpshooter battalions in mid-1863-1864. These men did practice at targets.

“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.”
I’ve seen this too. However, what do you do when you have no water? I tend to notice in my research that most of the water in a canteen is gone by the time that the shooting starts. Speaking of pee - was it not a Federal regiment at Chickamauga that urinated on the barrels of their Colt Revolving Rifles to cool them down?

Albert - no stupid questions. This just happens to be a topic that I’ve given some time to researching. If you want to talk about the differences in screw-in artillery fuses, well, then, I’m not going to have much insight. And, I hope this isn’t too confusing. For some regiments and brigades in some battles, fouling was an issue and it would have taken a forceful hand to get that bullet to seat properly. In other battles, in which troops were less involved, you could load per regulations, keeping your hand away from the business end of your musket. Like many issues in the war, there were many variables, rather than one way it was “always” done.

Johan - I’ll try and see if I can find that article, or I’ll email Joe. If he did not write it, maybe he can tell me who did.

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