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Found a musket ball

Discussion in 'Civil War Weapons and Ammunition' started by chazman, May 2, 2013.

  1. chazman

    chazman Cadet

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    I found a musket ball about 7 inches underground and I am researching the possibilities of its use and in what weapons it may have been used in. The size of the ball is .65 cal - .93 oz or 408.96 grains. If this size of round were used in the war of 1812 or even in the American revolution, I would have to say that it must have been used in The French musket (the Charleyville), supplied to the Americans, it was 69 caliber and fired a 65 caliber ball. But I can not seem to match this type of ball to any Civil War era rifle specifically, would it be possible to fire this ball out of the U.S. Model 1842 Musket?

    [​IMG]


    Thanks
    Chuck

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  3. chazman

    chazman Cadet

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  4. Gen Cleburne

    Gen Cleburne Private

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    Just a stab, but Im thinking the 'ball' of a buck and ball load.
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  5. Gen Cleburne

    Gen Cleburne Private

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    You didnt say about the site- searching 1812/American Rev site?
  6. reading48

    reading48 1st Lieutenant

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    Nice find.....
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  7. Historyprof

    Historyprof Private

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    Balls for smoothbore muskets were undersized because they were loaded with the cartridge paper. A .65 ball would have been for any .69 musket.
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  8. chazman

    chazman Cadet

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    Thanks all, very interesting.

    Gen Cleburne, I have not researched that site yet, do you have a link for it you could share?
  9. Gen Cleburne

    Gen Cleburne Private

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    No, just wondering what u were searching, and what u expected to find there. BTW- if that is a FDR dime, theres no way that is a .65 cal- IMO
  10. chazman

    chazman Cadet

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    I measured the ball using a digital caliper and it was .65 in. I am not expecting to find anything special, I was just trying to identify this round the best that I could. The more I research, the more I believe that this is not a civil war musket ball. But I thought you folks would know for sure.
  11. Southron

    Southron Sergeant

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    A dime is approximately .70 caliber in width, so that probably is a round lead ball for a .69 caliber musket.

    U. S. musket balls made up until about the mid-1850's were cast and should have the remains of a "Sprue mark" somewhere on it. A Sprue mark is a small, circular flat spot on the ball where the molten lead was poured into the mould. After the lead hardened, a Sprue Plate cut off the excess lead and the ball was dropped out of the mould.

    By the time of the Civil War, most U.S. balls were swaged [the cold lead being formed by two dies coming together to literally stamp out a round ball with NO Sprue mark.

    To further confuse the matter, Confederate balls for .69 smooth bore muskets were cast the old fashioned way!

    From the Revolution until the end of the Civil War the favorite smooth bore load was what was called the "Buck & Ball" cartridge which consisted of a .65 caliber round lead ball and four .33 caliber round balls. At close range, it was a fearsome and devastating load.

    So, basically it is impossible to tell when your lead ball was fired and by whom. If it was recovered on a battlefield, then you can be fairly certain it was fired in that battle.
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  12. TinCan

    TinCan 2nd Lieutenant Forum Host

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    Interesting find none the less.
  13. DixieRifles

    DixieRifles Sergeant Major Forum Host

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  14. Southron

    Southron Sergeant

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    The ball was probably originally around .65 caliber in diameter. Lead bullets deteriorate very little in the ground compared to iron objects.

    Military marksmanship (with a few notable exceptions-snipers being one) has always believed in the "Spray & Pray" Philosophy when it came to shooting in battle. The basic theory being that if your troops can fill the air with enough flying lead, by pure luck, some of the enemy soldiers will be hit.

    Lead balls were purposely made undersize so they would easily slide down the black powder fouled bore of a .69 caliber musket. When fired, the undersize ball would literally "bounce" down the bore (this is called "Balloting,") and often leave the muzzle at a slight angle! From an accuracy point of view, (compared to aimed rifle fire by trained marksmen) this is terrible.

    From the military's point of view in the smooth bore musket era, each man was firing 3 rounds of "Buck & Ball" per minute. So, if you have a regiment of 1,000 men - that means that that regiment is firing 5,000 PROJECTILES PER MINUTE AT THE ENEMY FORMATION! [one .65 caliber lead ball and four .33 caliber lead balls.] In other words, that is some heavy "firepower."

    ON A SIDE NOTE-

    Three decades ago my then wife had a uniform business. The late Colonel Lindsey Henderson of Savannah, GA had amassed a large collection of Civil War artifacts over the years. One of the items in his collection was a militia coatee made in the 1850's. He asked my wife to repair it, which she did after we consulted with a museum curator as how to do the job.

    The coatee was "Double Breasted" and had something like 40 odd, heavy pewter buttons on it. Needless to say, it made the coat fairly heavy as it was also padded on the inside. All of those pewter buttons added weight to the coatee. They were basically round with a flat spot on the back where an eyelet came out so the button could be sewed to the coat.

    Out of curiosity, I measured the diameter of one of those round buttons-IT WAS .65 CALIBER!!!

    I realized those buttons could be used for other than "show." In other words, in a "pinch" a soldier running low on ammo and wearing a coatee like that one, could literally cut the buttons off of this coatee and fire them at the enemy if he still had enough powder!!!
  15. chazman

    chazman Cadet

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    Southron---I am going to look for that sprue mark and also do some deed searching at the court house to help put a story to this ball.

    DixieRifles---Its not steel, the thin coating you see is from the black soil in my yard. My home town has been a coal town since the early 1900s and still is. The ball is not magnetic at all, so it is not steel. There were a few settlers from the revolutionary war that lived close to my home and plenty of Union soldiers from the same area. The hill I live on was a farm in the late 1800s (Shaffer Farm) and I believe that the farmer may have lost this ball or one of these soldiers lost it. I live 13 miles north of Old Forbes Road and am also surrounded by two popular Indian trails, the closest one of these is 8 miles to the north. Anyone from a soldier, fur trader, Indian may have lost this ball. I will look for that sprue mark to at least narrow the timeline.

    Thanks for the help all!
    Chuck
  16. Southron

    Southron Sergeant

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    If that .650 diameter ball of yours weighs approximately 409 grains, then it is probably made of lead.

    A 16 Gauge (.661 diameter) round lead ball, fresh out of the mould, weighs 420 grains.

    Neither iron or steel is that dense.

    NOTE: Typo in my answer above. It should read "15,000 PROJECTILES PER MINUTE..."
  17. chazman

    chazman Cadet

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    15,000! wow I am glad that I was not on those lines, the courage these men had is nothing less than amazing!
  18. Red Reaper

    Red Reaper Cadet

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    I just found a .65 ball on the Battlefield of Painter Creek Mo. today. Weighed it and it weighs 25 grams, or .385.8 grains. It's got a lot of pock marks in it, so I'm sure it's lost some weight over the years.
  19. redbob

    redbob First Sergeant

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    Congratulations on your finds, I know that you are very proud of them.
  20. Southron

    Southron Sergeant

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    Ever IF there was not a battle or skirmish on what is now your yard (and the surrounding area) that ball could have been dropped by a hunter or perhaps fired at a deer or other game animal by another hunter and "missed its mark."

    Another possibility is that Militia Musters took place on that piece of property at odd intervals and occasionally, "live fire" target practice took place-so there might be other balls around in the dirt IF that is the case.

    Actually, the lack of a Sprue Mark would indicate that the ball was probably made by the U.S. Ordnance Department sometimes after the early 1850's as that date was when manufacture of balls by swaging them by machine in Ordnance Arsenals replaced casting balls.
  21. Pvt.A.Wells

    Pvt.A.Wells Sergeant

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    I agree it most likely is a .69 smoothbore round, used with all muskets of that caliber.

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