Accurate Description of English Cartridges? "made of stout writing paper and the finest of powder"

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lelliott19

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"...I found cartridges made of stout writing paper and the finest of powder; they were stronger in material and force than ours. A rebel told me afterward they were of English make. I thought they made my gun kick harder."

Sometimes reminiscences of old veterans can provide information about weapons, ammunition, or accouterments - their own or that of opposing forces. How accurate is this one from a member of the 67th Pennsylvania (Sixth Corps) writing about events at the Battle of Cedar Creek?

After our run following the Johnnies that we now could not see or hear, we stopped at a ditch at foot of the fields, wherein lay a number of dead and dying rebel soldiers. I had a picked-up bayonetless gun and only a few caps and cartridges, borrowed from my comrades when we had formed line in the early morning. On opening a dead rebel's cartridge box I found cartridges made of stout writing paper and the finest of powder; they were stronger in material and force than ours. A rebel told me afterward they were of English make. I thought they made my gun kick harder. ~ A. P. Watson, Co. I, 67th PA, Indiana, PA. [The National Tribune., February 03, 1898, page 2.]​
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@Package4 @Craig L Barry @ucvrelics.com @redbob @alan polk and anyone else who may know.
 

alan polk

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Somewhere I have an account from Champion Hill where a Federal soldier examines Rebel cartridges scattered on the ground and noted their English origin. It seems the writer indicated that the town “Birmingham, England” was stamped on the paper.
 
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Package4

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Yes the British cartridge was more like a pasteboard tube glued than the light paper of American cartridges; the load was also slightly larger as opposed to the M1855 or M1861 cartridge of 60 grains. The Enfield would be 68 to 70 grains thus a slightly, but not really noticeable kick. We don't know what they were shooting prior so the compare would be hard unless we knew what the 67th PA had at Cedar Creek. I'll research later, work to do.

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Package4

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"...I found cartridges made of stout writing paper and the finest of powder; they were stronger in material and force than ours. A rebel told me afterward they were of English make. I thought they made my gun kick harder."

Sometimes reminiscences of old veterans can provide information about weapons, ammunition, or accouterments - their own or that of opposing forces. How accurate is this one from a member of the 67th Pennsylvania (Sixth Corps) writing about events at the Battle of Cedar Creek?

After our run following the Johnnies that we now could not see or hear, we stopped at a ditch at foot of the fields, wherein lay a number of dead and dying rebel soldiers. I had a picked-up bayonetless gun and only a few caps and cartridges, borrowed from my comrades when we had formed line in the early morning. On opening a dead rebel's cartridge box I found cartridges made of stout writing paper and the finest of powder; they were stronger in material and force than ours. A rebel told me afterward they were of English make. I thought they made my gun kick harder. ~ A. P. Watson, Co. I, 67th PA, Indiana, PA. [The National Tribune., February 03, 1898, page 2.]​
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@Package4 @Craig L Barry @ucvrelics.com @redbob @alan polk and anyone else who may know.
Interestingly enough I show the 67th PA armed with Enfields in 1863-64 which would be what they had at Cedar Creek no doubt they were using Federal issue ammunition for the arms. The kick may be just the soldier's imagination, but the extra 10 grains could give a bit more kick seeing that it was a roughly 15% larger load.
 
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Craig L Barry

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The English made excellent gun powder during the mid-19th century, no doubt about that. The future Supt of RSAF Major Fraser Baddeley wrote something called a Pamphlet on the Manufacture of Gunpowder as carried on at the Government Factory Waltham Abbey (1857). Gunpowder is a mixture of three separate ingredients charcoal, sulphur and saltpetre (potasium nitrate). As I recall, his recipe called for steaming the ingredients slightly so they would stick together as well as pulverizing the saltpetre into crystals with the consistency of snow. At any rate, the English were famous for really good black powder.
 

lelliott19

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Thanks to everyone who responded! I realized when I reread the post that I didnt really specify exactly what my questions were, but you guys answered them anyway. :D
I was mainly curious about three things the writers referenced:
1. "writing paper" and what that meant. Thanks for the great pictures and the analogy of a "pasteboard tube"
2. the part where he said it made his gun kick harder. Thanks for the excellent explanation of the extra 10 grains/15%
3. where he said "the finest powder" I was wondering if he meant "fine" like really excellent OR if he meant "fine" like very small grains. If I interpret Craig's answer correctly, it was both?
You guys read my mind! and answered all of the questions, even though I didnt specifically ask them. Thanks.

One other thing I was curious about. He evidently started the fight with "a picked-up bayonetless gun and only a few caps and cartridges, borrowed from my comrades when we had formed line in the early morning." At Cedar Creek, the Union VI Corps camps were pretty far removed from the pre-dawn surprise attack by the Confederates. Seems like he would have had time to get his gun and ammunition?

Does anyone know if the 67th Pennsylvania was short of guns or ammunition prior to the opening of the Battle of Cedar Creek?
 
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Tom Elmore

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Corporal John Buckley of the 69th Pennsylvania recalled that Confederate ammunition gathered from the field after the fighting on July 2 at Gettysburg had a label indicating that it was manufactured in Birmingham, England. These cartridges contained a round ball with three buckshot. The 69th loaded this ammunition in discarded weapons collected at the same time, and used it against Pickett's men the next day. Most of these weapons (and the ammunition) would have belonged to the Georgians of Brig. Gen. Ambrose R. Wright's brigade. (Bachelder Papers, 3:1403)
 

lelliott19

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Corporal John Buckley of the 69th Pennsylvania recalled that Confederate ammunition gathered from the field after the fighting on July 2 at Gettysburg had a label indicating that it was manufactured in Birmingham, England. These cartridges contained a round ball with three buckshot. The 69th loaded this ammunition in discarded weapons collected at the same time, and used it against Pickett's men the next day. Most of these weapons (and the ammunition) would have belonged to the Georgians of Brig. Gen. Ambrose R. Wright's brigade. (Bachelder Papers, 3:1403)
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Ha! Last year, when we were detecting in the area of Kershaw's pre-dawn assault at Cedar Creek, I found some examples of round ball with buckshot attached.

Like an idiot, I thought it was smoothbore ammo. Assuming these "cartridges" with the buck and ball could have been fired from Enfields or other rifled muskets?

I knew generally what weapons Wofford's and Kershaw's old brigade had, but not what Humphreys MS or Bryans had. I wasted a lot of time trying to figure out who would have still had smooth bore weapons. Who knew? And why did no one tell me!!! :bounce: Thanks @Tom Elmore :dance:
 
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Package4

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Corporal John Buckley of the 69th Pennsylvania recalled that Confederate ammunition gathered from the field after the fighting on July 2 at Gettysburg had a label indicating that it was manufactured in Birmingham, England. These cartridges contained a round ball with three buckshot. The 69th loaded this ammunition in discarded weapons collected at the same time, and used it against Pickett's men the next day. Most of these weapons (and the ammunition) would have belonged to the Georgians of Brig. Gen. Ambrose R. Wright's brigade. (Bachelder Papers, 3:1403)
The British Army did not use buck and ball, it was a uniquely American device, it could be that it was contracted for, but I would be highly suspect of that. Buckley says in the letter written way after the war, that “if my memory does not fail me the ammunition had a label showing it to have been manufactured in Birmingham England.”

Due to the number of weapons captured and ammunition scrounged it could be more likely that he was confusing standard Enfield ammunition labels with common Richmond Arsenal made buck & ball.

Just an observation/opinion and I’ll research manifests to see if buck and ball was imported.
 
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Package4

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Thanks to everyone who responded! I realized when I reread the post that I didnt really specify exactly what my questions were, but you guys answered them anyway. :D
I was mainly curious about three things the writers referenced:
1. "writing paper" and what that meant. Thanks for the great pictures and the analogy of a "pasteboard tube"
2. the part where he said it made his gun kick harder. Thanks for the excellent explanation of the extra 10 grains/15%
3. where he said "the finest powder" I was wondering if he meant "fine" like really excellent OR if he meant "fine" like very small grains. If I interpret Craig's answer correctly, it was both?
You guys read my mind! and answered all of the questions, even though I didnt specifically ask them. Thanks.

One other thing I was curious about. He evidently started the fight with "a picked-up bayonetless gun and only a few caps and cartridges, borrowed from my comrades when we had formed line in the early morning." At Cedar Creek, the Union VI Corps camps were pretty far removed from the pre-dawn surprise attack by the Confederates. Seems like he would have had time to get his gun and ammunition?

Does anyone know if the 67th Pennsylvania was short of guns or ammunition prior to the opening of the Battle of Cedar Creek?
Might have been due to the immediacy of the movement, men grabbed what ever weapon they could from the stacks, without forming up. There must be more from the 69th that could illuminate.
 

Package4

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Might have been due to the immediacy of the movement, men grabbed what ever weapon they could from the stacks, without forming up. There must be more from the 69th that could illuminate.
Typically a unit in the field will either stack arms or fall out under arms, if there is suspected immediate action. Under arms, the soldier has his weapon with him. Stacked arms generally require the men to reform in ranks behind their stack, waiting for the command “take arms”. Might be that the movement was so sudden that the men grabbed whatever weapon was available, without forming ranks and moving to the firing line.
 
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