Great Article In Confederate Veterans Magazine on Poison & Exploding Bullets


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Regtl. Quartermaster Shiloh 2020
May 7, 2016
Came across this doing some Confederate Veterans magazine (Vol 7 page 156) reading, Thought I would share as it is a great read. It is a VERY comprehensive report and tells both sides of this issue.

Rev. Horace Edwin Hayden, who served in the First Virginia and then in the First Missouri Cavalry, C. S. A., writes from Wilkes Barre, Pa.
I note Judge Cook's article on explosive bullets on page 27, January Veteran. I am surprised that the article which I inclose has not been seen by the Judge or the Veteran. I wrote it after much correspondence and research, and it was published in the Southern Historical Society Papers in 1880. Many of the facts are taken verbatim from the official papers on tile in the United States War Department. I was refused a copy of that paper, but was allowed to read it and reread it, with the assurance that I could commit it to memory and use it, which I did with all dispatch. I searched the United States in its preparation. The following remarkable statement occurs as a note to the account of the battle of Gettysburg, page 78, volume III., of "'The Pictorial History of the Civil War in the United States of America," by Benson J. Lossing, LL. D.
"Many, mostly young men, were maimed in every conceivable way, by every kind of weapon and missile, the most fiendish of which was an explosive and a poisoned bullet, represented in an engraving a little more than half the size of the originals, procured from the battlefield there by the writer. These were sent by the Confederates. Whether any were ever used by the Nationals, the writer is not informed. One was made to explode in the body of the man, and the other to leave a deadly poison in him, whether the bullet lodged in or passed through him. It was illustrated. When the bullet struck, the momentum would cause the copper in the outer disc to flatten, and allow the point of the stem to strike and explode the fulminating powder, when the bullet would be rent into fragments which would lacerate the victim. "In figure B the bullet proper was hollowed, into which was inserted another, also hollow, containing poison. The latter, being loose, would slip out and remain in the victim's body or limbs with its freight of poison if the bullet proper should pass through. Among the Confederate wounded at the College were boys of tender age and men who had been forced into the ranks against their will." It is difficult for those who live at the South to realize how extensively such insinuating slanders as the above against the Confederates are credited at the North, even by reading people. It is with entire confidence in the facts presented in this paper that I deny this author's statement. I most emphatically deny that the Confederate States ever authorized the use of explosive or poisoned musket or riflle balls, and I assert that the United States did purchase, authorize, issue, and use explosive musket or rifle balls during the late civil war, and that they were thus officially used in the battle of Gettysburg. It happened in 1864, the day after the negro troops made their desperate and drunken charge on the Confederate lines to the left of Chaffin's farm and were so signally repulsed, that the writer, who was located in the trenches a mile still farther to the left, picked up in the field outside the trenches assailed by the negroes some of the cartridges these poor black victims had dropped, containing the very "explosive" ball de
scribed in the above quotation and charged to the Confederates. 1 have preserved one of these balls ever since. It lies before me as I write. It has a zinc, and not a copper, disc. It never contained any fulminating powder. The construction of the ball led me to make investigations to ascertain its purpose. At first I thought it might be made to leave in the body of the person struck by it three pieces of metal instead of one, to irritate and possibly destroy life. But this theory appeared to me so "fiendish" that I was unwilling to accept it, and I became convinced, after more careful examination, that the purpose of the ball was to increase the momentum, by forcing in the cap and expanding the disk so as to fill up the grooves of the rifle. The correctness of this view is proven herein. In the first place, although the charge made by the author of the "Pictorial History of the Civil War" against the Confederates, of having used explosive and poisoned balls has been made before and often repeated since, it has never been supported by One grain of proof. How did this author ascertain that the balls he picked up on the battlefield of Gettysburg were sent by the Confederates? How did he learn that one was an explosive and the other a poisoned projectile? Did he test the explosive power of the one and the poisonous character of the other? He gives no evidence of Raving il« me so. and advances no proof of his assertions. It is a very remarkable fact thai no case was ever reported in Northern hospitals, or by Northern surgeons, of Union soldiers having been wounded by Rich barbarous missiles as these from th< < oni I have very carefully examined those valuable quarto volumes issued by the United States Medical Department and entitled "The Medical and Surgical History of the Rebellion," and as yet have failed to find any case of wound or death reported as having occurred by an explosive or poisoned muskel ball, excepting th.ii on page oi of Volume 11. of said work then a table of four thousand and two cases of gunshot Rounds of the scalp, two of which occurred by explosive musket balls. To which army these twi i beli » does not appear. A letter addressed to the Surgeon General of the United States by the writer on this subject has elicited the reply that the Medical Department is without any information as to wounds by such missiles. I do not find such projectiles noticed as preserved in the museum of the Surgeon General's Department, where rifle projectiles taken from wounds are usually depos
ited. In the second place the manufacture, purchase, issue. or use of such projectiles for firearms by the Confederate States is positively denied by the Confederate I authorities, as the following correspondence will show :
Beauvoir, Miss.,
June 28, 1879.

My Dear Sir: In reply to your inquiries as to the use of explosive or poisoned balls by the troops of ,the Confederate States, I state as positively as one may in such a case that the charge has no foundation Lin truth. Our government certainly did not manu: facture or import such balls, and if any were captured I from the enemy they could probably only have been 1 used in the captured arms for which they were suited, il heard occasionally that the enemy did use explosive balls, and others prepared so as to leave a copper ring I in the wound, but it was always spoken of as an atrocity
beneath knighthood and abhorrent to civilization. The slander is only one of many instances in which our enemy have committed or attempted crimes of which our people and their government were incapable, and then magnified the guilt by accusing us of the offenses they had committed. . . . Believe me, ever faithfully yours,
Jefferson Davis.

Gen. Josiah Gorgas, the Chief of Ordnance of the Confederate States—after the war with the University of Alabama—writes under date of July 11, 1879, tnat to his "knowledge the Confederate States never authorized or used explosive or poisoned rifle balls." In this statement also Gen. I. M. St. John and Gen. John Ellicot, both of the Ordnance Bureau, Confederate States Army, entirely occur. The Adjutant General of the United States also writes me under date of August 22, 1879, as to tne Confederate archives now in possession of the national government, as follows: "In reply to yours of the iSth August, I have the honor to inform you that the Confederate States records in the possession of this department furnish no evidence that poisoned or explosive musket balls were used by the army of the Confederate States." A brief examination of the United States Patent Office Reports for 1862-63, and the Ordnance Reports for 1863-64. will show that the "explosive and the poisoned balls" which the author of the "Pictorial History of the Civil War" so gratuitously charges upon the Confederates were patented by the United States Patent Office at Washington, and were purchased, issued, and used by the United States Government, and. what is still mine remarkable, that neither of the aforesaid projectiles were in any sense explosive or poisoned. In repelling and refuting the ch linst the Confederates of having used explosive musket or rifle projectiles. I charge the United States Government with not only patenting, but purchasing and using, especially at the battle of Gettysburg, an explosive musket shell: nor do 1 trust my imagination, but I present the facts, which are as follow s : In April, 1862, the Commissioner of Public Buildings at Washington brought to the attention of the Assistant Secretary of War—then Mr. John Tucker musket shell invented by Mr. Samuel Gardiner. Jr. The Assistant Secretary at once referred the matter to Gen. James W. Ripley, who was then the Chief of the Ordnance Bureau at Washington. What action was til. en will appear when it is stated that in May. 1862, the Chief of Ordnance at the West Point Military Academy made a report to the government of a trial of the Gardiner musket shell. In May, 1862, Mr. Gardiner offered to sell some of his explosive musket shells to the government at a stipulated price. His application was referred to Gen. Riplev with the following indorsement : "Will Gen. Ripley consider whether this explosive shell will be a valuable missile in battle? A. Lincoln." Gen. Ripley replied that it had "no value as a service projectile." In June, 1862. Brig. Gen. Rufus King, at Fredericksburg, made a requisition for some of the Gardiner musket shells. On referring this application to the Chief of Ordnance, Gen. Ripley, that old army officer,
whose sense of right must have been shocked at this instance of barbarism, a second time recorded his disapproval, replying that "it was not advisable to furnish any such missiles to the troops at present in service." In September, 1862, the Chief of Ordnance of the Eleventh Corps, United States army, recommended the shell to the Assistant Secretary of War, who ordered 10,000 rounds to be purchased—made into cartridges. Of this number, 200 were issued to Mr. Gardiner for trial by the Eleventh Corps. In October, 1862, the Chief of Ordnance of the Eleventh Corps, then in reserve near Fairfax C. H., sent in a requisition, indorsed by the general commanding the corps, for 20,000 Gardiner musket shells and cartridges. The Assistant Secretary of War referred the matter to the Chief of Ordnance, Gen. Ripley, who for the third time recorded his disapproval of such issue. Nevertheless the Assistant Secretary of War ordered the issue to be made to the Eleventh Corps of the remaining 9,800 shells and cartridges, which order was obeyed. In November, 1862, Mr. Gardiner offered to sell to the United States his explosive musket shell and cartridge at $35 per thousand, caliber 58. The Assistant Secretary of War at once ordered 100,000, of which 75,000 were caliber 58 for infantry, and 25,000 caliber 54 for cavalry service. In June, 1863, the Second New Hampshire Volunteers made a requisition for 35,000 of these shells, and by order of the Assistant Secretary of War they received 24,000. Of this number, 10,060 were abandoned in Virginia and 13,940 distributed to the regiment. The report of this regiment, made subsequently, shows that in the third quarter of 1863—that is, from July 1 to October 1—about 4,000 of these shells were used in trials and target firing, and about 10,000 were used in action. The Second New Hampshire Regiment was in the battle of Gettysburg, and 49 of its members lie buried in the cemetery there. The above statement shows that the Assistant Secretary of War, against what might be regarded as the protest of the Chief of Ordnance, purchased 110,000 of the Gardiner explosive musket shells, and issued to the troops in actual service 35,000 leaving 75,000 onhand at the close of the war. In 1866 the Russian government issued a circular calling a convention of the nations for the purpose of declaring against the use of explosive projectiles in war. To this circular the then Chief of Ordnance of the United States, Gen. A. B. Dyer, made the following reply, which I have but little doubt expresses the sentiment which actuated Gen. Ripley in his disapproval of the purchase and issue of the Gardiner musket shell

"Ordnance Office, War Department, Washington, August 19. 1868. To Hon. J. M. Schofield, Secretary of War. "Sir: I have read the communication from the Russian Minister in relation to the abolishment of the use of explosive projectiles in military warfare, with the attention and care it well deserves. "I concur heartily in the sentiments therein expressed, and I trust that our government will respond unhesitatingly to the proposition in behalf of humanity and civilization. The use in warfare of explosive balls so sensitive as to ignite and burst on striking a substance
stance as soft and yielding as animal flesh (of men or horses) I consider barbarous and no more to be tolerated by civilized nations than the universally reprobated practice of using poisoned missiles or of poisoning food or drink to be left in the way of an enemy. Such a practice is inexcusable among any people above the grade of ignorant savages. Neither do I regard the use in war of such explosive balls as of any public advantage, but rather the reverse, for it will have the effect of killing outright, rather than wounding, and it is known that the care of wounded men much more embarrasses the future operations of the enemy than the loss of the same number killed, who require no further attention which may delay or impede them. A. B. Dyer, Brevet Major General, Chief of Ordnance." I have recorded enough to show the recklessness and falsity of the charge against the Confederates of using such missiles in small arms, and the public is hereby specifically "informed whether the Nationals ever used them." In the Patent Office Report for 1863-64 will be found the following account of the Gardiner musket shell
"No. 40,468. Samuel Gardiner, Jr., of New York, N. Y.—Improvement in Hollow Projectiles. Patent dated November 3, 1863. "The shell to form the central chamber is attached to a mandrel, and the metal forced into a mold around it. "Claim : Constructing shells for firearms by forcing the metal into a mold around an internal shell supported on a mandrel." I have a box of these shells in my possession. They are open for examination by any persons who may desire to see them. This summer the distinguished officer who commanded the One Hundred and Forty-Third Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers, United States army, at the battle of Gettysburg informed me that during the last day of the battle he and his men frequently heard above their heads, amid the whistling of the Minie balls from the Confederate side, sharp, explosive sounds like the snapping of musket caps.' He mentioned the matter to an ordnance officer at the time. The officer replied that what he heard was explosive rifle balls, which the Confederates had captured from the Union troops, who had lately received them from the Ordnance Department. It is earnestly hoped that the facts presented in this paper will forever set at rest the malicious slander so often repeated against the Confederates, by many who> are so willing to believe anything against them, of having authorized the use in military warfare of such atrocious and barbarous missiles as "explosive and poisoned" musket or rifle balls.