Discussion How much ammo did a standard Union soldier in the Civil War carry with them?

Gettysburg Guide #154

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The impression I have from my reading is that 40 rounds was a standard issue, but that men would be told to draw 60 rounds when battle was expected. While I cannot recall exactly where I have read it just now, I also recall instances where men filled their pockets with whatever was available when being resupplied during battle. Of course, they also need percussion caps.
 

captaindrew

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The impression I have from my reading is that 40 rounds was a standard issue, but that men would be told to draw 60 rounds when battle was expected. While I cannot recall exactly where I have read it just now, I also recall instances where men filled their pockets with whatever was available when being resupplied during battle. Of course, they also need percussion caps.
The caps came in the arsenal packs which consisted of 10 cartridges and 12 caps. 20 individual rounds would be loaded into the top of the tins in the box with two arsenal packs in the lower part of the tins.
 

Scott1967

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10 rounds would equal around a pound in weight so 40 rounds would be around 4 pounds.

Is their any truth that soldiers carried another 40 rounds in their packs?.

The only reason why i ask this is because a couple of times I've read soldiers rummaging through their packs for extra ammunition at what point were their packs dropped when in combat?.

I have often wondered this.

As an ex military man we left our packs at camp or base and only went on patrol with our webbing even so we took 100 rounds of 7.62 and 120 rounds of 5.56 + extra belts for the GPMG when we converted to NATO so 40 rounds seems a bit light.

However to be fair we were not marching 20 mile tabs like these guys did on a regular basis.
 
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Gettysburg Guide #154

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10 rounds would equal around a pound in weight so 40 rounds would be around 4 pounds.

Is their any truth that soldiers carried another 40 rounds in their packs?.

The only reason why i ask this is because a couple of times I've read soldiers rummaging through their packs for extra ammunition at what point were their packs dropped when in combat?.

I have often wondered this.
I have seen many references to packs being dropped before entering combat. For example, Avery Harris tells of dropping the packs near the Seminary buildings before advancing to McPherson's Ridge west of Gettysburg. He says it was the last they ever saw of their packs. There are some stories that Confederates used Union packs filled with rocks to construct breastworks in that area.
 

Scott1967

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I have seen many references to packs being dropped before entering combat. For example, Avery Harris tells of dropping the packs near the Seminary buildings before advancing to McPherson's Ridge west of Gettysburg. He says it was the last they ever saw of their packs. There are some stories that Confederates used Union packs filled with rocks to construct breastworks in that area.

That's interesting , So in effect your pack came with you until you were ordered forward , Did they not leave guards with the packs?.
 

Rhea Cole

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The flag of the XV Army Corps, Army of the Tennessee holds the answer to your question.
HQ flag XV Corps.jpeg

'40 Rounds--Cartridge Box' badge on the HQ Flag XV Army Corps, Army of the Tennessee

Designating flag 2nd Division, 15th Army Corps.jpeg

HQ Flag 2nd Division, XV Army Corps, Army of the Tennessee

Sherman's HQ Flag.jpeg

Sherman's HQ Flag March to the Sea
Flag included the three-color XXIII Corps, Arrow XVII Corps & 40 Rounds XV Corps Badges
When the men of the Army of the Potomac, each with their corps badges sewn on their hats, entered Chattanooga, one of them asked the welcoming XV corps soldiers what their corps badge was. Puzzled by the question, the Western soldier slapped his cartridge pouch & answered, "Our badge is 40 rounds!" That may or may not be a true story, but the proud soldier's answer is the same for the question posed by this thread.

Cartridge box.jpeg

The standard US Army infantryman's cartridge pouch carried 40 rounds. It was not at all unusual for men to be ordered to carry extra rounds when going into battle. The number 60 was the most common amount I have encountered.
 
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grognard

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What the heck was a "standard Union soldier"?!

Yes, the cartridge box was made for 40 rounds.

Men took what they were issued, or as much as they could get. It all depended on circumstances.
 

FedericoFCavada

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By the time of the Civil War, cartridges were wrapped in paper packets of ten, with an eleventh paper cartridge tube holding a dozen caps with each ten rounds. 40 were carried in the cartridge box, with two packages torn open in the upper part of the tins covered by an inner and outer leather flap, and two unopened packages inside the tins. Typically, a couple extra packets were issued to be carried in the pockets, as stated up post. Sometimes additional ammunition might be issued and stored in the knapsack, or there would be runners to try to bring ammunition up as needed. Sometimes soldiers might be sent out of the line to go retrieve ammunition if it couldn't be brought up for one or another reason. In dire circumstances, soldiers would rummage through the cartridge boxes and pockets of the wounded and slain to obtain ammunition as the circumstances warranted.

After dissatisfaction with various attempts at creating cartridges, the Confederates settled on a preference for British-type paper cartridges as used for the Enfield. In such cartridges, the end is opened, the powder charge dumped into the barrel through the muzzle, and then the cartridge was inverted, the bullet skirt wrapped in greased paper introduced into the muzzle, and then the rest of the empty paper cylinder was snapped off and discarded. These cartridges were typically longer than U.S. patterns. For that reason, there were modifications made to cartridge boxes, or the tins discarded, or a different pattern of cartridge box was used in order to house the cartridges.
 

Rhea Cole

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What the heck was a "standard Union soldier"?!

Yes, the cartridge box was made for 40 rounds.

Men took what they were issued, or as much as they could get. It all depended on circumstances.
It is the standard cartridge pouch. It has a metal insert that is intended to keep the rounds secure & dry. The packages of rounds were designed to fit it. It was designed to hold 40 rounds.

it was the army, nobody was just taking what they wanted.
 

67th Tigers

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Upto forty rounds. That's how many the cartridge box held. There are cases of troops being issued extra ammunition just before battle, but this is unusual. The cartridges were paper, and so if not kept in the protective cartridge box would rapidly become useless.

The cavalry usually carried a lot less. For example, there were only 10,000 Spencer rounds issued to Custer's brigade at Gettysburg, which equates to 13 rounds per man equipped with a Spencer.

Forty rounds is plenty. The rifle fouls to the point of being unloadable after maybe a dozen rounds, and had to be cleaned constantly. At Gettysburg, ammunition expenditure on both sides was around 20-30 rounds per man for three days fighting.
 

Rhea Cole

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John Wilder came up with a novel solution for the challenge of ammunition for the seven shot Spencer Repeating Rifle. Some of you may be familiar with the clunky box that the Ordinance Bureau came up wth. It held 42rounds in six seven shot tubes.
There was a false preconception that soldiers with repeaters would waste ammunition. In practice this was proven wrong, but even today that misconception is expressed in discussion about Spencers.
Wilder’s men used their horse’s feed bag or canvas water bucket to carry bullets when they dismounted & deployed. A small two wheeled ammunition cart was an integral part of the mounted formation. As a result, despite doomsayers on every side, Wilder’s men did not run out of ammunition.
I have no reference as to how many cartridges were carried in the feed bags... just that it was enough.
 

Rhea Cole

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Murfreesboro, Tennessee
67 Tigers raised an important point. The bore of muzzle loading rifles firing black powder build up a residue that will prevent the bullet from being forced down the bore. Those of us who fire muzzleloaders are all too familiar with that phenomenon.
For some reason, often expressed as “wasting a round,” the cleaning rounds included with standard issue cartridges were often discarded. At Stones River NB the site of a resupply of ammunition was marked by the discovery of about 300 dropped cleaning rounds. They were wrapped in distinctive colored cartridge paper. Whether or not the cleaning round actually worked or was a wasted shot is a subject for another thread.

A vital part of the management of a regiment during a firefight was the passage of arms. A fresh unit with clean muskets & full cartridge boxes would exchange places in the firing line. During prolonged intense fighting like that at the Round Forrest at Stones River, successfully sloshing out the bore & refilling cartridge boxes was as important as the actual fighting.

By modern standards, 40 rounds doesn’t sound like a lot. During the age of muzzleloader black powder warfare, the was more or less the standard.
 
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