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

grognard

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Oct 12, 2018
it was the army, nobody was just taking what they wanted.

That's why I said "issued". Other posters have already noted that additional ammunition was sometimes issued, and men would take ammunition from casualties as well. It all depended on circumstances.

A vital part of the management of a regiment during a firefight was the passage of arms.

That's "passage of lines", not arms. You've got the right idea, but I think you'll find it was typically carried out a brigade or division level - not within a regiment.
 

Waterloo50

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Location
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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.
Tab, yomp, slog or hump, only the British ‘Tactical Advance to Battle’ sounds civilised, truth is all are equally painful...lots of pain.
 

Grant's Tomb

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Apr 4, 2020
For the start of Grant's Overland campaign, every soldier in the Army of the Potomac was ordered to have 50 rounds of ammunition on hand. They would have 40 rounds packed into their cartridge boxes and the other 10 in either their pockets, haversacks, or knapsacks.
 

FedericoFCavada

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Jan 27, 2015
Location
San Antonio, Texas
Earl J. Hess, The Rifle Musket in Civil War Combat: Reality and Myth (Kansas: 2008), 99-100:

Table 4.1. Expenditure of ammunition per man

Unit Battle Expenditure of ammunition (rounds per man)

100th PA,
Welsh's Bde, Wilcox
Div., IXth Corps, AoP South Mtn. 14 Sep. '62 11-15

Cheatham's Div.,
Polk's rt. wing,
AoT Perryville, 8 Oct. '62 35

Hardee's Corps,
AoT Stones River, 31 Dec. '62 40

51st & 52nd TN,
Wright's Bde, Cheatham's
Div., Polk's rt. wing,
AoT Chickamauga, 19 Sep. '63 20

Polk's rt. wing,
AoT Chickamauga, 19-20 Sep. '63 26

Jackson's Bde,
Cheatham's Div.,
Polk's rt wing,
AoT Chickamauga, 19-20 Sep. '63 44.7

Maney's Bde, Cheatham's
Div., Polks rt. wing,
AoT Chickamauga, 19-20, Sep. '63 30.9

Wright's Bde, Cheatham's
Div., Polk's rt wing,
AoT Chickamauga 19-20 Sep. '63 9.7

Strahl's Bde, Cheatham's
Div., Polk's rt. wing,
AoT Chickamauga 19-20 Sep. '63 6.3

Cheatham's Div., Polk's
rt. wing, AoT Chickamauga 19-20 Sep. '63 22.9 (avg.)

Deas' Bde, Hindman's Div.
Longstreet's lft. wing,
AoT Chickamauga 19-20 Sep. '63 48.9

16th TN, Wright's Bde,
Cheatham's Div., Polk's rt.
wing, AoT Chickamauga 19-20 Sep. '63 7.75

38th TN, Wright's Bde,
Cheatham's Div., Polk's
rt. wing, AoT Chickamauga 19-20 Sep. '63 10

8th TN, Wright's Bde,
Cheatham's Div., Polk's
rt. wing, AoT Chickamauga 19-20 Sep. '63 9.25

28th TN , Wright's Bde,
Cheatham's Div., Polk's
rt. wing, AoT Chickamauga 19-20 Sep. '63 12

59th IL, Grose's Bde,
Cruft's Div., IVth Corps,
AoC Lookout Mtn. 24 Nov. '63 50-80

61st GA, Evan's Bde,
Gordon's Div., Ewell's Corps,
ANV Spotsylvania 12 May '64 160

Average of all battles: 33.
 

FedericoFCavada

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Jan 27, 2015
Location
San Antonio, Texas
Tab, yomp, slog or hump, only the British ‘Tactical Advance to Battle’ sounds civilised, truth is all are equally painful...lots of pain.
Which is why relic hunters and folks with metal detectors sometimes find absolutely pristine, un-fired bullets: These were either dropped by people whose motor skills were degrading due to stress and adrenaline coursing through their veins, or deliberately or inadvertently disposed of or discarded/ jettisoned when an NCO or officer wasn't looking....
 

67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
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.

The Blakeslee box was invented by Col Blakeslee of the 1st Connecticut Cavalry and was patented on 4th December 1864. 500 were issued to the 1st New York Dragoons for trials in February 1865. They were not very complimentary, although it was noted that the men likely having 42 rounds instead of 20 (which is what the normal cavalry cartridge box held). There is very little evidence of any large numbers of issues, although a small number were issued to Wilson's cavalry for Selma raid, where it performed poorly.

By the time the Blakeslee box was invented, Wilder's brigade had been disbanded and the regiments absorbed into the cavalry corps (over a year beforehand in fact).
 

Rhea Cole

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Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
That's why I said "issued". Other posters have already noted that additional ammunition was sometimes issued, and men would take ammunition from casualties as well. It all depended on circumstances.



That's "passage of lines", not arms. You've got the right idea, but I think you'll find it was typically carried out a brigade or division level - not within a regiment.
You are right, lines, not arms. The battle of the Round Forrest was fought by Hazen’s Brigade & involved regiments passing lines.
 

Jeff in Ohio

Corporal
Joined
Oct 17, 2015
One interesting aside is that the US Navy picked a larger caliber rifle, .69 caliber, as a standard during the War, and this seems based on the theory that sailors did not often carry their ammo on long marches, and so the extra weight of the larger bullet would not be the same problem as with soldiers.
 

muffinman67

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Oct 15, 2020
I have read that the Williams bullet was designed as an improvement over the Burton (Minnie) bullet adopted by the Army in 1855. The fact that it tended to scrape fouling from the bore upon discharge was incidental to its intended purpose. Brett Gibbons sells exact, swaged recreations of this round. He has found them to be more accurate than Burton style bullets, as have I.
 

FedericoFCavada

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Jan 27, 2015
Location
San Antonio, Texas
One interesting aside is that the US Navy picked a larger caliber rifle, .69 caliber, as a standard during the War, and this seems based on the theory that sailors did not often carry their ammo on long marches, and so the extra weight of the larger bullet would not be the same problem as with soldiers.
And yet the Navy also adopted so many carbines:

Merril-Jenks
Jenks
Sharps & Hankins
at least some Spencers, no?
 

Friction Primer

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Aug 15, 2019
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.
Not that we should rely on Hollywood for such facts; however, I believe that 60 rounds was actually mentioned in the film "Gettysburg" as the per man allotment of the 20th Maine, just before their battle on Little Round Top?
 

Jeff in Ohio

Corporal
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Oct 17, 2015
And yet the Navy also adopted so many carbines:

Merril-Jenks
Jenks
Sharps & Hankins
at least some Spencers, no?
I've got a well done general reference at home, and will post some more info over this holiday when I have some time, but yes, the Navy did use various arms, both longarms and handguns, over the years.
I was referring to the Plymouth Naval Rifle made by Whitney in 1863, a .69 caliber shorter rifle, chosen at a time when the Army was replacing its .69 caliber longarms with .58 caliber rifle-muskets; in other words, the Navy was going in the opposite direction!
 

neyankee61

Cadet
Joined
Oct 30, 2018
After they dropped knapsacks, a soldier was assigned to guard the pile. Usually the youngest or the oldest one or one who was ill. It doesn't seem to very effective as it is recorded that many times a rookie regiment dropped packs which where then pillaged by a veteran unit that followed up.
 

Lubliner

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Nov 27, 2018
Location
Chattanooga, Tennessee
And they ran very low on ammo...
Depending on the battle I suppose, and maybe learning from previous errors such as this one with not enough ammo for the occasion, on December 14, 1864, the eve of the battle at Nashville, Thomas vs. Hood, the men were given General Order No. 7;
"I. This command will be ready to move at daylight tomorrow morning, with one day's rations and 100 rounds of ammunition in cartridge box and on person. By order of Brig. Gen. Hatch, Headquarters Fifth Division Cavalry Corps."
[O. R. Series 1, Volume 45, Part 2, page 190].
Lubliner.
 
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