How Were Empty Artillery Ammunition Boxes Exchanged?

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
How Were Empty Artillery Ammunition Boxes Exchanged?

IMG_0718.jpg


During a visit to Stones River N.B. I had a chance to photograph a limber, Aimes 14 pound rifle & a caisson with a limber all in one frame.
These pieces are ordinarily properly in battery at the position of the Chicago Board of Trade Battery position Dec 31, 1862.
They had been moved during maintenance.

IMG_0725.jpg


Several times on this forum the question of how artillery ammunition boxes were exchanged.
There is a clearly defined procedure by the numbers in the manual, but that isn't a very easy thing to understand.
This is a photo of the ammunition box attached to the caisson's limber. The box has a tab with a hole in it built into the straps on either side.
A 'T' shaped dowel passes through the tab.
Underneath is the retaining pin that passes through a hole in the dowel. A chain attaches the pin to the limber.
To remove the ammunition box, simply remove the pins & tip the limber up to slide it off.
The lunette at the end of the caisson pole is held in place by a locking pin that you can see the handle of.
The metal plate camera left is there to protect the pole from contact with the metal tire of the wheel.

IMG_0722.jpg


This is a close up of the retaining pin.

IMG_0723.jpg


On the other side of the ammunition box is tab that fits into a clip mounted in the center of the caisson.
When the boxes are loaded & unloaded, the tab slides into & out of the clip, securely holding the box in place.

IMG_0727.jpg


The spare wheel & its mounting hardware would be dismounted to replace the rear box on the caisson.

IMG_0724.jpg


The casting the spare wheel is mounted on & the hardware for the ammunition box is clearly shown in this image.
Note the pin used to retain the wheel mounting to facilitate the dismounting & replacement of the box.
The large hook is used to connect the loop on the lunette (loop) of another caisson or limber for towing.
As with everything involving the nuts & bolts of Civil War artillery, the mounting & dismounting of the ammunition boxes was the fruit of 300 years of evolution. The mantra would be if it is clumsy to do, you are doing it wrong. What may not be obvious in the photos is that raising & lowering the pole will easily pivot the limber or caisson on its axil. That greatly facilitated handling the very heavy boxes. You could literally tip the limber & slide the box on or off. The shape of the handles built into the boxes are designed to facilitate handling as well has providing something to desperately cling to when riding on the box.

Note: Photos by the author at Stones River National Battlefield, MurfreesboroTN. The section of two Aimes 14 pounders can normally be seen on the westward side of the visitor center.



IMG_0726.jpg


Ammunition box tab & clip on a limber.​

IMG_0724.jpg
 
Last edited:

Lubliner

Captain
Forum Host
Joined
Nov 27, 2018
Location
Chattanooga, Tennessee
Thank you @Rhea Cole. There is much correspondence of moving up ammunition from the reserve, but the process was never spelled out to me before. The 'hitch it up and move forward' from a reserve unit to a returning limber is still unclear. Were these boxes exchanged at the reserve site or the whole limber re-attached?
Lubliner.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Well done and very informative-thank you. :thumbsup:
Thanks, the position of the limber, gun & caisson was just too good to miss. The light was perfect, as well. This is the kind of thing that is devilishly hard to explain in print. It really is a picture worth a thousand words situation. I was out there with my g-g-grandaughter to do research with bent wire dowsing.
Thank you @Rhea Cole. There is much correspondence of moving up ammunition from the reserve, but the process was never spelled out to me before. The 'hitch it up and move forward' from a reserve unit to a returning limber is still unclear. Were these boxes exchanged at the reserve site or the whole limber re-attached?
Lubliner.
The answer is yes. In the reserve artillery park were loaded caissons that could be hitched to a limber & returned to the battery. The reserve ammunition was pre-packed in the boxes at the armory. The empty boxes were removed from the caissons & replaced with fresh ones. The return of the empty boxes to the arsenal was an important part of the process. The vital part played by the back flow of material of all kinds played in logistics one that is almost unknown.
 

limberbox

Private
Joined
Apr 25, 2020
The 1864 manual provides suggestions on p. 84, para. 131, to prevent the gun limber chest running low on ammunition, but if it is exhausted the gun limber is replaced by the caisson limber (so that the gun is kept supplied), and the now-empty gun limber chest is removed and replaced by the middle chest on the caisson:

"Supply of Ammunition in Action
131. When it is likely that movement must take place on the field, or the firing is slow, and it can be done without inconvenience, ammunition will be served direct from the rear chest of the caisson, No. 8 performing the duties prescribed for No. 6 at the limber chest. At convenient moments the ammunition served out by No. 6 will be replaced from the rear caisson chest. If the ammunition chest at the piece is exhausted, the limber is replaced by that of the caisson, and the empty chest exchanged for the centre one of the caisson.

As a rule, the limber chests, and especially that of the piece, will be kept full at the expense of the others, so that in case of a sudden movement on the field there shall always be a sufficient supply of ammunition at hand."

The manual then describes on page 87, para. 134, how to exchange the full middle caisson chest for the empty chest on the limber by sliding the nearly 700-pound full chest along the horizontal stock of the caisson body to the limber:

" CHANGING AMMUNITION CHESTS

134. In service, when the limber chest of the piece is emptied, the piece and caisson exchange limbers; No. 8, assisted by no. 7, unlimbers and limbers up the caisson, and the middle chest is exchanged with the empty one on the limber as soon as practicable.

To change the ammunition chests, the instructor commands:
1. Prepare to change the ammunition chest.
2. CHANGE THE CHEST.
At the first command ["Prepare to change the ammunition chest"], Nos. 5 and 6 unkey the empty chest, each on his own side, and, taking hold of the handles, place it upon the ground on the left of the caisson. Nos. 7 and 8 unkey the middle chest at the same time.

At the command CHANGE THE CHEST, Nos. 5, 6, 7, and 8, seizing the middle chest by the handles, lift it on the footboard [of the caisson body], and, turning it end for end there, shift the chest along the stock to the limber, taking great care not to cut the bottom on the nuts, and put it in place [essentially sliding it along the horizontal stock over to the back of the now vacant limber]; Nos. 5 and 6 resume their posts immediately; Nos. 7 and 8 key the chest, replace the empty chest, key it, and resume their posts."
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Images that illustrate the equipment in Limberbox's post.

IMG_0718.jpg

The limber for the Ames Rifle is camera left. Camera right is a limber & caisson.​

IMG_0722.jpg

The pins that hold the ammunition box have a locking key.​

IMG_0723.jpg

The boxes on the caisson hinge side to hinge side. A tab is built into the box & slides into the notch in the metal crossmember.

IMG_0727.jpg

A spare wheel is attached to the stern of the caisson.​



IMG_0724.jpg

If you look carefully at the fixture that holds the spare wheel, you can see the key that unlatches it.
It is easily removed when #7 & #8 are accessing the ammunition or changing out the box.

IMG_0726.jpg

The ammunition box's tab keys into this bracket on the limber.

IMG_0725.jpg

The caisson hitches to the limber with the same hook & lunette as is found on the trail of the cannon.
The large handle to the right of the hitch is the locking pin.
The top of the ammunition box is covered with sheet copper.
Notice the shape of the handles that facilitate reaching them over the wheel.

Images by Rhea Cole at Stones River National Battlefield.
These photos are public domain, use with my permission.​
 
Joined
Jul 19, 2016
Location
Spotsylvania Virginia
How Were Empty Artillery Ammunition Boxes Exchanged?

View attachment 373601

During a visit to Stones River N.B. I had a chance to photograph a limber, Aimes 14 pound rifle & a caisson with a limber all in one frame.
These pieces are ordinarily properly in battery at the position of the Chicago Board of Trade Battery position Dec 31, 1862.
They had been moved during maintenance.

View attachment 373606

Several times on this forum the question of how artillery ammunition boxes were exchanged.
There is a clearly defined procedure by the numbers in the manual, but that isn't a very easy thing to understand.
This is a photo of the ammunition box attached to the caisson's limber. The box has a tab with a hole in it built into the straps on either side.
A 'T' shaped dowel passes through the tab.
Underneath is the retaining pin that passes through a hole in the dowel. A chain attaches the pin to the limber.
To remove the ammunition box, simply remove the pins & tip the limber up to slide it off.
The lunette at the end of the caisson pole is held in place by a locking pin that you can see the handle of.
The metal plate camera left is there to protect the pole from contact with the metal tire of the wheel.

View attachment 373602

This is a close up of the retaining pin.

View attachment 373603

On the other side of the ammunition box is tab that fits into a clip mounted in the center of the caisson.
When the boxes are loaded & unloaded, the tab slides into & out of the clip, securely holding the box in place.

View attachment 373608

The spare wheel & its mounting hardware would be dismounted to replace the rear box on the caisson.

View attachment 373604

The casting the spare wheel is mounted on & the hardware for the ammunition box is clearly shown in this image.
Note the pin used to retain the wheel mounting to facilitate the dismounting & replacement of the box.
The large hook is used to connect the loop on the lunette (loop) of another caisson or limber for towing.
As with everything involving the nuts & bolts of Civil War artillery, the mounting & dismounting of the ammunition boxes was the fruit of 300 years of evolution. The mantra would be if it is clumsy to do, you are doing it wrong. What may not be obvious in the photos is that raising & lowering the pole will easily pivot the limber or caisson on its axil. That greatly facilitated handling the very heavy boxes. You could literally tip the limber & slide the box on or off. The shape of the handles built into the boxes are designed to facilitate handling as well has providing something to desperately cling to when riding on the box.

Note: Photos by the author at Stones River National Battlefield, MurfreesboroTN. The section of two Aimes 14 pounders can normally be seen on the westward side of the visitor center.



View attachment 373607

Ammunition box tab & clip on a limber.​

View attachment 373605
Very interesting, informative and well written. Thanks for the hard research and sharing
 

Similar threads

Top