"It takes a man's weight in lead for every soldier killed in battle."

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donna

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"It takes a man's weight in lead for every soldier killed in battle." A well known saying during the war, meaning that much ammunition had to be produced for each of the enemy killed. It reflected the belief that most shots hit trees, horses or nothing.

From "The Language of the Civil War" by John D. Wright page 159-160.
 

Greg Taylor

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"It takes a man's weight in lead for every soldier killed in battle." A well known saying during the war, meaning that much ammunition had to be produced for each of the enemy killed. It reflected the belief that most shots hit trees, horses or nothing.

From "The Language of the Civil War" by John D. Wright page 159-160.
Assuming that there were 213,000 combat deaths in the Civil War and the average soldier weighed 143 pounds, by this calculation 30,459,000 pounds of lead was hurled by various means during the war.
 
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Carronade

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Most bullet types were about an ounce or a little less, were they not? So we need 2500 or more to kill our average soldier. And a common load for a soldier was about 60 rounds? So this reckoning would be about 40 men firing all their ammunition for each fatality. Hope this isn't too morbid.
 
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Greg Taylor

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I had read in a book (History buffs guide to Gettysburg) It took 1,ooo rifle rounds to score a kill, and cannon fire, 87 times to score a kill....

Seems like alot of lead to score a kill......
One thing is for sure. The battlefield was a noisy and smoky place! Also one would think that there is still a fair amount of lead out there, notwithstanding metal dectectors.
 

dvrmte

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I've read numbers of 50,000 rounds per kill in Vietnam and 250,000 expended per insurgent in Iraq. Anyone know if those numbers are legit?
 

Crazy Delawares

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Let's see...
30,459,000 * 16 (ounces /pound) = 487,344,000 rounds
That's assuming that each bullet weighed one ounce. Anyone out there know just how much each minie ball actually weighed?
 
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John Hartwell

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Assuming that there were 213,000 combat deaths in the Civil War and the average soldier weighed 143 pounds, by this calculation 30,459,000 pounds of lead was hurled by various means during the war.
I would suspect that considerably more than 30.5 million lbs of lead was expended.I have ne evidence to offer, but just from having handled a good many pounds of the stuff -- a million just lbs isn't all that much.

Cheers!

jno
 

4th-MSM

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Let's see...
30,459,000 * 16 (ounces /pound) = 487,344,000 rounds
That's assuming that each bullet weighed one ounce. Anyone out there know just how much each minie ball actually weighed?
From what I've heard, a standard .58 caliber Minie ball generally weighed around 500 Grains, which would equal about 1.14 ounces.
 
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I poked around for some ammo expenditures in major battles. Somewhere around 1,000 rounds per fatality appears to be a good approximation. However, the amount per casualty (as in killed and wounded) will of course be much less, something like 200-300 rounds per casualty if 1,000 per fatality is assumed.

I doubt that very many rounds were actually aimed. Most of the first hand accounts speak of more general firing where the enemy is perceived to be. There is an element of fire suppression in typical combat. By keeping up a fire in the direction of the enemy, they do not or are reluctant to advance on your position. (Both of you stay at a stand-off range where casualties per round expended are few.) Additionally, the enemy fires less than he would otherwise and with equal ignorance of your specific position. You both keep your heads down, and smoke obscures the field.
 

Greg Taylor

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Let's see...
30,459,000 * 16 (ounces /pound) = 487,344,000 rounds
That's assuming that each bullet weighed one ounce. Anyone out there know just how much each minie ball actually weighed?
Some cannister and case artillery shells included lead shot, so not all lead was delivered as minnie bullets.
 

Crazy Delawares

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From what I've heard, a standard .58 caliber Minie ball generally weighed around 500 Grains, which would equal about 1.14 ounces.
So, if my math is correct (remember...I'm a Special Ed. Teacher!;-) ), then it took a hair more than 2,007 rounds to kill/wound a soldier.
I am assuming that this includes the lead fired out of cannons. (That may not be a correct assumption.)
 
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Carronade

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Assuming this "well known saying" is accurate. I imagine records like quartermasters' reports would provide rough estimates of ammunition expended in various battles, from which we could make a better assessment if someone did (or has done) the work of compiling them.
 
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Assuming this "well known saying" is accurate. I imagine records like quartermasters' reports would provide rough estimates of ammunition expended in various battles, from which we could make a better assessment if someone did (or has done) the work of compiling them.
The estimates of overall rounds used are there for some battles/campaigns (e.g. Gettysburg.) These and killed totals are what I used for a rough check. The Federal side can be well established in some cases, but I don't believe nearly as much information exists about Confederate ammunition usage.
 

Greg Taylor

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So, if my math is correct (remember...I'm a Special Ed. Teacher!;-) ), then it took a hair more than 2,007 rounds to kill/wound a soldier.
I am assuming that this includes the lead fired out of cannons. (That may not be a correct assumption.)
I was a Special Ed. teacher for 10 years, so I cannot vouch for your math!
 
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frankconrad

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IT is my understanding incuded in the various figures are the rounds fired in training and fair percentage lost or damaged before they were loaded
 

prroh

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At Gettysburg the 20th ME consisted of 400 men and each man had 40 rounds, nearly all were expended. The amounts to 16,000 rounds. Oates' men had about 80 killed and wounded. or about 500 rounds per casualty. The sharpshooters, sheltering with the flank company may have accounted for maybe 30 more.

It has been estimated that around three million rounds were expended and about 34,500 killed or wounded for both sides. Artillery may have accounted for 6% of these casualties. Further estimates of 565 tons of ammunition expended.

So the 1000 rounds of small arms accounted for each casualty seems pretty consistent.
 
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