Muskets in the Mexican/American war

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Peter Stines

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Another issue when it came to flints and caps. As far as my research has shown, there was no large scale gun flint production in this country, unlike England, France, etc. We imported tons of flints for the military and sporting use. If there was a war in Europe and a resultant blockade of the different ports, the U.S. could suffer. The warring factions flint production would go for THEIR needs first. If the ship carrying flints sunk in a storm or was captured/plundered by pirates the flints were lost. I assume that the vessels and or civilian merchants had insurance for their cargoes but the flints would have to be re-ordered and a new shipment sent out. Time loss AND money! Depending solely on an outside source for something as critical as flints was not wise but in this case it was the only answer. With caps, these were made by machine and were faster to produce. You didn't have to be a professional flint knapper to make the caps. Just operate the machine. Caps were more consistent in size although quality could be erratic. Some of the French caps were notoriously bad. :smile:
 

Cavalier

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@hawknknife I was not aware of the story of the Mississipians vs. The Mexican lancers. Thanks for that.

@Will Carry I was aware of Omdurman but not San Padsqual. Going to look into that. Thank you.

@Peter Stines. I saw your email, thanks. My question regarding misfires I posed on another thread. I wondered if any one was familiar with the theory that on every volley a regiment delivered after the second, the percentage of misfires as a result of incorrectly loaded muskets doubled. This being one reason among several for a regiment holding its fire until their opponent got relatively close.

I read of this theory back in the 80's but can't remember where I saw it and wonder if anyone has ever seen a primary source for this. It sounds to.me like something Mahan might have espoused. It seems quite reasonable to me but I am no exprert.
 

Peter Stines

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Well, I'm not sure of the numbers involved but it would be easy for a raw recruit (and sometimes a veteran) to incorrectly load, forget to remove the ramrod or load multiple cartridges one atop the other. Fear, noise and confusion often leads to these mishaps. The oft mentioned musket picked up after Gettysburg that has 23 loads in it is a prime example. More than half of the rest of the guns recovered from that battle had several loads packed down bore. Some were backward (ball before the powder) and some had powder, buck and ball mixed. For what its worth, during the percussion era cartridges were issued in bundles of 10 with 12 caps. These came in a twisted tube like a regular cartridge. The ordinance probably thought two extra caps would be enough for any misfires. Yes, the Mississippi riflemen stopped the lancers and charged them with knives. Probably the 1839 Hicks rifleman's knife or private purchase Bowies. The 1841 rifle didn't use a bayonet although some later conversions had the barrels turned down to accept a socket bayonet or used the slip on lug attachment for the sabre bayonet.
 
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thomas aagaard

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Well, I'm not sure of the numbers involved but it would be easy for a raw recruit (and sometimes a veteran) to incorrectly load,
Being a veteran don't make you any better at loading.
Good instruction, plenty of drill and live firing where you can do the actual full load procedure make you good.
And if it is done extensively you will load correctly no matter what happen around you.

During the civil war both competent instruction and live firing (out side of combat) was rare. The result is than even by spring 1864 plenty of men in the army of Potomac still could not manage to load correctly in combat. (at least according to Meade, who ordered that all men should load and fire 10 round under the supervision of the company commander)

No idea if the situation was any better in 1846. I would imaging that a higher % of the volunteers had some sort of prewar experience, since a much smaller % of the population signed up.
And the regulars made up a much, much larger % of the army compared to the Federal army during the civil war.
So the access to experienced instructors was should have been much better.

But I have no idea if this made the risk of "manual" provoked misfires any smaller.
 

James N.

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Being a veteran don't make you any better at loading.
Good instruction, plenty of drill and live firing where you can do the actual full load procedure make you good.
And if it is done extensively you will load correctly no matter what happen around you.

During the civil war both competent instruction and live firing (out side of combat) was rare. The result is than even by spring 1864 plenty of men in the army of Potomac still could not manage to load correctly in combat. (at least according to Meade, who ordered that all men should load and fire 10 round under the supervision of the company commander)
One major trouble in the spring of 1864 was that by then many of the veterans were gone, their places taken by too many raw recruits, draftees, and bounty jumpers, and the situation would only get worse when the three-year enlistments soon began to expire.
 

thomas aagaard

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One major trouble in the spring of 1864 was that by then many of the veterans were gone, their places taken by too many raw recruits, draftees, and bounty jumpers, and the situation would only get worse when the three-year enlistments soon began to expire.
April 19, 1864 From general Meade to the army of the Potomac.
"To familiarize the men in the use of their arms an additional expenditure of 10 rounds of small-arm ammunition per man is hereby authorized. Corps commanders will see that immediate measures are taken by subordinate officers to carry out the order. Every man should be made to load and fire his musket under the personal supervision of a company officer. It is believed there are men in this army who have been in numerous actions without ever firing their guns, and it is known that muskets taken on the battle-fields have been found filled nearly to the muzzle with cartridges. The commanding general cannot impress too earnestly on all officers and men the necessity of preparing themselves for the contingencies of battle."

Clearly he is talking about the veterans, and not the new men. Since only the veterans can have been in numerous actions.
And it have been an issue for the entire war. (since he is directing our attention at arms picked up after earlier battles)
 
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Cavalier

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I was hoping to get some feedback from guys with a lot more knowledge than myself. I was certainly not disappointed! Thanks to all hands who commented on my question!
 

Cavalier

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I was hoping to get some feedback from guys with a lot more knowledge than myself. I was certainly not disappointed! Thanks to everyone who responded to my question!
 
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