Remembering the Enfield at Vicksburg

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Tom Hughes

Sergeant
Joined
May 27, 2019
Location
Mississippi
enfield1.JPG

I dug this fired Enfield this morning in west central Mississippi and this find reminded me of the tremendous impact the British Enfield made for the Confederates at Vicksburg.
When Grant entered the city on July 4, 1863, he was surprised to discover that many of the 30,000 Confederate soldiers that surrendered were in possession of the .57 calibre British Enfield rifle.
Many of the Union soldiers were in possession of antiquated converted muskets that were inferior to the Confederate weapons.

enfield base.JPG

The base of the bullet I dug today has the number "57" stamped in the base of the bullet's cavity, indicating the calibre.
These stamped bullets were manufactured in England and made it through the Union blockade to supply the Confederate army.
Lots of arms and material made it from England.
The lack of industry in the South prompted a need for arms and equipment from this European ally during the war.
 
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Rhea Cole

First Sergeant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Totally ignorant here - what are the plugs for?
Early minnie balls had a metal or wooden plug in the base that would force the sides of the bullet into the lands & grooves. The metal plugs had a nasty habit of blowing right through the bullet. It was found that a simple cone shaped hollow in the base of the round set it into the rifling without the added complication of a plug. Here was another mindless 19th Century job, stuffing tiny bits of wood into the base of bullets, good grief.
 

NH Civil War Gal

1st Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
Feb 5, 2017
Here was another mindless 19th Century job, stuffing tiny bits of wood into the base of bullets, good grief.
I was thinking about that earlier when I read "boxwood plug." I was wondering how many zillions of hours it took making those little things and then putting them into the bullets.
 
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JOHN42768

Lt. Colonel
Joined
May 1, 2015
Location
Upstate N.Y.
I don't know if this helps in the explanation. The wood plug was shaped like an old rubber tapered bottle stopper. Inserted into the open end of the bullet when manufactured. The energy expelled by the exploding powder would try to push the tapered plug further into the bullet. This action forced the bullet to expand and engage in the rifling of the barrel and start rotating. Thus a much more accurate shot was obtained.
 
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alan polk

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Jun 11, 2012
My great Grandfather was in the 22 Iowa they traded in they're converted muskets for the captured Enfields after the fall of Vicksburg
Interesting. Do you know what type muskets they used prior to receiving Enfields? I was suspecting some sort of .69 caliber.
 
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Jeff in Ohio

Private
Joined
Oct 17, 2015
I have an amusing account of a Union regiment that picked up enough weapons from a routed Confederate regiment to reequip themselves with new Enfields. They had Austrian rifles & hated them. For the rest of the war, the commander fended off demands by the ordinance bureau to account for the discarded rifles.
Well, at least we can hope that the ordnance bureau didn't keep sending them ammunition that fit the discarded Austrian longarms but would not fit the .577 Enfields acquired in an off-the-books manner!

Usually the perennial problem of accounting for missing government property is just a few items here and there....I've read accounts that when 1870s and 1880s cavalry troopers deserted in the empty west, they were often listed as having taken two or three Colt SAAs or carbines with them - maybe they did take an armful, and maybe it was just way for the company records to explain what happened to a few missing revolvers!
 
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CowCavalry

Corporal
Joined
Aug 17, 2017
Early minnie balls had a metal or wooden plug in the base that would force the sides of the bullet into the lands & grooves. The metal plugs had a nasty habit of blowing right through the bullet. It was found that a simple cone shaped hollow in the base of the round set it into the rifling without the added complication of a plug. Here was another mindless 19th Century job, stuffing tiny bits of wood into the base of bullets, good grief.
It was definitely not "mindless"; the Enfield cartridge was the result of extensive testing and arguably the pinnacle of muzzleloading military ammunition. There are still several sources of period correct (as much as possible) Enfield cartridges and some claim that the plug in the base of the ball is much preferable to a ball without it.

 

Rhea Cole

First Sergeant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
It was definitely not "mindless"; the Enfield cartridge was the result of extensive testing and arguably the pinnacle of muzzleloading military ammunition. There are still several sources of period correct (as much as possible) Enfield cartridges and some claim that the plug in the base of the ball is much preferable to a ball without it.

I think that stuffing tiny chunks of wood into the base of lead bullets all day long is the dictionary definition of a mindlessly tedious job. In any case, hundreds of millions of minnie balls were successfully fired without benefit of wooden or metal plugs.
 
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