Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A bit about Civil War weaponry and ammunition, part 1

I thought it would be worthwhile to write something about the kinds of weapons and ammunition made and used during the Civil War because without women in arsenals there to fill cartridges and such to be used against the enemy, the war effort on both sides would likely have ground to a halt. Entire books can be - and have - been written about the subject, so I am writing the Spark Notes version here of some of the more commonly used weapons and ammo.

At arsenals, many implements and supplies were made for the armed forces, including cartridges for small arms, artillery ammunition, percussion caps, artillery fuzes, primers, gun carriages, signal rockets, cap and cartridge boxes, and more. In his report made in the aftermath of the Allegheny Arsenal explosion, Colonel John Symington wrote that about 125,000 rounds of .71 and .54 small arm cartridges, and 175 rounds of artillery ammuition for 12 and 10 pounder Parrott rifles had blown up September 17, 1862. The women working there would have rolled most of the cartridges, and many died that day doing so.

The Confederate Laboratory on Brown's Island made not only cartridges for small arms, breech-loading guns, and pistols, but also fuzes, primers, chemicals, percussion caps, signal lights, ammunition for seacoast defenses, and early versions of grenades - just about every kind of implements that the Confederate army and navy would need. Defective artillery ammunition was repacked there for use into colored boxes with red ones for case shot, black for shell, and olive for shot and canister (more on that later). There, the women did much of the manufacturing work; only men were employed in the heavy ammunition department. It is thought that girls ages 9 to 12 would have made up to 1,200 cartridges per day there.

After looking through what I have on the subject, I think I will do this subject in several parts, by side and possibly by branch. But here, I have put it into context of my project. Stay tuned.

Becer, Alan. “An Appalling Disaster: The Allegheny Arsenal and the Explosion of
1862.” Westmoreland History. Fall 1999, 41-59.

"The Confederate States Laboratory Department." Richmond Dispatch, January 5, 1863.

"The Confederate States Laboratory." Richmond Enquirer, January 6, 1863.

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