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Cas City Forum Hall & CAS-L  |  Special Interests - Groups & Societies  |  Spencer Shooting Society (Moderator: Two Flints)  |  Topic: Handling Spencer Cartridges in combat 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Author Topic: Handling Spencer Cartridges in combat  (Read 582 times)
Cannonman1
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« on: January 27, 2019, 06:37:31 pm »


I suspect there is no "one answer" to this question but I will pose it anyway.
When in combat (Civil War), the soldier armed with a Spencer and what I presume would have been the standard carbine cartridge box with drilled wooden block, was presented with a problem.. He could easily exhaust what was in his cartridge box and would need to either resupply it or go to another cashe of ammo. I know the Blakesley Box was not in heavy use so these troopers had to have another place to put all that ammo. My guess is haversack got used and possibly pockets .. Has anyone read any accounts that would shed some light on this.
I think it was common to go into battle with 100 rounds and that is over 2 of the 42 cartridge containers.. and they are not light. 
Look forward to the replies Smiley
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PJ Hardtack
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« Reply #1 on: January 27, 2019, 07:01:02 pm »

I have a Civil War sketchbook that shows a cartridge box for the .58 ML adapted for Spencer rds with a wooden block that held 20 rds.

I so modified my own .58 cartridge box.
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Blair
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« Reply #2 on: January 28, 2019, 08:22:18 am »

Cannonman,

The most common packet size of Spencer ammo during the ACW were 7 round packets. Just enough rounds to recharge the mag tube once.
Keep in mind that most of these early units armed with Spencer's were Mounted Inf. However, these units were equipt like Cavalry. The most common cartridge box used would have been the Cav. box of 20 round capacity.
4 packets were issued (28 rounds) per man. One round went into the chamber, 7 went into the mag tube and the remaining rounds (20) went into the cartridge box. This was 7 more round than the standard Cav. Trooper would have normally carried.
Of course, more packets could have been brought along, these would have been carried in the saddle bags or spare horse shoe pouch on the saddle.
I hope this helps.
My best,
 Blair
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Blair Taylor
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Cannonman1
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« Reply #3 on: January 30, 2019, 07:32:03 am »

I recall reading about the 37th Mass Vol Infantry deployed and running out of ammo and having to have another unit ( I believe it was the 2nd New Hampshire?? ) run them up more cartridges. It is a gun that can go through some rounds in a hurry.
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DJ
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« Reply #4 on: January 30, 2019, 10:12:57 am »

The 5th company of the Canadian Queen's Own Regiment was newly armed with Spencer rifles (issued the day before) at the Battle of Ridgeway on June 2, 1866, vs. "Fenian" Irish sympathizers.  Some reports say each man was issued 28 rounds of ammunition, others say 40 rounds per man.  I suspect they carried 28 rounds and left the rest with their baggage, as sources report the Canadians left their ammo reserve at the train station.  Soon after clashing with the Fenians at Lime Ridge, the 5th company began to run out of ammo and had to be replaced in the line by other companies armed with muzzle-loaders (who either had more ammo to begin with or who did not expend it as fast).  I'm not sure how they carried their cartridges, but if 28 (or 40) rounds per man could be expended in a brief clash of arms, an experienced Spencer-armed soldier would probably have carried more. 

With U.S. troops in the Civil War, who often had much more than one day of experience using their issued Spencers, I suspect a cartridge pouch carrying 20 or so rounds was the immediate ammo source while fighting and, as Cannonman1 suggests, that extra rounds were carried in pockets and haversacks.  I also agree with Blair that saddlebags or other saddle-mounted pouches were likely used by cavalry to transport ammo, but for the actual fighting, much of which cavalrymen did dismounted, they probably carried extra rounds on their person in pockets, bags, or haversacks.

--DJ
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LongWalker
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« Reply #5 on: January 31, 2019, 08:20:13 am »

At the battle of Hoover's Gap 6/23/1863, Wilder's Lightning Brigade (mounted infantry) carried Spencers.  There are notes in the secondary literature that they almost exhausted their entire ammo supply of "142 rounds" per man during the battle.  That would suggest they were carrying extra ammo somehow.  (On the other hand, that number--142 rounds per man--isn't evenly divisible by 7, which makes me wonder if the secondary authors crunched it from the number of rounds provided to the brigade divided by the number of men.) 
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Trailrider
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« Reply #6 on: January 31, 2019, 01:45:36 pm »

At Gettysburg, Custer's Michigan Brigade was armed with Spencer rifles (NOT carbine). They held off Confederate forces until they ran out of ammo for the Spencers!  Fortunately for the Union it was enough to do the job!

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Blair
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« Reply #7 on: January 31, 2019, 03:01:19 pm »

Supply of the right Cal. of ammo to the units that needed it, while in the field, was a nightmare for the Ord. Dept. during the War!
The Ord. Dept. started keeping records of the amount of each type of ammo that was issued for a given battle. Of course this info was not compiled until after the action.
The average Infintyman normally carried 40 rounds (20 for Cavalry). However, if a fight was iminant, the individual might bick up a few extra packets of ammo. All this ammo was heavy, so many troops simply dropped it, if there was no fighting to be done. Carring around extra food rations (at least for me) would have been a better bet.
The Ord. Dept. record keeping was a good idea, but I think what it indicates is the troopers were topping off their ammo supply that they may have discarded from the last fight, for the one they maybe getting into.
I don't remember the actual number count, (no calibers were listed) but it goes something like this...
37 Artilary rounds per death, and something like 150 Musket rounds per death. All based on the Ord. Dept. ammo issue records.
My best,
 Blair
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A Time for Prayer.
"In times of war and not before,
God and the soldier we adore.
But in times of peace and all things right,
God is forgotten and the soldier slighted"
by Rudyard Kipling.
Blair Taylor
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matt45
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« Reply #8 on: February 01, 2019, 10:50:14 am »

It was standard to have a mule with an extra couple thousand rounds with each brigade.  I think we all remember the story of the Western soldier replying to a soldier from the Army of the Potomac as to what his Corp badge was- "40 rounds in the pouch, and 20 in the pocket".
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PJ Hardtack
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« Reply #9 on: February 02, 2019, 01:32:29 pm »

At Gettysburg, Custer's Michigan Brigade was armed with Spencer rifles (NOT carbine). They held off Confederate forces until they ran out of ammo for the Spencers!  Fortunately for the Union it was enough to do the job!

How often were carbines issued and used by Infantry as opposed to Cavalry?
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I don't do these things to others and I require the same from them."  John Wayne
Blair
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« Reply #10 on: February 02, 2019, 04:24:16 pm »

PJ,
It is difficult to say for sure. The time period for the conflict is important. In early July of 1863 Spencer carbines were just starting to come on line.
My guess is that most of what Custer was able to gathered up at the Washington Navy Yard were Rifles. Could there have been some Carbines... yes! But not very likely if any.
My best,
 Blair
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A Time for Prayer.
"In times of war and not before,
God and the soldier we adore.
But in times of peace and all things right,
God is forgotten and the soldier slighted"
by Rudyard Kipling.
Blair Taylor
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Cannonman1
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« Reply #11 on: February 12, 2019, 12:29:31 pm »

I recall seeing an image of Union infantry (an image of 2 soldiers) armed with Maynard carbines .. As far as the Spencer is concerned, the carbine would be my choice just for weight consideration but tradition likely played a huge role, demanding you needed to be able to put a bayonet on the thing if you were going to give it infantry.. etc.. etc..
Regarding the original topic of this thread, the original style sleeves of 7 rounds each are durable by my experience. A soldiers haversack is probably the worst place to put cardboard sleeves however.. Mixing it up with the salt pork and other items likely held there. I would bet there was some creative use of an "extra bag" for the extra rounds needed. Have never seen documentation of that but if it wasn't regulation it would not necessarily get a lot of mention. Just common sense adaptation. 
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