Berdan Cartridge Box???
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Author:  Colt 1851 [ Tue Jun 19, 2012 11:27 pm ]
Post subject:  Berdan Cartridge Box???

New to this forum, but looking for possible answers to the questions of what does a Berdan cartridge box look like and what current maker comes close to making an accurate box??? I've read here and in various books that there may be no conclusive idea of what a Berdan cartridge box maybe say as compared to a Sharps cartridge box. Furthermore, Sharps and Berdan boxes were designed for belt wear, yet some references indicate the use of a shoulder strap like a standard cartridge box. So what is the best possibility??? Also, what current makers produces a box "accurate" to the Berdan box? I've seen Jaragin offering a "Berdan box", but indicating they don't offer the wood blocks, only the tins. Again, what is correct? Any ideas, answers, and/or recommedations are greatly appreciated.


Author:  Bill Skillman [ Wed Jun 20, 2012 12:23 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Berdan Cartridge Box???

Mike and fellow Sharpshooters.

Update October 2020. The Berdan Cartridge box that I originally posted is no longer on the Fort Donelson website. If you scroll down the page you can find another one listed on the Steve Rogers Antiques website

I am posting a link so everybody can view the 'Sharps cartridge' box that you were curious about

More information can be found in Marcot's book: Hiram Berdan, Chief of Sharpshooters . The Berdan Sharps box is so rare that many USSS researchers are unsure when it was made, by whom, when it was issued, to whom and in what numbers?

Collectors Paul Johnson and James Stamatelos published articles about boxes that they purchased that is like the one on the website. The 'Berdan' Sharps box is similar in appearance to the one issued with the Model 1841 (Mississippi) Rifle, that were also worn on the belt. The primary difference is the Sharps box features a brass reinforcing rivet fastened to the base of both belt loops. Both boxes featured wooden inserts drilled to hold 10 cartridges each in the two top tins. William Hastings also owned a Sharps box that was provenanced to William B Greene (Letters from a Sharpshooter infamy). Greene had inked his name and town on the inside flap. Inside were 6 or so linen cartridges, still in the blocks. Based on this limited sample, we can only identify one Sharps box with USSS affliation.

Brian White and I have seen a cartridge box (Model 1857-61) with it's cartidge box strap on display at the Antietam visitors center, it had been recovered battlefield. One tin was pulled halfway out showing a pasteboard Sharps box and both tins had wood inserts with cartridges.

1st USSS commander, Caspar Trepp's Ordnance records for December 1862 to October 1863 only show issuances cartridge boxes with the supporting belts (called cartridge box belts) and US plates. This suggests they were like the one at the Antietam center; not the 'Berdan' belt mounted model. However, my review of company inspection reports show fewer c.b. straps compared to number of boxes worn by the men. However, since the Model 1857-61 can worn with shoulder strap or on the waist belt, this doesn't conclusively point to the Berdan box being used.

The reply box is jumping up and down, telling me that I've talked too much, again. More to follow

Bill Skillman
Hudson Squad-USSS

Author:  Colt 1851 [ Wed Jun 20, 2012 10:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Berdan Cartridge Box???

Thanks for the update. There is a picture of a Berdan cartridge box in Coates & McAulay's "Civil War Sharps Carbines & Rifles." I have seen a couple period photos of Berdan Sharpshooters wearing some form of a cartridge box??? with the shoulder strap, rather than belt worn. These photos just bring up more question????

Anyway, what current maker(s) produces an accurate Berdan style cartridge box?


Author:  BrianTWhite [ Fri Jun 22, 2012 5:26 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Berdan Cartridge Box???

I've been in touch with Bill Lomas of E.J. Thomas Mercantile about reproduction 1862 Sharps Rifle cartridge boxes. He is within reach of two originals to study in person and might be able to produce them with quality tins and wooden blocks. If anyone here has seen Bill's work you know that it's top quality. Some of his products can be seen at The Regimental Quartermaster in Gettysburg, in a display case at the check-out desk.

Aside from Jarnagin, there is someone else producing what looks like a good Sharps box but I have not handled a reproduction of it in person. Mike Brase had one for sale on eBay a week or two ago and it looked like a well-made, solid reproduction. I intended on buying one as a sample but completely forgot about it and now it's no longer for sale. Photos of Mike's Sharps box can be seen at this link: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.177031362424236.35610.177013229092716&type=3

The standard issue .58 cal. cartridge boxes with strap were indeed issued throughout the war, and with plates from time to time. They first appeared with the Colt Revolving Rifles and some may have been retained when the Sharps rifles were issued in the spring of 1862 depending upon their functional condition. For instance, two sharpshooters pictured below are showing off their newly issued Sharps rifles while in Falmouth, VA, and both are wearing what appear to be .58 cal. cartridge boxed with straps.

Frank Carr, Co. G 2nd USSS. His cart. box strap has a breastplate that appears above his left wrist; note that he is wearing his accoutrements incorrectly so they would appear to be in the correct position in the finished image (wet-plate photos are reversed).

Thomas Reese, Co. A 2nd USSS

A small handful of sharpshooters photographed around the same time as Carr and Reese have both the Sharps rifle and Sharps cartridge box. Not only were the Sharps boxes issued with the rifles, new bayonets and bayonet scabbards arrived as well. Bill mentions the issuance of cartridge boxes with straps and plates, which was done, but I recall an account from the 1st USSS of Maj. Charles Mattocks (17th Maine Inf., sent to shape up the 1st USSS in early 1864) trying to do away with the .58 boxes and replacing them with Sharps rifle cartridge boxes. I don't have the citation here with me but maybe someone else does. At any rate, Mattocks was a stern military bureaucrat so it's no wonder that he would try to have the men use cartridge boxes that were made to be used with their Sharps rifles.

Author:  Colt 1851 [ Tue Jul 03, 2012 12:08 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Berdan Cartridge Box???

Thanks Gentlemen for the replies and information. So, what cartridge boxes are members currently using to replicate the Berdan cartridge boxes??? From what little I know, it appears that no current maker is producing the Berdan cartridge box, at least completely. What box have other current sharpshooters been using and from what maker(s)? Based upon the photos added to this post, 58 cal. cartridge boxes seem to have been used during the CW, but which maker's variety is correct? Still curious....



Author:  BrianTWhite [ Tue Jul 03, 2012 6:26 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Berdan Cartridge Box???


C & D Jarnagin currently offers a decent Sharps cartridge box. As I said in my previous message, Mike Brase is capable of producing them and Bill Lomas of E. J. Thomas Mercantile has shown interest. Beyond those three there are no others making the Sharps box that I am aware of.

For a .58 caliber box you would want to look for something that replicates any original box that had an eastern contractor or point of origin such as a Storms, Jewell, Allegheny Arsenal, etc.. The two recommended boxes are the Pattern 1857 or the Pattern 1861 cartridge box. The latter pattern featured riveted and sewn belt loops while the earlier pattern lacked the rivets. The most accurate and well-made reproductions of these are made by Duvall Leatherwork (Nick Duvall), E.J. Thomas Mercantile (Bill Lomas), and Missouri Boot & Shoe (Bob Serio). They are all patterned directly from original examples. Duvall and Serio can also provide sets of accoutrements.

As far as the original boxes in photos are concerned, I don't think there is any solid evidence on what contractor or arsenal made the .58 caliber boxes issued to the USSS. Huge numbers of accoutrements in the east were produced throughout New England so one of the examples listed above would be fine. They were contracted for, made up, delivered, inspected, approved/rejected, and put into bins or boxes with other boxes of the same caliber and issued to the soldiers when needed. It's likely that there was little variation in the USSS as to what contractor made the boxes during a single issuance; if Storms made them, and there were hundreds of boxes being issued out at once, odds are that the majority of the men received Storms boxes.

Author:  Bill Skillman [ Thu Nov 29, 2012 9:44 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Berdan Cartridge Box???

Fellow Sharpshooters;

While going through some of the 2009 posts I discovered this one from Brian White:

Yet another good entry from "A Directory of American Military Goods Dealers & Makers, 1785-1915" (B. Bazelon & W. McGuinn, 1999);

Storms, Christian S., NYC. 2,000 Sharps cartridge boxes

While this entry is enough to make a Berdan Sharpshooter yell 'Ah-Hah!', unfortunately the entry fails to add further, and in my opinion, critical details.

Design: Are the cartridge boxes designed for rifles or carbines? Remember, Berdan contract rifles made up only a tiny fraction of arms produced by the Sharps Rifle Mfg. Co. during the war. Second, the U.S. cavalry was issued cartridge boxes that were an entirely different design than the infantry arms. Third, C.S. Storms of New York provided thousands of sets of leather accoutrements for the War Dept., both infantry and cavalry during the War.

Time-frame: When were the 2000 C.S. Storms cartridge boxes made? If the Storms contract can be tracked to fall within the window of the Berdan contract rifles (say February to June, 1862) then we might be on to something (which compliments the number of Sharps rifles ordered by the War Dept for Berdan's regiments). But I believe we need more information to narrow this down to coincide with the USSS contract.

Manufacturer: By mid-1862 contractors were required to stamp their names on leather goods to identify the manufacturer (to offset the problems wrought by the influx of shoddy products bought by the Federal Gov't during the first year of the war). All of the Sharps cartridge boxes in the collections of Stametelos, Johnson and Hastings have no contractors stamp or other form of manufacturer identification. Does this mean that they were made before the War Dept. authorized the Sharps Rifle Co. to fill the "Berdan contract" rifles? Or were they made for some other regiments or even different branch of service (U.S. Navy)?? Stretching our inquiry even further afield; the Sharps Rifle Co. shipped arms to the new CSA states just before the outbreak of hostilities. Could there be a slim chance Storms made boxes for the South?

When/to who were they issued: the 1st USSS Ordnance records for Major/Lt. Col. Caspar Trepp show that each of the 10 companies were issued complete sets of accoutrements with their rifles. However, it is clear that the cartridge boxes were not the belt-mounted Berdan contract model. All of the companies accounted for during inspections and issuances of accoutrments were as follows:

Cartridge box
do do plate (the US plate fixed on the outer flap of the box)
Cartridge box strap
do do plate (the US coat of arms/aka 'eagle', fixed to the strap--usually in USSS stores but not worn on shoulder belt).


So from December 1862 to September 1863 the USSS were essentially outfitted like their infantry cousins. Further complicating the issue is that Model (modern designation) 1857-61 cartridge boxes can be affixed to either a shoulder belt or on the waist belt. I have yet to find anything in the USSS Ordance records to indicate issuance of 'Berdan'-aka-waist belt mounted only-cartridge boxes.

Like so many aspects of the USSS material culture, the 'Berdan cartridge box' continues to generate many more questions than answers.

Bill Skillman
Hudson Squad-USSS

Author:  Bill Skillman [ Fri Oct 30, 2020 6:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Berdan Cartridge Box???

Fellow Sharpshooters

An original Berdan cartridge box is available for sale on Steve Rogers Antique website:

http://steverogersantiques.com/cgi-bin/ ... us=&title=

An extensive historical background on the cartridge boxes and description of the box listed for sale. A dozen photos of the external and internal features.

Bill Skillman
Hudson Squad Mess

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