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PostPosted: Fri Jan 09, 2009 10:19 am 
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Location: Old Northwest (Michigan)
Joseph Edward and fellow sharpshooters;

I read with interest Joseph's comments on the Sharps cartridge box/ cartbox strap link describing how he (and other sharpshooters) wear their cartridge boxes when engaged at reenactments/tacticals.

While not an accoutrement, (but a critical part of Ordnance/supply equation); I was wondering how many of you carry spare 'cartridges/blank rounds' in pasteboard cartons? I have made and used these for years and found them to be very handy. They keep spare cartridges protected from the elements and prevent them from jarring bout and losing powder. You can find photos of original Sharps cartridge pasteboard boxes (opened and unopened) in Marcot's book and it serves as a great guide if you want to construct your own reproductions. I discovered Marcot's photos nearly duplicate the dimensions of the original boxes. I photocopied the page from Marcot's book of the original label, took it to a local stamp shop where they made up one that I use to recreate my own period labels. I have found other Sharps cartridge manufacture labels and by scanning and enlarging them to the same dimensions as the originals, I can recreate a variety of pasteboard boxes for either field use or living history/display.

When 'in the field' I usually carry at least one pasteboard box (comprising 10-18 cartridges depending on the size of the rds) inside a trouser pocket (40 rds in the cartridge box, the remaining boxes stowed inside the knapsack). In the past I would open the top flap of my cartridge box (which did NOT have the drilled wooden blocks in the upper tins) only to have the cartridges go 'Bull Run' all over the ground. Of course, we'd be ordered to 'advance firing' while I was on my knees 'rounding up strays'--not exactly the image one wants to cultivate on the tactical field. Today, after going prone or finding a nice tree to serve as cover and a rest, I pull the pasteboard box from my pocket, zip the string around the top, open the cover and 'pile on'. Keeping the open box near the breech of the the rifle permits a high rate of fire (when necessary), while limiting my exposure to return fire. If I have to move, I just pick up the box, make a dash to the next position and go right back to work. As they say on TV: "It really, really works!"

I also make up these boxes to hold live rounds-10 cartridges and 12 percussion caps (wrapped in a newpaper tube-extra credit if you use scans of period Harpers Weekly-that is twisted at both ends to keep the caps from becoming separated). If you stack up a basic USSS load of 60 live rounds the weight is quite impressive, especially if you will be skirmishing in 'full marching order' at a Recon-2 or Payne Farm immersion event for 24-48 hours (the AC boys use lead ingots to equal the 'combat load' of ammunition-just to keep'em honest). You can begin to appreciate that 60 rds is plenty to carry (though I know of a few USSS reenactors who carry upwards of twice that many blanks for a single battle), I try to live within the original ammunition issuance limits. Besides, during tacticals the USSS does far more yomping over 'hill and dale' than shooting-at least that has been my experience.

If you view Dale Gallon's NRA series print of 'Breechloaders and Greencoats' you can see in the foreground a Co. F. 2nd USSS Sgt. preparing to grab a cartridge from an open pasteboard box seated on a nearby rock. Gallon's representation is supported by period USSS references that I will cite once I get a chance to dig through my old files.

Bill Skillman
Randolf Mess-USSS


Last edited by Bill Skillman on Wed Feb 25, 2009 9:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 09, 2009 5:03 pm 
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Bill,

Please allow me! The following two letters were discovered by Art Ruitburg according to Bill's original article these were featured in several years ago. The first is by Edwin Chadwick, Co. F 2nd USSS and the second is by James S. Kent, Co. G 2nd USSS.

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"Camp near Sharpsburg, Md.
Sept. 25th 1862

Dear Friends,
I intended to have written an account of what I saw at the battle of Bull Run but we were obliged so soon thereafter and have been so busy marching and fighting ever since that I have not found time to do it. Meantime we have fought two battles, one of them thebattle of the war. Perhaps if I should give you an account of that fight it would interest you as much as anything I could write of the present time.
Monday-the day after we drove the rebels from South Mountain-we marched through Boonesboro and took a position on Antietam Creek. The enemy was drawn up in line of battle on the other side of the stream about two miles distant. That afternoon there was some artillery firing our guns silencing their batteries every time they opened on us. Tuesday we laid on our arms until four o'clock when we crossed the creek and our Regt. was advanced to the front as skirmishers. We advanced through the open field about half a mile and discovered the position of the rebel pickets when we were called back. Had some sharp firing one of our men being mortally wounded. After being recalled our brigade was moved forward and took position near the right of our line of battle. That night we laid on our arms within a hundred rods of the rebel lines. At sunrise the next morning the rebel batteries opened on us just as we were getting into line. Soon the firing became brisk on both sides and the shot and shell flew around us in a way that is not very agreeable when you can not tell but that the next one may burst at your feet and send you into eternity. We then advanced through a piece of woods and took a position in support of Gibbon's battery placed in an open field beyond. Meanwhile the infantry in front of us (editor's note: the Wisconsin regiments) had become engaged and the musket balls began to fly about quite briskly. We remained beside the battery some time and then went on to the front stopping and lying down in the edge of a cornfield; the enemy being on the other side of it. Soon after taking our place, a regiment of rebels advanced from the woods on our right (West Woods) through the open field until they came to a fence a hundred yards away where they laid down and opened fire on us. The smoke was so dense that we could hardly tell friend from foe, but when the bullets began to whistle about our ears we were satisfied that they were grey backs and returned the compliment in the shape of a few well-directed Sharps Rifle balls. I had a box of ammunition in my hand ready for them and placing it on the ground I dropped on one knee and began to load and fire. I always stood up when I fired so that I could take better aim. Sometimes I would have to wait a minute before the smoke would roll away or a rebel would expose himself so that I could get a good chance at him. I always intended to have my rifle cover a man before I fired except once or twice when I was ordered to fire at the colors. While I was thus engaged poor Twombly, a New Hampshire boys, fell close beside me shot through the head. I had no time to observe others who were killed or wounded but he was so near that I could not help seeing him as I stooped to load. Col. Post was wounded at the beginning of the fight and had left the field. The color bearer was badly wounded and the Adjutant took our flag and advanced to the front cheering us on. Our fire soon became to hot for the rebels and they--what there was left of them--began to run leaving guns, knapsacks, and everything that impeded their progress on the ground beside their dead and wounded comrades. We started after them with a cheer and had got as far as the fence when we observed through the smoke another regiment drawn up on our left and firing into us from that direction. Nothing was left for us now but to remain and be taken prisoners or retreat. Here the Adjutant fell pierced by five rebel bullets. The right of our regiment had got into the road and one of the Minnesota boys ran up to the fence, shot the bearer of the rebel's battle flag, took it away from him and brought it off the field. Lt. John W. Thompson of Nashua was shot through the head while advancing with or near the Adjutant. The order was given to retreat and we fell slowly back through the cornfield. I stopped and fired several times while going back, the enemy not being more than a dozen rods off. A bullet struck me, cutting through the strap of my haversack and stopping when it reached my belt. I then went to the right where Gibbon had three guns planted so as to rake the cornfield. I got a few splendid shots at them resting my rifle on the fence and shooting when they came over the ridge to fire on us. Gen. Gibbon was off his horse helping to work the guns himself. At each discharge of grape we could see pieces of rails, cornstalks, guns, clothing, and fragments of rebels blown into the air. They did not come on any further but our men drove them back in splendid style. Our brigade was now ordered to the rear, other troops coming up to take our place. We were not engaged again during the day. I went back to the battlefield in the afternoon to see about our dead and wounded but was not allowed to go out to the place where we fought.
Thursday there was no fighting except by the pickets. The rebels asked for a time to bury their dead and remove their wounded. It was granted them and they abused it by not burying the dead and plundering our dead of all valuables they could find.
Friday finding that the rebels had left, our army advanced and took a position near the Potomac. Many of our men were engaged in burying the dead. At my own request I was detailed from our Company. I wished to find the bodies of the Adjutant and of a member of our Co. who was killed. The sight on the battlefield was awful. The bodies were swollen and disfigured so that we could hardly recognize them except by their clothes. Their pockets were rifled and in many cases the shoes taken from their feet. We buried nine bodies belonging to our regiment including the two officers.
I examined the ground occupied by the regiment which was opposed to us. We had to shoot through two rail fences before we could hit them. The rails were fairly riddled with balls. I counted fifty-three dead rebels lying close to the fence within sixteen lengths of rails and there were twenty five or thirty more in the field beyond that we shot while they were running. As there were no other shooting at them I can safely say that the Sharp Shooters as responsible for that part of the work. But we paid fearful price for what we did. Out of one hundred and thirty men of the regiment who went into this fight, nine were killed and one Lieut. Has since died of his wounds. The Col. Sergeant-Major, two Lieut., one Capt. And over fifty men were wounded. Eight men of my Co. were engaged; one was killed and four wounded, while only one escaped without being hit.
I think from what I saw myself on the field and what I can learn from the others that the rebels lost in killed three to our one. We had more wounded than they did. It was the testing of those who have been in nearly all the battles of the war that they never saw such desperate and bloody fighting. I have been in ten fights-battles and skirmishes and it was certainly the hardest one I ever saw or wish to be engaged in. If it is only the beginning of the end, the country may be satisfied with the dearly bought victory, but if the advantage is not followed up as it should be, as I am a little fearful it was not, it may well complain that so much blood is spilled for nothing.
I am well now. Give my regards to all inquiring friends. I shall expect a letter from you soon.
Your aff. Son,
Edwin H. Chadwick"

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"Camp near Sharpsburg, MD.
Sept 22, 1862

Dear Mother:
As this is our third day of rest, I must try to write you a letter after so long a silence. I haven't had time to write before since I left the hospital, only just enough to let the folks know that I was alive. Have marched every day been in three or four battles and skirmishes, etc., which I call rather rough on a sick man, but my health and strength are steadily improving, I think, so I shall be able to go through the campaign if I escape the bullets. I was in the battle on the Mountain Sunday evening, was out skirmishing the next morning before breakfast; after breakfast I heard where there was a squad of rebs, and taking a couple boys with me went and got them, nine in all. Some of them were inclined to show fight but when they found Sharpe's rifles bearing on them they concluded to surrender. We followed the retreating rebels that day till we got into an artillery fight; next day we had a skirmish just before night. Wed. morning they got us up at daylight, and marched us to the battlefield, and didn't we get a hot breakfast that morning! We were engaged about four hours, tho' it did not seem fifteen minutes to me. We had been fighting in line some time when the Adjutant caught the colors and rushed ahead, saying , "They are running, come on boys!" Quickly as I could gather up a box of cartridges I had lying on the ground loose, I followed and was so busy loading and firing I saw nothing of a brigade of rebels coming down on our left till I heard a Lieut. sing out, "retreat, boys, we are surrounded!" Upon that I started to go back to the cornfield through which we had advanced, but I found I was so lame and tired I could hardly walk. I tell you, the excitement of the battlefield will tire a man beyond anything I ever experienced. I could see nothing of the Adjt., but on looking around again I saw the rebs coming down on us in the form of a V. Just then our colors dropped, the bearer being wounded; I turned back into the storm and picked up the colors and gun and brought them off safely. Then we rallied a few men round the old flag and took our stand behind Battery B. The Battery boys were afraid they would lose their guns, and wanted to limber up and be off, but we told them their guns should not be taken, and General Gibbon put in a double charge of grape and sighted the gun himself. When that charge went into the ranks of the rebels it lifted a whole windrow of them twelve feet into the air. I saw whole bodies, arms, legs and all sorts of fragments above the corn for a moment, but they, the rebs, stopped coming towards us about that time. That discharge carried whole rails from the fence clear into their ranks. As I was coming off the field a solid shot came bounding over the fence into the road. I stopped just in time to save myself; the next step would have been in its track. I was out on the battlefield yesterday and counted about eighty dead where we fired on them. One of the prisoners said the Sharpes rifles were too sure for them. I fired thirty-six rounds as coolly as if shooting at a target. Should have fired more but the officers told us to save our ammunition as the rebs were saving theirs. We piled a perfect windrow under the fence where they lay, but it cost us dear. Our Col. And Sergt-Major were wounded; our Adjt., 2nd Lieut of our Co. John J. Whitman, and 1st Lieut. of Co. B. killed. Capt. of Co. A. and Lieut commanding Co. C. and Lieut of Co. B. wounded. Two men killed and ten wounded out of seventeen in our Co. who went into battle. But the Iron Brigade stood its ground till reinforcements came up, and now hardly numbers 300 guns. An officer told the Col. commanding our brigade he never saw men stand against such odds and in such a fire, and it was a shame if they put us in again but we are good for twice our number yet. My sheet is full, so once more good by.

From your aff. Son,
James S. Kent

P.S. Have just signed a certificate for a sick man, J.S. Kent, Corp, Com'd'g Co. G., U.S.S.S."


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And there we have it; two period accounts of two men who preferred to use the Sharps cartridge containers in a fight. I can see where these would come in handy especially when laying down or under heavy fire. When Bill showed me these letters years ago we tried the cart. container method in a tactical which worked so well that I've regarded my cartridge box ammunition as "back ups."

_________________
Brian White
Wambaugh, White, & Company
http://www.wwandcompany.com
----------------------------------
Randolph Mess, U.S. Sharpshooters


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 19, 2009 12:14 am 
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Is there a link somewhere where I would be able to get the dimensions to make a Sharps Pasteboard Cartridge Box? Because that isn't a bad idea at all and I would like to make a couple of them. I would love to try it this coming year.

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Joseph Edwards
The Deadeye Mess
Company C 2nd United States Sharp Shooters


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 20, 2009 5:57 pm 
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Location: ROCKPORT, MAINE
Brian & Bill,
This is great stuff. As you two are obviously extremely well versed in the topic, are there any other tips on the subject of cartriges in general that you want to share?
I have been making mine with nitrated cigarette papers for some time now but find that they are awfully fragile although my wooden blocks protect them well until my stubby fingers grab for a round. They do burn well though.
Currently I am experimenting with some thin cotton cloth paper that I have nitrated. The resulting cartridges are more substantial and I can get a very uniform size and shape using a judicious fold at the end of my shaping dowel and dab from a glue stick to hold the fold and then along the seam. My cotton paper samples don't seem to burn with quite the nearly instantaneous flash as my cigarette paper cartridges, but that may have been due to using a somewhat less than completely saturated nitrate solution. The final cotton paper residue is still negilgible.
I intend to fashion a few complete rounds at some point using the cotton paper as I have a bit of a brazen coyote problem. Would anyone out there have a suggestion for a lead bullet that you may have had good experiences with. My weapon is a Pedersoli with the double triggers. I don't really like the sights on the gun as they don't match the overall quality of the rest of the gun. I expect that it will take a goodly number of practice shots before I am comfortable with my sights and in a position to have it out with the coyote. That is OK though as he returns every three days like clockwork.
The use of pasteboard boxes having been confirmed by your research will surely add to the survivability of my cartridges. For that great tip and all of the others that you gents have been so generous with I thank you very much.

_________________
Captain Dave Sulin
Rockport, Maine
"Mind your helm"


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2009 9:34 pm 
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Joe and fellow Sharpshooters.

I have submitted below an article I wrote a few years ago for the Michigan USSS about the pasteboard boxes. Unfortunately, I wasn't successful in uploading the photos of the boxes, but the instructions should give you a good idea of how to construct them. Dave, if I send you the photo can you add them into this post. I can construct Sharps boxes but can't figure out how to insert a photo. Go figure.

Bill Skillman
Randolf Mess-USSS


Know when to roll them, know when to fold them-Part 2.

The Sharps ammunition packages

by Bill Skillman

Perhaps you will recall the letters of U.S. Sharp Shooters Edwin Chadwick and James Kent that appeared in last August’s newsletter. Both fought at Antietam in Millers cornfield, and recorded their experiences shortly afterwards. What particularly caught my eye was how they fought on the skirmish line. Chadwick wrote: “I had a box of ammunition in my hand ready for them and placing it on the ground I dropped on one knee and began to load and fire. I always stood up when I fired so that I could take better aim..” Kent wrote: “Quickly as I could gather up a box of cartridges I had lying on the ground loose, I followed and was so busy loading and firing I saw nothing of a brigade of rebels coming down on our left”. Both men specifically state that they did not grab cartridges from their leather cartridge boxes, but resorted to taking rounds from a Sharps ammunition package instead. You will find an excellent visual example in Dale Gallon’s “Breechloaders and Green coats” print.

I have discovered from my own experiences on the reenacting ‘battlefields’ that our Sharp Shooter forbearers were onto something. When I started ‘going prone’ to engage CSA reenactors on open terrain I found it was awkward for me to rise up on one elbow then twist my right arm over my hip and then extract a round from the cartridge box. It was not unusual that I had to take my eyes off the enemy to fiddle with one or both flaps, and it was just as likely that when I withdrew my hand a cascade of loose cartridges followed. About this time Captain Krouse would order our line to advance/retreat as I was scrambling about on hands and knees trying to ‘corral’ all of the AWOL rounds that had fallen in the grass.

Another associated problem with our cartridges is their tendency to misfire after being exposed to moisture. This happens when cartridges fall on the ground and the thin paper tubes come into contact with dew/ rain. The moisture migrates into the black powder and degrades its performance. A few fellows (who must have skipped the biology class on capillary action) found that cartridges in their trouser pockets were likewise rendered useless. And another source of moisture/misfires can occur when the cartridge box if left perched on a tent pole overnight. During the summer significant variations in temperature and humidity create dew that can penetrate leather cartridge boxes and degrade the ammunition. I tend to wrap my blouse around the cartridge box to use as a pillow, and protecting the cartridges from the ‘evening dews and damps’.

In 1995 I made up a couple crude Sharps ammunition packages to hold spare rounds. When I ran out of ammunition on the skirmish line I reached into the haversack, extracted a pack of cartridges, dumped them into my leather cartridge box, and pitched the empty pack away. I discovered that the paper/powder cartridges remained dry and the number of misfires was significantly reduced. I also experienced fewer misfires by keeping my ammunition in the cardboard packets until just before a drill or battle was to occur.

After reading Chadwick and Kent’s Antietam accounts I did some experimental archeology. I have found that it is far easier to follow the same procedures as they did on the battlefield, and thereby eliminating the awkward loading gyrations when lying in a prone position. Now I carrying a spare pack or two of Sharps ammunition in my blouse or trousers pocket just like the original Sharp Shooters did. When I go prone or fight from a static position for a few minutes, I remove a box, tear off the paper closure tab, and set it on the ground beside me. To reload, all I do is drop the block, reach down and grab a round. Sometimes I also put a rolled paper tube of percussion caps inside the box (the original packs contained 10 cartridges and 12 percussion caps). Then I tear open the caps and pile them on the upper lid allowing me to speed up reloading even more. In my opinion this is not only the most practical way to reload your Sharps rifle, but also the most authentic.

But how do we make a copy of the original Sharps ammunition packages? I have employed a method that captures the shape and appearance of an original. I buy small pasteboard ‘jewelry boxes’ from the local paper products store. They cost anywhere from .35 to .55 cents (2001 prices) apiece, but you should only need 2-4 boxes to carry the extra 20-40 rounds (or more if the cartridges are made smaller than life-sized). The ‘jewelry box’ consists of a white paper covered top and slightly smaller bottom. Inside is cotton ‘pillow’ to put the notion on.

A second method is to make a package using a wooden block as a former and a single sheet of cardboard (shirt cardboard that are used by dry cleaners works well). A couple of the PA fellows have gone to the extra effort to produce the more ‘authentic’ box and after examining their handiwork I have found them to be very good indeed. Their packages have the added advantage of being able to fit snuggly into the lower compartment of the cartridge box tins. My boxes tend to be slightly larger and thus don’t fit like the originals were designed to do. This can be corrected by simply removing all of the sides of the upper lid and pasting a hinge to attach it to the lower box. But since it is my intent to use my reproduction ammunition pack to safely stow cartridges in a trouser or blouse pocket, the slightly larger dimensions of the box are not a problem. You be the judge and make your box according to your own specifications and needs.

To convert this box into an ammunition package you need the following materials:

Materials:
• 1 or more pasteboard jewelry boxes
• X-acto knife or sharp scissors.
• 3M drywall paper or similar weight white paper
• Glue stick
• 4x4 inch sheet of newspaper (extra credit if you use a photocopy of Harpers Weekly)
• Masking tape (optional)

I use the brown 3M-drywall paper found in most hardware stores. Original Sharps boxes were issued in both brown or white paper outer wrappers. Overall the paper must be thin yet strong. Bond typing or photocopy paper is too stiff to work.

Steps-preparing the box:
• Using a hobby/Xacto blade cut and remove one of the long flaps.
• Trim a 30-degree triangle off both short flaps just forward to where they were connected to the (removed) long flap.

Preparing the Base.
• Place the lower box lid in the center of the sheet of the 6x 6 inch wide 3M paper. Trace around the circumference of the box with pencil. This will serve as the base.
• Using a ruler or “line of sight” add 1-inch to each side of the tracing. This should allow enough of the 3M paper to cover each side and have enough left over to ‘slop over’ into the interior.
• Cut out the 3M-paper tracing.
• Use a glue stick to liberally ‘paint’ ONLY the BASE of the box.
• Place the box onto the center of the 3M paper so that it sits right on top of the tracing. Let the paper dry to the base.
• Take the box and tip on its side and fold the 3M paper so it conforms to the long side. The creases will need to be sharp.
• Glue each long side and secure 3M paper and let dry.
• Using scissors, make 2 VERTICAL cuts from the outside edge of the paper to where the fold begins. These cuts must allow ¼ to ½ inch beyond the edge of the box. These new flaps will then be folded inward to the short ends and glued to the box.
• Apply glue stick to each short side and then bring the 3M paper upwards. Let dry.
• Fold into the box any excess 3M paper and glue in place.

Making and securing the ‘hinge’:
• Use glue stick to apply a ½ inch bead along the inside length of the lower cover.
• Attach a strip of paper that covers the length of the box, and is 1” wide. Secure the hinge so that you leave a ½ inch free. Let the glue dry.
• For a stronger hinge you can simply use a 1-inch wide piece of masking tape-leaving ½ inch showing above the box edge.
• Take the top cover and apply glue stick to the raw edge (1/2-inch).
• Secure paper ‘hinge’ to top cover on the box and close lid. Smooth out all the bubbles.

The Cover
• Repeat the same process of covering the upper lid with 3M paper.
• Secure the paper hinge to the interior of the top cover. Let dry completely.
• Close lid and smooth out any bubbles.

Now we need to figure out a way to keep the package closed until we need the blank/ammunition.

• Take a 1 inch wide piece of paper that is long enough to go around the circumference of the two side and front flaps, apply a thin coat of rubber cement on the paper and wait until tacky.
• Take a 4-inch piece of twine or cotton string, center it on the paper, and push into the tacky cement and let dry.
• Take the paper/twine/glued paper tab and secure it around three sides of the box. The string should secure the cover to the base of the box. This feature was on the original boxes. However, some comrades are content to just glue a single 1 x 1 inch paper tab that secures the top lid to the box is sufficient for their needs.

Unlike the .58 and .69 Arsenal paper wrapped packages, the Sharps cardboard/paper packets were better constructed. Granted, of the nearly 80 million Sharps cartridges produced during the Civil War, very few of the surviving packages remain in one piece. Since the Centennial, individual Sharps linen cartridges can fetch as much as $250 per round, so shortsighted collectors opened the packs and discarded them.

The label
Back in 1996 I purchased photocopies of Arsenal-made Sharps labels. These worked well initially, but they did not have the ‘look’ I was after. A few years later I found what I was looking for. In Marcot’s book Hiram Berdan Chief of Sharpshooters, I discovered a life-sized photograph of a Sharps ammunition package. I made a scan of the box/label and took the image to a local print-stamp shop where it was converted into a rubber stamp. Using a black inkpad, I now can make dozens of hand-stamped labels just like the ones featured on the original boxes. I typically use an off-white bond paper that is precut to the exact dimensions. Some original packages were first wrapped in white paper and then the stamp applied to the finished product.

Applying label.
Use glue stick to cover back of label and secure to top of box. Let dry.

The original Sharps Ammunition packages
The original Sharps ammunition boxes were loaded with 10 linen cartridges and a rolled newspaper tube consisting of 12 percussion caps. I located the following suppliers of Sharps ammunition (as identified by the label on the package): Washington Arsenal, A.G. Fay, Potter and Tolman, and the Sharps Mfg Co. The firm of A.G. Fay, Potter & Tolman of Boston Massachusetts, proudly boasts that “A Superior Quality of Powder is used” in the manufacture of the 10 Sharps cartridges, but the address is actually for the Sharps Rifle Mfg. Co. in Hartford, Connecticut. I suspect that Fay, Potter and Tolman manufactured the cartridges and then shipped them to Hartford to be distributed along with the carbines or rifles. For shipping purposes to the military, ammunition was packed one hundred boxes into wooden crate. These were shipped to the Washington Arsenal or Fortress Monroe and then issued to the Division Ordnance officer. He in turn, would receive requisitions by Colonels Trepp or Stoughton to have ammunition sent to their commands, where it would be distributed to the Ordnance sergeants and finally the enlisted men.

The original container was a pasteboard box, slightly smaller than our modern cardboard ‘jewelry boxes’ with either white or brown (possibly discolored from aging 140 years) paper covering. The cardboard lid was secured by either a paper outer wrapper or the lid featuring 3 interconnected lips running along the boxes front and sides. The originals featured a drawstring that was glued along the interior of the wrapper. To open the package, one pulled the string causing it to ‘zip’ around the circumference and reveal the contents. Keep in mind that the original cartridges were fragile, being made of varnished linen and not designed to endure the abuse their metallic brass Henry or Spencer brethren could. This would explain the extra care taken in the packaging of the Sharps cartridges—and once removed from their package they were to be placed into the wooden block inserts in the Sharps cartridge boxes.

The original Sharpshooters were issued packages with the understanding that once the contents were emptied into the cartridge boxes or Sharps rifles, the empty box would be thrown away. However, I am of the opinion that those paper wrappers were saved as fire tinder, toilet paper, or make out fatigue detail lists, etc. However, I hate to go to all the effort of making up authentic ammunition packs only to toss them away.

• For added authenticity, wrap a piece of newspaper (if you use photocopies of original Harpers Weekly newspapers you get extra credit). 2 times around a pencil and then glue the leading edge and secure. Twist one end closed, dump 12 percussion caps inside and twist the end closed. Place it inside in the space left by your rounds.

References:

Marcot, R. Hiram Berdan, Chief of Sharpshooters. Northwoods Heritage Press. Irvine, CA 1989

Coates, E. J. and Thomas, D. An Introduction to Civil War Small Arms and Ammunition. Thomas Publications. Gettysburg, PA 1990

Coates, E. and McCauley, C. Sharps Rifles and Carbines. Thomas Publications. Gettysburg, PA. 1996


The photo below shows a Sharps ammunition package, both open and closed position. Note that the package is opened by pulling a drawstring around the circumference of the box (string is attached to the upper portion of box when open




Also note the newspaper wrapper that secures the 12 percussion caps. You get extra credit if you use reproduction Harpers Weekly or Frank Leslie’s Illustrated print in your Sharps ammunition packet. Due to the smaller size of blank cartridges it is possible to load as many as 15 loads into a box.


Copyright 2002


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 28, 2009 3:12 pm 
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Just one question Bill, what size of a box should we get? I went to a crafts store and they had different sizes. Would a 4"x4" box do or were they more of a rectangle? Couldn't really tell from the pictures I saw in some of the books I had.

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Joseph Edwards
The Deadeye Mess
Company C 2nd United States Sharp Shooters


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 04, 2009 12:22 pm 
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Posts: 60
Location: Upstate New York
Fascinating stuff! It does sound pretty unique to have the box readily available. Now that I think on it the Dale Gallon print of the sharpshooters fighting near the Slyder Farm at Gettysburg has the sharpshooter in the foreground with a small cartridge box in front of him, doesn't it? I had wondered about that detail...

If anyone has a picture of the label that would be great! Would you consider making a few examples of this box to sell, Mr. Skillman? ;)

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Mr. Jason G. Wolczanski
Co. C, 2nd U.S.S.S.


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 08, 2009 3:39 pm 
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Joined: Sun Jan 04, 2009 9:33 pm
Posts: 238
Location: Old Northwest (Michigan)
Fellow Sharpshooters,

Sorry for the delay in posting, I had a bit of trouble reactivating my account, Dave needs to remember to keep the log in procedures 1860-user friendly. When I hear 'log on' it usually means to stoke up the campfire.

The dimensions for the pasteboard jewelry boxes are 3 1/4 inches long by 2 1/4 inches wide, by one inch deep. I am going to send Dave pictures of the completed boxes so he can post them here. For some reason I've not been successful in uploading photos into my posts.

The only word of caution that I would add is that I have not had the opportunity to personally handle and take dimensions off an original Sharps ammunition package; in either open or unopened condition. For somebody who strives for the 'authentic touch' this has always bothered me. The jewelry boxes are sturdy and can take alot of abuse, but I don't know how the thickness and consistency of the modern pasteboard matches the originals. On the bright side, when I compare my pasteboard boxes packed with 10 live rounds to photos of the original boxes, they are nearly a perfect match. The only difficulty I have experience is that they will not fit, just barely, inside the lower tin compartment. I believe Brian or Dan did not have this problem. John Cleaveland (who fell in with the Mess when we portrayed 'Bowens Rifles'/Co. A 151st at Payne Farm) made up 10 boxes using my instructions but constructed from file folder cardboard. It is a thinner material and he had no difficulty in getting them inside the lower compartment, but because they were more fragile, there was a tendency for them to get 'smushed' if carried in the pocket.

Roy Marcot's book Hiram Berdan, Chief of Sharpshooters has a life-sized picture of an original pasteboard box. In fact, I scanned the original label and had it made into a rubber stamp. Stamped labels have a more authentic look to them than ones I had photocopied. When I make up of new boxes, I'll take a 8 1/2 X 11 sheet of cotton bond paper and press out about 10 impressions per sheet. Cut out the labels and then glue them to the top of the box. The faux labels fit the top of the pasteboard box almost precisely as the original was featured in Marcot's book.

Because my pasteboard boxes are designed to be recycled, I've still got a couple of old battered 'veterans' that survived the 135 National events. But I'd be happy to send out an old box for those fellows interested in making up packs for themselves. Send me a PM. I would only charge for the 5x7 envelope and postage. I will throw in a sheet of 'Sharps Cartridge' stamped labels.

Bill Skillman
Randolf Mess-USSS


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 18, 2009 11:22 pm 
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Corporal
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Joined: Thu Oct 30, 2008 9:21 pm
Posts: 60
Location: Upstate New York
Bill Skillman wrote:
Because my pasteboard boxes are designed to be recycled, I've still got a couple of old battered 'veterans' that survived the 135 National events. But I'd be happy to send out an old box for those fellows interested in making up packs for themselves. Send me a PM. I would only charge for the 5x7 envelope and postage. I will throw in a sheet of 'Sharps Cartridge' stamped labels.


That is a very reasonable offer Mr. Skillman! Since you've already had the label made up you're in a unique position, and it would probably cost less to have you do this rather than many of us trying to make our own. Am I right on that account? How much was it to make up the label? In any case, expect a PM from me soon! Thanks! :)

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Mr. Jason G. Wolczanski
Co. C, 2nd U.S.S.S.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 21, 2009 1:09 pm 
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Joined: Tue Jan 06, 2009 11:19 am
Posts: 12
Location: worcester, uk
Well what can I say, as the new powder monkey for us Brits, I thought I’d give the boxes a try. So at last weekend’s training event I took eight boxes with me as well as the usual lose rounds, the comments when they were dished out was good, but they came back still unopened, being told they were too good to use, then on Sunday we has a small skirmish, being attacked in the tree line (fire & fall back) this time they were used to full effect, no more fumbling for rounds when lay down, faster firing when in cover, & no more lost rounds when moving from cover to cover. I now have orders for more boxes, empty ones for their packs, and full ones to use on the field.

Thanks for the info on these and the making of the rounds which is the next project

Corporal Smith
CoE 1st USSS


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