My wife posed an interesting question when I was showing her the hows and whys of cap and ball revolvers. The question was how did they (the soldiers) carry the grease during the civil war? I was suprised as her questions about shooting are usually things like "why do you pick up the bullets off the ground after you shoot them"? (not everyone does) When she asks a question like that that one I reply with a question like "what bullets"? to which she replies ""these bullets" holding an empty shell case. I tell her those are not bullets BUT she corrects me telling me they must be bullets because they come out the muzzle of the gun. She has a masters degree and I constantly tell her she should get her money back as they didn't seem to teach her anything very useful. I was able to explain the difference between a loaded round and it's components and why I retrieve some of them but not all of them. Got her to shoot a 9mm glock and shot my S&W model 10 to convince her the entire round does not come out the end of the barrel! Getting back to the question - did soldiers even grease their bullets or just put up with the fouling? i would speculate if they carried grease it would be in a leather pouch.
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April 6, 2007, 01:36 PM
I doubt soldiers who had to reload in combat would bother with the grease.
Some reloading was accomplished with cardboard packs containing 6 rounds, conoidal bullets attached to a nitrated paper container for the BP. You pull a string, and zzzzzip, it opens.
After the battle, when the soldiers go back to camp, then at some point they would have to clean and prepare their weapons. Revolvers would be cleaned and reloaded. Here, they likely did put some grease over the ball/bullet.
Years ago at a range I met a older man who had a original Colt 1860 Army. He had the history on it and knew the name of the soldier to whom the revolver had been issued during the Civil War. He told me as a kid he met someone who knew how these guns were treated in war. According to him, they would charge the gun with about 20gr. of BP, then they would put is a small greased patch of felt (often cut with a punch from material on the inside of their Kepi's (hats). Then they would load the ball, and dab a bit of grease on top, which was whatever was handy, bacon fat, pig fat...usually obtained from the camp's cook.
Cap n Ball
April 6, 2007, 02:09 PM
Often the rifle or musket carried by a soldier would have a patchbox built into the stock that could also hold a small amount of thick grease. Most revolvers were carried as 'last ditch' firearms and would only be used in that sort of situation and reloading would be impossible unless one lived through the event. Grease or beeswax would be carried either in a small pouch or tin or provided on as needed basis by the commisary. Every ounce a footsoldier carried had to be considered. Of course it was different with bushwackers and other mounted forces. They often carried many revolvers and as they were emptied either dropped to be picked up later or were stuffed into a bag. Firing a revolver from horseback with accuracy is very difficult. One has to know the particular gait of the horse and time their shots for the instant when all four hooves are off the ground to have any accuracy at all. Bushwackers and others who practically lived on horseback were very proficient marksmen. Some were even capable of changing cylinders carried bandolier style if they were using a Remington. Dismounted troops with single shot muskets facing a charge of those fellows often didn't fare very well. Unless one was an officer or non-com revolvers usually were not issued to foot soldiers but had to be purchased at the soldiers expense.
April 7, 2007, 03:26 AM
"...has a masters degree..." In what?
"...carry the grease during the civil war..." They often didn't. American Civil War logistics was spotty at best. If there was no grease available, they did without. The fouling comes from the BP.
"...revolver from horseback with accuracy..." The cavalryman's main weapon was his sabre. Handguns were gravy.
April 9, 2007, 06:11 PM
You'd be amazed at what some people can learns to do on horseback. It has been said that Terry's Texas Rangers would entertain townsfolk during the civil war by picking up silver dollars off the ground while riding a horse at full gallop. They also trained to shoot both rifles and pistols from running horses. Shoot, look at the cowboy mounted shooting stuff. They seem to do an alright job. As far as how they carried grease goes, they would have carried it however they could figure out was best if at all. I don't think you could say any one way is the most accurate.
April 9, 2007, 07:42 PM
During the Civil War revolvers were usually loaded with paper cartridges, not loose powder and balls or bullets. If the bullet was lubricated at all it was with beeswax or a compound thereof. The practice of carrying extra loaded cylinders was very rare, Hollywood flicks not withstanding. Those who felt they need more firepower simply carried more revolvers, either on their person, or in saddle holsters, and sometimes both.
The cavalryman's main weapon was his sabre. Handguns were gravy.
John S. Mosby's Partisan Rangers had little use for sabers...most carried pistols. Mosby once said, "My men were as little impressed by a body of cavalry charging them with sabres as though they were armed with cornstalks."
Of course, JEB Stuart among others was known for carrying the Le Mat revolver.
The northern cavalry served more in the capacity of the European dragoon...they could utilize classical cavalry tactics or fight on foot with carbine, their mounts getting them to and from the front lines quickly.
April 9, 2007, 09:42 PM
I doubt in the heat of combat that any soldier bothered greasing his cylinder. I doubt if the Colt Model 1855 Root Revolving Rifle was greased either (and there's one letter I've seen where a chainfire removed a digit from a Berdan Sharp Shooter).
Now, as to wifey with the master's degree, degrees only prove that one is accomplished with books and capable of meeting academic standards. It doesn't prove that one is smart or has common sense. She needs more range time to make up for time lost when she was hiding in a library studying. As for me, I keep telling people that I have the only degree that counts - 98.6 All others are academic (pun intended).
April 9, 2007, 10:36 PM
On cavalry in the Civil War, I read that the Union soldiers were issued carbines and sabers, but their Southern counter-parts were armed mostly with double barreled shotguns and pistols.
On multiple weapons, I once had a replica Griswold and Gunnison that could only be reloaded three times (18 shots) before it was so fouled up it froze. Made me think then that if I had to fight all day, the odds of my living would be greatly improved if I had another pistol. Or if I were on a horse, two or three extra pistols - which I believe was the actual practise during the "day".
On Shooting off of Horse back. You would be amazed at how quickly one can adapt and become reasonably accurate off horse back, especially at a full gallop when you and the horse are in sync.
I have also read that the powders were a bit different back then and the fouling was not as bad. Maybe its true, maybe not - but I would not see a soldier taking much time to lube or grease during the heat of battle - but maybe thats why they also issued those wicked bayonets.
April 14, 2007, 01:20 AM
In his book Sixguns, Elmer Kieth wrote that the old way to shoot from horseback was to sort of "snap" the revolver toward the target, with a motion sort of like cracking a whip. And that's exactly what you'll see the old B-movie cowboys (like Tom Mix) doing in those old movies from the 1930s.
April 15, 2007, 12:55 PM
I dont see the point of the "were did they keep the grease" ideas. Just about everyone agreed greasing a revolver was started in the 1900s for longer target shooting sessions. Besides they were mostly using premade cumbustible charges in the war, no grease in them....
and the directions for colt at the least was clean cylinder, powder, soft lead ball, cap on the end.