Old South Military Antiques

Charleston S.C. Captured CS Cartridge Box
Item #: OS-6531

People unfamiliar with mid-nineteenth century military weaponry assume that soldiers carried a powder horn or some variation of one. In reality, soldiers were issued cartridges consisting of a paper tube filled

with a powder charge and ball. These paper cartridges were issued in packs of 10. Being made of paper, the cartridges were very fragile. Even a slight wetting would ruin them. Therefore, it was necessary to keep the

cartridges dry in a leather box.

During a battle, tens of millions of sparks filled the air; should a spark enter the box, the resulting explosion would severely injure or kill the soldier carrying it and perhaps those nearby. Basically, each soldier had a bomb strapped to his waist, and only this box kept it from igniting.

The Confederate manufactured and issued cartridge box shown here was patterned after the 1842 Federal rifle-musket box, (distinguished by the use of the over-the-shoulder sling configuration) but it has the

classic characteristics, including the use of russet leather, a lead closure finial and the use of pewter carrying strap buckles. Only the box's front flap was painted black; this was done in order to make it shed water so it

would keep the cartridges dry. This example utilized a cartridge box plate "to hold the outer flap down without latching the tab. Unfortunately the plate was removed in the days before Confederate leather

accoutrements were fully appreciated.

It is not known what Confederate soldier carried this cartridge box, but is does have quite a lot of associated history. The box was captured by United States Naval personnel at the surrender of Charleston, South

Carolina. Charleston's official surrender came when the Stars and Stripes was once more raised over Fort Sumter on April 14, 1865. This was four years to the day since it had been lowered in 1861. Its captor,

Dr. J. H. Perry recorded its capture history, and that of a Tower musket complete with bayonet. The history is written in ink: "Cartridge box taken from a Confederate soldier at the surrender of Charleston SC by

Dr. J.H. Perry, U.S.N. Belongs with the English Tower musket and bayonet". Unfortunately the Tower musket and bayonet have been separated from the box, probably for the same reason the box plate was

removed. The descriptive label and the clipping from the front page of the Charleston Mercury were found inside the box. The label has folds, tears and old repairs, but it quite stable and displays remarkably well.

With the exception of a partially broken latch tab and flaking patent, the box and sling are in extraordinarily good condition. The box still contains its original two piece tin liners. All of the leather is supple and strong and all of the stitching remains intact and tight.


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