Old South Military Antiques

Charleston S.C. Captured CS Cartridge Box
Item #: OS-7205








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 is quite stable. It has been very nicely framed and displays remarkably well

The box had the complete sling with it until recently, when a tragic shipping accident broke it, broke the latch tab, and loosened the end tabs. All could be corrected except for the sling which was broken off at the top of the box. With the exception of a repaired latch tab and flaking patent, the box is in good condition. The box still contains its original two piece tin liners.
Price $2,995.00 USD