|Description and Photograph||
People that are unfamiliar with mid-nineteenth century military weaponry generally have the impression 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 paper packs of ten. Because they were made of paper, the cartridges were very fragile and even a slight wetting would ruin them; therefore, it was necessary that they be carried in a leather box which served to keep the cartridges dry. The box also served to keep out sparks during the heat of battle. Should a spark enter the box, the resulting explosion would severely injure or kill its owner. Basically, each soldier had a bomb strapped to his waist and only this box to keep it from igniting.
Infantry cartridge boxes had tin liners with compartments on the top row and large openings in the bottom row, in order to hold both loose cartridges and multiple packets of pre-manufactured paper cartridges. Loose paper wrapped cartridges rode in the top compartment for quick access and two more paper wrapped ten packs, complete with percussion caps, rode in the bottom section. When the infantryman had emptied his top compartment, he would remove the tin liners and take out the paper wrapped packets of ten and empty the contents into the top of the container. The percussion caps would be placed in his cap box.
This box is designed to be used as a musket box carried on a sling or as a rifleman’s box carried on a belt. It has been used as a musket box and still has its original leather shoulder strap. The strap has holes in it consistent with the use of a breastplate. This at first glance would cause one to think it a U.S. strap that was salvaged and converted to C.S. use. And this may be the case, but it may be a C.S. manufactured sling (not that it makes much difference, since there is no question that it has been on this box all along). Let me say from the first, I could not guarantee it CS or US, but add some few observations:
1. Both SC and VA had round breast plates, so for Virginia or South Carolina the holes would have been the same.
2. Confederate accoutrements were often russet in color. This strap appears to be russet with a dark patina. Federal accoutrements were always black; if this were ever blackened, it certainly was not up to Federal standards.
3. I am very particular about belts/buckles, straps/boxes, swords/scabbards etc... being original to each other. Being such, I have spent a lot of time learning how to tell the difference between original matches and recent “marriages”. I have no doubt, and I am sure you will have no doubt, that these two were used together and have been together since the War. From the wear of use and the distinctive “ghosts” created with a 150 years of close association it is plainly obvious these two are original matches, not marriages.
This cartridge box is the best I have seen come to market in many years. Its condition is perfect. All the stitching remains tight. The end tabs of both the inner and outer flap are intact and remain tightly affixed. The tool pouch remains in perfect condition and all stitching is tight. The strap buckles remain tight, as does the lead closure finial.