Morse Carbine Cartridge


Description and Photograph





     The breech loading carbine was invented by George W. Morse.  In December of 1862, South Carolina recommended that one thousand or more of G.W. Morse’s patented carbines be manufactured.  Morse first set up a manufactory in Nashville, Tennessee but shortly moved the machinery to Atlanta, Georgia.  While it is generally assumed that all Morse carbines were manufactured at the State Military Works in Greenville, South Carolina, a reporter for the Atlanta Intelligencer wrote in late 1862 that he had been shown a carbine made by H. Marshall in Atlanta.  He goes on to describe the carbine in great detail and it is without a doubt a Morse patent carbine.  It took until 1864 to get production up and running at the State Works.  In the second quarter of 1864 the Works turned out 100 carbines, and another 200 in the third quarter of 1864.  But during that same time period, the State Works issued 298 of the carbines and had another 500 on hand.  It appears that many of these had been made by H. Marshall & Company in Atlanta, Georgia starting in late 1862 and continuing into 1863.  In Confederate Longarms and Pistols, Anthony and Hill place these guns as having been made in Atlanta.  Madaus and Murphy, in their masterpiece Confederate Carbines & Musketoons, state that it is an “accepted fact” that they were all made in South Carolina.  Apparently some piece of the puzzle is missing and if any of my readers have it please let me know.

     Approximately one thousand of these advanced carbines were manufactured.  The advanced breech loading system was made possible by the advanced centerfire cartridge.  The cartridge is virtually identical to those we use today.  The only difference was that instead of the “cap” having a pressed fit, it was held snugly in place by squeezing the cone on the inside of the cap and by being squeezed by an “India rubber” washer on the outside.  This must have worked well because there were no complaints from the inspectors on this score.   Morse’s weapon was far ahead of its time, too far it seems, because cartridge manufacture techniques lagged behind.  The problems of securing enough of its center fire metallic cartridges proved insurmountable.  Production ended in late 1864, when the machinery was relocated to the Confederate arsenal at Columbia, South Carolina.  Consequently, the cartridges for these guns are extremely rare.  

     The example shown here is in beautiful condition, even retaining its percussion cap though the rubber washer long ago crumbled to dust.  The ball remains firmly seated and tight.

     If you have a Morse carbine, it definitely should have a Morse cartridge to display alongside it, because ultimately, the cartridge is what makes a Morse, a Morse.                




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