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Detached observations.


Consumption of small-arm cartridges.

It appears that the Richmond laboratory made 72,000,000 cartridges in three and a-half years, say one thousand working days. As this laboratory made nearly as much as all the others combined, we may safely place the entire production at 150,000,000, or 150,000 per day. As our reserves remained nearly the same, being but slightly increased toward the latter part of the war, there must have been only a little less than this consumption in the field, say half a cartridge per man per day for the average force of 300,000 men, to cover all the accidents and expenditures of service in the field. An average, then, [92] of half a cartridge per day per man would be a safe assumption for protracted warfare.

In examining the returns of ordnance officers after heavy actions, I found that the reduction of ammunition amounted to from about nineteen to twenty-six rounds per man. At Gettysburg the reports of a few days before the battle and a short time after showed a difference of twenty-five or twenty-six rounds on the average. This was the heaviest consumption to which my attention was called. When our troops first took the field commanders were very nervous because they had only fifty to seventy rounds per man instead of the two hundred rounds prescribed by the ordnance manual. Later we raised it to about eighty or ninety rounds. The results of battles show that with proper dispositions for transfer from one corps to another there need be no scarcity with sixty rounds on hand, or even fifty.

Our soldiers were, however, in the habit of supplying themselves with ammunition by throwing away their empty cartridge-boxes and taking any well-supplied one that they might espy with the proper cartridges. What splendid fellows they were, taking even better care of their powder and lead than of themselves or of their rations. They were in downright earnest.


Consumption and supply of lead.

Allowing for waste, 1500,000,000 of cartridges would require 10,000,000 pounds of lead for these alone, to say nothing of other needs. Where did all this lead come from? I make the following rough calculation:

Pounds.
From trans-Mississippi mines (early in the war)400,000
From the mines in Virginia (60,000 lbs. per month)2,160,000
On hand at arsenals, &c.140,000
Imported (not over)2,000,000
Picked up through the country and on battle-fields5,300,000
————
10,000,000

This leads to the surprising conclusion that we must have picked up throughout the country over 5,300,000 pounds of lead during the four years of the war. I remember that the window-weights and loose lead about houses yielded 200,000 pounds in Charleston alone; while the disused lead water-pipes in Mobile supplied, if I am not mistaken, as much more. So that these two items alone supplied one-thirteenth of this vast gleaning of the country.


[93]

Transfer of arms to the South.

It was a charge often repeated against Governor Floyd that, as Secretary of War, he had with traitorous intent abused his office by sending arms to the South just before the secession of the States. The transactions which gave rise to this accusation were in the ordinary course of an economical administration of the War Department. After it had been determined to change the old flint-lock musket, which the United States possessed, to percussion, it was deemed cheaper to bring all the flint-lock arms in store at Southern arsenals to the Northern arsenals and armories for alteration, rather than to send the necessary machinery and workmen to the South. Consequently the Southern arsenals were stripped of their deposits, which were sent to Springfield, Watervelet, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Frankfort, Pa., and other points. After the conversion had been completed the denuded Southern arsenals were again supplied with about the same numbers, perhaps slightly augmented, that had formerly been stored there. The quota deposited at the Charleston arsenal, where I was stationed in 1860, arrived there full a year before the opening of the war.


The Napoleon field-gun.

I think I will be sustained by the artillery in saying that on the whole, this gun became the favorite for field service: perhaps because our rifle-shells with percussion fuzes, were, as stated by General Alexander less successful than those of the enemy. When copper became scarce, we fabricated an iron Napoleon with a wrought iron jacket, weighing in all 1,250 pounds, which was entirely satisfactory; and was cheerfully accorded by the artillery companionship with their bronze favorites. The simplicity and certainty of the ammunition of this smooth-bore, its capacity for grape and canister, its good range, and its moderate draught, as it was not too heavy for four horses, were certainly strong reasons in its favor. At the distance at which the serious work of the artillery was done, it was an over-match for rifled artillery.


Heavy guns.

It was of course a matter of keen regret to me that we could not rapidly produce guns of heavy calibre for points, the defence of which against men of-war, was of vital importance. But the ten-inch Col umbiad could only be cast at the Tredegar Works, and although this establishment was in able hands and responded nobly to the calls made [94] upon it, yet tasked as it was to produce artillery of all calibres; especially field-artillery, we could but slowly answer the appeals made with equal vehemence from Pensacola, Yorktown, Charleston and New Orleans.

About the close of 1863, Major Huse sent in two Blakely rifles of about thirteen-inch calibre, splendid looking, superbly mounted, and of fearful cost! 10,000 for the two in England, with fifty rounds each. Charleston claimed them on their arrival at Wilmington, and I was glad to strengthen General Beauregard's hands. Unfortunately one of them cracked in some trial firing, with comparatively weak charges. The full charge which was never reached, was fifty pounds of powder, and a solid rifle-shell, of say 450 pounds. These guns were built up of a wrought iron cylinder, closed at the breach with a brass-screw plug, some thirty-inch long and chambered to seven inches. This cylinder had three successive jackets, each shorter than its predecessor, so that from muzzle to breech the thickness of the gun increased by steps of about three and a-half inches. The object of the seven-inch chamber in the brass plug was to afford an air or gas space which would diminish the strain on the gun. Such was the theory. General Ripley, however, cut down the big cartridge bags of ten or eleven inch in diameter, so as to introduce the charge into the brass chamber. This not being over three inches thick, cracked, and the crack, I believe, extended into the cylinder. On a report of the facts direct from Charleston to Captain Blakeley, he attributed the bursting to the high elevation given, though the highest, I think had been only about 150; an impotent conclusion for a scientific artillerist to reach. The fact of the introduction of the charge into the air space may have been omitted in the narrative to him, and thus he may have been drawn into this helpless conclusion. I never saw the drawings of the gun until after the report of the accident. Captain Brooke, Chief of Ordnance of the Navy, with me then looked over the drawings and evolved the design of the air-chamber. After this the gun was fired, and with moderate elevations attained fair, but not remarkable ranges, as I was advised. The cracked gun was skillfully repaired at Charleston, and restored to a reliable condition.

Just before the war closed the Tredegar Works had cast its first twelve-inch gun, after the method of Rodman—cast on a hollow core with water kept flowing in and out of it to cool the castings from the inside. This method of cooling has been found to give a marked increase of strength, and greater hardness and consequent smoothness to the finished bore.


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