Designed solely for military use,
the buck and ball cartridge has been around from as early as the Revolutionary
War. During the War of 1812, it was the
standard issue military round. The
cartridge usually contained a .69 caliber round shot with three additional
round buckshot, these being approximately .31 caliber. The cartridges were fabricated alternatively
with the round ball against the powder, or held forward of the buckshot. In addition, approximately 110 grains of
black powder was neatly packaged within the brown paper wrap. The larger shot was intended to strike the
primary target, with the buckshot scattering and causing additional injury in
the opposing lines. This ammunition was
used with significant impact when fired at close range from a smoothbore musket. But at distances beyond 150 yards, accuracy
declined and the smaller buckshot quickly lost energy.
During the Civil War, these
cartridges were manufactured by the millions at seventeen Federal arsenals and
numerous additional state facilities. At
Watervliet Arsenal in West Troy, New York, nearly 2½ million buck and ball
cartridges were fabricated in 1862 alone.
Specimens of .69 caliber round shot and .31 caliber buckshot are found
on virtually every Civil War battlefield.
This cartridge is wrapped in
brown paper and tied with red string.
The ball end is fastened closed with a tie, the tail is folded closed. Its overall length is 2½”. Within this example, the buckshot surmounts
the ball. Although assembled both ways,
a study conducted at Watervliet Arsenal in 1848 indicated that accuracy for
both the round ball and the buckshot was increased when the ball was placed against
the powder and used as a gas seal to push the buckshot down the barrel upon