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Thread: Civil War "Camp Lead" ?

  1. #1
    Boolit Lady Karen's Avatar
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    Civil War "Camp Lead" ?

    I watched a few Youtube videos of people with metal detectors looking for relics on civil war sites. The often find clumps of lead they call "camp lead". It looks like once molten lead was poured or dumped onto the ground. It seems to be very common. Was this lead melted down to make boolits for muskets and the rest just thrown onto the ground?

    Was it common for soldiors to make boolits by the fire at camp during the Civil War?

  2. #2
    Boolit Master

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    Maybe spilled from the pot and just left? If this was a centrally organized casting process
    for an army, it would have been huge and spilling a small amount would not have been
    worth worrying about.

    Bill
    If it was easy, anybody could do it.

  3. #3
    Boolit Master


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    I was under the impression that most projectiles were made in arsenels, under controlled conditions and then shipped to the troops. I say this from having seen many old illustrations of casting operations done in such surroundings. That's not to say soldiers didn't cast their own on occasion, but I'd think there'd be a better chain of supply than that.

  4. #4
    Boolit Master ku4hx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 3006guns View Post
    I was under the impression that most projectiles were made in arsenels, under controlled conditions and then shipped to the troops. I say this from having seen many old illustrations of casting operations done in such surroundings. That's not to say soldiers didn't cast their own on occasion, but I'd think there'd be a better chain of supply than that.
    Just an example:
    http://www.forgottenoh.com/Peters/peters.html

    I'm sure there were more just like Peters
    "Constructed in the 1860s, it made bullets and cannonballs for the Union Army during the Civil War, ... ." per the site.

  5. #5
    Boolit Master


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    Fireside casting may have been for odd calibers, and personal weapons. Not all troops had or were issued standard weapons.

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    Boolit Man
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    Perhaps this was more done in the South, since they were less likely to have industry?

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    Boolit Master

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    I was thinking of officers' non standard personal pistols.

  8. #8
    Boolit Master Lead Fred's Avatar
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    Not completely true.
    From 1873 the troops were issued lead, and they made their own 45/70 rounds.
    The Lee classic loader is the great grandson of the kits that were given to the troops.

    http://www.trapdoorcollector.com/reloadingkits.html

    Quote Originally Posted by mold maker View Post
    Fireside casting may have been for odd calibers, and personal weapons. Not all troops had or were issued standard weapons.
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    Wow, nice link. Thanks for sharing.

    Bliksem

  10. #10
    Boolit Master


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    I know that some .36 CW bullets I picked up with a metal detector had tie marks on them so they must have come in cartridge form. Picked up three or four in one place so I suspect these were "drops" and were probably issued. Found on the union side of the battle.

    I have cast bullets from .69 round balls recovered off a battlefield from confederate positions. Apparently hand cast. They made some hard bullets. Even back then, apparently casters used waht they had. Kinda neat shooting bullets made from "vintage" lead bullets./beagle

    Quote Originally Posted by Lance Boyle View Post
    I was thinking of officers' non standard personal pistols.
    diplomacy is being able to say, "nice doggie" until you find a big rock.....

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lead Fred View Post

    Not completely true.
    From 1873 the troops were issued lead, and they made their own 45/70 rounds.
    The Lee classic loader is the great grandson of the kits that were given to the troops.

    http://www.trapdoorcollector.com/reloadingkits.html

    I don't know about the Union Army but I had an uncle in the Confederate Army in Missouri. His job was driving a mule train hauling lead directly to the troops.

    .
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by williamwaco View Post
    I don't know about the Union Army but I had an uncle in the Confederate Army in Missouri. His job was driving a mule train hauling lead directly to the troops.

    .
    Did you mean Great uncle?

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    Somewhat off topic. A couple weeks ago on "Antiques Roadshow", they had a Civil War oddity, a piece of tree embedded by a bunch of bullets. The expert was saying that it showed how intense the firing was. I believe the bullets came from a round of grapeshot, rather than individual rifle shots.
    The solid soft lead bullet is undoubtably the best and most satisfactory expanding bullet that has ever been designed. It invariably mushrooms perfectly, and never breaks up. With the metal base that is essential for velocities of 2000 f.s. and upwards to protect the naked base, these metal-based soft lead bullets are splendid.
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  14. #14
    Boolit Master at Heavens Range

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    Unless you own the land containing the Civil War battle site, using a metal detector and digging is several felony violations. Just one felony will cost you your firearms rights.

  15. #15
    Boolit Master WILCO's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mold maker View Post
    Fireside casting may have been for odd calibers, and personal weapons. Not all troops had or were issued standard weapons.
    Good answer.
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  16. #16
    Boolit Master WILCO's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Junior1942 View Post
    Unless you own the land containing the Civil War battle site, using a metal detector and digging is several felony violations. Just one felony will cost you your firearms rights.
    http://www.civilwarnews.com/archive/...egal_relic.htm

    Illegal Relic Hunter Is Sentenced
    By Deborah Fitts
    - June 2002- MANASSAS, Va

    A man convicted of relic-hunting in Manassas National Battlefield Park has been sentenced to pay $2500 to advertise in local papers warning against the illegal activity.

    Kurt Moser, 25, of Tremont, Pa., was caught one night early last August as he and a companion were digging up artifacts along a trail that follows the park's unfinished railroad bed, a key feature of the battlefield.

    In December Moser pled guilty to one felony count for violation of the federal Archaeological Re-sources Protection Act, plus one misdemeanor count involving relic-hunting at Gettysburg National Military Park. Besides the $2500 for newspaper advertising, he was sentenced to two years' probation and compensatory damages of $1840.

    Manassas Park Ranger Scott Ryan said he nabbed Moser and Bruce Kemmery, 47, of Hamburg, Pa., around 1:30 a.m. as the two men, clad in camouflage outfits, were employing metal detectors and digging with Buck knives. Park officials counted 36 holes along a half-mile of the trail.

    Kemmery faces sentencing July 12. Ryan said that while Moser cooperated with law-enforcement officials and prosecutors, Kemmery did not, and agreed to plead guilty only after he was indicted by a grand jury. His two charges were identical to Moser's. Ryan said that because of Moser's cooperation he was treated "more leniently," and Kemmery will receive a stiffer sentence. As part of his plea he has already agreed to pay $2500 for advertising, plus restitution of $8259.

    The two men provided a photographic record of their crime, according to Ryan. A search warrant at Moser's house turned up photos that documented the pair's tourist activities at the Manassas park during the day, while at night the photos depict relics laid out on the motel room floor.

    The two men were caught on what Ryan said was actually their second relic-hunting visit, following another at the park the previous week. The park recovered about 30 minie and musket balls, a metal plate, a roll-top from a can, a brass ornament, an artillery fragment, a button fragment, and a mass of lead from bullets that had melted together.
    One of the most interesting items was a rare, .69-caliber minie ball made in Austria, a type of bullet that was imported by the South.
    According to Ryan, Kemmery was convicted in 1995 of possession of a metal detector on the Gettysburg battlefield, a misdemeanor, after a park ranger found him walking along a road carrying the detector and a sack with camouflage clothing.
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  17. #17
    Boolit Master


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    Quote Originally Posted by williamwaco View Post
    I don't know about the Union Army but I had an uncle in the Confederate Army in Missouri. His job was driving a mule train hauling lead directly to the troops.

    .
    Hauling lead or hauling ammunition? Wagon trains of hundreds of wagons followed or preceded each army (depending on which direction it was going!) during the war. One of General Grant's unusual and chancy decisions in the Vicksburg campaign was to cut his army loose from his wagon train and supplies and rely on the local area to feed his army. Wagons hauled food, camping gear, personal gear, ammunition for rifles, muskets, and cannon, and everything else the army needed. Centralized supply for European armies came into being in the late 1700's and was common in the American Civil War. Pre-made cartridges were introduced at about the same time and were common.

    Remember that at the beginning of the war both sides bought firearms from anyone who was willing to sell. Both sides had muskets and rifles from England, Austria, and France at least. Troops were armed by the US Government and by State Governments. Cartridges were made up in factories by the million and sent to the troops via wagon train, unless a railroad already existed close to the battle site. One of the major supply problems for both sides early in the war was supplying the correct ammunition to the unit that needed that ammunition. I don't have the dates at hand but it wasn't until almost the middle of the war that the Union was commonly armed universally. I'm not sure the Confederates ever got there. None the less, soldiers making their own ammunition went out with the Revolution except in very unusual situations.

    Realize that even though reloading kits were made only several hundred of each were made? Certainly not an issue item!
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  18. #18
    Boolit Master


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    Yes 'great' uncle. I am not quite that old.

    Ammunition vs lead?

    My great great grandfather was a supply Sgt. in the army of General Price.

    He had at least three sons in that war. One of them, according to the memory of my gg grandfather was killed when Union troops attacked and captured his wagon train as he was "carrying lead to the army".

    Many of the weapons were personal guns brought from home. Many were shotguns. I am aware of the paper cartridges used in these muzzle loaders and that they may have been provided by the armories but it is not unlikely that they were casting their own balls and canister and grapeshot.

    I lean toward lead instead of ammunition because I think a supply sergeant would know the difference.



    .
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  19. #19
    Boolit Master nvbirdman's Avatar
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    Spilled lead?
    How about if a fire went through the area and melted a round ball (or a minie ball) into a shapeless lump?

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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check