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rob.malcolm

Powder measure

Hi all - Had a question about carrying a small fixed-size powder measure. For shots using a ball and patch (not a cartridge) did riflemen carry a powder measure for the charge? If so, what type, and where would it have been carried? Thank you much - Rob
Paul Durrant

In 1816, Colonel A. Norcott wrote a memorandum on the equipment of the regiment. Norcott was a distinguished Rifleman, having served in the Low countries 1794-5, Manilla 1797, Buenos Ayres, 1807, Sweden 1809, Corunna campaign, Walcheren expedition, Peninsula and Waterloo.

Of The Small Copper Powder flask.

"Each non-commissioned officer and soldier was also supplied with this flask, generally holding thirty rounds of powder. A green cord fastened it to two rings, "which were fix'd to the mounting upon the neck of the flask," and was slung around the soldier's collar. The flask was sometimes carried in a pocket made on the left breast of the jacket, and at others hung by his side. The mouthpiece screwed on the orifice, and the measure of powder was thus supplied by pulling back the spring and tilting the flask. The soldier loaded from this flask and it was replenished from the magazine horn as required."
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It would appear that the 5/60th had problems with their powder horns. Here is a letter requesting to replace them with flasks, "...of same description as those in possession of the 95th Regiment."
With a description of said flask!!

                                                           "Guarda D'Abrantes
                                                             June 14th, 1809
Sir,
I beg leave to state to you, for the information of His Royal Highness the C-in-C, that the powder horns with which the 5th battalion 60th regiment is supplied, have, by experience, been found to be ill-adapted to the service, and by their construction have not only occasioned much loss of powder, and subjected the Colonel to great expenses in repairs, but have proved after all to be entirely useless, being too large and having no measure fitted to them.
They have been furnished by Messrs Beseley and Reise of Parliament Street, London, after patterns delivered to them, but experience having now shown their inutility, I beg leave to suggest the propriety of providing the battalion with powder-flasks of same description as those in possession of the 95th Regiment, large enough to contain forty rounds of fine-grain powder at five drachms each round, including the priming, with proper measures adapted to them for different distances..
To the Adjt-General of Forces
Horse Guards, London"


Quoted in Rigaud, op. cit.24, according to De Witt Bailey, British Military Flintlock rifles, p.149
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Various info on ammo:

http://2nd95thrifles.myfastforum.org/sutra5566.php#5566
rob.malcolm

Thank you Paul! I had thought that was just a priming flask with a free-flowing nozzle, not a set charge.
Paul Durrant

Hi Rob,

It seems that the early ideal of the Rifleman, in his conception, was one that would operate far in vanguard of the army: patrolling, reconnoitering, skirmishing and sniping. This would have meant possibly being off the resupply track for some time. So the idea was that the soldier would have to carry additional ammunition to support himself.

So the powder horn and the cartridge box was his 'Magazine' carrying ball and powder to resupply his ball bag on his belt (holding 30 ball) and his powder flask on his chest (approx 30 rounds worth inc primer). The patches would be carried in the butt of the rifle (or wrapped directly onto the ball, described by Norcott, "The loose Balls covered with greased rags were kept in the tin compartments, and the Ball Cartridges in the wooden holes.")
(RGJ Museum, Winchester)

We know of no 95th flasks in existence but we have what we believe are near cousins; those of the Percy Tenantry Volunteers (Duke of Northumberland). Whilst the PTV had rifle companies, they were not equiped with the 'Baker' rifle - plumping instead for privately purchased Prussian rifles according to De Witt Bailey.



As you can see (apart from the gucci viewer on the side!), the spout is of the variety possibly described by Norcott: you put your finger over the nozzle, tip it up, and push spring back to release a flow of powder from the main body that fillsl up the measured nozzle. As for the powder horn/magazine, the nozzle is described as spring loaded like that of a shot flask. Other flasks were described as (and some rifles later supplied with) a measuring scoop. Perhaps something like this?:


However, the Wallsend Rifle Volunteer Corps had horns (no flasks) with measuring spouts similar to the PTV flask spout;


and in 1819 we have E. Baker himself patterning the like; (Warminster Small Arms Collection)


So in 1816, as mentioned previously,  in the peace of post Waterloo, it seems that Gen. Norcott decided to review the 95th's equipment and look at what worked - or didn't/hadn't.

The report is of great interest as it suggests that the powder horn was ditched in the early stages of campaign (possibly after Corunna?) and even the small powder flask a bit later.

Description of the large Powder Horn or Magazine.

"Upon the establishment of the Corps, each soldier carried a large cowhorn slung from two rings by a green cord; which passing through leather loops on the pouch belt, confined it to the waist about an inch or more above the pouch.
The bottom of this horn was made of wood, covered, and mounted with brass; the mouthpiece was fitted with a spring such as is usually fixed to a shot belt. The horns varied a little in size, but generally contained from fifty to sixty rounds of powder.
The sergeants being equipped with smaller pouches than the men, were furnished with a horn corresponding in size, containing about twenty-five rounds of powder."


Of The Small Copper Powder flask.

"Each non-commissioned officer and soldier was also supplied with this flask, generally holding thirty rounds of powder. A green cord fastened it to two rings, "which were fix'd to the mounting upon the neck of the flask," and was slung around the soldier's collar. The flask was sometimes carried in a pocket made on the left breast of the jacket, and at others hung by his side. The mouthpiece screwed on the orifice, and the measure of powder was thus supplied by pulling back the spring and tilting the flask. The soldier loaded from this flask and it was replenished from the magazine horn as required."

The Large Horn or Magazine, And On The Small Copper Flask, With Suggestions For Their Improvement.

"The first campaign in the Peninsula and the service of the Corps upon the various expeditions it had been employed on, most clearly proved to the officers, and soldiers, that the repair of these articles could not be kept up; that men, who had them in an incomplete state, were perfectly useless to the Service, and that accidents were continually liable to happen from the quantity of loose powder about the person of the soldier with the mouthpiece of his horn lost or damaged..."

"Under every circumstance that then existed it was found advisable to discontinue their use, and supply the Corps with ball cartridge ammunition..."

"I would suggest that the large cowhorn, or powder magazine, be re-established as a part of the equipment of the Corps, and prepared in the following manner in place of the principle upon which it was before constructed upon."


The proposals for construction were that it should be stronger and a cork plug attached to the neck by string and the whole horn to be covered with black leather. Colonel Norcott goes on to say:-
"I adopted it with the companies of the Regiment I had occasionally under my command, in every instance wherein the original horn was rendered incomplete, by the loss of the mouthpiece, and spring, or by damage, and could not be repaired. I was never apprehensive of an accident, nor did a single one ever occur. The greater part of the horns of the Second Battalion were fitted up in the proposed manner, during the Campaign in Spain under Sir John Moore."

He then recommends that the mounting of the small copper flask should be stronger and deeper and that instead of being carried in the soldier's pocket it should be in a leather case fixed to the waistbelt on the left side, remarking that:-
"The two companies of the Regiment which I commanded at the Siege of Cadiz furnished these leather cases at their own expense, for the copper flask. They were always in service order, and the powder complete, and in perfect good order. They were highly approved of by all the Corps when these companies joined the army near Madrid in 1812."


A few years afterwards, there appears to have been another push by officers to re-instate the use of the rifle the way it was meant to be.

Extracts from a letter from Horse Guards, 26th June 1826

[The letter was a response to an officer in the Rifle Brigade who had written to the Commander-in-chief 'recommending the re-issue of loose Powder and Copper Flasks...for the purpose of arriving at more accuracy'.

The reply letter explained that His Royal Highness 'authorized investigation into the subject' and went on to explain the findings and the reasons that they would not be going back to that method;]

"...that however important it may be to arrive at the accuracy in Rifle Firing...He [HRH] is persuaded that such advantage could not be gained in the mode you suggest without being subject to the inconvenience which has already been experienced, and which has caused the discontinuance of the equipment that you now seek to re-establish.

In the first place it has appeared from the oldest practical soldiers in the Rifle Brigade that the Copper Flasks were discontinued on service in the Peninsula in consequence of the Accidents, and the Personal injuries thereby sustained, from their constant liability to blow up in Action.

2ndly it appears that after the Barrel of the Rifle has been soiled by Firing, it becomes almost impracticable to drive home the loose Ball and the greased Rag and the prospect of this difficulty together with the apprehension that the loose powder in the flask will blow up in action appears practically to have induced the soldiers to expend their loose ammunition first - and hence the advantage of having a reserve for Rifle practice is lost to the soldier.

It is quite evident, from the testimony afforded on this subject, that the above are the primary causes which have led to the discontinuance of loose ammunition in the Rifleman's equipment...Under all these circumstances His Royal Highness cannot concur in the expediency of your recommendation, that the Copper Flasks should be re-issued to the Rifle Brigade..."


Further extracts from this letter discussing ball size can be found under 'Ammunition' thread.

WO3/413 as taken from De Witt Bailey's British Military Flintlock Rifles 1740-1840. Mowbray 2002, p153-4
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Full transcript of Norcott's report:
http://2nd95thrifles.myfastforum.org/sutra1936.php#1936
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Recommended buy:
British Flintlock Rifles 1740 - 1840, De Witt Bailey
rob.malcolm

Thank you Paul, this is really interesting and exactly what I was hoping to read into. Very much appreciated.

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