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´╗┐Title: A Refutation of the Charges Made against the Confederate States of America of Having Authorized the Use of Explosive and Poisoned Musket and Rifle Balls during the Late Civil War of 1861-65
Author: Hayden, Horace Edwin, 1837-1917
Language: English
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*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Refutation of the Charges Made against the Confederate States of America of Having Authorized the Use of Explosive and Poisoned Musket and Rifle Balls during the Late Civil War of 1861-65" ***

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                        REFUTATION OF THE CHARGES

                              MADE AGAINST


                     OF HAVING AUTHORIZED THE USE OF

                  DURING THE LATE CIVIL WAR OF 1861-65.


                        REV. HORACE EDWIN HAYDEN,

 Member of the Southern Historical Society and the Historical Society of
    Pennsylvania; Corresponding Member of the New England Historical
      and Genealogical Society, the Historical Society of Virginia,
                              &c., &c., &c.

                             _Richmond, Va.:
                   Geo. W. Gary, Printer and Binder._


The following remarkable statement occurs as a note to the account of
the battle of Gettysburg, on page 78, volume III, of "The Pictorial
History of the Civil War in the United States of America, by Benson J.
Lossing, LL. D.":

    Many, mostly young men, were maimed in every conceivable way, by
    every kind of weapon and missile, the most fiendish of which was an
    explosive and a poisoned bullet, represented in the engraving a
    little more than half the size of the originals, procured from
    the battlefield there by the writer. _These were sent by the
    Confederates. Whether any were ever used by the Nationals, the
    writer is not informed._ One was made to explode in the body of the
    man, and the other to leave a deadly poison in him, whether the
    bullet lodged in or passed through him.

    Figure A represents the explosive bullet. The perpendicular stem,
    with a piece of thin copper hollowed, and a head over it of bullet
    metal, fitted a cavity in the bullet proper below it, as seen in the
    engraving. In the bottom of the cavity was fulminating powder. When
    the bullet struck, the momentum would cause the copper in the outer
    disc to flatten, and allow the point of the stem to strike and
    explode the fulminating powder, when the bullet would be rent into
    fragments which would lacerate the victim.

    In figure B the bullet proper was hollowed, into which was inserted
    another, also hollow, containing poison. The latter being loose,
    would slip out and remain in the victim's body or limbs with its
    freight of poison if the bullet proper should pass through. Among
    the Confederate wounded at the College were boys of tender age and
    men who had been forced into the ranks against their will.

The italics I am responsible for. It is difficult for those who live at
the South to realize how extensively such insinuating slanders as the
above against the Confederates are credited at the North, even by
reading people.

I purpose in this paper to examine the statement of the author of this
Pictorial History, and to show, by indisputable proof, its recklessness
and its falsity. In the above quotation, he states that he had picked
up, on the battlefield of Gettysburg, an _explosive_ and a _poisoned_
ball. "_These_," he adds, "_were sent by the Confederates. Whether any
were ever used by the Nationals, the writer is not informed._" I do not
desire to be severe beyond justice; but it does seem that as no one
ventured to inform him to the contrary, this author accepted the silence
of the world and deliberately put into print this slander against the
Confederates without having made any apparent effort to learn, as he
could have done with ease, whether his statement had any basis of truth.

It is with entire confidence in the facts presented in this paper that I
_deny_ this author's statement, above, to be a statement of fact. I do
more than this--

I. _I most emphatically deny that the Confederate States ever authorized
the use of explosive or poisoned musket or rifle balls._

II. I most emphatically assert that the United States _did purchase,
authorize, issue and use explosive musket or rifle balls_ during the
late civil war, and that they were thus officially authorized and used
at the battle of Gettysburg.

It happened in 1864, the day after the negro troops made their desperate
and drunken charge on the Confederate lines to the left of Chaffin's
farm and were so signally repulsed, that the writer, who was located in
the trenches a mile still further to the left, picked up, in the field
outside the trenches assailed by the negroes, some of the cartridges
these poor black victims had dropped, containing the very "_explosive_"
ball described in the above quotation and charged to the Confederates. I
have preserved one of these balls ever since. It lies before me as I
write. It is similar to figure A, and with a _zinc_ and not a _copper_
disc. _It never contained any fulminating powder._ The construction of
the ball led me to make investigations to ascertain its purpose. At
first, I thought it might be made to leave in the body of the person
struck by it three pieces of metal, instead of one, to irritate, and
possibly destroy life. But this theory appeared to me so "fiendish" that
I was unwilling to accept it, and I became convinced, after more careful
examination, that the purpose of the ball was to increase the momentum,
by forcing in the cap and expanding the disc so as to fill up the
grooves of the rifle. The correctness of this view will be proven in
this paper.

In the first place, although the charge made by the author of the
Pictorial History of the Civil War against the Confederates of having
used explosive and poisoned balls, has been made before, and often
repeated since, it has never been supported by one grain of proof. How
did this author ascertain that the balls he picked up on the battlefield
of Gettysburg were sent by the Confederates? How did he learn that one
was an _explosive_ and the other a _poisoned_ projectile? Did he test
the explosive power of the one and the poisonous character of the other?
He gives no evidence of having done so, and advances no proof of his

It is a very remarkable fact that no case was ever reported in Northern
hospitals, or by Northern surgeons, of Union soldiers having been
wounded by such barbarous missiles as these from the Confederate side.

I have very carefully examined those valuable quarto volumes issued by
the United States Medical Department and entitled "The Medical and
Surgical History of the Rebellion," and as yet have failed to find any
case of wound or death reported as having occurred by an explosive or
poisoned musket ball, excepting that on page 91 of volume II of said
work there is a table of four thousand and two (4,002) cases of gunshot
wounds of the scalp, _two_ (2) of which occurred by _explosive musket
balls_. To which army these two belonged does not appear.

A letter addressed to the Surgeon-General of the United States by the
writer on this subject, has elicited the reply that the Medical
Department is without any information as to wounds by such missiles. I
do not find such projectiles noticed as preserved in the museum of the
Surgeon-General's Department, where rifle projectiles taken from wounds
are usually deposited.

In the _second_ place, the manufacture, purchase, issue or use of such
projectiles for firearms by the Confederate States, is positively denied
by the Confederate authorities, as the following correspondence will

                                       BEAUVOIR, MISS., 28th June, 1879.

    My Dear Sir-- ... In reply to your inquiries as to the use of
    explosive or poisoned balls by the troops of the Confederate States,
    I state as positively as one may in such a case that the charge has
    no foundation in truth. Our Government certainly did not manufacture
    or import such balls, and if any were captured from the enemy, they
    could probably only have been used in the captured arms for which
    they were suited. I heard occasionally that the enemy did use
    explosive balls, and others prepared so as to leave a copper ring in
    the wound, but it was always spoken of as an atrocity beneath
    knighthood and abhorrent to civilization. The slander is only one of
    many instances in which our enemy have committed or attempted crimes
    of which our people and their Government were incapable, and then
    magnified the guilt by accusing us of the offences they had

               Believe me, ever faithfully yours,
                                                        JEFFERSON DAVIS.

General Josiah Gorgas, the Chief of Ordnance of the Confederate
States--now of the University of Alabama--writes, under date of July
11th, 1879, that to his "knowledge the Confederate States never
authorized or used explosive or poisoned rifle balls during the late
war." In this statement also General I. M. St. John and General John
Ellicott, both of the Ordnance Bureau, Confederate States army, entirely

The Adjutant-General of the United States also writes me, under date of
August 22d, 1879, as to the Confederate archives now in the possession
of the National Government, as follows: "In reply to yours of the 18th
August, I have the honor to inform you that the Confederate States
records in the possession of this Department furnish no evidence that
poisoned or explosive musket balls were used by the army of the
Confederate States."

Rev. J. William Jones, D. D., Secretary of the Southern Historical
Society, has written me to the same effect as to the archives in the
possession of the Society.

In the _third_ place, a brief examination of the United States Patent
Office Reports for 1862-3, and the Ordnance Reports for 1863-4, will
show that the "_explosive and the poisoned balls_" which the author of
the "Pictorial History of the Civil War" so gratuitously charges upon
the Confederates, were patented by the United States Patent Office at
Washington, and were purchased, issued and used by the United States
Government, and, what is still more remarkable, that _neither of the
aforesaid projectiles were in any sense explosive or poisoned_.

In the Patent Office Report for 1862-3 will be found the following, with
the corresponding illustration in the second volume:

    No. 37,145--Elijah D. Williams, of Philadelphia,
    Pennsylvania--_Improvement in Elongated Bullets_--Patent dated
    December 9, 1862.

    This invention consists in the combination with an elongated
    expanding bullet of a leaded pin and a concave expanding disc, the
    disc having its concave side against the base of the bullet, and the
    pin entering the cavity thereof and operating to produce the
    flattening of the disc, by which it is caused _to expand against the
    walls of and enter the groves of the gun_.

    Claim--First, the combination with elongated expanding bullets of a
    pin, C, and expanding disc, B, applied substantially as herein
    specified. Second, fitting the pin to the cavity of the bullet in
    the manner substantially as herein specified, whereby the expansion
    of the bullet is caused to commence in the front part of its
    expanding portion and to be gradually continued toward the rear as
    herein set forth.

So much for the _explosive_ ball "_sent by the Confederates_."

In the same volume of the Patent Office Reports will be found also the

    No. 36,197--Ira W. Shaler, of Brooklyn, New York, and Reuben Shaler,
    of Madison, Connecticut, assigned to Ira W. Shaler
    aforesaid--_Improvement in Compound Bullet for Small Arms_--Patent
    dated August 12, 1862.

    This projectile is composed of two or more parts which fit the bore
    of the barrel and so constructed that the forward end of each of the
    parts in the rear of the front one enters a cavity in the rear of
    the one before it, and is formed in relation to the same in such a
    manner as to separate from it after leaving the barrel of the gun
    and make a slight deviation in its line of flight from that of its

    Claim--The projectile hereinbefore described, made up of two or more
    parts, each of equal diameter, constructed as set forth so as to
    separate from each other.

No illustration of this projectile appears in the illustrated volume of
patents; but an official drawing of it from the Patent Office lies
before me. The ball is slightly different from figure B (_supra_), in
that it is here perfect, and figure B gives but two parts of the

So much for the _poisoned_ ball "_sent by the Confederates_."

Any person ought to know perfectly well that it was not necessary to
invent or construct a rifle ball especially adapted to carry poison,
when the common minnie ball itself, dipped into liquid poison and
coated, as ball cartridges are usually finished, with wax or tallow,
would have effected the same purpose.

To what extent the bullets of Williams and Shaler were used during the
late war by the United States troops, the following official
communication from the War Department at Washington, under date of
September 16, 1879, will show:

    Sir--In reply to your letter of the 9th instant to the Secretary of
    War, I have to inform you that during the late war a great many of
    the bullets patented by Elijah D. Williams and about 200,000 of
    those patented by Ira W. Shaler were used by the United States.

               Respectfully, your obedient servant,
                               S. C. LYFORD, _Acting Chief of Ordnance_.

In the _fourth_ place, in repelling and refuting the charge against the
Confederates of having used explosive musket or rifle projectiles, I
charge the United States Government with not only patenting, but
purchasing and using, especially at the battle of Gettysburg, an
_explosive musket shell_; nor do I trust to my imagination, but I
present the facts, which are as follows:

In April, 1862, the Commissioner of Public Buildings at Washington
brought to the attention of the Assistant Secretary of War--then Mr.
John Tucker--the explosive musket shell invented by Samuel Gardiner, jr.
The Assistant Secretary at once referred the matter to General James W.
Ripley, who was then the Chief of the Ordnance Bureau at Washington.
What action was taken will appear when it is stated that in May, 1862,
the Chief of Ordnance at the West Point Military Academy made a report
to the Government of a trial of the Gardiner musket shell. In May, 1862,
Mr. Gardiner offered to sell some of his explosive musket shells to the
Government at a stipulated price. His application was referred to
General Ripley with the following endorsement:

    Will General Ripley consider whether this explosive shell will be a
    valuable missile in battle?

                                                             A. LINCOLN.

General Ripley replied that "it had no value as a service projectile."

In June, 1862, Brigadier-General Rufus King, at Fredericksburg, made a
requisition for some of the Gardiner musket shells. On referring this
application to the Chief of Ordnance, General Ripley, that old army
officer, whose sense of right must have been shocked at this instance of
barbarism, a second time recorded his disapproval, replying that "it was
not advisable to furnish any such missiles to the troops at present in

In September, 1862, the Chief of Ordnance of the Eleventh corps, United
States army, recommended the shell to the Assistant Secretary of War,
who ordered 10,000 rounds to be purchased--made into cartridges. Of this
number, 200 were issued to Mr. Gardiner for trial by the Eleventh corps.
In October, 1862, the Chief of Ordnance of the Eleventh corps, then in
reserve near Fairfax Courthouse, sent in a requisition, endorsed by the
General commanding the corps, for 20,000 Gardiner musket shells and
cartridges. The Assistant Secretary of War referred the matter to the
Chief of Ordnance, General Ripley, who for the _third_ time recorded his
disapproval of such issue. Nevertheless, the Assistant Secretary of War
ordered the issue to be made to the Eleventh corps of the remaining
9,800 shells and cartridges, which order was obeyed.

In November, 1862, Mr. Gardiner offered to sell to the United States his
explosive musket shell and cartridge at $35 per thousand, calibre 58.
The Assistant Secretary of War at once ordered 100,000, of which 75,000
were calibre 58 for infantry, and 25,000 calibre 54 for cavalry service.

In June, 1863, the Second New Hampshire volunteers made a requisition
for 35,000 of these shells, and by order of the Assistant Secretary of
War, they received 24,000. Of this number, 10,060 were abandoned in
Virginia and 13,940 distributed to the regiment. The report of this
regiment, made subsequently, shows that in the third quarter of
1863--that is, from July 1st to October 1st--about 4,000 of these shells
were used in trials and target firing, and about 10,000 were used in
action. The Second New Hampshire regiment was in the battle of
Gettysburg, and 49 of its members lie buried in the cemetery there.

The above statement shows that the Assistant Secretary of War, against
what might be regarded as the protest of the Chief of Ordnance,
purchased 110,000 of the Gardiner explosive musket shells, and issued to
the troops in actual service 35,000, leaving 75,000 on hand at the close
of the war.

In 1866 the Russian Government issued a circular calling a convention of
the Nations for the purpose of declaring against the use of explosive
projectiles in war. To this circular the then Chief of Ordnance of the
United States, General A. B. Dyer, made the following reply, which I
have but little doubt expresses the sentiment which actuated General
Ripley in his disapproval of the purchase and issue of the Gardiner
musket shell:

                                        ORDNANCE OFFICE, WAR DEPARTMENT,
                                          WASHINGTON, August 19, 1868.

    HON. J. M. SCHOFIELD, _Secretary of War_:

    Sir--I have read the communication from the Russian Minister in
    relation to the abolishment of the use of explosive projectiles in
    military warfare, with the attention and care it well deserves.

    I concur heartily in the sentiments therein expressed, and I trust
    that our Government will respond unhesitatingly to the proposition
    in behalf of humanity and civilization. The use in warfare of
    explosive balls, so sensitive as to ignite and burst on striking a
    substance as soft and yielding as animal flesh (of men or horses), I
    consider barbarous and no more to be tolerated by civilized nations
    than the universally reprobated practice of using poisoned missiles,
    or of poisoning food or drink to be left in the way of an enemy.
    Such a practice is inexcusable among any people above the grade of
    ignorant savages. Neither do I regard the use in war of such
    explosive balls as of any public advantage, but rather the reverse;
    for it will have the effect of killing outright, rather than
    wounding, and it is known that the care of wounded men much more
    embarrasses the future operations of the enemy than the loss of the
    same number killed, who require no further attention which may delay
    or impede them.

    There is a class of explosive projectiles now used, the
    discontinuance of which is not demanded by humanity, and the use of
    which may be considered legitimate. These are the projectiles which
    can only be exploded by contact with hard, resisting substances, and
    which are generally used for destroying ships, caissons, or light
    fortifications, and not directly against men or animals in the
    opposing ranks. These latter ought not and probably cannot be
    included in an agreement or treaty to prohibit their use in warfare;
    but I strongly advocate an agreement or treaty binding all civilized
    nations to discontinue and forever abandon the use in war of that
    class of missiles or projectiles which may be used in small arms and
    be so sensitive as to explode on contact with animal flesh.

    The papers in the case, received through the State and War
    Departments, are herewith returned.

    In this connection, I also notice a letter from the Hon. C. M. Clay,
    our Minister to Russia, which has been referred to this office and
    herewith returned, and on which I have to report. If the civilized
    nations persist in refusing to discontinue and abandon the use of
    sensitive explosive balls, then it would be well for this Government
    to enter into the agreement suggested by Mr. Clay, whereby we may be
    enabled to secure their use in case of necessity, by an agreement
    with him, or his named authorized agent, for the payment of a
    stipulated royalty on each that may be procured from him, or may be
    used in the Government service.

               Respectfully, your obedient servant,
                                                    A. B. DYER,
                              _Brevet Major-General, Chief of Ordnance_.

I have recorded enough to show the recklessness and falsity of the
charge against the Confederates of using such missiles in small arms
during the late war, and the public is hereby specifically "_informed
whether the Nationals ever used them_."

In the Patent Office Report for 1863-4 will be found the following
account of the Gardiner musket shell:

    No. 40,468--Samuel Gardiner, jr., of New York, N. Y.--_Improvement
    in Hollow Projectiles_--Patent dated November 3, 1863.

    The shell to form the central chamber is attached to a mandrel, and
    the metal forced into a mould around it.

    Claim--Constructing shells for firearms by forcing the metal into a
    mould around an internal shell supported on a mandrel.

I have a box of these shells in my possession. They are open for
examination by any persons who may desire to see them.

This summer the distinguished officer who commanded the 143d regiment of
Pennsylvania volunteers, United States army, at the battle of
Gettysburg, informed me that during the last day of the battle, he and
his men frequently heard, above their heads, amid the whistling of the
minnie balls from the Confederate side, sharp, explosive sounds like the
snapping of musket caps. He mentioned the matter to an ordnance officer
at the time. The officer replied that what he heard was explosive rifle
balls, which the Confederates had captured from the Union troops, who
had lately received them from the Ordnance Department.

From the fact that the Gardiner shell is not fitted with a percussion
cap at the point of the projectile, and is not easily exploded by hand,
and from the additional fact that only about ten thousand are reported
as having been used in action, I am willing to believe that the primary
purpose of the Government of the United States in using them was the
exploding of caissons. There is, moreover, no evidence that any of these
shells were issued from the Ordnance Bureau after the year 1863. The
Gardiner shells are so constructed as to have no different appearance in
the cartridge from the common minnie ball--only the title on the box,
and an examination of the ball when separate from the cartridge, giving
any indication of its explosive character.

I know not _certainly_ if any other such projectiles were used by the
United States troops, nor have I any especial desire to prosecute the
investigation further than to prove the position taken in this paper.

It would be disingenuous in me if I failed to notice the fact that a
charge somewhat similar to that which begins this article was made by a
correspondent in the _Scientific American_ for September 6th, 1862,
volume VII, page 151, as follows:

    Recently it was my privilege to examine, in the hands of a man just
    from Fortress Monroe, an explosive bullet, such as was used by the
    Rebels in the six days' battle. It is conical in shape, about one
    inch long, made of lead, and consists of two parts--viz: a solid
    head piece and a cylindrical chamber, which are united together by a
    screw. From the point of the bullet projects a little rod, which
    passes down through a small hole in the head piece into the chamber
    below, where it was connected with a percussion cap. The chamber
    contains about a tablespoonful of powder. You can readily perceive
    that if the bullet should encounter a bone or other hard substance
    when entering a man's body, it will explode and thereby produce a
    fatal wound.

                                                                F. J. C.
    PHILADELPHIA, August 23, 1862.

In the Patent Office Report (United States) for 1863-4 will be found a
shell exactly corresponding to this one:

    No. 39,593--Joseph Nottingham Smith, New York, N. Y.--_Improvement
    in Elongated Projectile for Firearms_--Patent dated August 18, 1863.

    It consists of an elongated cylinder having a charge chamber in its
    rear portion, which contains powder for propulsion. The point is a
    pointed axical bolt, whose rear is furnished with a percussion cap,
    to be exploded by the forward motion of a striker on the concussion
    of the projectile.

Not having seen this ball, I cannot _certainly_ identify it with the
ball mentioned by F. J. C., but it is evidently the same.

The inference is very natural that if these several projectiles,
patented by the United States Patent Office, as the invention of
Northern men, during the war, and used by the United States armies, were
ever used by the Confederates, it was only as captured ammunition. It
was hardly possible, at any reasonable cost, to run them through the
blockade to the South.

In conclusion, it may be well to draw attention to Mr. Lossing's
intimation in the note quoted at the beginning of this paper, that the
men of the South were forced into the Confederate ranks against their
will, while those of the North were volunteers. Does Mr. Lossing
purposely forget the United States drafts made to fill up the depleted
regiments in the field, and especially the draft of May, 1863, two
months before the battle of Gettysburg, and the riots that occurred in
New York city as the result of that draft? Does he purposely forget that
the United States established recruiting offices in Europe to procure
men for her armies?

It may be questioned whether as a historian Mr. Lossing is deserving
even the notice of a novice in history; for, while he is known to be a
voluminous writer of American history, he is also known to be a writer
of many and great inaccuracies. A writer who has allowed himself to be
so easily imposed upon as in his ready acceptance as true history of the
Morgan Jones Welsh Indian fraud (American Historical Record, I, 250);
who makes such glaring historical mistakes as his statement that General
Braddock was defeated and killed at the "battle of the Great Meadows"
(History of the Revolutionary War), and that Captain John Smith, the
Virginia explorer, had explored the Susquehanna river as far north as
the Wyoming Valley (Harper's Magazine, November, 1860), and who draws so
largely on his imagination, and is so much controlled by his prejudices
in his "History of the Civil War," cannot be considered an entirely
trustworthy historian. But because Mr. Lossing's histories have flooded
the North, and are largely accepted as authentic narrations of events,
it is due to the Confederates and the cause for which they so long and
nobly battled, against such fearful odds, that the truth be made known
and Mr. Lossing's misstatements exposed.

It is earnestly to be hoped that the facts presented in this paper will
forever set at rest the malicious slander so often repeated against the
Confederates, by many who are so willing to believe anything against
them, of having authorized the use in military warfare of such atrocious
and barbarous missiles as "_explosive and poisoned_" musket or rifle

                                                                H. E. H.

BROWNSVILLE, PA., September 1, 1879.

Transcriber's Note:

    Minor typographical errors have been corrected without note, however
    'axical' (p. 12), being within a quotation, remains as printed.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Refutation of the Charges Made against the Confederate States of America of Having Authorized the Use of Explosive and Poisoned Musket and Rifle Balls during the Late Civil War of 1861-65" ***

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