From: Robert Van Patten <orville@...
To: War of 1812 mail list <WarOf1812@onelist.com
Date: 03 July 1999 07:59
Subject: [WarOf1812] More on loading rifles
>From: "Robert Van Patten" <orville@...>
>Roger's latest post is quite interesting. Some of you may recall that I
>noted earlier that I was surprised to read about Sharpe biting the bullet
>out of the cartridge and some of you agreed with me that this description
>by Cornwell was probably incorrect. I am now reading Rifleman Dodd by
>Forester and he describes the same loading procedure. Comments?
>Forester also comments that Dodd demonstrates that he is whatcha call a
>serious rifleman because he carries a little mallet on his belt that he
>uses for pounding the ball down the bore by beating on the ramrod.
>Forester notes that this was possible for a tall rifleman. You bet!
Robert and List,
the Sharpe series is, as usual, generally incorrect in its details, but does
provide a good general descrtiption of the feel of the War in the Peninsula.
Bewar though, the books really aren't about the 95th- the 95th are a
convenient red- or should I say green :^)- herring thrown in the story to
lend it some class... they're fun to read, but are in no way to be taken as
research. In Military Illustrated about 9 or 10 years ago, he said he had
never loaded or fired a Baker rifle, although he had held one in his hands.
I don't know why Cornwell has Sharpe biting into a balled cartridge, loading
and firing it, but perhaps the author saw it in "Rifleman Dodd" by Forester
and perpetuated the mistake? "Rifleman Dodd" also has a few wrong details,
such as Dodd wearing a green uniform with black buttons, when indeed, they
Same mistake with the mallet. "Dodd" takes place around 1811(?) The mallet
was introduced in the Experimental Rifle Corps in 1800, (about a thousand
were made on order by Ezekiel Baker) but they soon fell out of favor, as it
was just one more thing that the rifleman had to remember to carry and use.
The hammerhead was used to tap the patched ball into the muzzle, then the
hammer handle was used to further push the patched ball in. The rammer alone
was used to seat the ball down onto the powder charge, but hammering the
rammer is a waste of time, as the shock could break it (The rammers are made
of at least two or three welded pieces). Indeed, when loading the Baker, it
is just as easy with practice to use the broad end of the rammer to
repeatedly tap and push the patched ball into the barrel, as the muzzle is
slightly tapered and the rifling is quite deep, so one need not worry too
much about damaging the bore with the rammer.