Author Topic: Lewis and Clark loads  (Read 6348 times)

Offline hatman

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 76
Lewis and Clark loads
« on: January 30, 2017, 07:03:53 AM »
Since a young boy I've been fascinated by the journey of Lewis and Clark.
I'm fortunate enough to live near L&C country and have visited some of their sites/trails many times
This past year I was fortunate to pick up an 1803 Harper's Ferry rifle (from ALR classifieds) which amplified my fascination with their expedition.
And after recently re-reading Steven Ambrose's book, it got me to wondering what powder load the men would have used in their 54 caliber rifles.
Would it be similar to 2f or 3f?
How about the grains?
Would they have upped the load when they knew they were in grizzled bear territory?

Just whimsical questions on a Sunday night.  :)


Offline Daryl

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 15068
Re: Lewis and Clark loads
« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2017, 08:01:12 AM »
The issue ctg. contained, I think, 60gr. of musket powder and a patched round ball.  They were found to be quite ineffective on the prairie grizzlies, not substantially better than Clark's own squirrel rifle when only one shot was fired.  They did find, that multiple shooters could kill the bears fairly easily, but it took a number of shots to do it. Lack of penetration was the problem.
At one time, I had a 2-volume edition that was compressed "with the most interesting and less boring parts".  there was still a lot of boring reading, but much was good.  I should have recorded who borrowed them as they were never returned to me.
After losing a lot of their powder, they did make up new ctgs. but iirc, they used issue-type loads.
« Last Edit: January 30, 2017, 08:02:17 AM by Daryl »
Daryl

"a gun without hammers is like a spaniel without ears" King George V

Offline Stan

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 594
    • stanhollenbaughgunsmith.com
Re: Lewis and Clark loads
« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2017, 02:38:22 PM »
Years ago I owned a copy of "The Hand Book for Riflemen" 2nd edition 1813 written by the adjacent General  of
the U S Army. As I remember he considered 60 grains "not too much" powder, to be loaded with a felt wad over the powder & a greased shammy patch.  Shammy is great patching material which the Germans also used in Yeager rifles. Hope this helps.

Offline Longknife

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2049
Re: Lewis and Clark loads
« Reply #3 on: January 30, 2017, 05:44:09 PM »


At Fort Clatsop on February 1, 1806, Lewis wrote:


Today we opened and examined all our ammunition, which had been secured in leaden cannesters. We found twenty seven of the best rifle powder, 4 of common rifle, three of glaized and one of the musqut powder in good order, perfectly as dry as when first put in the canesters,

So by this account Lewis had FOUR grades of powder?.....







Excerpts from 1812 Handbook for Riflemen by William Duane


Chapter VIII

1.   Properties of the Rifle

     The superiority of the rifle consists in carrying the ball with more directness to the object aimed at, than the smooth barrel; this is attributable to the action of the atmosphere upon the ball after it is exploded from the muzzle of the piece, which operates differently on the line of direction and the manner of the motion of the ball.   The smooth barrel throws the ball in such a manner that its motion resembles that of the wheel of a carriage, which constantly turns on an axis of its own, and still proceeds along a prolonged line; while the ball of the rifled barrel, being indented or channeled by the grooves of the barrel, being indented or channeled by the grooves of the barrel, proceeds not like the wheel of the carriage rolling forward; but in a spiral direction, or in a path resembling the motion of a cork-screw forced horizontally forward.  The course of the smooth ball is also considerably deflected above the horizontal line of the barrel when aim is taken, so considerably that it becomes necessary to aim lower than the level line when the objects are near, and to aim higher than the level line when beyond a given distance; but though there is some elevation of the rifle ball in its course, it is yet relatively so small, that it is not required to aim lower than the object at any distance, though when at a considerable distance, say 500 to 700 yards, it is necessary to take a higher aim, in order to countervail the power of gravity upon the weight of the ball.  The operation of the air upon a rifle ball, will be clearly understood, by viewing the spiral motion of an arrow, which has three feathered wings; the air passing between the feathers causes the arrow to spiral along or move like a screw; the same effect is produced by the impression made in the sides of a bullet by the grooves of the rifle.

2.    Of Loading
     Some hold that a quantity of powder equal to three times the full of the mould in which the ball is cast, is the proper charge; others four times the full of the mould; on this plan a ball of twenty to the pound would be fired with nearly a fourth of the weight of the ball.  But some say that one third of the weight of the ball is not too much; experience shows that to shoot at 250 to 300 yards, one fourth or a fifth is enough.
     The back woods men of the western frontier, place the ball in the palm of their left hand, and cupping the hand as much as possible, cover the ball with powder, and make that their charge.
      The ball should be just of the size as to rest on the grooves, and require not much trouble to force it down, but yet not to pass without being forced.
      The grooves should not be cut too deep.

3.    Cleaning the Rifle

     The greatest care should be taken in preserving the interior of the barrel clean, and the lock—careful shooters wipe out with flannel or a clean cotton rag, at every 8 or 10 shots, others 20: no iron instruments should be used in cleaning; the spiral brush of hog’s bristles should be used to scour with hot water; the woolen brush composed of layers of wool, alternately placed across the openings of a piece of hickory, split four times to a length of about six inches; the ends of the wool make an excellent brush.  After washing clean and drying, the inside should be lightly touched with good oil.

4.    The Lock

     The lock of the rifle should be of the best kind.  It is a great extravagance and waste to provide rifles without  locks of the best workmanship, for they should not only be made so well as to go off easy, but to last and endure severe service.  The best marksman cannot preserve a just level, if he is obliged to tug with his finger at a trigger restrained by a spring unnecessarily stiff; nor can there be safety in movement if the workmanship be so bad as to leave no certainty whether it will fire or not.  The rifle lock should have a check bolt upon the cock to prevent accidents, and this bolt should be set when after firing they come to half cock, the pan shut while loading.
     The furniture and barrel of the rifle should neither of them be bright, a glaze of camphor should be gently brushed over them after a proper cleaning, and this glaze would resist weather and prevent rust or glare.

5.    Gun-powder

     The chief difficulty with powder is to prevent its becoming damp from the atmosphere; it should therefore be kept in a vessel perfectly close—and the charge should be increased in damp weather—the powder should be of even grains; and if not mix it well.  Glazed powder is not so liable to be affected by damp.  Chargers should be very small at the nose, or where the finger presses.

6.    The Patch

     Is a small piece of greased shammey, or buck skin, or kid skin put round the ball before forcing it into the barrel. . . care should be taken it be not to thick and defeat its purpose . . . it is used to take off from the windage, to retain the air, and the grease is used to facilitate the passage of the ball by diminishing friction.
     A method has been usefully resorted to of providing a punch made of steel, which by means of a hollow barrel equal to the caliber, cut either hat, or leather pieces to serve as wads, which are forced down immediately on the powder, after the powder is leveled well by a stroke of the but against the ground.  This punch is made in the manner of those punches used by saddlers to cut large holes in stirrup leathers, &c.; hats, leather of all kinds, even linen, cotton or woolen cloth, or paper, might be cut with this punch with great advantage for wads; the ball should be laid over this kind of wad, and followed by another well forced in, when it is intended to march loaded.

7.    To Preserve the Rifle from Rust

     It must be obvious that the rifle barrel should not be bright; that the equipments of the riflemen should be free from every thing that is glittering or of a striking color, must be perceived upon every consideration of their duties.  Great care , however, must be taken, in the frequent inspection of the rifle, to guard against any neglect of keeping it in order, when it has been browned, greened, or blacked.   
     The barrel may be secured against external rust, by the following means: . . . If it be intended to give the barrel a clean black color, take half an ounce of camphor, a gill of oil of turpentine, a gill of Florence oil, and a clean earthen cup, simmer them over a fire without flame, until the whole shall incorporated, and in an uniform liquid state, putting the camphor in last; add to this liquid an ounce of clean white bees wax, and melt the whole, adding a little sweet oil or turpentine to preserve its consistency to the state of honey; add an ounce of powdered black lead to this composition, and the barrel of the rifle being perfectly clean, the composition may be put on like paint, very thin, laid by to dry, and polished to a smooth surface.
     To give the barrel a red or brown color, add red lead or ochre, instead of the black lead.
     To make the barrel green, add verdigrease, which must be first ground in oil; to make the barrel blue, pulverized Prussian blue.
     The barrel may be preserved bright and safe from rust by this varnish, without adding any color to it; but it must be laid on very thin, and with great care; and the lock plate and parts open to the air, may be protected from rust by this camphor varnish.
     Every rifle should have a stopper for the muzzle, and a leather cover with two returning straps, to go round the lock and stock two or three times, and cover the whole lock and so formed as to buckle complete to it.

8.    Dress and Equipments

     Uniformity is essential, so is simplicity, there should be nothing glaring or bright about the rifleman or his equipments. 
     Warmth, durability and sufficiency, so that the body may be neither exposed to unnecessary inclemency of weather nor-constrained in the free exercise of limbs and muscles, but at ease in all its motions.
     His arms, shoulder, elbows, ribs, his knees, the calves of his legs and feet, should be entirely free from pressure or restraint; for this reason breeches should not be permitted to riflemen, nor to any other soldier, neither should they wear low quartered shoes or buckles on the instep; they should wear either the hunting or Jefferson shoe, with a flat half inch strap to wind once round the small of the leg above the ancle, and with a very neat buckle on the outside of the leg; or with a lace to be laced, the pantaloons reaching to the ancle, faced with leather for six inches, and open four inches on the outside but so as to tie close if required.
     The coat should be short and well fitted, the skirt reaching to the line of the fork; the color dark green, pantaloons the same; buttons yellow; waistcoat of the same color, at least not white on service; collar black.  The head covering a black cap of leather with a vizor in front, and an oil cloth of 24 inches square, folded within the crown, to be let down on an emergency of rainy weather to cover the neck behind; a green or black plume—the cord of the cap and the regimental letters plain and not shewy.
     The knapsack square, with a square case for the blanket forming the cover, and the cap of the knapsack to contain necessaries. 
     His arms should be the rifle, with a short sword of 30 inches, worn close to the left side, perpendicular to the body, and susceptible of being used as a bayonet, he might have a small axe and a knife to his powder belt.
     A cartridge box of flexible leather containing two rows of tin unsoldered  cases, to contain 30 to 36 round ball cartridge; a double pouch slung over his right shoulder and under his left arm, one partition containing 60 loose well smoothed balls, and in the other partition his turn screw, knife, scouring brush, oil rag, patches.  Over his left shoulder and under his right arm hang his powder horn with the best powder.
     Three white shirts, two flannel shirts with sleeves reaching four inched below the elbows, and opening like a coat at the front, closed by two pair of tape strings at the breast and about the waist; two pair flannel drawers reaching to the calf of the leg; two pair of socks for winter only—none to be worn from June to October.  The feet to be washed in cold water every morning as a rule of discipline; would preserve health, assure vigor, and render stockings and socks totally unnecessary.
     The hair cut close to the head once a month.
     The pantaloons for winter, woolen cloth; for summer grey unbleached linen or duck; and for an undress an unbleached hunting shirt with green fringe; the pantaloons by boiling with vegetable substances may be made a dark green; or with bark a dark brown; but the discipline should rigidly guard against dirt with such colors.

The entire book can be downloaded here:

http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&output=acs_help&id=3hpAAAAAYAAJ
« Last Edit: January 30, 2017, 06:08:53 PM by Longknife »
Ed Hamberg

Offline Longknife

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2049
Re: Lewis and Clark loads
« Reply #4 on: January 30, 2017, 07:23:52 PM »
Hatman, I too live close to Lewis and Clark country but I am at the other end, about 10 miles from Fort River DuBois. I was fortunate enough join the Corps of Discovery in 2003 but I never made it out of Missouri. I still volunteer at the Fort often. If you ever get this way, look me up...Ed
Ed Hamberg

Offline Mad Monk

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1033
Re: Lewis and Clark loads
« Reply #5 on: January 30, 2017, 08:51:47 PM »
At the time of the Lewis & Clark venture the powder used was a good deal different than what we are using now.  Most U.S. powder makers were in the process of installing wheel mills to grind and incorporate the ingredients.  The powder press had not yet been introduced into the black powder manufacturing process.    There was no standardization of grain sizes so actual grain size ranges was up to the powder manufacturer.  Some powders were glazed (polished) and some were not.  Some powders were of uniform grain size and other were not.
 

Offline oldtravler61

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4309
  • We all make mistakes.
Re: Lewis and Clark loads
« Reply #6 on: January 30, 2017, 09:19:23 PM »
  Longknife thanks for the article. Interesting reading. Mike

Offline smylee grouch

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7672
Re: Lewis and Clark loads
« Reply #7 on: January 30, 2017, 09:28:16 PM »
I have been told by more than one person who has seen original rifles accompanied by the hunting bags and powder measures that alot of them had used measures of 1/4 ball weight. If that were so I would think 1/4 of a 54 cal ball would be around + or - 55 gr. A somewhat anemic load for Grizzly IMHO.

Offline Stan

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 594
    • stanhollenbaughgunsmith.com
Re: Lewis and Clark loads
« Reply #8 on: January 31, 2017, 04:45:52 AM »
Longknife its been a long time ( 40years) since I had the pleasure of reading those words. I sold my copy to Reaves Goehring.

Offline hatman

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 76
Re: Lewis and Clark loads
« Reply #9 on: January 31, 2017, 07:58:43 PM »
Hatman, I too live close to Lewis and Clark country but I am at the other end, about 10 miles from Fort River DuBois. I was fortunate enough join the Corps of Discovery in 2003 but I never made it out of Missouri. I still volunteer at the Fort often. If you ever get this way, look me up...Ed

Thanks Longknife for the invite and all the info.
And thanks to everyone for their info, too.
Each Fall on my annual trip to the Snake River I go by their campsite on Pataha Creek at the crossroads of Indian trails.  You can still see the trails worn into the hillsides.  Always gives me goosebumps.

Offline little joe

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 685
Re: Lewis and Clark loads
« Reply #10 on: February 01, 2017, 06:42:04 AM »
Never to old to learn, greened bbl, a suprise to me.

Offline little joe

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 685
Re: Lewis and Clark loads
« Reply #11 on: February 02, 2017, 12:23:18 PM »
I  read, I think  in the old Buckskin Report that the expedition packed there powder in lead containers 2 lb lead to 1 lb powder and that would be 100 grs per shot minus priming.

Offline Longknife

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2049
Re: Lewis and Clark loads
« Reply #12 on: February 02, 2017, 06:44:53 PM »
According to this article by S.K. Wier the canisters probably weighed eight pounds and held four pounds of gunpowder.....Ed

http://www.westernexplorers.us/Powder_Canisters_of_Lewis_and_Clark.pdf
Ed Hamberg

Offline smylee grouch

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7672
Re: Lewis and Clark loads
« Reply #13 on: February 02, 2017, 08:04:57 PM »
According to National Geographic, the Core of Discovery packed 176 # of lead in the form of canisters with 52 # of powder in them. If this were the case the average charge would be 65 gr. for that group of powder/lead inventory. This figures out to about 1/3 powder to lead per shot.

Offline Mad Monk

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1033
Re: Lewis and Clark loads
« Reply #14 on: February 02, 2017, 09:27:58 PM »
Some years back I saw a lead powder container on an old office desk at the Hagly Museum and Library outside of Wilmngton, DE.  The old reconstructed Du Pont powder plant.  The lead powder container was cylindrical with a cone top and a cap on the spout.  Nothing was said about the exact dates this were in use.

Du Pont started to use tin cans around the time of the U.S. Civil War.  At the start of the war Lammot Du Pont had made a trip to Europe.  Mainly to purchase several million pounds of raw Bengal saltpeter from England.  He then toured powder plants in England, France and Germany.  He saw tin cans being used to package powder in Europe and set Du Pont up to use tin cans after his return.  The plant outside of Wilmington had its own barrel making shop.  But when the demand for powder was great the shop could not supply the plant's needs.  They had problems with outside contractors making barrels with wood that was not properly dried.  Packing powder in such wooden kegs damaged the powder.  So tin cans looked like a way out of their wood barrel problems.

We see rifle powder and best rifle powder being ordered.  The difference was that the so-called "best rifle powder" was stronger in the gun than the plain rifle powder.  They judged the "quality" of the powder by the results it gave in their standard hand held eprouvette.  The trouble with these measuring instruments is that they tended to make a good powder look bad and a bad powder good.  When burned in the eprouvette the powder had access to air to help the combustion.  It was possible to have a powder test very good in the eprouvette and end up looking pretty bad in the gun where the powder did not have additional air to help powder combustion.  By the mid-1800s they were developing ballistic pendulums for more accurate testing.  Powders for the larger caliber guns could be tested in a eprouvette mortar or a ballistic mortar for more accurate results on how the powder would perform in the field.
 

Offline smylee grouch

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7672
Re: Lewis and Clark loads
« Reply #15 on: February 02, 2017, 10:12:35 PM »
Interesting stuff Mad Monk. As always thanks for your input.

Offline Longknife

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2049
Re: Lewis and Clark loads
« Reply #16 on: February 03, 2017, 07:27:59 PM »
According to National Geographic, the Core of Discovery packed 176 # of lead in the form of canisters with 52 # of powder in them. If this were the case the average charge would be 65 gr. for that group of powder/lead inventory. This figures out to about 1/3 powder to lead per shot.

That would be 176 pounds of GUNPOWDER in 52 lead cannisters......right?

15 Prototype Model 1803 muzzle-loading .54-caliber rifles "Kentucky Rifles"
 15 Gun slings
 24 Large knives
 Powder horns
 500 Rifle flints
 420 Pounds (191 kilograms) of sheet lead for bullets
 176 Pounds (80 kilograms) of gunpowder packed in 52 lead canisters
 1 Long-barreled rifle that fired its bullet with compressed air, rather than by flint, spark, and powder
Ed Hamberg

Offline smylee grouch

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7672
Re: Lewis and Clark loads
« Reply #17 on: February 03, 2017, 10:39:30 PM »
Longknife, that looks and sound right. Where did you get that info? I got my figures from a note that was stashed away in a copy of L&C journals that I bought at a used book store years ago. If those figures are right and we knew how much the canisters weighed an accurate powder per shot could be figured out. If the canister was 4# it works out to a 185 gr. charge and a 93 gr. charge for an 8# canister if my math isn't off which has happened more than I care to admit.

Offline Longknife

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2049
Re: Lewis and Clark loads
« Reply #18 on: February 03, 2017, 11:02:54 PM »
I got that list from the Natl. Geographic website:

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/lewisandclark/resources.html

Here is the wording from the Journals on Feb. 1st 1806 that tells us there was four pounds of powder in each canister and the canister contained eight pounds of lead.

 Feb 1, 1806, LEWIS----    today we opened and examined all our ammunition, which had been secured in leaden canesters.    we found twenty seven of the best rifle powder, 4 of common rifle, three of glaized and one of the musqut powder in good order, [9] perfectly as dry as when first put in the canesters, altho' the whole of it from various accedents has been for hours under the water.    these cannesters contain four lbds. of powder each and 〈contain〉 8 of lead.





« Last Edit: February 03, 2017, 11:07:29 PM by Longknife »
Ed Hamberg

Offline smylee grouch

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7672
Re: Lewis and Clark loads
« Reply #19 on: February 03, 2017, 11:31:42 PM »
Thanks for that link Longknife. It must have been in the journal's too but I missed it when I read them 20 or so years ago.