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Most American soldiers carried their ammunition in cartridge boxes worn over the shoulder or around the waist. These leather pouches, often made by saddlers and harness makers, contained drilled wooden blocks to hold individual cartridges, round paper tubes containing gunpowder, lead bullets and, often (as here) small buckshot that improved a soldier's chance of hitting his target. The premade cartridges allowed soldiers to load their musket faster and get off more shots than if they had to load loose gunpowder and a musket ball by hand. This example from the Revolutionary War allows a soldier to keep 19 cartridges at the ready. The Militia Act of 1792, which set federal standards for the organization of the Militia, ruled that all soldiers would be required to carry cartridge boxes that “contain not less than twenty-four cartridges, suited to the bore of his musket or firelock.” 

Object Details

  • Cartridge Box and Ammunition
    Unidentified Maker
    United States
    1770-1780
    Leather, Wood, Iron
    Museum of the American Revolution (Benninghoff Collection), 2007.00.0103

This image shows a curator holding the lid of the black leather cartridge box open to show the wooden interior with small holes drilled in it to hold the shots.
Interior of the cartridge box.

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