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Old July 18, 2001, 11:17 PM   #1
ahenry
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Odd Civil War minie ball

I have a “3-ringer” minie ball (.577 or .58 cal) that I suspect was Union found on the site of the Battle of Franklin, TN (1864). It might be CSA as it looks like there are side marks indicating it was a two-part bullet. On the top of the bullet is a hole that looks to be threaded. Very clearly there are rings of some sort inside this hole. Unfortunately one side inside the hole is a bit messed up making it difficult to determine for sure if these rings are spiraled like threads or not. My best guess as well as that of a few other people is that they are indeed threads. I have been trying to determine what these threads might be and the only thing I can come up with is the hole from a bullet puller. The problem is I don’t even know what a Civil War era bullet puller looked like. Would it produce a hole like this? Also to the best of any of y’alls knowledge was anything ever screwed onto the top of a minie ball, something similar to today’s grenade launcher? Some sort of an incendiary devise maybe? There is one other thing that makes this a little confusing. I will do my best to describe it. About one eighth of an inch from the top of the bullet is a “shoulder” of sorts. This “ledge” is very clearly a manufacturing mark as it is too precise to be anything else. It almost makes the bullet look like something was supposed to screw in to the top and rest on this collar. If the hole is from a puller I am at a complete loss as to what this extra ring is. Any and all help would be most appreciated.
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Old July 19, 2001, 12:45 AM   #2
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Ahenry,

Hum...

Any chance of posting, or e-mailing, some pictures of the bullet from various angles?

I know that there used to be one bullet that had a zinc washer screwed onto the BASE, not the nose, that was designed to scrape powder fouling out of the bore as it was fired, sort of a battlefield "quick cleaning," but that doesn't sound like what you found at all.

A bullet puller from the Civil War looks pretty much like bullet pullers today, just a coarse threaded screw shank that attaches to the cleaning rod.

What a slice of living hell?

I once went to pull a bullet from my muzzleloader, and the ferrule on the cleaning rod came off!

Bullet, jag, AND rod tip stuck in the freaking bore.

I finally managed to get some epoxy paste on the tip of the rod and get it stuck back into the ferrule.
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Old July 19, 2001, 08:31 AM   #3
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Ok, I took some pictures but because my SLR is VERY old, the meter is bad and the mirror is foggy and scratched. I took a few and if they turn out I will scan them later today. I can’t promise anything at all given the current state of my camera but I’ll give it a “shot”. Where can I upload the pictures for free? Does Excite let you do that?


Back on the bullet, the threads seem to be clockwise. Is that the direction a puller would make them?
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Old July 19, 2001, 10:11 AM   #4
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Ahenry,

Why not try scanning the bullet, too, and see what you come up with?

As for where to upload the photos, now that Photopoint has started charging something like $50 a year for hosting links, I really don't know.

If you want, e-mail them to me.

As for the threads, yeah, clockwise is the standard direction for inserting a screw, isn't it? Righty-tighty, lefty-loosy?
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Old July 20, 2001, 10:01 AM   #5
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Ok guys lets see how this works...

BTW I apologize for the extremely poor color quality, I can only blame it on my faulty meter and mirror...

The first picture is of the overall bullet has arrows pointing to the “shoulder” at the top of the bullet and the extremely faint line bisecting the bullet vertically (indicating CSA minie ball).

The second picture shows the threads that I suspect are from a puller. It is rather difficult to tell but they are in a clockwise direction like a standard “righty-tighty, lefty-loosy” screw hole. I thought I had read somewhere that pullers screwed in opposite the “standard” direction. Is that wrong?

The basic question is if the hole is from a puller (likely) what is the world is that “ledge” at the top of the bullet from? Did some pullers have some sort of a cone type of thing that kept the screw centered on the bullet tip (imagine a cup with the screw hanging down in the middle) that could have worn that ridge? Any suggestions are appreciated.


The basic question is if the hole is from a puller (likely) what is the world is that “ledge” at the top of the bullet from? Did some pullers have some sort of a cone type of thing that kept the screw centered on the bullet tip (imagine a cup with the screw hanging down in the middle) that could have worn that ridge? Any suggestions are appreciated.

Last edited by ahenry; July 20, 2001 at 10:33 AM.
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Old July 20, 2001, 10:03 AM   #6
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All my efforts seem for naught. Since I never could find a picture hosting site that would supply the link like photopoint used to I decided to take this to e-mail. If somebody thinks they have an idea and would like the pictures let me know and I'll send them to you. Thanks for all the help.

Last edited by ahenry; July 20, 2001 at 10:39 AM.
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Old July 24, 2001, 12:02 AM   #7
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Couple of guesses, pending images - - -

You mention "line bisecting bullet indicating two-oiece CSA bullet." Could this be simply a line left as a mould mark, especially a mould that was worn and somewhat poorly fitting between the two halves?

The ledge around the ogive--might this be a mark left on the soft lead by a steel or bronze ramrod tip with a fairly deep, concave end?

I believe you're on the right track about the bullet puller mark in the nose. Some say, "How could a trained soldier seat a bullet without powder? Weren't all the minie' balls put up in paper cartridges?" To which one might answer, "I can certainly picture some poor kid, scared spitless, with hell's own fires erupting around him, missing the muzzle while pouring the powder in its general direction."

Hope you find the answers.
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Old July 24, 2001, 10:14 AM   #8
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I believe the ledge around the "ogive" (what is that, the top?) is from some sort of concave part of the ramrod as you mention. I would be happy to e-mail you the picture if you want to take a look at them. I never was able to find a place that I could host (and then post) pictures. Unfortunately the picture of the side that I took to illustrate the line from a two piece mold turned out bad and doesn't really show up.
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Old July 24, 2001, 11:27 AM   #9
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Ahenry,

Hum...

You know, Johnny's comment has gotten me to thinking about this, and I think I have a possible scenario...

Normally a bullet is pulled for one of several reasons, the most common being, of course, the the user wants to unload the gun without firing in.

However, and this is where the peculiar ring around the nose of the bullet comes in, another reason to bullet a bullet is if it gets stuck partially down the bore, and won't go any farther.

That could explain the funny damage to the nose of the bullet. The shooter could have tried to force the bullet down the bore by slamming the ramrod into the bullet, or even pounding on it with something. When that failed, the bullet puller came out.

The only thing that makes me wonder about that, though, is that the physical size of the nose of the ram rod, to leave that kind of mark around the bullet, would have to be pretty big, a lot bigger than I've ever seen.

I'm still thinking that the ring around the nose was caused by a centering guide on the bullet puller itself.
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Old July 24, 2001, 02:45 PM   #10
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Try THIS scenario---

Soldier loses or damages his ramrod. Finds a gun in a farmhouse or elsewhere--perhaps a small game rifle in .36 or .40 or .44 or whatever, just so it was smaller than the .577/.58 ramrod. The concave end of such a substitute rod would leave the ring on the Minie' ball.

Or just as likely - - -
the stuck bullet or blind fear could cause the soldier to slam the ramrod against the bullet nose so hard it deforms the soft lead. Only an examination of the bullet in question could disclose to the educated eye whether or not the bullet appears deformed. And, not being a student of such things, but knowing about different government contractors and allowable variances from standard design, I can envision this simply being a slightly different shape bullet than what we're accustomed to see.

Let's face it--One hundred thirty-seven years (probably) after that bullet was left on the field, there's going to be a LOT of things we simply cannot know.

I've had a lot of training in forensic crime scene reconstruction and presumptive criminal profiling. I've also read a lot of Conan Doyle's detective fiction, and watched a lot of "Quincy, ME" TV programs. I know a bit about setting up likely scenarios from incomplete evidence, enough to realize that all you're gonna end up with is an EDUCATED GUESS, which may or may not come near the truth.

But, it IS a lot of fun, sometimes, huh?

Best,
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Old July 25, 2001, 02:16 PM   #11
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ok, I think I have it now....

First:


Second:


The fisrt shows the threads and the ring/ledge/shoulder at the top. The second shows (poorly, I know) the possible mold marks bisecting the bullet from top to bottom.
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Old July 25, 2001, 03:07 PM   #12
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Johnny,

No, given the position of the ring on the bullet, how far down the ogive (? proper term?) it is, I don't think there's any chance it would have been for a smaller rifle.

Given the location and apparent size of the ring, it appears to be larger in diameter than the bore of a .36 to .44 caliber gun.

Oh, and something I should have shared up front. I've been looking at Ahenry's photographs for over a week. He sent them to me for my review while he was looking for a place to post the photos.

So, Dr. Quincy, I've been trying to construct scenarios based on visual evidence.
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Old July 25, 2001, 06:15 PM   #13
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I was thinkin, I know it's scary, I read somewhere that after a battle folks would go and collect weapons that were left behind. In one gun they found 12 minnie balls. Scared spitless, there's no telling what anybody would do! It appears that a minnie ball was forced upon another. Then "dug" out. What do ya think? Bones
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Old July 25, 2001, 10:08 PM   #14
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You know, Bones, that's not a bad theory at all.

It was not uncommon for many rifles to be picked up after battles that had multiple charges.
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Old July 26, 2001, 08:27 AM   #15
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Good call bones

I thought about another bullet loaded on top of this one that could have caused the ring. To check, I took another minie (same cal) and placed it on top. The ring and base didn't match exactly but it was close enough that that might be that cause. Another factor would be the ease with which the second bullet could rotate in the barrel. I have no idea. If the bullet fits tightly then I would think that the puller would screw in without rotating the bottom bullet which would probably mean that there would be marks left but not the deep ring/ledge. Any thoughts on that?

Like Johnny said this IS fun.
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Old July 30, 2001, 11:35 PM   #16
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The typical CW bullet puller was a worm, not a ball screw. That ball looks like someone first tried to pull it with a worm, which wore off the sides of the point without digging in (common) and then someone got a ball screw and pulled it that way.

I can't tell from the pictures, but it may have then been reloaded and fired.

No CW soldier would have tried to pull a ball in combat, he would simply have picked up another rifle-musket from someone who did not need it any more. Pulling a ball might have been done later after scrounging the field for usable weapons.

BTW, the comment about losing a ramrod is true, though I don't think that was the case here. One common cause was simply shooting the darn thing; many writers who "saw the elephant" mention the light flashing off flying ramrods during a battle, and some mention the results when some one got a rod driven through him.

They also lost rods because they stuck them in the ground while firing from a position, and if they had to advance or retreat in a hurry they would forget to pull the rods out.

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Old July 31, 2001, 08:15 AM   #17
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I need some clarification

Jim, can you pontificate on worm pullers vs ball screws please? I have seen a puller before but not knowing there were different types I paid no attention to which one it was that I was looking at.
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Old July 31, 2001, 10:18 AM   #18
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Interesting...

I've seen both worm AND screw bullet pullers from the CW era, and both supposedly military issue at one point or another during the war.
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Old July 31, 2001, 10:35 PM   #19
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Hi, ahenry,

The ball screw is the type of puller generally used today. It looks like the end of a common wood screw and has a disc to center it in the barrel and an attachment to allow it to screw onto a ramrod. To use it, the rod is driven into the bullet with a light tap from a wood block or a hammer, and the ramrod turned to screw it into the ball or bullet. Then the ball is drawn out of the barrel by pulling on the ramrod.

The "worm" was a gadget with two sharp twisted hooks that looked like two worms in a spiral. It was fastened to the end of the ramrod and then the rod turned to dig the worm into the ball. The ball was then drawn the same way. The worm dug into the sides of the ball rather than the front, which is why I think the odd shape of that minie ball was caused by a worm.

Since both marks are present, and the screw threads are not stripped and the ball is worn away at the ogive, I think the worm was tried first without success, then the ball screw, which worked.

Pulling a bullet from a rifle-musket is much easier than from a modern muzzle-loading rifle, since there is no patch used with the rifle-musket.

(The CW term was "ball" for those projectiles, though we would probably call them bullets today.)

How's that for pontificating? Hope it helped.

Jim
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Old August 1, 2001, 09:02 AM   #20
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Thanks Jim (and everybody else) that helps

There is one other question I have though. What is the "ogive"? I suspect it is the top of the bullet/ball but is it something more specific?
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Old August 1, 2001, 09:41 AM   #21
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Another theory on why it needed pulling. After a hard rain in the field, it was SOP to pull your load and recharge.
ahenry: the ogive,IIRC is the point at which the curvature of the bullet point reaches the diameter of the bore. It's the first part of the bullet to contact the rifling.
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Old August 1, 2001, 08:53 PM   #22
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The ogive is the curved part of the bullet, looking at it from the side.

Jim
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Old August 1, 2001, 10:51 PM   #23
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Jim,

I'm not certain that I can buy that a worm would cause the kind of very deep yet very smooth and even deformation of the bullet that this one shows...
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Old August 2, 2001, 01:15 PM   #24
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Hi, Mike,

That was my best guess, based on having seen several of those balls which were dug into by worms. If the worm points are not sharp, they will scrape lead but not dig in enough to grip the ball. Of course, that ball has a lot of corrosion and it is hard to tell if there are any marks like that or not.

I agree that many things could have caused the odd shape, the worm was just the first I thought of.

Jim
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Old August 4, 2001, 09:29 PM   #25
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In my humble opinion, the hollow point, to borrow modern terminology, was created by a worm. It looks exactly like a screw has been driven into it. Examine the minie and you'll see the concentric ring on the outside which is below the top of the bullet. That appears to have been made by the ramrod when the solider tried to pound the minie down the barrel. Also look at the skirt and you'll see that it wasn't fired...the skirt hasn't been expanded.

Of course, this is just my worthless opinion and I'll defer to a forensics expert.
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