The Civil War in Missouri

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Paper Cartridge for .58 Caliber Rifle Musket

1864
MHM Collections

This paper cartridge holds a three-ring expanding minié ball and a charge of powder. The ammunition was loaded into a weapon by tearing the paper, pouring the powder down the muzzle, and ramming the ball down the barrel with the gun’s ramrod—a complex process that would have been made even more difficult when a soldier was under enemy fire. This cartridge would have been used with the muzzle loading .58 caliber rifle musket, the most widely used firearm of the Civil War. This example was produced at the St. Louis Arsenal later in the war, but there were more than a million of them on hand at the arsenal when war first broke out. The mass of ammunition and a large cache of weapons made the arsenal a prize coveted by Unionists and secessionists. Federal control of the arsenal early in the war ensured that St. Louis remained in Union hands.