Excavated Pinfire Cartridges

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Recently I have been researching the relationship between Lefaucheux pinfire cartridges and the American Civil War. I found that there is no information on what foreign manufactures had their pinfire cartridges imported for use in the American Civil War. And there is generally a lack of information altogether about how widespread pinfire guns and cartridges were used in the war.

Some of the information we know is as follows:

  • The Union army purchased around 13,000 model 1854 Lefaucheux pinfire revolvers from France and Belgium.
  • 167 of the previously mentioned revolvers have their serial numbers recorded and were issued to Co. D, 2nd Kansas Calvary and Co. B, 9th Missouri Calvary.
  • 3 American companies made pinfire cartridges for Civil War use; (See my article about this here) Christian Sharps & Co, C. D. Leet, and Allen & Wheelock.
  • The Union bought at least 200,000 pinfire cartridges from France. (but many more were purchased as well, which has to do with the main questions to follow.)
  • Identified pictures exist showing Union soldiers wielding Lefaucheux pinfire revolvers from 5th Kansas Volunteer Calvary, Company E; 11th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry; 2nd Kansas Calvary, Company A; 1st NY Light Artillery, Battery D; and many other non-identified units.
  • Confederate Soldiers used Lefaucheux revolvers.
  • There were official Confederate purchases of the revolvers
  • Selma Arsenal reloaded pinfire cartridges and issued a pouch to collect the spent casings to some soldiers
  • Selma Arsenal at one point had some 52,800 pinfire cartridges on hand.

The main questions I am focusing on right now are who did the Confederate buy pinfire cartridges from? And who did the Union buy cartridges from? Also how wide spread really was their use in the American Civil War?

I am trying to collect as many excavated pinfire cartridges as I can to identify which manufacturers made them, where they were excavated, and which side dropped or shot them. So far, my research is somewhat surprising and some correlations are definitely appearing.

Here is what I have found so far:

Excavated Pinfire Cartridges from American Civil War Battlefields and Encampments
Click here for a larger version of this image.

Excavated Lefaucheux model 1854 Pinfire Revolver from Beaufort, South Carolina
Click here for a larger version of this image.

From my research so far, nearly all have been imported from Paris, France by companies such as Chaudun, Chaudun & Derivière, Gevelot, and Houllier & Blanchard. I have also documented some from Eley of the UK as well as quite a few from Charles Fusnot of Bruxells, Belgium.

The Confederate Army seemed to favour ones from Chaudun, Chaudun & Derivière and Gevelot; while the Union troops of course used the US made ones I mentioned above, as well as many by Gevelot, and some by Eley, Houllier-Blanchard, and Charles Fusnot.

Pinfire shotgun shells especially were mostly by Eley.

The map at the top shows the locations each of these were found with more information on each. It also shows a few owned by other researchers or collectors.

Author: Aaron Newcomer


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