Research Tidbits, Whitacre Website and Hoeffel Update

I am always on the lookout to add research material, especially primary source documentation, to my files. Sometimes new information pops up in a casual search of the Internet, sometimes out of a recent book, or an old book newly read, and, many times, as information passed on by a reader or friend.

"William D. Hartsough: An Autobiography," is an interesting document that falls into the latter classification, as Wayne Bengston advised me of its existence. Hartsough, a veteran of the Second and Third Iowa Volunteer Infantry regiments, wrote the autobiography, based on his Civil War era diary, around 1920. It was published, with annotation by descendent Jan Chauncey, in the summer 1999 issue of "Hawkeye Heritage," the magazine of the Iowa Genealogical Society.

Hartsough's tale provides an interesting insight into the life of one of Sherman's "bummers." Detailed to a foraging squad, and, although a foot soldier, issued a horse, Hartsough had a number of adventures and narrow escapes from Confederate cavalry patrols until he was finally captured on March 21, 1865 near Bentonville, North Carolina. With the war virtually over he was quickly paroled.

The Hartsough manuscript, in addition to its general historical value, contains a nugget of information specific to one of my fields of particular interest, firearm preference and use. On one occasion, an angry Southerner, who advised the young Yankee that he was going to interrupt his foraging, surprised Hartsough, who had dismounted, unslung his rifle musket and leaned it against a nearby tree.

Hartsough assumed from the man's attitude that he was a Confederate army veteran and had a weapon concealed about him and noted that "he had learned by my uniform that I was an infantryman, and he knew that, as a rule, infantry soldiers did not carry revolvers. He saw I was several feet away from my gun, so he felt master of the situation. His game was spoiled, however, because all through my foraging expeditions I carried a good navy six-shooter tucked down in my right boottop, within easy reach. (I wore high-topped cavalry boots with trouser legs tucked inside.)"

Hartsough was able to draw his revolver and make good his escape, although his antagonist pegged an ineffective long distance shot at him as he rode away. An approaching Confederate cavalry patrol prevented the Hawkeye infantryman from returning the favor.

Other historical firearms use footnotes that came my way over the past several months included an email note from Curt Johnson, who is editing the manuscript memoirs of William Selwyn Bell of the 11th Virginia Cavalry Regiment. Curt advised me that Bell noted that his unit, part of the Laurel Brigade in the Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1864, had "about a dozen or so men who had Winchester rifles, a deadly accurate gun, shooting sixteen bullets before reloading." The "Winchester" rifles were, of course, Henrys, and they were no doubt captured from the First DC Cavalry during the 11th's participation in General Wade Hampton's "Beefsteak Raid" near Petersburg on September 16, 1864. I hope we will see the Bell manuscript in print some day, as it sounds like a good one.

Daniel Whitacre makes some of the best rifle musket and musket barrels produced since Springfield Armory halted muzzleloader production in 1865. Dan makes .58 caliber barrels in .577 and .580 bore diameter and .69 caliber rifled and smoothbore barrels in .687 diameter. Whitacre's US style barrels fit original stocks and his Enfield barrels are a drop in fit for Parker Hale stocks. They are available for a wide range of Civil War era arms, including, Springfield Models 1842 and 1855-63s, Richmond, Mississippi and "Zouave" rifles. All Whitacre barrels are American made and have three lands and grooves and progressive depth rifling with a 1:72 twist, just like the originals.

Additional Whitacre services include removing the breech from your repro barrel and placing it on a Whitacre barrel, then profiling the new barrel to fit the repro stock, lining and stretching .58 and .69 caliber barrels and installing sights on rifles and rifle muskets.

Dan Whitacre has recently gone on-line. You can check out his website for products and prices at, and you can reach him by email at

As I noted last month, Pennsylvania Congressman Joseph Hoeffel, who is struggling to find an issue to ride to victory in his "swing" Congressional District, has apparently decided that black powder shooters and reenactors are easy targets for his political ambitions. For a number of years, the National Rifle Association (NRA) has been in the forefront of firearms rights organizations in this country. In the past, some black powder shooters have considered the NRA too politically involved and strident an organization for their more genteel, historically oriented pastimes. It is clear to me, however, that, if it were not for NRA activism, all firearm hobbies, including black powder shooting, would be severely curtailed or non-existent today.

I have been advised that the NRA is aware of and actively opposing Mr. Hoeffel's draconian, self-promoting legislation. What's more, your club or organization can make a direct contribution to fighting the Hoeffel horror and other assaults on our rights. NRA Director and muzzle loading shooter Dave Workman has come up with a painless and convenient method of soliciting funds to assist in fighting discriminatory legislation like Hoeffel's. Workman suggests that clubs pass the hat, or "bucket," at shoots, meetings and other activities, then send the collected cash in a check made out to the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action.

Dave calls this effort the "Bucket of Bucks" campaign. Contributions should be directed to National Rifle Association, 11250 Waples Mill Road, Fairfax, VA 22030 ATTN: Mary Rose Adkins (for Dave Workman's Bucket of Bucks). It wouldn't hurt to slip in a note indicating that you are a black powder shooting organization concerned about Hoeffel's legislation.

2000 by Joe Bilby

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