Mail Bag, Part II

By Tom Kelley

Before I dig into the ol’ mail bag, I want to say that I was a bit tardy forwarding my remarks to our hardworking editor because I was out enjoying the North-South Skirmish Association’s 106th National Skirmish. It was very well run, and the weather was beautiful! I, like almost all the participants, had a great time. A special well done goes out to all the Tidewater and Central Virginia Region teams that put on the 106th. Thanks!

That brings us to our first letter. As I was packing to go, BW wrote and asked where he could view a skirmish. Since he lived in the Garden State, I turned him on to the National that was just then kicking off. Every individual with an interest in the American Civil War should experience in person a National Skirmish. It is the only place you can safely observe thousands of participants loading and firing live ammunition just as they did 140 years ago. Did you know that most civil war movies now record the sound of our firing, as well as the impact zone on the bank, to use as a part of their soundtrack? I hope BW was able to make part of the National, and if he did, I know he enjoyed it.

I got a lot of mail about the shooting cart articles. BG of the NSSA asked, "Where did you acquire the wheels for the cart? Would 16" bike tires do just as well?

I have been getting my cart wheels at the local Ace Hardware store, and locally they are in the lawn mower isle, but could be elsewhere in your store. They stock 10-inch and 14-inch wheels, and both work well. Theoretically, you can use the biggest tires you can transport, but as wheel diameter increases, so does hub size, so the cart gets wider without adding useable space.

SS of Co. G wrote about the cart and had some very kind words to share. He said "I’ve just read Part 1 of your article on the shooting cart. It looks like something that I've needed for quite sometime …My question to you, Sir, is about the possibility of getting a drawing of your construction project. If you plan on publishing one in the next Civil War News, I suppose I could wait, but it would be nice to start on this project as soon as possible."

"I'm sure that I could work with what was indicated in the July CW News, but the problem of how you attached the wheels still interests me. Did you run a solid axle through the box, or just use long bolts to attach the wheels?"

"I'd like to thank you for all the interesting articles you have written in the past."

Well thanks a bunch SS. I use a solid piece of what is sold in hardware stores as "AllThread" for my axles. I purchase the ˝" size, which is threaded for 12-10 hardware. They work great.

And, I am in the throws of posting an exploded drawing of the cart in question on the website. Look for the link on the new homepage at

GB wrote to say, " I just read your article on the '58 Remington. I have a few questions. I am considering purchasing this type of pistol. Which of the reproductions on the market do you consider to be the best value for the money? Right now I am leaning towards the model made by Uberti. Although the price is a bit steep, I want to make this purchase one time. I am a Confederate Reenactor with Co. D, 27th North Carolina Troops."

I get a lot of requests to recommend specific models of reproduction arms. First, I would say that GB’s choice is a good one. Obviously, he researched his purchase and decided on a Uberti. I would hardly ever attempt to change a reader’s mind. I will, however, add that you do get what you pay for. A Uberti is a Uberti, price is negotiable, though, so comparison shop and get a good price. Do your homework.

BT wrote to say that "… Information … is lacking … concern(ing) the use of paper cartridges. I have been doing a lot of searching, but I just can't seem to find the particular who's, how's, when's, etc. Do you know anything about the use of paper cartridges before and during the Civil War?"

Well BT, all of my research shows that skin and linen cartridges preceded the advent of paper cartridges. Of course, all three were nitrated to burn or combust completely. Paper probably replaced these natural parts during the Civil War do to production demands. I’d check out that avenue of research next.

MSA wrote to tell me he, just purchased a Remington 1858 and the loading tool in my article picture was just the thing he was looking for.

I turned him on to Cabela’s Catalog, where I got the tool for about $20. Check out

I also received an interesting e-mail recently from JJW, who wrote, " I was wondering if you might be able to shed some light on something that has been puzzling me regarding a rifle that has been in my family for quite some time. It appears to be a model 1863 Springfield. It is dated 1864 behind the lock, and towards the front it has US Springfield, and the Eagle proof."

"The thing that I can't seem to find information about, however, is that this rifle only has two retaining bands, and seems shorter then all other 1863's I've seen on the internet. Is this a different sort of rifle or is it possible that it has been cut down from it's original proportions? I ask because I know from my family that it does not have the original barrel, however, the stock appears to be unaltered yet only has two retaining bands and two metal clips which retain them. I'm told that aside from the replaced barrel, everything else is untouched including the bayonet."

"Were there two banded versions of the 1863 Springfield, or has my heirloom been mutilated somewhere along the line?"

Of course, savvy readers will recognize the description as closely resembling the often imitated (and faked) Artillery Model 2-band Rifle Musket. I have only seen Model 1855 2-banders that have been verified authentic, so chances are that granddad’s musket is an after-market conversion. It still should hold a lot of value just because of it’s family history, though. Show it proudly.

And finally, JB wrote to explain, "(w)e have found a way to present a living history Civil War soldier with weaponry to schools and have not had any problems. We arrange for the presentation, then have the teacher or principal arrange to have a police officer meet us at the school parking lot. After explaining how to make sure our muskets are unloaded, (the police are 9 mm people), the officer takes the muskets into the class and stays with us during the presentation. The officer then takes the muskets back to the parking lot when we are done. The presence of the officer alleviates any fears or uncertainties any student may have.In three years, there has not been one complaint. Maybe if you pass this on, more presentations can be made."

I certainly have enjoyed my presentations made at schools, etc. in the past, and I hope JB’s little scenario can help somebody else get into schools to present concrete history experiences.

Well,, the ol’ mail bag is empty, and I hope our readers’ questions have helped you learn a little bit more about civil war arms as well. Until the next time, promote responsible gun ownership, shoot safe and have fun.

(c) 2002 by Tom Kelley

return to homepage

<go to Joe Bilby index

go to Tom Kelley index