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A very scarce Berdan Sharpshooter cartridge box, lacking the tins, but conforming to the specifications and measurements laid out by Paul Johnson in his CMH article identifying these boxes.

In addition to their distinctive green uniforms and weapons Berdan's men also carried a specially constructed cartridge box to accompany the Sharps rifles in early 1862. Paul Johnson identified this pattern based on dimensions of the box, correspondence between the Sharps Rifle Company and the Ordnance Department, and an identified example carried by a member of the 2nd U.S.S.S. (Journal of the Company of Military Historians 47.2 (Summer 1995) 76-80.)

Modeled on the 1841 pattern rifleman's box that was designed to be worn on the waistbelt only, as befitted light troops, Berdans pattern differed in three ways: the height of the front of the Berdan box is 4.62 inches while the 1841 patterns are 5 inches; the 1841 patterns use stitching only to secure the belt loops, while the Berdan pattern uses stitching and rivets; and, lastly, the 1841 boxes use a one-piece tin with five compartments in the top section, while the Berdan box makes use of two tins, each with a wood block in the upper section bored to hold ten cartridges.(Similarly, the bears a superficial resemblance to the 1855 pistol carbine box, but the body of that box measures 6.1 by 3.6 inches.)

This box conforms to the characteristics of the Berdan box (fitted for a plate; belt loops only; belt loops secured by stitching and rivets.) The box also conforms to the measurements given by Johnson: Leather Box - 7.2 inches length, 1.6 inches width, 4.62 inches height. Outer flap- 8.00 inches width on top, 8.25 inches length on bottom. Please see my photos with the ruler showing.

The government contracted in early 1862 for two thousand of these to accompany the same number of the Sharps rifles intended for the regiments. Johnson determined that 1,000 of these had been shipped to the Ordnance Department by 18 March and the remainder on or before 1 April 1862, and the pattern had already begun to make its way into the ranks of the 1st USSS by 3/31/62, displacing some of the standard issue boxes in ordnance returns.

This box fits the design and dimensions given by Johnson, and is unmarked, as is correct for this pattern. The latch tab is full length and secured by a straight line of stitching. It is a little fragile at the hole: I see a small white mark indicating a collector may have put a dot of glue there to arrest a tear. The bottom stud is firmly in place. The belt loops, secured by stitching and rivets, show some alligatoring to the finish, as does the box as a whole. The front is pierced for a small size cartridge box plate, but never seems to have had one mounted. (The one in the Johnson collection has a plate mounted; the one in the Troiani collection is pierced for a plate, but never had one mounted, like this one. The inner flap and the implement pouch with its cover and strap are in place and secure. There is some minor shrinkage to the leather: the cover flap at bottom does not quite reach 8.25 inches, but there is flexing and it is tough to judge precisely. The body of the box measures the correct 7.2 inches across the top edge; the bottom is closer to 7. Again, the tins have been out of it for a long time, so there is some flexing on the front opportunity for the leather to contract slightly. All of this still fits perfectly Johnson's measurements and rules it out as an 1841 rifle or 1855 pistol carbine box.

Correct original tins with the correct wood blocks will probably be impossible to find, but this is a rare cartridge box in any condition. I have heard it said that only four are known. I have owned two: this is the third. I suspect more are out there unidentified. In any case, it is a rare accoutrement associated with a famous Civil War unit and historical firearm.

Shipping is $16.95 insured. NY addresses must add sales tax or supply resale certificate.