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Thread: Henry Rifles

  1. #1

    Default Henry Rifles

    To the best of my knowledge most units armed with the Henry rifle wore standard Infantry accoutrements. I have been told that a .58 calibre cartridge box without tins will hold 120 Henry cartridges.

    Did soldiers armed with the Henry rifle keep or discard their cartridge box tins?

    Any 'factual information' (aka documentation) on this subject would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

  2. #2



    Good luck...

    Normally, usually, generally, (NUG) it was often the Ordnance Department practice to use the arsenal/commercial odd-ball ammunition with regular issue accoutrements as they came in protective "cardboard' boxes." For some weapons, all what was needed was to take out the tines and pop in the packets.

    The second method was to use standard boxes, but remove the tins and substitute drilled wooden blocks kinda/sorta reverting back to 18th century thinking.

    And the rarer, third method was to use firearm specific contract boxes. Or not. There was a extremely rare Henry rifle box that utiized driled wooden blocks that slid up and down in the box with a catch latch so the soldier could rotate fileld versus empty blocks to the top. Another limited, but more coomon that the "experimental " Henry box, were the redone Berdan boxes for their B C NM1859 rifles where an old M1841 box was resurrected and updated to 1861 specs. It kept its two tins, but utilized a drop in wooden block for each tin with holes to hold the fragile Sharps rounds.)

    In the Artifact Pool, these are all rather rare as they limited in numbers to begin with, and many times boxes end up emptied of their tins or blocks over time. Plus, after the War with the transition to metallic cartridges in .58 and .50 surplus CW boxes were recycled by adding cartridge specific blocks or even just sheepsskin linings glued in. As a result, a goodly number of CW items were modified and used up as the new designs of boxes slowly came out.
    It seems, for some reason, that when somne of these entered teh surplus sales market, they invaribly are missing their inserts whether tins or blocks.

    In gleichem Schritt und Tritt, Curt Schmidt

    Not a real Civil War reenactor, I only portray one on boards and fora.
    I do not portray a Civil War soldier, I merely interpret one.

  3. #3


    This is what I know about Henry rifle cartridge boxes:

    "There were two types of cartridge boxes for the Henry. One of these looks very similar to the regular Springfield box of the Civil War. It has an implement pocket sewn to the front. It is covered by a large flap. Instead of tins for the inside, the Henry box contains 4 wooden blocks. Each block was drilled to contain 35 Henry cartridges. These blocks were stacked on top of each other. The bottom of the box was open. When the top block was emptied, it was removed and pushed up through the bottom. This moved the other 3 blocks up into position. The blocks were held in place by means of a spring on each side of the box. It also had 2 leather straps that went around the bottom of the box to insure that the blocks did not fall out.

    The other box for the Henry did not hold as many rounds. It is possibly the rarest cartridge box of the Civil War. This box was manufactured by the New Haven Arms Company in 1864. The black leather flap measures 7 inches across and is embossed with the standard "US" oval 3 inches across. The flap is pointed like a shield at the bottom and measures 4.5 inches from point to top of the box. At the bottom left hand of the front flap of the box is marked "Henry Arms Company 1864" in 1 and three eights inch elongated rectangle inspector's stamp. The back of the box has two, three-quarters of an inch leather straps riveted to the box four inches long for fitting over a cavalry or infantry belt. The flap affixes to the box by a brass vinule in a three-quarter inch leather strap. Inside the box is a staggered row of linen loops with places for 16 cartridges. On the outside of the front box, underneath the flap, there is another stitched row of 8 linen loops for cartridges. To the left inside the box there is a rounded space with a leather strap with a cut out for a Henry rifle tool. The box itself is 6 inches by 3 inches. It is 2 and a half inches deep and 2 inches wide. This box is pictured in Dr. Francis Lord's third volume of The Civil War Collectors Encyclopedia."

    Plus the brass Kittredge Cartridge box made for a Henry rifle
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    "Sharpshooters, like fiddlers, are born, not made." - - - - - Major General Ambrose P. Hill, CSA.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    NW Indiana


    That has been a question plaguing me for years.

    Unfortunately I do not know of any existing photos of soldiers posing with their Henry rifle and a cartridge box. Most of the photos show the proud Henry owner wearing minimum leathers and no cartridge box or haversack. I have read several diaries of soldiers that used Henrys in the war and they did not disclose what they carried their cartridges in. However, it is reasonable that they carried their cartridges in something. You have to remember that many of the soldiers went from shooting a .58 caliber muzzle loader to their Henry and logistical/quartermaster sense would dictate that they would have used their old cartridge box. It also makes more sense to remove the tins from the box to fit in the 100-120 cartridges and for getting them out.
    I had this same discussion with one of the Historians at the Carter House at Franklin, TN and he told me that he had some documentation from a member of the 65th Indiana Infantry (who in part carried Henry rifles at Franklin) who was charged for the loss of his tins, because he got rid of them when he received his Henry. I am still waiting for the documentation from him.

    We do know that Alason Webber of the 86th Illinois borrowed Lt. Col. Fahnestock’s Henry rifle and 120 rounds at Kennesaw Mountain. Webber’s 120 rounds would fit into a cartridge box. His actions earned him the Medal of Honor.
    To make a quick leap to another repeater, the Spencer rifle. There are at least three photos that showed members of the Wilder’s Brigade posing with the Spencers while wearing their cartridge boxes including the mounted photo of Pvt. John Munson, 72nd Indiana, in the field.

    I know that we don’t want to assume, but it is quite plausible that they used infantry cartridge boxes without their tins to carry their Henry rounds.

    Todd Koster
    Western Sharpshooters/66th Illinois
    National Henry Rifle Company

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2009


    Unfortunately very little information has been uncovered about how men armed with Henry rifles carried their ammunition. There is a lot of speculation but almost no documented sources. There were even a few, very few, cartridge boxes for the Henry rifle of which were not used on a large scale. I have an exact reproduction of the Henry cartridge box pictured in the Lord's Encyclopedia that was made by Butch Baker, I think, years ago. I acquired it back in the mid 1980s. Soldiers would carry ammunition for their rifles in haversacks, cartridge boxes more than likely without tins, pockets, and a reserve of 100 rounds or so in their knapsacks. Also with units armed with the Henry rifle a resupply was many times close by for a quick resupply. In fact during the "March to the Sea" the order was given for regiments armed with Henry rifles to have a wagon load of ammunition dedicated to them. There are a couple of documented sources of that. The bottom line is that soldiers with this unconventional weapon would carry their ammuntion with what means that worked the best for them.

    For an indepth look at how the Henry rifle was used in the Civil War by those that used them check out to read in their own words from letters, diaries and the ORs.
    Andrew L. Bresnan
    Victory Thru Rapid Fire
    National Henry Rifle Company
    LBL Tactical 1991 7th Illinois Veteran Volunteer Infantry Henry Company
    Bentonville 2010


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