On this day

5 December 1839

The United States Army officer and cavalry commander George Armstrong Custer was born. Custer fought in the American Civil War and the American Indian Wars George Armstrong Custer (December 5, 1839 – June 25, 1876) was a United States Army... Read more ...

5 December 1839

George Armstrong Custer was born
The United States Army officer and cavalry commander George Armstrong Custer was born. Custer fought in the American Civil War and the American Indian Wars

George Armstrong Custer (December 5, 1839 – June 25, 1876) was a United States Army officer and cavalry commander in the American Civil War and the American Indian Wars. Raised in Michigan and Ohio, Custer was admitted to West Point in 1857, where he graduated last in his class in 1861. With the outbreak of the Civil War, Custer was called to serve with the Union Army.

Custer developed a strong reputation during the Civil War. He participated in the first major engagement, the First Battle of Bull Run on July 21, 1861, near Washington, D.C. His association with several important officers helped his career, as did his success as a highly effective cavalry commander. Custer was promoted to captain in 1864, and was brevetted to major general in 1865. At the conclusion of the Appomattox Campaign, in which he and his troops played a decisive role, Custer was present at General Robert E. Lee's surrender to General Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865.

After the Civil War, Custer remained a major general in the United States Volunteers until they were mustered out in February 1866. He reverted to his permanent rank of captain and was appointed a lieutenant colonel in the 7th Cavalry Regiment in July 1866. He was dispatched to the west in 1867 to fight in the American Indian Wars. On June 25, 1876, while leading the 7th Cavalry Regiment at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in Montana Territory against a coalition of Native American tribes, he and all of his regiment—which included two of his brothers—were killed. The battle is popularly known in American history as "Custer's Last Stand." Custer and his regiment were defeated so decisively at the Little Bighorn that it has overshadowed all of his prior achievements.



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Muzzleloader and Patched Roundball

Category: Muzzle-loading
Published: 24 November 2007 by Øyvind Flatnes.
Edited: 24 November 2007.
Views: 20271
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The patched roundball is said to be an early American invention, if it's right I don't know. It was used in the American woods from around 1740, probably a little earlier. The principle behind the patched roundball is simple: By wrapping the undersized roundball in a piece of greased cloth and then forcing it down the barrel the problem of loading a rifle without hammering the bullet down the bore was solved. The patch was as mentioned greased, often with bear fat. The fat helped keeping the fouling soft, which also made the loading easier. The most common patching material was linen or cotton which had to be tightly woven to survive the travel up and down the bore. Some will claim that leather (buckskin) was used as patching, but I doubt that was very common. Leather was too costly for a hunter or farmer to be shot out of a rifle.

Find out more!
You can learn more about the history and practical use of muzzle-loading rifles and patched roundballs in the brand new book From Musket to Metallic Cartridge: A Practical History of Black Powder Firearms.


Loading equipment.

The patched roundball can also be used with success in smoothbore guns. The patch eliminates the slack between the barrel and the undersized ball. The gases from the ignition of the main charge don't escape the tight fitting patch/ball combination, and is helping the ball to leave the barrel the same way every time. The loading of a rifle is more complicated than loading a musket with paper cartridges. It will take 20 to 30 seconds for an experienced shooter to load a rifle, while a musket can be loaded 2 or 3 times during the time it takes to load a rifle. But, the accuracy of a rifle compared to a musket is, or should be, much better. The rifling stabilizes the ball in flight, and with a rifle you can hit a target several hundred yards away. A smoothbore musket should hit a man sized target at 50 yds., but will have difficulties beyond that range. Rates of rifling twist is a factor to consider when picking out a roundball gun. For a .50 calibre barrel a 1:48" twist is the fastest twist that will handle a roundball accurately. The slower twists like 1:66" to 1:72" are optimal in my opinion.

Loading a Rifled Muzzleloader with Roundball

The things you need are:

  • A muzzleloading rifle with flint or percussion ignition.
  • Black powder and caps (or flints if it's a flintlock.)
  • Some roundballs.
  • Linen or cotton patches. Denim is good too.
  • Bullet lube. Some people use saliva.
  • A bullet starter.

The Patch


Bullet starter.

Keep in mind that it has to be durable enough to resist the strain it is to be shot out of a bore. When you examine a patch you have found after a shot it should not be burned or torn. If they are burned or torn and you experience lousy accuracy, well, then the problem is most likely found.

The thickness of the patch is determined by the relationship between the groove diameter of the rifle and the roundball you are using. Let's say you are using a .50 cal. rifle who's groove diameter is .509". The bullet you are using has a diameter of .495". By calculating it as follows you can get an idea of how thick the patching should be: Groove diameter: .531" minus ball diameter : .495" = .036" i difference. Now we can divide .036" in two and minimum thickness will be .018". (There will be cloth on both sides of the bullet, that's why we divide it by two). The thickness of the patches and the bullet diameter can be measured with a micrometer.

The process of loading

1. Make sure that the barrel is dry, run a few dry patches up and down the bore. (Never run a dry patch down a bore with fouling in it or it will get badly stuck down there.) Snap off a few caps if it is a percussion gun. This dries/burns up any remaining oil in the nipple.

2. Measure or weigh up a suitable charge and pour it down the barrel. A rule of thumb is 50 grains for .50 cal. rifle, 45 grains for a .45 cal. and so on. Keep your face away from the muzzle in case the charge ignites.

3. Place a greased patch over the muzzle.

4. Place a roundball on the patch and center it. Push it down with the thumb until it is flush with the muzzle, or as far as you get it. Tight fitting combinations can be hard to push with the thumb.

5. Take your starter and place it on the ball as shown below. Give it a quick thump.

6. Do the same thing with the long rod on the starter. See illustration below.

7. Take your ramrod and gently push the ball down the bore until it is seated against the powder. There should be no air gap between the ball and powder. That could make the barrel blow up. See below. Again, remember to keep your face away from the muzzle, the gun is now loaded. Also remember to keep the muzzle in a safe direction at all times!

8. Remove the ramrod from the barrel.

9. Cap the rifle if it is a percussion or prime it with priming powder if it is a flintlock.

10. Cock the hammer and fire!