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SAN ANTONIO ARSENAL MODIFIED CARBINE AND PISTOL POUCH POSSIBLY MADE DURING THE PERIOD OF THE 1870 EQUIPMENT TRIALS RARE ARSENAL WORKSHOP MADE SAMPLE POUCH IN EXCELLENT CONDITION:  This cartridge pouch consists of an interesting modification which was likely produced in the leather workshops of the San Antonio Arsenal.  This piece was purchased locally here in San Antonio and when found, it was stuffed with pages taken from an edition of the San Antonio Express News newspaper dated April 16TH, 1945.  Those pages contained articles covering the death of President Franklin Roosevelt, President Trumans ascendancy to the Oval Office and assorted war news from the fronts. Until the arsenal closed in 1949, they held regular public sales of surplus equipment and it was at one of these sales that a local historian picked up this fascinating cartridge pouch.    

This modification consists of a Cartridge Box for the Model 1842 Pistol that has had a Civil War era cap pouch sewn to the front center of the pistol cartridge boxs front flap.  The cap pouchs belt loops were detached at the bottom of each loop, fed through a slot cut in the pistol boxs front flap, and sewn down to the inside of the flap.  The cap pouch was then sewn to the pistol box flap along the main seam at the lower rounded corners of the cap pouch.  The workmanship is definitely of the quality associated with arsenal workers and the means of attachment provided a very strong and stable arrangement with no play or loosening.   

The pistol cartridge box has had both of its original belt loops removed, presumably during the modification process.  While there is no other means of carrying this modified box present, there are three parallel lines of stitching centered and running vertically on the back of the box which were not part of its original design.  It is possible that this modification was intended to be carried on a shoulder slings, perhaps incorporating the modified box on a carbine sling such as the arrangement of the Model 1870 E Carbine and Pistol Cartridge Pouch and Sling.  The width of the three lines of stitching is appropriate to the width of the Model 1851 Carbine Sling. 

The final feature of this modification involved the sectioned tin liner.  The tin liner was originally designed with five square sections across the top of the tin with a single open faced compartment which spanned the width of the bottom of the tin.  The upper compartments held individual cartridges and full packets of cartridges were held in reserve in the large compartment on the bottom.  This tin was retained in the modified box, probably to help the box keep its shape and support the load of cartridges, but all of the dividers were removed leaving a single compartment which incorporates the entire interior of the box.   

This modified cartridge box is in excellent condition with all of the seams intact, and all of the leather surfaces retaining a bright shiny surface with only minor crazing in some isolated spots.  The leather is all supple with no hardening.  The front flap of the cap pouch is stamped with the desirable small US.  The front cover of the cartridge box has some soldier applied lines pressed into the leather along the edges of the flap, apparently his attempt to personalize and decorate his cartridge box.  The rear of the cartridge box two initials, JC or JG inscribed into the leather, again probably soldier identification related.   

Of course, the $64,000 questions remain as to when the modification was done and for what purpose.  Unfortunately, we will probably never know the answer to either one.   

I have owned this box for a number of years and I have come to the conclusion albeit based only on opinion without any evidence to support it that this modification was produced in the years immediately following the Civil War when the Ordnance Department began entertaining a number of modifications of Civil War surplus accoutrements.  

Taking into account the history of the San Antonio Arsenal may be of some help identifying the period in which this modification was produced.  The arsenal was established in 1859, and shortly thereafter in 1861 it was surrendered to the Confederate forces.  It is unlikely that the arsenal had any reason or opportunity to acquire large stocks of surplus accoutrements in those two years, and any that were present when the arsenal was surrendered in 1861 were likely issued to Confederate forces in the field and consumed during the war.   

After being reoccupied by US Army personnel in 1865, the arsenal would have begun to acquire old or surveyed accoutrements from outlying army posts and units which were returned to the arsenal as new equipment was issued in return, and too, they would have had all those accoutrements and other equipment surrendered by the Confederate forces in the area.   

Based on the condition of the two pieces the cartridge box and the cap pouch and the quality of the workmanship to assemble them, I believe they were selected from the surplus equipment held at the arsenal and one of the piece workers fashioned this modification. 

The form of the modified box suggests it was intended to carry carbine cartridges in the main compartment and pistol cartridges in the cap pouch.  If indeed this box was modified in the post Civil War years, the concept bears a telling resemblance to that of the Model 1870 E Carbine and Pistol Cartridge Pouch.  

Arguing for the modification having been done after the Civil War is the manner in which the tin liner was altered.  If the box and cap pouch were assembled together to create this modified box while the paper cartridges were still in use, the tins dividers would not have been removed as they were necessary to protect the fragile paper cartridges.  Metallic cartridges were far more resilient to being carried in the cartridge boxes and didnt require the dividers to protect them.  Along the same lines, its notable that the strip of sheep wool was removed from the cap pouch not just worn away, but removed altogether.  

All things considered, I am convinced this is an early Indian War modification, quite possibly the only one of its kind, produced as a sample piece of a concept being considered at the time, and that from pieces such as this grew the more developed patterns which were introduced for the 1870 Equipment and Firearm Trials.  A very interesting accoutrement, this modified cartridge box would be a significant addition to your collection.  (0301) $750

 

 

 
 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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