Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 08.djvu/31
Explosive or Poisoned Musket or Rifle Balls.
as no one ventured to inform him to the contrary, this author accepted the silence of the world and deliberately put into print this slander against the Confederates without having made any apparent effort to learn, as he could have done with ease, whether his statement had any basis of truth.
It is with entire confidence in the facts presented in this paper that I deny this author's statement, above, to be a statement of fact. I do more than this—
I. I most emphatically deny that the Confederate States ever authorized the use of explosive or poisoned musket or rifle balls.
II. I most emphatically assert that the United States did purchase, authorize, issue and use explosive musket or rifle balls during the late civil war, and that they were thus officially authorized and used at the battle of Gettysburg.
It happened in 1864, the day after the negro troops made their desperate and drunken charge on the Confederate lines to the left of Chaffin's farm and were so signally repulsed, that the writer, who was located in the trenches a mile still further to the left, picked up, in the field outside the trenches assailed by the negroes, some of the cartridges these poor black victims had dropped, containing the very "explosive" ball described in the above quotation and charged to the Confederates. I have preserved one of these balls ever since. It lies before me as I write. It is similar to figure A, and with a zinc and not a copper disc. It never contained any fulminating powder. The construction of the ball led me to make investigations to ascertain its purpose. At first, I thought it might be made to leave in the body of the person struck by it three pieces of metal, instead of one, to irritate, and possibly destroy life. But this theory appeared to me so "fiendish" that I was unwilling to accept it, and I became convinced, after more careful examination, that the purpose of the ball was to increase the momentum, by forcing in the cap and expanding the disc so as to fill up the grooves of the rifle. The correctness of this view will be proven in this paper.In the first place, although the charge made by the author of the Pictorial History of the Civil War against the Confederates of having used explosive and poisoned balls, has been made before, and often repeated since, it has never been supported by one grain of proof. How did this author ascertain that the balls he picked up on the battlefield of Gettysburg were sent by the Confederates? How did he learn that one was an explosive and the other a poisoned