Reply To: Cartridge Size at the Battle of the Nile, 1798

Home Forums Nautical Research: 1500 – 1830 Cartridge Size at the Battle of the Nile, 1798 Reply To: Cartridge Size at the Battle of the Nile, 1798

Nicholas Blake

    Captain Keats includes in his letter book (ADM 80/136 at Kew) an order received from Lord Howe 19.09.93 detailing the charges of powder (attached). There are different values but service is the relevant one. A note in his out-letters dated 04.04.01 (ADM 80/141) shows that a 32lbr had a ‘first proportion’ of 11lb and a ‘second proportion’ of 9lb 8oz, so his order of 1793 is probably correct for the Nile.

    Mark Adkin’s “Trafalgar Companion” has an illustration on p237 of a 32lbr with equipment; it shows a cartridge resting against a cartridge box, and helpfully there is a photo of a cartridge box recovered from HMS Invincible on p154 of Marl McGuane’s “Heart of Oak”, which says it is 48cm tall and carried two or three bags of powder plus the wads. There is no source for the Adkin picture but I have found his book reliable.

    Lavery’s “Arming and Fitting of English Ships of War” notes on p136 that cartridges could be made of paper, flannel, or parchment, and in 1793 cartridges for grapeshot and caseshot should have bottoms of flannel and tops of paper, and after this flannel cartridges were more popular “because they do not retain the fire”. He also says that there is no trace of parchment in the later eighteenth century but the 1790 R&I state (p.102 art. VII) that the gunner is to keep only three rounds in parchment cartridges at a time, because they only lasted three weeks.

    On p138 he has a diagram of a gun of unspecified calibre of 1796 in which the cartridge has almost the same diameter as the calibre of the gun and is in the diagram 32mm long compared to the ball’s 12mm and the wad’s 12mm.

    So the short answer is diameter – to fit the gun closely; length – about one and a third times the ball plus wad, or about 20cm.

    N. Blake

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