Recently, I’ve been doing some reading about artillery during the battle of Wilson’s Creek in preparation for a Staff Ride. In the process I learned that some of the Missouri State Guard artillerymen used a great deal of ingenuity in manufacturing ammunition and other supplies for their battery.
Lieutenant William P. Barlow explained that “After [the skirmish at] Carthage [Captain Henry] Guibor’s ingenuity was exercised in establishing an ‘arsenal of construction.’ We had found a number of loose, round shot in the battery wagon. A turning-lathe in the town supplied sabots, and the owner of a tin shop contributed straps and canisters, iron rods donated by and cut up in the blacksmith shot made good slugs for the canister and a bolt of flannel, needles and thread, freely given by some dry goods man, furnished material for cartridge bags. A bayonet made a good candlestick, and at night, after the day’s march, the men went to work sewing cartridge bags, strapping shot to the sabots, filling the bags from a barrel of powder placed some distance from the candle, in the meantime watching each change of wind and fearing it might blow a spark from the candle and blow us up.
My first cartridge resembled a turnip, rather than the trim cylinders from federal arsenals, and would not enter a gun on any terms. But we soon learned the trick, and at the close range at which the next battle [Wilson’s Creek] was fought our home-made ammunition proved as effective as the best” (page 32).
As it turns out, Barlow’s tale was not an “old soldier’s story.” About ten years ago, an archeological survey was conducted at Wilson’s Creek and among the finds was expedient (i.e. homemade) canister on the slopes of Bloody Hill as well as in Sharp’s Cornfield. Thanks to Barlow’s account historians can safely conclude that Guibor’s Battery fired the expedient canister found on Bloody Hill. Captain Hiram M. Bledsoe’s Battery, another Missouri Guard unit, probably fired the expedient canister found in Sharp’s Cornfield.
Source of Lieutenant Barlow’s quote:
Patrick, Jeffrey L., ed. “Remembering the Missouri Campaign of 1861: The Memoirs of Lt. W. P. Barlow, Guibor’s Battery, Missouri State Guard.” Civil War Regiments: A Journal of the American Civil War, Vol. 5, Number 4, pages 20-60.