This is a NEAR EXCELLENT condition example of the British P-1859 Ball Bag. The Ball Bag was designed to supply the infantryman with a ready supply of cartridges for immediate use in the loading of his P-1853 Enfield Rifle Musket. The bag was designed to hold 10 loose paper cartridges, while the cartridge box (know in the British service as the ammunition pouch) was designed to hold the wrapped packages of 10 cartridges, which were the soldier’s ammunition reserves. In American service, the cartridge box served both purposes, with the top portion of each of the two tin “magazines’ holding the loose cartridges and the bottom portion holding the wrapped packages of 10 cartridges. The Ball Bag had been in use in British service from the days of the Baker Rifle and possibly before then. It went through a number of variations and improvements, prior to the adoption of the 1859 pattern. The 1859 pattern, as originally adopted, had a completely empty interior. This was a departure from the previous pattern that had a “cap pocket” inside the pouch for easy access to percussion caps. After experience in the Crimean War, the British adopted an angled cap pouch, which was carried on the cartridge box belt, in the center of the chest. This system of carrying the caps was originally the result of British soldiers the Crimea sewing their cap pouches onto their cartridge box belts, in imitation of Russian soldiers who carried their caps there for ready access. With the new cap pouch pattern, a cap pocket was no longer needed inside the ball bag. By the end of 1859 the British updated the ball bag pattern to include a loop inside the bag to hold a zinc oil bottle for the maintenance of the soldier’s musket. The P-1859 Ball Bag was constructed of heavy buff leather, finished white for line infantry regiments. Volunteer Rifle Regiments were issued ball bags of blackened waxed leather, and colonial troops were provided with the same bag as the rifle regiments, dyed brown. During the course of the American Civil War a large number of P-1859 ball bags were imported by the Confederacy. These bags appear to have seen use to hold both ammunition and percussion caps. Additionally, extant examples of Confederate made cap pouches exist that were made by altering ball bags into smaller, more useable percussion cap pouches. The majority of these CS purchased ball bags appear to have been of the black, waxed leather variant. Many of the ball bags appear to have seen use with Georgia troops. One wonderful identified image exists of Private William G Howard, who served in Company K of the 35th Georgia Volunteer Infantry; The Harris County Guards. Howard’s image includes a complete set of British accouterments, including a P-1859 “Enfield” Cartridge box and box belt, an angled cap pouch, a “snake buckle” waist belt and ball bag. All of the accouterments appear to be black waxed or bridle leather. Harris is additionally armed with a “2-Band” Enfield Rifle (either a P-1856, P-1858 or P-1860) which, has the saber bayonet mounted on it. The rifle additionally has a British pattern sling, complete with rectangular brass adjustment buckle. Harris was killed on June 27, 1862 at the battle of Frazier’s Farm in Virginia, so the image was clearly struck prior to that date.
This British Pattern 1859 Ball Bag is in really wonderful condition. The bag is the second pattern variant with the oil bottle loop inside. Since the pattern change to adopt the loop occurred just a few months after the initial pattern adoption, it is unlikely that the earlier pattern bag was produced in significant numbers; if at all. The bag is constructed of heavy buff leather, finished white. The bag has the typical half-moon shape and has two flaps, both secured by brass finials. The front flap is the closure flap for the bag and the rear flap allows the bag to be mounted or removed from the waist belt, without the need to take the waist belt off. The leather is in fantastic condition, and retains its original stiffness with just enough pliability to work as it should. The leather was only coated with a single application of the white finish, and the original yellowish tinge to the buff is clearly visible under the lightly applied finish and is especially noticeable under the rear flap. All of the stitching is complete, tight and original. The pouch shows some light handling scuffs and some minor discoloration and light dirt staining. The bag could likely be cleaned to restore it to its original luster with little effort. The inside flap is ink stamped with the typical British WD, War Department, ownership mark, as well as a pair of opposed “Broad Arrows”, indicating the bag had been sold out of service. The inner flap is impressed with a British regimental storekeepers mark, which appears to read: 48 / H / 352. The underside of the rear flap is stamped with a very light and only partially legible makers stamp, which appears to be that of A ROSS & CO, which was a major accoutrement maker to the British military.
All in all this is a really fantastic example of the British P-1859 Ball Bag. Whether your interest is in 19th British militaria, or Civil War import accoutrements, this would be a great representative example of a Ball Bag in wonderful and very displayable condition. It will be a fantastic addition to any collection of quality military accoutrements from the mid-19th Century.SOLD