Austro-Hungarian Army Weapons in the American Civil War

Donald Dixon is researching a book on the use of Austro-Hungarian Army (k.k. Army) weapons by the Federals and Confederates in the American Civil War. After the American Springfield rifle musket and the British Enfield rifle muskets, the k.k. Army weapons were the third most widely used arms in the war, with the Federals importing more than 350,000 and the Confederates in excess of 100,000. The Federals could not have fought the war without the k.k. Army weapons through mid-1863, and the Confederates could not have fought the war in 1864-5 without them. Despite this, the arms and their use is very poorly documented in English.

Muster 1854, Type I, k.k. Army rifle musket with Confederate provenance
During the war, Eley Brothers manufactured quantities of “Austrian” ammunition for the Confederates; orders which were handled for the Confederates by the British firm of S. Isaac Campbell and Company:

18 – 19 July 1862: On the 18th Eley Brothers billed J. E. Barnett and Sons, on the account of Confederate Army Major Caleb Huse, £135 for 100,000 rounds of “musket bullets” at 27 bullets to the pound. On the 19th Eley Brothers billed Barnett and Sons £74 5s, for an additional 55,000 “musket bullets” at 27 bullets to the pound. Under the British Gun Barrel Proof Act of 1855, bullets weighing 27 to the pound were essentially .54 caliber.

30 July 1862: Eley Brothers invoiced Major Huse’s account £700 for 280,000 “Austrian” rifle cartridges, with the shipping containers marked “A”.

14 October 1862: The blockade runner Ouachita’s jettisoned all of her ordnance cargo prior to her capture by the Federal Navy. This included 29 cases of Austrian rifle ammunition marked “A” (29,000 rounds).

June 1863: Major General Patrick Cleburne’s Division of the Confederate Army of Tennessee was receiving both k.k. Army Muster 1854 System Lorenz rifles and “British” manufactured “Austrian” ammunition. Cleburne directed his ordnance officer to test the Muster 1854 rifles with both Confederate Atlanta Arsenal manufactured .54 caliber ammunition and the British ammunition. Although the ordnance captain who conducted the tests clearly had a very flawed understanding of the scientific method, the British ammunition was superior to the Atlanta ammunition in the tests.

18 July 1863: Eley Brothers invoiced Major Huse’s account for 600,000 “Austrian” rifle cartridges – with the shipping crates marked “A” – and 100,000 buck shot and ball musket cartridges – with the shipping crates marked “M”.

5 August 1863: Eley Brothers invoiced Major Huse’s account £827 10s for 330,000 “Austrian” rifle cartridges with the shipping cases marked “A”.

17 – 26 August 1863: On the 17th the blockade runner Elizabeth was loaded with 250 cases of Austrian rifles and cases of Austrian ammunition at St. Georges, Bermuda. Confederate ordnance records from Wilmington, North Carolina, indicate that when Elizabeth arrived in Wilmington the 100 cases (100,00 rounds) of Austrian ammunition aboard were marked “A”. Due to the time involved in shipping from Great Britain and the delays in shipping from Bermuda once cargo arrived there, it is difficult to believe that this shipment came from the materiel invoiced by Eley Brothers on 18 July and 5 August.

19 – 30 August 1863: On the 19th the blockade runner Phantom cleared St. George’s with 97 cases of “rifles” and 402 cases of ammunition. Phantom’s bill of lading listed “402 Cases Mrdse” followed in a different hand with “Aust. Rifles.” The bill of lading indicated that these 402 cases were marked “OB” in a rhomboid. On the 30th the Confederate ordnance officer in Wilmington received 97 cases of Austrian rifles from Phantom and 402 cases (402,000 rounds) of Austrian rifle cartridges, with the cases marked “OB” within a rhomboid and “A”. Again, due to the time involved in shipping from Great Britain and the delays in shipping from Bermuda once cargo arrived there, it is difficult to believe that this shipment came from the materiel invoiced by Eley Brothers on 18 July and 5 August.

Due to the arrival of Austrian rifles and British “Austrian” rifle ammunition in the Army of Tennessee in June 1863 and the Elizabeth and Phantom shipments, I believe that Eley Brothers manufactured more “Austrian” ammunition for the Confederates than is shown in the above invoices. The widespread destruction of Confederate records during the war makes documentation difficult, however.

There are then two questions:
  • Did Eley Brothers manufacture addition quantities of Austrian ammunition for the Confederates? If so, when and how much?
  • What exactly was Eley Brothers providing to the Confederates as “Austrian” ammunition? Was it simply U.S. Army standard “.54” caliber ammunition, was it paper patched .54 caliber ammunition similar to that being manufactured for the Pattern 1853 Enfield rifle musket, or was it a copy of Josef von Lorenz’s k.k. Army standard 13.9 mm/.547 inch ammunition with compression bullets?

Assistance would be very much appreciated.

Donald can be contacted at: djdixon1@cox.net


Photographs courtesy of College Hill Arsenal: www.collegehillarsenal.com

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