Report of the Chief of Ordnance – 1882

REPORT OF THE CHIEF OF ORDNANCE TO THE SECRETARY OF WAR FOR THE YEAR 1882

Appendix 14

REPORT FOR THE YEAR ENDED JUNE 30, 1882
BY CAPT. F. HEATH, ORDNANCE DEPARTMENT, COMMANDING THE CHEYENNE DEPOT.

CHEYENNE ORDNANCE DEPOT,
Wyoming Territory, August 22, 1882.

SIR:  In compliance with instructions from your office, I have the honor to submit (in addition to the usual annual report required by paragraph 57, Ordnance Regulations 1877) the following professional report on such subjects as may be of interest to the department, which have come under my observation during the fiscal year 1882.
In my professional report for the fiscal year 1880, I entered somewhat elaborately into the subject of the supply of leather to troops of cavalry, which is the most expensive item of expendable material furnished this branch of service; and I attempted to demonstrate that it would be in the interest of economy and convenience to issue about three-fourths of the allowance of leather in the form of straps, cut from good quality of leather and of proper sizes.  Also the reference to the entire supply table of materials as fixed in ordnance memoranda No. 18, that exactly the same quantity of stores should not be issued to each of two troops, one of which has served its six months in the field, and the other in garrison, but that the supply should be graded according to the length of service in the field, and that for ordinary garrison service the allowance could be materially reduced with respect to many items, including leather.   I also made some remarks and suggestions relative to the ordnance carbine socket, recommending that it be abolished as an item of cavalry equipment, and that a carbine holster of approved pattern be issued in its stead, and gave reasons supporting this recommendation.  The report above referred to was forwarded to your office August 30, 1880.  Since that date I have visited every post, excepting one, within the limits of this department; I have conversed with and ascertained the opinions of the most intelligent officers; and have taken advantage of every opportunity available to inform myself with respect to the practical working of the arms and equipments furnished by the Ordnance Department to the infantry and cavalry branches of the service, and more full experience has confirmed me in the views and opinions which have been communicated to your office from this depot.

INFANTRY EQUIPMENTS

The equipments furnished the infantry by the Ordnance Department are of various patterns and descriptions of material.  The pattern 1874 equipment, made of dyed duck with leather straps, is probably the best now issued.  But it is not in every respected adapted to the present wants of the service.  It may be said that the brace yoke as a system is never used.  When carrying braces are issued, they are seldom unpacked, except for inspection, or as a matter of curiosity.  The form a part of the extra baggage and encumbrances of a company.  The are, as a rule, never taken into the field.
The haversack is carried by its strap, and if extra haversack straps cannot be obtained with which to carry the clothing bags, the latter are either thrown into the transportation wagons or are left behind.  Hence it would appear useless to fabricate or issue the carrying brace as part of the equipment.  The cartridge belt is, of course, invariably used in the field and in garrison for all practical purposes, such as, while on guard-duty, drills , target practice, &c.; the leather belt and box being used only on occasion of ceremony.  At many posts the belt and box are worn during guard mounting, immediately after this ceremony the cartridge belt being substituted for them, thus rendering of no effect one of the principal objects of the guard-mounting inspection, viz. to ascertain the condition of the equipments to be used, and the amount and character of the ammunition to be carried by the soldier during his tour of duty.   Under all circumstances, I believe it would be in the interest of simplicity, economy and efficiency to abolish the leather belt and cartridge box, and to use the cartridge-belt on all occasions.

RAMROD-BAYONET RIFLES

About 250 of these rifles have been issued in this department, and in almost every instance when they have had a fair and extensive trial they were received with favor, and this in spite of the fact that they were, for some unexplained reason, issued from the National Armory with sights improperly adjusted.   General McCook, commanding Fort Douglas, has recently armed his entire command with these rifles.  Without entering into the question of the desirability of abolishing the bayonet, it is a fact that the bayonet, owing, perhaps, somewhat to the inconvenience of carrying it with the cartridge belt, is seldom or never taken into the field; it is left in garrison with the leather waist belt and bayonet, if it could be done without adding weight or interfering with the convenience of the soldier’s equipment.  The ramrod bayonet fulfills these conditions, and it is believed that it would be greatly to the advantage of the service if this form of bayonet were adopted, whether a magazine gun is to be used or the Springfield rifle retained.

HUNTING KNIVES

It is thought that the hunting knives recently issued, as to form, size, &c., are everything that could be desired, and that they fill a decided use of the service.  Those issued, however, were not of the best quality of material.   The steel was so brittle that the knife was easily indented when used only for the ordinary purpose for which it was intended.  This knife, with a better quality of steel, should be adopted for both the infantry and cavalry arms of the service.

WOODEN WIPING ROD

The great increase in the attention paid throughout the Army to rifle practice created a demand for a class of tools and implements not heretofore required to any extent.  Among these is the wooden wiping rod.  This implement is found to be very useful on the target range, in wiping out the gun, which is frequently necessary when fine shooting is to be done.  The wooden rod is much preferred to the iron ramrod for this purpose.  The present allowance is 2 rods with each box of new rifles or carbines.  As a box of new rifles is rarely received by a company, it is practically denying them this greatly-desired implement.  It would be attended with comparatively little expense, and would be appreciated as a great favor by those interested, if an allowance of, say, 25 of these rods were made for each company of infantry and troop of cavalry in the service.

CAVALRY EQUIPMENTS

It may be said in general terms that the cavalry trooper is furnished all the equipments and accouterments which are practically necessary to make him efficient for field or garrison service.  In the minor details, however, there are certain anomalies and inconsistencies to which I deem it my duty to call your attention.   These anomalies arise from the introduction of certain articles which do not conform to or cannot be used with other articles already forming part of the trooper’s equipment, or which do not conform to the usages and customs which many years’ experience has proven to be absolutely necessary in this branch of the service.  The articles to which these remarks more particularly apply are the cartridge-belt, canteen, and carbine socket.

THE CARTRIDGE BELT

The woven cartridge-belt has become a necessary part of the soldier’s equipment.  No trooper would think of going into the field without at least one of them, if it could possibly be obtained.  But these belts are used without being in any way adapted to carry the saber, revolver, or revolver ammunition.   Hence, these arms, which are considered by many absolutely essential for field service, are either left behind for use in garrison with the saber-belt, or the cartridge belts, when received, are immediately turned over to the company saddler, to be by him altered in whatever way his ingenuity may suggest, so that it will carry at least the revolver and its ammunition.  It would seem that this work could be done better, cheaper, and more uniformly at an arsenal.*

THE CANTEEN

The fact is not recognized by the Ordnance Department that the infantry and cavalry carry their canteens by totally different methods; hence the canteen strap issued to both is identical, and the trooper is supposed to carry the canteen in the same manner as an infantry soldier.  As a matter of fact, however, it is carried by the trooper attached to the saddle, on either side of the horse, according to the direction of the sun, the object being to keep the canteen as much as possible in the shade. When the web strap was issued the trooper simply tied his canteen to practical requirements. Since the introduction of the leather strap this could not be done so easily.  As soon as leather straps are received therefor, they are either cut up and straps of the proper size and shape are made from them or they remain in the packing-box, and whatever material can be obtained is utilized for the purpose.  The strap used is almost half the length of that furnished them by the Ordnance Department.   It is attached to the canteen by the usual hooks, and at the middle point of its length a steel snap is placed, by which the canteen is fastened to any one of the saddle rings.  The leather for these straps is obtained either from the regulation strap or from the regulation allowance of leather furnished the troop.  The snaps are obtained from condemned links, or by requiring for the full semi-annual allowance of snaps for side lines, or in many other ways which ingenuity can “devise to scrape them together.”  This method of carrying the canteen is the result of years of experience on the Plains; no trooper would pretend to carry it any other way, neither would a cavalry commander prevent it, unless required to do so by the most stringent orders.  There are regimental orders in existence to day requiring the canteen to be carried in this manner.  Would it not be well for the Ordnance Department to recognize the necessities of the situation, and provide a regulation strap adapted to the requirements and usages of this branch of the service?

CARBINE SOCKET

In my report for the fiscal year 1880 I stated somewhat at length the objections to the carbine socket, and the reasons in favor of the adoption of a holster of some approved pattern.  A further experience of two years has confirmed the views expressed in that report, and I take the liberty of repeating them:

Among the items mentioned above on which leather is expended, carbine holsters are included; after the various straps required are provided for, this is the principal source of expenditure of leather in cavalry companies.  As far as I can ascertain, every company in this department keeps itself provided with a complete outfit of these holsters, and I cannot remember to have seen in actual use a single socket provided by the Ordnance Department.  The holster generally used is somewhat similar in shape to a pistol holster; it is open at the small end and has no flap; it is strapped to the D ring and rear girth strap of the saddle.  The carbine is thrust through the holster until the hammer rests against the upper edge.  In this position the rear sight projects about one-half inch beyond the small opening, and is thereby prevented from rubbing or being otherwise injured.  During the march the entire weight is sustained by the holster, the carbine being detached from the sling.  I believe it would be in the interest of efficiency and economy for the department to definitely adopt the holster of this or an equally serviceable pattern for issue to the cavalry.  If requisitions for carbine sockets are as rare in other departments as in the Department of the Platte, the stock on hand will last an indefinite period.  In the mean time, however, the holster will be made by the company saddler, which could be issued by the Ordnance Department, of far better quality and at much less cost.

It is not known that a carbine holster has been adopted by the department.  A few have been received with Whitman saddles.  They are designed to carry the carbine horizontally across the pommel of the saddle.  It is not believed that this meets the necessities of the service as would a holster similar to that above described.
As an officer who has had, perhaps, exceptional opportunities to observe the practical workings of the equipments issued by the Ordnance Department, I have to report with reference to the three items, the cartridge belt, canteen, and carbine socket, that this anomalous state of affairs exists, viz., that when issued to the cavalry they either remain unused in their packing boxes or they are immediately changed to adapt them to the practical necessities of the service, and each commander is a law unto himself as to the particular manner in which the change should be made.  The greater portion of the time of the company saddler is spent making these changes, and the material therefor is obtained from the superabundant supplies semi-annually issued to each company.  Also, with reference to the cartridge belt, that it is not adapted for use with equally essential articles.  If worn as issued, the saber and pistol must be left behind, and there is no provision for carrying revolver ammunition.  It is curious to note the various devices resorted to by company commanders to enable their men to carry their entire outfit.  In one instance which I recall the loops of the holsters were cut, and then laced so as to adapt them to the cartridge belt, but the lacing soon became worn, the holsters were loosened and swung in their places, and several pistols were lost.

LARIATS

The latest pattern (cable laid manila) is not received with favor.   It is heavy, cumbrous, loosely twisted so that it becomes spongy when wet.   The pattern O.M.No. 18 is preferred.  It is light, pliable, tightly twisted, and more easily handled.

SIDE LINES

All the different pattern of side lines have been tried in this department, but few have give satisfaction.  The various fasteners work well when the side line is new and clean, but when covered with mud and ice they are very difficult to manipulate.  The preference for a simple buckle fastening appears to be unanimous, consequently the Comly No. 2 pattern is quickly called for when a company commander thinks he has a chance of obtaining them.

HAIR GIRTHS

These have come to be an actual necessity of the service.   Those issued two years ago, are still doing good service.  Strand girths are greatly preferred to those woven solid.

* In view of General Orders No. 5, Adjutant-General’s Office , current series, these remarks apply to the infantry, with the disadvantage on their part that they have not, as a rule, the material or skill available to alter the belts; hence the non-commissioned officer can carry his revolver only in garrison, or when the waist belt is worn.  The spirit of the order cannot, therefore, be complied with, with the equipments as furnished.

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