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Quick Cup O'Joe | Care and Cleaning of the Civil War Musket |Care and Cleaning of the Civil War Musket PART II |Company Drill


Extract of Coffee
Pvt. Dennis Faught

One of the staples of reenacting -- for some of us more than others -- is coffee. The reviving effect of this particular elixir was prized equally so by the soldiers of the Civil War.
However, it became a rare commodity in Southern ranks early in the war, and they were forced to concoct substitutes made from such things as parched peanuts, potatoes, peas, dried apples, corn or rye. But the real thing was issued throughout the conflict to federal troops, and became a sought-after article of trade.
Northern troops received their coffee in a variety of forms: in loose grounds, ready to be boiled; in the whole bean -- roasted or green -- which was often ground using tin cup and bayonet; and as extract of coffee, which the soldiers sometimes called "axle grease" because of its appearance.
Extract of coffee was made by vacuum-pumping the water out of coffee and mixing it with similarly condensed milk and sugar. The resultant thick paste would yield a cup of coffee per tablespoon. Since it was concentrated and less likely to spoil, it was cheaper for the army to transport. It also made a quicker, more reliable cup of coffee than did loose grounds or whole beans.
For today's reenactor, a close copy of this 19th-century product may be made by combining instant coffee crystals and condensed milk. How much you use is up to you. The process is the same. (I usually measure out a number of teaspoons of coffee and corresponding amount of condensed milk equal to the number of cups I plan to drink at an event.)
Place your instant coffee crystals in a cup and add a few drops of boiling water, mixing the crystals into a thick paste. Use as little water as possible, adding just a few drops at a time. It doesn't take much water to break down the crystals. When the crystals have dissolved, mix in the condensed milk, a little at a time. I like about a half-teaspoon of milk per cup, but you can make your extract black if you want -- by omitting the condensed milk altogether. (Note that it will be more concentrated without the sweetener, and require less paste to make a strong cup of coffee).
The finished product will be a thick paste that looks like liquid fudge. Pack it in any suitable container. Authentic tins are available from some sutlers (like C&D Jarnagin or Tin Works), or in a pinch you can use an empty percussion-cap tin with the label removed. I've found that it will keep for weeks without refrigeration, especially if made without condensed milk.
At the event, one tablespoon of extract of coffee mixed into a large tin cup of hot (or even cold) water will produce Civil War instant coffee -- an exceedingly tasty beverage with nary a ground to be found. And it sure beats toting a coffee pot.


Care and Cleaning of the Civil War Musket  Part I

By Alan Bowling, Pvt, Part I

Some of you older members of the 5th may remember I have written on this subject in past issues of the Messenger. However as it has been a while and we have new members. I think it may be appropriate to address this issue again. By way of qualification may I say that though I don’t claim to be an expert I have been shooting and cleaning muzzle loading arms since about 1970 both percussion and flintlock.

Basically there are three reasons why we as re-enactors should devote time and effort to cleaning and caring for our muskets. The first and foremost is safety. If a musket is dirty it is more likely that after repeated firings an ember will remain in the breach to ignite a charge as it is poured down the barrel. In 1995 at Springhill, TN, I witnessed this very thing in the ranks of the 5th. A gentleman who was not a member of the 5th but had fallen in with us had this happen during the battle. He was in the rear rank right behind me. The resulting discharge blew my hat off and peppered the back of my neck with hot powder grains it also badly burned and blistered the fingers on the hand with which he was holding the cartridge over the muzzle. (A good reason to be careful not to get any part of your hand over the muzzle while charging.) Also as fouling builds up in the breach and flash channel it will not let some or perhaps any of the fire from the musket cap reach the main charge this can result in a hang-fire or a misfire. While this is bad enough there is a more dangerous side effect to this. When the fire from the cap is restricted or prevented from going through to the breach the cap pressure has to go somewhere. This results in the copper or brass body of the percussion cap being fragmented and these fragments are usually thrown to the side with enough force that they can draw blood when they strike you or a man in the rank on either side of you. I know of one instance at Jefferson Barracks a few years ago in which a re-enactor was struck in the eye by a cap fragment and lost partial sight in that eye! ENOUGH SAID!!

The second reason is to preserve the value of your investment. Perhaps some more wealthy than I may disagree but the purchase of a reproduction musket represents a fairly significant outlay of money. Black powder fouling is corrosive and if a musket is left uncared for it will cause rust. This will at least lower the value of your musket should you decide to sell or trade it for another and if allowed to progress can impair proper functioning altogether.

The third reason is authenticity. We are trying to represent to the public the clothing, equipment and conditions of the Civil War soldier. Some time ago I was a sergeant in the US Army Infantry and I would never let any of my men get away with having a dirty rusty weapon. While I’m not quite old enough to have served with Pap Price I believe the army, whether 1775, 1865, or 1965 hasn’t changed much on this. Also, no soldier in his right mind is going to neglect an instrument with which in a battle his very life may be endangered if it fails to function. I am not just speaking about cleaning and caring for the bore and lock internals of the musket though this is of primary importance, but also of the exterior of the weapon as well. Some will point to surviving originals on which rust pits and a grayish brown rust patina is to be seen as evidence that this is how they looked in 1863. To this I say Bunk! That rust and pitting is the result of the 40 or 50 or more years they spent neglected in some closet, attic or basement well after the Civil War when they were nothing but old obsolete guns with no value. I quote a passage from a book written by Leander Stillwell entitled “The Story of a Common Soldier“. Mr. Stillwell lived on a farm near Alton , Illinois and in late 1861 at age 18 enlisted in the 61st Illinois Volunteer Infantry. The 61st fought at Shiloh, Corinth, Iuka, Vicksburg and then later in Arkansas and finally portions of the regiment finished the war near Macon, Missouri. The regiment was initially issued Austrian Lorenz rifle muskets and in 1863 received Springfield’s. Mr. Stillwell served to the end of the war and rose from private to Lieutenant. He wrote this book in later years from letters he wrote home that his had mother preserved. It has been reprinted by Time-Life Books. On pages 90 and 91 he says “ About the only drawback resulting from our being caught out in the summer rains was the fact that the water would rust our muskets.

In our time we were required to keep all their metal parts (except the butt plate) as bright and shining as new silver dollars. I have put in many an hour working on my gun with an old rag and powdered dirt, and a corncob, or pine stick, polishing the barrel, the bands, lock-plate, and trigger guard until they were fit to pass inspection. The inside of the barrel we would keep clean by use of a greased wiper and plenty of hot water. In doing this we would ordinarily, with our screwdrivers, take the gun to pieces and remove from the stock all metallic parts. I never had any head for machinery, of any kind, but, from sheer necessity, did acquire enough of the faculty to take apart, and put together, an army musket, - and that is about the full extent of my ability in that line. We soon learned to take care of our pieces in a rain by thoroughly greasing them with a piece of bacon, which would largely prevent rust from striking in.” While this is a Federal unit I hardly think the officers and NCO’s in Confederate service were any less professional in performing their duties. I will quote again from Mr. Stillwell. This on page 45 of the above mentioned book. This takes place at Shiloh and the author is speaking of Confederate troops “ Suddenly on our right, there was a long wavy flash of bright light, then another and another! It was the sunlight shining on gun barrels and bayonets- and- there they are at last a long brown line with muskets at right shoulder shift.” I hardly think rusty barrels or bayonets are going to reflect sunlight in that manner. As you can see from this those re-enactors who use three band Enfields with blued barrels and brass mounts are going to have it easier but even a blued barrel will rust if neglected and brass will tarnish.

This concludes part one of this article. Next month I will address the methods I use in cleaning and caring for my musket both at home and in the field Until then, keep on the good side of the First Sergeant!

by Alan Bowling

Last time I covered some reasons as to why we should spend time and effort to clean our muskets. This month I will cover some methods that I use. The way I do it is by no means the only way and if you use different methods and they work then that is what is important.
I will discuss basically two methods: 1. Field Cleaning, 2. Cleaning at Home. I will also discuss some of the equipment I use.

1. Field Cleaning - This is the method I use to clean my musket when at an event where, especially at a campaign style event, I cannot carry a lot of cleaning gear. I have a small leather bag that goes in my knapsack in which I carry a screwdriver, a nipple wrench, a brass jag that is threaded to fit the rammer of my musket, a patch pulling worm in case I loose a patch in the bore, about 25 2 inch square cotton cleaning patches (enough for the average 2 day event) and a small bottle or spray bottle of oil, 2 or 3 pipe cleaners, a very small drill bit to clean carbon from the flash channel between the nipple and the breech of the barrel, and a small brass funnel. I also carry a clean bandana or bit of rag to wipe dew etc., from the surface of the musket if necessary.
To clean the musket I fill my tin cup with water and if possible heat it. Cold water will work if hot cannot be obtained. The hot water merely heats the barrel and helps evaporate any moisture that isn't wiped from the bore. Then, after ensuring that the musket isn't loaded and any spent cap is removed from the nipple I fold a cleaning patch in half and then in half again. I raise the hammer enough to place the patch over the nipple and lower the hammer on it. Draw the rammer and screw the brass cleaning jag on to it. I am a big advocate of the brass jag to clean with. I know that some muskets particularly the Enfield have a slot in the rammer that a patch can be inserted through. This will work but will not do near as good a job as a jag that is of the correct caliber for the musket. The jag will hold the patch against the bore and wipe it much more effectively. Jags are available from several sources such as Dixie Gun Works and Track of the Wolf for around three dollars, a good investment. Next pour enough water into the bore to fill it about 1/3 to 1/2 full, I use my small funnel here but it isn't absolutely necessary. You will note that the patch under the hammer keeps water from running out through the nipple. Place the palm of your hand over the muzzle and then shake or turn your musket to slosh the water up and down the bore for 8 or 10 seconds. Empty the water out and repeat until the water is coming out clean. Depending on how fouled the musket is it may take several times. Then hold the musket muzzle up, center a clean dry patch over the muzzle and push the jag down the bore. The patch will be held against the side of the bore by the jag. I push the patch to the breech then turn it to wipe the face of the breech ( note: be careful when you turn the rammer not to turn it in the direction that will unscrew the jag from the rod). Repeat this process until the patches come out dry and reasonably clean. Usually takes me three to six patches.
Take a clean patch that you have oiled and run it down the bore again twisting at the breech to wipe and oil the breech face. Next bring the musket to full cock remove the patch and take out the nipple or as it was called during the civil war, the cone.   I wipe off the cap flash from the barrel and cone lug area with the patch or my rag and also the cone (nipple). I then take my drill bit and run it into the flash channel between the cone seat and the breech to remove any carbon build up. I have worked on muskets in which the flash channel was almost completely blocked by carbon deposits so hard that I had to actually chuck my bit into a drill and drill it out. Also clean carbon from the nipple with a nipple pick or the drill bit. Blow through the nipple to clear moisture and the make sure it is clear. Finally run a pipe cleaner through the flash channel to dry it and wipe any remaining residue and replace the cone,
wipe the face of the hammer and you are done. Since I carry a Springfield I may also lightly oil the bright metal surfaces to prevent any surface rust from forming over night. Of course if you have a separate cleaning rod that is threaded to take the jag and you can reasonably bring it to the event then you can use it instead of your rammer to wipe the bore. You will note that I did not remove the barrel or lock from the stock. If the musket was carried in the rain or dropped in water then the barrel and lock should be removed and the metal and wood thoroughly dried. This is where you will need a screwdriver.
Cleaning at Home - To thoroughly clean the musket when I get home I use a similar method in that hot water is the main ingredient. First remove the barrel from the stock. To do this first remove the rammer then bring the lock to full cock and remove the cone (nipple). Next take your screwdriver and turn out the screw that holds the tang to the stock. Finally remove the barrel bands and turn the musket horizontal and barrel down on a soft surface. Raise the butt and gently bump with your hand if necessary until the barrel drops out. If you grasp the barrel by the muzzle and try to pry it out and it sticks at the breech will may break a piece out of the stock. Then remove the lock screws on the off side of the stock and remove the lock carefully from its mortise. Then I fill a bucket with enough hot water that when I stand the barrel in it muzzle up the the cone lug area of the breech is covered by at least a couple of inches of water. I also have handy a cup filled with hot water. Stand the barrel in the water and pour the cup of water down the barrel. Pull the barrel up enough that the water will run out the lug into the bucket. Yep it's really cruddy! Now stand the barrel back in the bucket take your cleaning rod that again has a proper caliber brass jag on it and center a patch over the muzzle and push the patch down the barrel. If the barrel is really badly fouled DO NOT try to force the jag and patch all the way to the breech in one push because if you do you will likely end up with the rod stuck in the barrel. Perhaps it will be stuck tight enough that you will need to clamp the end of the rod in a vise and pull the barrel off the rod. The reason for the cup of water down the barrel first is to soften the fouling and ease this problem but it is best to push the rod down in increments you will be able to feel when it is starting to stick, then back up and push down a little more until you reach the breech. Now pump the rod with the patch and jag up and down the bore. You will feel it actually sucking water into the breech and then when you push the rod down the water will be expelled from the breech with considerable force. Keep pumping until you have drawn a column of water all the way to the muzzle. By the way this is best done in the garage or outside as you can have water squirt out the muzzle. Likely your wife won't be happy with a bunch of grimy black rotten egg smelling water sprayed all over the kitchen or wherever. I go out on the deck. Now remove the rod from the bore and hold the barrel out of the water enough that whatever water is in the bore will drain out. I actually put my lips over the muzzle and blow the water out. Now dump the grimy water and refill the bucket and repeat. Likely the water will be reasonably clean this time if not repeat until it is. Use a clean patch each time you change the water. After the water is coming out clean remove the barrel drain any water (blow through), wipe any water from outside of barrel with a rag and run 2 or 3 clean dry patches through the bore to remove residue and somewhat dry the bore. At this point I usually run a patch soaked with my homemade bore solvent through the bore and then follow with clean dry patches until they come out clean and dry and then make several passes up and down the bore with a clean oily patch. Next I thoroughly clean the carbon from the barrel lug around the cone seat.
and the nipple itself. I recommend using a small brass or copper brush such as plumbers use to clean copper pipe before silver soldering joints or you can cheat as I do. I have a bench grinder with a fine wire wheel on one side a quick touch of the cone and barrel lug and they are clean. This is OK with my bright finished Springfield but will remove some bluing around the cone seat on an Enfield so you may prefer to carefully use a small brush. Then use the drill bit and pipe cleaner to clean and dry out the flash channel in the barrel lug.
When cone is clean I replace back in the barrel lug. Be careful not to cross thread. Now again using the brush and a solvent soaked patch clean all traces of carbon from the nose of the hammer. I now hold the lock in my hand with internals up and spray thoroughly with WD-40 and wipe off excess with a clean dry rag. This gets any grit or moisture out of the lock and lubricates at the same time. At this time you might want to check all lock screws including the hammer screw to make sure they haven't worked loose. They just have to be snug, don’t over tighten. You might actually impair the free functioning of the lock if you make them too tight. Now reassemble the musket in reverse order of disassembly. After the musket is assembled I thoroughly wipe off the entire musket to remove any dirt or other residue and finger prints from the barrel, stock and furniture. If there is any dirt etc., you might have to use a damp clean cloth to completely remove it. I then take a clean dry patch and fold in half and then in half again and place over the cone and lower the hammer on it. This will serve to keep any excess oil from running out the cone if you store your musket standing muzzle up. If the musket is going to be put away for a while I will examine it at least every two weeks for any signs of surface rust and will run a clean dry patch down the bore to wipe it out followed by several passes with a clean oily patch. This method has kept my muzzle loading muskets and rifles in fine shape for many years. Before I close a quick word about oils. Currently it is recognized that any lubricant that has a petroleum base will make black powder fouling more caked and hard. For many years I heard black powder shooters complain about this phenomena and many blamed the black powder being made today as not being as good as that available in the 18th and 19th centuries. I never had this trouble so didn't understand the problem. I was a purist and used only natural products such as beeswax and tallow for lubes and non petroleum based oils as was used originally. Now both muzzleloaders and black powder cartridge shooters recognize this fact. There are a number of no petroleum based lubes on the market such as T/C Bore Butter, Ox-Yoke Wonder Lube 1000, and oils like Ballistol. I use them. However since as a reenactor you don't fire live rounds I'm not sure this is as important. I just pass this on for information. If you have a favorite gun oil use it! Also I believe it is a good idea to have a good cleaning rod that has a good handle and is 3 or 4 inches longer than the barrel of your musket. This will make it much easier to remove a cranky stuck rod. They are available from several sources I will be glad to give specifics if you contact me and also my formula for homemade black powder bore solvent that works and costs probably no more than 25 cents for a 17 fl oz bottle.
See Ya at the next Event!!

Company Drill
Alan Bowling Co A 5th MO Infty

This is not meant as a criticism of anyone but as a way of standardizing our drill practices and helping the 5th look sharp at drill as from accounts I have read the original members of the Missouri Brigade were known for their sharp drill. At our recent Spring Drill I noticed there was some confusion on conducting the inspection of arms. Particularly the proper way for a soldier to give and take his musket to and from the inspecting officer or NCO. That is my topic for this article.

Inspection Arms

Assuming the company is formed in two ranks and at “in place rest” the commands will be:

Attention - Company

At this command the company will come to attention and assume the position of order arms. The next commands are:

Shoulder - Arms

To the rear open order - March

The company will come to shoulder arms and after the second preparatory command the officer or NCO will pause. At this time the Covering (First) Sergeant and the Second Sergeant will take four paces to the rear and halt. At the command “March” the rear rank of the company will step off to the rear and dress on the Second Sergeant. The Covering Sergeant will insure that the rear rank is properly dressed and aligned. When the officer or NCO in charge sees that the rear rank is properly aligned he will give the command:


On this command the Second Sergeant will return to his place in the front rank. The First Sergeant will post himself one pace behind the inspecting officer and make notes of any deficiencies that the officer finds. However if the inspecting officer wishes to expedite the inspection he may direct a lieutenant or the First Sergeant to inspect the muskets of the rear rank. Also at this point the inspecting officer may direct the rear rank to execute an about face however the drill manuals I have consulted are silent on this and it would not normally be done at a formal parade or inspection. The next commands are:

Order - Arms

Inspection - Arms

At the first command the company will of course assume the position of order arms. At the second command each soldier will bring his piece in front of him with the barrel facing front and the butt between his feet. Then grasping the piece at the upper band with his right hand will with his left hand draw his bayonet from its scabbard bring it up and fix it to the muzzle of his musket. The soldier then draws the rammer using the same procedure as is used in the “draw rammers” command of the load in nine times drill. Next the soldier places the rammer in the muzzle tip first and lets it slide down the bore until it rests on the face of the breech. The rammer should not be dropped or “sprung” in such a manner as to bounce or ring on the breech of the musket. This completed the soldier again assumes the position of order arms. At this point the inspector will pass down the ranks from right to left and inspect each soldier’s musket. As the inspecting officer halts in front of a soldier, and this is where I have seen we have no uniformity, the soldier should bring his piece in front of him with his right hand at the same time turning the piece so that the lock plate faces front and lifting the piece high enough so that he may grasp the musket with his left hand just below the lower band. The soldier then drops his right hand to his side and raises the musket with his left hand until the hand is level with his chin. The lock plate should be facing front and the musket held in front of the soldier’s left eye. The inspector should take the piece by the wrist of the stock in his right hand and inspect it. As soon as the inspector takes the musket the soldier will drop his left hand to his side. The inspector will return the musket to the soldier in basically the same position in which it was taken. That is the piece vertical and lock plate facing front. The soldier will take the musket back with his right hand and place it at the position of order arms. When the inspector has halted in front of the next soldier in the rank the soldier will bring the musket in front of himself with the barrel to the front and butt between his feet. Then draw the rammer, return it to the slot under the barrel and go back to the position of order arms. The bayonet remains fixed. If after all muskets have been inspected the officer or NCO in charge wishes to conduct an inspection of cartridge boxes the command is:

Open Boxes

At this the soldier will bring his left hand across his body, grasp the musket, and with his right hand pull the leather tab on the cartridge box lid off the lug then return to the position of order arms. When inspection are completed the commands are:

Shoulder - Arms

Close order - March

At the first command the company will come to the shoulder and at the second the rear rank will march to the front and take their normal interval behind the front rank.

Just remember give your musket to the inspector with the left hand and take it back with the right hand.


1. Hardee’s Light Infantry & Rifle Tactics Vol. 1, School of the Company, 1855 edition, by William J. Hardee

2. Parade, Inspection, and Basic Evolutions of the Infantry Battalion, 3rd edition, by Dominic Dal Bello.

3. Volunteers Handbook, 1861 edition, by James K. Lee.

Alan Bowling Co A 5th MO Infty


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