The original letter I copied about 22 years ago was on three sheets of paper, tri-folded as were all such letters. A cover sheet contained a brief summary, originator, date, and file number(s). Unfortunately, so far I've only found a spare copy I had, missing the cover sheet. I am sure it came from Record Group 156, Records of the Chief of Ordnance, US Army, but I've not yet located my notes on the location within that large record group.
I would greatly appreciate knowing the name of the New York Commissary General who signed this letter, as his last name is not clear and I can't seem to find the information in the resources available to me at the moment.
I replicated the 19th C. puncuation (dashes or underscores vice commas) as I saw it rather than attempting to change it to modern standards.
Commissary Generals Office
New York April 11th 45
In your letter of March 20th you wish me to inform you the cause of the accident which occurred in my practice last year.
In October last I went into Encampment on Hempstead plains, with my Officers and non Commissioned Officers for practice.with 6&9 pdrs. and 12&24 pdr. Howtz. for three days. During practice Mr. Colt came on the grounds and requested me to make a trial of his tin foil cartridges, which he said required no sponging. I hesitated at first not wishing to be interrupted with new Inventions there, but some of the officers were disposed to make the trial. He then brought forward some fifteen or twenty cartridges in a pail of water. The firing commenced with six men at the piece _ and discharged as soon as the cartridge was driven home; at the fifth discharge the first aid on the left did not extend his arm sufficiently to clear the muzzle, and the reaction got(?) his arm in front of the muzzle. At that instant the cartridge exploded, shattering his left arm in such a manner that amputation above the elbow was necessary.
The cause was attributed by some to the melting of the tin foil by the heat of the gun, and by others to the aid who fired before the rammer was clear of the piece, but he insists that he did not pull the cord at all, & that the cartridge exploded by itself.
It threw quite a gloom our camp for the day. But Mr. Colt urged another trial, being willing himself to ram home the cartridge, and Major Powell of my command volunteered to tend vent and point the piece, and load and fire as quick as the two could do it. Mr. Colt very cautiously placed the cartridge, and with but one stroke of the rammer holding it between his thumb and fore finger, drove it home, and let go for a moment, when the cartridge again instantly exploded blowing the rammer to pieces. Mr. Colt was not injured but Major Powell had the last part of the first joint of his left hand blown off. Mr. Colt then threw down his hands, and said I am done-I am satisfied. Allowing some fifteen minutes for the gun to cool, I ordered the worm to be used to cleanse the piece-when several layers of tin foil appeared to have adhered to the sides of the gun-and a quantity was drawn out, with some pieces of the flannel cartridges which had been used previously. On Enquiry I could not find that the gun had been sponged after the firing with flannel cartridges, the fault was then laid to that.
My Opinion is that the tin foil was melted by the heat of the gun, and the explosion took place before the cartridge was driven home_ for I perceived the fire issue from the muzzle and the touch hole at the same time and the thumb of the 3rd aid on the right driven away by the force, and not without scorching the thumbstall, and he an old hand at the business.
Absence from the City has been the cause of my delay in not answering before.
Your obt Servít
N.B. I shall profit by your remark as to my report- in my next one.
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