I had an early birthday present today, with the arrival of a much anticipated package from David Hannon of Minuteman Armoury in New Hampshire. Back in early January, as I was researching the various accoutrements I hoped to acquire for my Continental Army impression, I discovered Mr. Hannon's work. He is a skilled craftsman in leather and has made it his ambition to provide early war militia, particularly in the New England area, with appropriate cartridge boxes and leather drinking bottles.
I reenact with the First New Jersey Continentals, depicting the unit on campaign in 1777. This was before there were significant shipments of French uniforms and weapons, when much of what a soldier had was locally sourced. Leather was a scarce commodity (though not as rare as good English gunflints and powder), and was needed for things like cartridge boxes and bayonet scabbards. Slings that would normally have been of leather were made of canvas, linen, or hemp, and Hannon offers his products with optional hemp straps.
I ordered a bayonet sling and a 1776 Early Continental 24 round cartridge box with hemp straps and was told that because he makes them all with traditional tools and dyes there would be about 10 weeks from the date of payment until he shipped the product. I asked him how things were going at 9 weeks and he said he was finishing my box then and it would ship the next week. Here it is on time as promised and I am absolutely delighted with the craftsmanship ship and quality.
Cartridge boxes of this period had maple or poplar blocks of wood with holes drilled to accept paper cartridges. Washington ordered the older 17 or 19 hole boxes to be expanded to 24 holes while in command of the army at Cambridge, and by 1778 the standard size was expanded again to 27 rounds. This box has a single flap with the rough side out so it could accept a coating of black ball as waterproofing. Later models had a second, interior flap for this purpose. The stitching is based on original specimens, as are all Hannon's products. He offers two cartridge pouches based on surviving examples that were used at Lexington and Concord, and if I ever do a militia impression I may well be back for one of those as well.
David Hannon says of his work;
"I have been making replicas of New England militia cartridge boxes for about ten years now. It all started when I read that Captain Issac Davis of the Acton, Massachusetts, militia made up bayonets and cartridge boxes for the new minute company over the winter of 1774/75 to prepare for the coming conflict with the British forces in Boston. Yet after repeated searches and inquiries no one could give me details of what the cartridge boxes looked like and how they were constructed, all the experts on the subject were stumped. So I began my own research.
My quest took me through numerous museums and into the private holdings of accoutrement collectors. And I began noticing a repeating pattern beginning to emerge with the cartridge pouches that could be attributed to early years of the American Revolution and to the New England area. I learned about the proper stitching techniques and about different leathers and their weights, about the wooden blocks that hold the delicate paper cartridges and the arrangement of the holes, how the blocks were cut and drilled by 18th century techniques.
Over the years I gradually refined my work and now I have reached the pinnacle of what can be created from the designs. I have in these past years discovered the only known surviving cartridge box attributable to the Lexington militia and the events of April 19th 1775, and I have found more pouches that continue to repeat the designs I replicated here.
I hand stitch all my boxes/pouches with waxed linen thread and I am now using mostly maple for the wood blocks and occasionally poplar where required. I don't do too many variations, only those that I know are historically accurate. I am not in the business to make money any way possible, I am out to convert the masses of reenactors to the accoutrements I feel they should be carrying."
This Jersey Blue is proud to be carrying his superb products.