Harry Smeltzer mentioned this earlier today. Since I was already discussing the 8-inch Parrott rifles, I will take advantage of the opportunity to expand upon our Friday afternoon “discovery.”
This 8-inch Parrott case shot was originally a component of a memorial on the battlefield. The plastic bag is a standard quart type, roughly 7 to 8-inches wide, giving perspective to the overall length of the projectile. The bag contains some loose shot. Another photo with the plastic bag removed better shows the interior.
Several dozen shot remain embedded in a black cement. That substance was known as a “matrix” in contemporary manuals. While the vendor (in this case likely West Point Foundry) may have filled the shell, often this was done at a depot or arsenal. The Ordnance Instructions offered a few paragraphs on the filling process. First the shot was poured into the cavity. Then the ordnance worker poured in hot sulfur. The manual next instructs to “chuck the shot in a lathe,” which may indicate the mixture was forced to the exterior while cooling. Regardless the next step involved use of an auger to bore out a hole through the center of the mixture of shot and sulfur. Instructions specified a red ring around the fuse hole to identify the projectile type.
Normally for storage, the case-shot was not charged. But when preparing for issue the ordnance hand poured musket powder into the hole in the matrix. He then tapped it down with wooden dowel and mallet. A metal plug into the fuse hole held the charge in place.
Preparing for action, the ammunition handler would unscrew the plug and replace with the required fuse. The artifact at Manassas had the plug in place until dismantled in the 1970s.
And that is perhaps the most amazing part of this story. The projectile originally sat on one of two memorials at Manassas National Battlefield. (The shells seen today are replicas of the originals.)
For decades, just sat there. Out in the elements. Who knows how many lightning strikes and knocks. And was very, very silent.