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Brief Notes on a British 1804 Pattern Cartridge Box in Canada
By Craig Williams

1804 Pouch Lower Tray (Craig Williams Collection)

       The 1804 pattern box, also known colloquially as the “60 round” box, is a slightly deeper box front to back to previously issued boxes and it contained not only a lower tin tray for about twenty spare rounds, it had instead of a wood block, a tin which held forty rounds ready for immediate use. (A description of the history of the introduction of this type of pouch can be found here).

       It was issued to the army much the same as any new equipment, as the old boxes were in need of replacement or when outfitting new companies as the supply of the older patterns became used up. Was it used here in Canada? The answer to this question is yes; the evidence is strong that it made its appearance here.

       The original leather portion of the 60 round box at Fort York may be proof that this was a left over from the war. (The actual provenance of the Fort York box is unknown, only that it was discovered in a carton of old cartridge boxes that were being de-accessioned).

        About two years ago while surfing Ebay, I came across a mislabeled item; “Tin ammunition box, artillery”. On closer inspection it appeared to be the lower tin from a 60 round box. It was shallow and had a single dividing wall in the centre. (The seller had put seven pieces of grapeshot in it, hence the “artillery tin”)

         I contacted the seller and asked for measurements. He gave me 165mm wide by 80mm front to back by 40mm deep. This measured just slightly larger on one dimension than the reproductions based on originals so I contacted the British museum regarding the complete example they have and a private owner of an original 60 rnd box with the bottom tray still intact.

        The private collector felt that the measurements were possible given the large amount of shrinkage in the leather. The tray in his example is permanently stuck in the bottom of the pouch and therefore getting an exact set of measurements was impossible.

        Since the chance of getting an answer quickly from the museum wasn’t likely and this was an auction I bid on the off chance that it was what I suspected it to be.

1804 Pouch Lower Tray (Private collection)


        I was unfortunately sniped, (a last second high bid barely beating my own high bid, a common practice on EBay), and another buyer got it.

 (All attempts to contact this buyer with a better offer where ignored. I looked at what the buyer was in the habit of bidding on and it was entirely American Civil War relics. I’m sure he feels he has a nice piece of ACW tin wear.)

But the story doesn’t end there. About 24 hours later the same seller put up for auction another “artillery tin”. This one was 165mm wide by 80mm front to back by 68mmdeep and divided into four equal compartments, or alarmingly similar to the top tin of the 60 round box. At this point I contacted the seller and asked him how he came to be in possession of these pieces. He told me that they were found together, one on top of the other, but he wasn’t comfortable giving me any more detail than that.

Slowly he allowed that he found them some years ago while he was scuba diving in the Niagara River.

I was now pretty sure of what he was selling and I made sure this time that I got the piece.

While this sale was happening I got an email from the museum informing me that the dimensions I had sent them were within the same approximate range.

I was pretty sure that I had gotten my hands on the real thing but the location of the find was important.

After the sale was over and the item was in my possession I asked the seller once more where he had found these tins.

He finally admitted that twenty years ago, before he knew any better, he had been diving at the mouth of he Niagara River, specifically on the remnants of the Kings wharf at Fort Erie.

Down almost two feet in the silt along one of the beams he found the two tins together. One cannot pinpoint a date on when this piece went into the water, but it does show that the box was here in Canada when the fort was active and being used by the British. Was it before or during the war? There is no way to verify it other than the report given to me by the seller, (which is a good reason not to drag up things from the bottom or play with metal detectors on historic ground, it destroys the “context” of the artifact).

The records show that these were issued by 1812.

This find verifies its use in North America.


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