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A critical piece of an infantryman's equipment was his cartridge box. At
first the Continental Army had to use whatever could be provided to the
troops and so pouches of various designs, "belly boxes" and captured
accoutrements could be found mixed throughout the army. By the end of 1778,
however, the Continentals' emerging quartermaster system had introduced the
"New Invented Cartridge Box," an almost exact copy of the sturdy 29-hole box
used by the British (a very few Continental copies have been found with 19
holes as well). This was the first pattern adopted universally for the army
and it remained in use, with only slight modifications, into the War of
1812. The majority of the boxes were manufactured in Middletown, Ct. and
most were shipped to Philadelphia. From there they were distributed to all
the Continental Army units. It is uncertain when (or if) the entire army was
equipped with them and it is plausible that some regiments still had to make
do with whatever could be procured. The March, 1780 inspection of the Second
Pennsylvania Regiment at Morristown states the accoutrements of the unit
were of "midling" quality, hinting that the substantial new cartridge boxes
may not have reached them even by that late date (although it should be
remembered "accoutrements" refers to just more than cartridge boxes). Here,
from the wonderful collection of Don Troiani, are three specimens.

Example 1: This box has a 2" wide white buff leather strap affixed to the
piece by two buckles. It utilizes the "British system" of closing the flap:
a triangular brass fastener arrangement with a clasp attached to the bottom
of the flap. Units from Connecticut are believed to have marked their boxes
in the manner shown here.


Example 2: A nearly identical box to the first
"British system" specimen,showing additional detail.

Example 3: This is the more common example of the New Invented Cartridge
Box. The two-piece strap is actually sewn to the box and, to allow for
adjustment, there is a classic 18th Century brass buckle sewn to the shorter
section which rests on the soldier's chest. It features the distinctive
"American system" closure apparatus consisting of an iron swivel locket that
engages a keyhole device sewn to the inside bottom of the flap. Note that
the strap is black leather that has been painted white on the outside.
Shoulder straps of all black leather are also known to exist as well as some
straps of white linen (thought to be post-war repairs). The interior of the
box is stamped "U.STATES." Some boxes are known with two or three such