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'Muskets had been charged with bolt'

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'Muskets had been charged with bolt'

Postby jf42 » April 2nd, 2017, 8:01 am

The execution of Private James Mulligan of the 27th, sentenced to be shot for desertion and attempting to join the enemy .

"The guard of a dozen or so rank and file then marched twenty paces in front of him and, at the drop of a white handkerchief, discharged a volley. As the muskets had been charged with bolt, his body was mangled in a most shocking manner.

Before returning to quarters, the Division was deliberately marched past the corpse to let each soldier see the awful spectacle, which would have been sufficient deterrent to any prospective deserters.
"

Ensign Robert Bakewell 27th. Served in the Peninsula 1810-1811
See 'The Exploits of Ensign Bakewell'
http://www.inniskillingsmuseum.com/ensi ... -bakewell/


What was 'bolt'- was this simply a name for scrap metal? Or was it literally as described, a metal rod? Scrap would have to be well broken up to fit down a musket barrel. From the way Bakewell refers to this, it seems as if he was familiar with 'bolt' as a load for purposes other than execution of British soldiers.

Was this a customary choice for firing squads- made, as implied, to render the wounds inflicted as shocking as possible? Were there certain crimes, such as attempting to join the enemy, which incurred this form of penalty? Who decided?

I don't remember this as a detail from other accounts. It seems vindictive and indeed barbaric. Particularly as these events were known to unsettle the men in a way that was not salutary.

JF
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Re: 'Muskets had been charged with bolt'

Postby Iain » April 6th, 2017, 2:52 pm

Wow !
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Re: 'Muskets had been charged with bolt'

Postby A.Roads » April 6th, 2017, 8:41 pm

I have not heard of any projectile for a musket that could be described as a bolt. I strongly suspect that the transcriber has misread the original document & has simply mistakenly interpreted the word "ball" as "bolt".
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Re: 'Muskets had been charged with bolt'

Postby jf42 » April 7th, 2017, 9:01 am

That's an interesting thought. 'Bolt' is a new one on me too, although my knowledge relating to small arms is superficial. Hence the question.

It seems to me, though, that Bakewell is referring to a load that is out of the ordinary, and which clearly had a marked effect on the body of the condemned.

If the load was common ball, why comment on it, and why express surprise as to its effect? The mangling effect of a number of muskets firing ball at the same limited area might well have taken him by surprise, but that is not the point he seems to be making.
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