The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003 Page: 192
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
One factor that may partially explain why the Indian-associated
weapons appear to be underrepresented is the Indians' apparent reliance
on muzzle-loader rifles. The only gun part recovered during the investi-
gations was the barrel from a .50 caliber muzzle-loader rifle at a location
on the battlefield that was clearly associated with the Indians. In addition,
of the forty-eight bullets recovered that can be attributed to the Indians,
twenty-one (44 percent) of them are .50 or .54 caliber balls from muzzle-
loaders. Since muzzle-loaders did not use cartridges, only the fired rifle
balls can be recovered from the battlefield. With no firing-pin signature
to examine, it becomes much more difficult to determine how many rifles
fired the balls. Thus, we can state only that a minimum of one .50 caliber
and one .54 caliber muzzle-loader is represented. However, the number
of muzzle-loader balls recovered from the battle site suggests that the In-
dians were relying heavily on this type of firearm.
Compared to repeating rifles such as the Spencer, Winchester, and
Henry, muzzle-loaders had a slow firing time. Consequently, these repeat-
ing rifles had essentially replaced muzzle-loaders by the mid-186os. By
1874, muzzle-loaders would have been essentially obsolete. It is curious
that in 1874 an enemy that was armed with a significant number of muz-
zle-loaders would be considered "well armed" by the U.S. Army.
The Indians though, were also using other types of firearms besides
muzzle-loaders. In fact, repeating rifles account for eleven of the Indian
guns. However, the repeater rifles the Indians were using are also older
models. For example, the .44 caliber cartridges that were recovered were
fired from a Henry or Winchester model 1866 rifle. Furthermore, the
Spencer cartridges that were recovered were of types that were not man-
ufactured after 1866. This suggests that the Indians were conserving and
even curating their cartridges. Hardly a practice of a well-armed and well-
Of course, several factors affected the number of cartridges and bullets
we were able to recover from the site and, consequently, may have affect-
ed our interpretations of the battle. These include the fact that 1 oo per-
cent coverage of the site with the metal detectors was impossible to attain,
and it is unknown how many artifacts collectors may have previously re-
moved from the site. The patterns, however, seem clear. Either Colonel
Miles overestimated the number of Indians at the battle, or the Indians
were not as well armed as he believed. Based on the archeological evi-
dence, it is likely that there were not as many Indians at the battle as
Colonel Miles thought and the ones that were there were not well armed,
at least not as well as Miles believed they were.
lJohn L. Barber, The Rzmfire Cartndge an the United States and Canada, 1857-z984 (Tacoma: Ar-
mory Press, 1987).
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003, periodical, 2003; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101223/m1/244/: accessed July 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.