Ask The Marshall: Indian War

Were Indian War soldiers ordered to crush empty shell casings so Indians could not reload them?

Chuck Doire
Healdsburg, California

Commanders did order frontier U.S. Army troops not to leave anything behind that could be found by the Indians and made into a weapon.

As an example of Indian creativity, during the 1860s, the Sioux ingeniously punched holes in abandoned shell cases and jammed a percussion cap in the hole. They used a small stone as an anvil inside the shell case to explode the cap. Then they poured powder in the case, pressed a lead ball on the end and presto—a self-contained cartridge.

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official state historian and the vice president of the Wild West History Association.  His latest book is Arizona’s Outlaws and Lawmen.

If you have a question, write: Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or e-mail him at

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