Musket balls are the ammunition used in muskets – the weapons used during the English Civil War. The balls could be made from any metal alloy, but many were made from lead. Lead can be melted at reasonably low temperatures and so lead musket balls could be made over a camp fire. Lead could be readily sourced from such places like church roofs or even coffins, and recast from old musket balls, so it was an easy material to work with while preparing for battle.
The soldier would carry a crucible in which to melt the lead, he would put the material into it and place it over the fire until it had formed into a liquid. Musket ball moulds like this one in Worcester’s collection, had a small hole above one of the domes where the liquid could be poured into once the two domes were closed together. The soldier would wait until it cooled then opened the mould to reveal a solid lead ball inside.
Because these were cast in halves even though pressed together, there would always be a small amount of liquid lead leakage which would form a thin crust around the ball. These needed to be filed off before being used inside a musket, so some soldiers would pop a few in their mouths and roll them around, chewing off the excess until the ball was smooth. The obvious downside to this method is that lead is poisonous. You could always tell a musketeer soldier when you spoke to him as his teeth and gums would turn green from the lead poisoning – if the Civil War battles didn’t kill him, sadly the lead eventually would.
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