During the American Civil War (1861-1865), soldiers on both sides of the conflict spent more time in camp; or marching, than they did fighting. While resting in camp, soldiers wrote letters to loved ones, read, smoked, played music, gambled, or whittled away their worries on just about any object they could get their hands on. And for most soldiers, their ammo pouch provided the perfect material.

Most commonly found in camps, lead bullets were carefully carved into chess pieces or other unique works of art, while others were purposefully flattened and shaped into game pieces.

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As a longtime Civil War artifact collector, carved bullets have long been one of my favorite relics to find and collect. Knowing that each piece was once held, whittled, and shaped into a unique sculpture by a soldier, one can only wonder who that soldier was. What were they thinking? Who did they leave back home? What horrors had they seen? Did they survive the war?

Carved Civil War Bullets Photo Gallery

To help illustrate the uniqueness of these fascinating artifacts, I photographed a few of my favorite pieces to share with you. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!   

Carved Civil War AcornCarved Civil War Acorn

Civil War bullet carved into an acorn on a pedestal. The acorn was chosen by the XIV Corps of the Union Army to remind the men of their tough times in late 1863 when they were left in the wilderness without supplies and forced to survive on acorns.

Carved Civil War MushroomCarved Civil War Mushroom

Civil War bullet carved into the shape of a mushroom. Recovered from Corinth, MS.

Carved Civil War Axe HeadCarved Civil War Axe Head

Civil War bullet carved into an axe head. Recovered from Murfreesboro, TN.

Carved Civil War ToothCarved Civil War Tooth

Carved bullet fashioned into a tooth/molar with such amazing detail!

Carved Civil War PhallicCarved Civil War Phallic

Civil War bullet carved in the shape of a phallic symbol. Not only was the soldier that carved this bored, he was perverted!

Carved Civil War RookCarved Civil War Rook

Bullet carved into a castle or a chess rook. Recovered from Fort Harris, TN.

Civil War MaynardCivil War Maynard

Bullet hammered upside down into a Maynard cartridge. Recovered from Pickett’s Mill, GA.

Carved Civil War ArtCarved Civil War Art

Bullets carved into chess pieces. Recovered from camps in VA, TN, MS, and GA.

Carved Civil War DiceCarved Civil War Dice

Civil War bullet carved into a dice. Many soldiers played chess and gambled while in camp. Anything to take their mind off of the war.

Carved Civil War BulletCarved Civil War Bullet

Civil War bullet carved into a unique, ornate design.

Carved Civil War Chess PieceCarved Civil War Chess Piece

Civil War bullet carved into a chess piece. Recovered from Corinth, MS.

Carved Civil War Chess PiecesCarved Civil War Chess Pieces

Civil War bullets carved into chess pieces.

Carved Civil War Poker ChipsCarved Civil War Poker Chips

Carved coat button recovered from Gettysburg, PA.

(Above) Poker chips recovered from Shiloh, TN & Corinth, MS. (Below) Carved pencils.

Carved Civil War Bone DogCarved Civil War Bone Dog

Animal bone carved into a dog. Recovered from a Confederate trash pit in Orange, VA.

Carved Civil War DogCarved Civil War Dog

Carved from brass instead of lead, this is one good looking dog! It appears to be some kind of Schnauzer or Terrier.

 

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