M1854 Austrian .54 Projectile and Multi-Ball

Hello all! I have enclosed two pictures of a .54 projectile with a single groove and an open cavity. Quite a few of these have been found along the Texas/Mexico border over the years. Undoubtedly they are for the M1854 Austrian rifle which was .54. The bullet measurements are as follows:

D: .541" or 13.74 mm
L: .929" or 23.64 mm
C: .223" or 5.66 mm

The cavity width measures: .204" or 5.15 mm

Apparently this projectile was first used in the Type I Lenk von Wolfsberg/von Lorenz Gun-cotton cartridge. Why would these projectiles be recovered from the Texas/Mexico border? I’m not really sure why. I do know that the French invaded Mexico during the American Civil War. Was this projectile used by itself without the wooden dowel and gun-cotton?


The other cartridge below is what I believe to be a .54 Austrian Multi-Ball cartridge. Can anyone confirm this and the dates that they were used?


Hi Ian,

First example is a Podewils type bullet for 13.9 mm caliber rifle muskets. It was used since 1854 by Austria and several German duchies, so may have come from a variety of paper cartridges.

The lower example is a Bavarian duplex load also by Podewils. Can you post its weight and dimensions?




Is it not possible that this bullet might have been loaded for use in the .54 caliber Mississippi rifle which was a significant item of armament for the southern confederacy in the American Civil War? Have known Confederate .54 bullets been found in this same area? Jack

Austrian arms were widely used by both sides in the War of Northern Aggression 1861-5. Ammo probably came with the arms.

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Ah, a ture Southern Gentleman!
I have not heard of the Great War referred to thusly in many years.

Wrote an article for a news letter referring to US Civil War and it was edited to War of Northern Aggression. It was published in Alabama.

Ah, yes, as it should be… ;-)

Fede…I finally tracked it down. Unfortunately I don’t have a scale but the measurements of this one are Diameter: 13.89mm or .547" Length: 37.76mm or 1.487". I was also able to track down a cartridge with the .54 Podewils bullet in it.This one has a diameter of .548 and length of 2.615." I’m not seeing this specific one in any of my reference books but I may be looking in the wrong ones.


The Podewils minie was the standard Bavarian bullet during the 1866 war. Austria used the pattern in very limited numbers in 1866 alongside the Lorenz compression bullet, and examples are recovered from Koenniggraatz. (The Austrian-made bullets have a slightly more pointed ogive). The 1866 Bavarian battlefields have produced large numbers of Podewils bullets, as well as the multiball pattern that looks like the bases of three Podewils minies stacked together. These bullets were not known from US sites in the 1970s and 80s, when I was a serious collector of Civil War ammunition. Indeed, they were unknown here until the last 15 years or so, when they began to appear on eBay. The source was Bavaria, but a background story emerged that tied the possible use of the bullets by Maximillian’s troops in Mexico to some sort of Confederate connection. I recall one especially nice offering that combined a Podewils minie with one section of a multiball load - it was recovered “on the Texas border.” Very rare.

This is part of a larger problem, with a variety of (recently) imported European bullets being passed off as Civil War specimens. For example, eBay sellers offer “Hanover” pillar breech bullets in a wide range of calibers, none of which we ever saw in the 1970s. Most seem to be from the Shiloh campaign (actually rifle ranges in Germany). Other imposters noted in the last few years include Belgian (Russian) Timmerhans minies, British military Enfield bullets with “rare” non-commercial base marks, French square-cavity minies, and Russian Brunswick-type Luttich flanged bullets. I never saw any of these things until I began collecting European rifle-musket era ammunition from European sites in about 2002.

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A postscript to the above. Given some slight danger that I might sound like I know something about this subject, I should say that nearly everything I know (and most of my collection) came directly from my old friend Brad Posey. Brad lived for many years in Germany, and developed an interest in figuring out rifle-musket period European ammunition. He did a lot of research in period sources, and visited 1849-1871 battlefields all over Europe to obtain samples of what was actually used. (He has seen “Confederate” Podewils bullets for sale that he found on the 1866 Bad Kissingen battlefield). I will try to prod Brad into joining this forum. He has the draft of a book on European rifle-musket period ammunition that has been neglected for a decade, that needs some prodding as well.

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