There Were No Twelve Apostles
Being the reason why 'Apostles' should not be used
when referring to a musketeer's Collar of Bandoliers

By Robert Giglio
At musters the public and the re-enactors themselves often use the term 'Apostles' to describe a musketeer's 'Collar of Bandoliers,' both. This is one of the most common, incorrect terms used to describe an item of ECW equipment. References to a musketeer's 'twelve apostles' is also commonly found in nearly every modern book on the period, though contemporary evidence for such usage seems to be non-existent.

The correct term, as used in the Scots Ordinance Papers, was 'Collar of Bandoliers.' The leather strap was called the 'Collar,' and the individual charges were called 'bandoliers.' Modern usage of the term 'bandolier' has been transferred to the collar, or leather strap, itself, summoning images of swaggering Mexican revolutionaries. In New Model Army contracts the individual charges were referred to as 'boxes' -- a very good example of how terms can alter slightly, or perhaps subtly, to cause confusion to the unwary during the same period of history.

The term 'Apostles' was naturally given to a collar of bandoliers -- or simply 'bandoliers' for short -- due to the fact that they commonly numbered twelve during the 16th and 17th centuries.

The objection to this comes from the known existence of fifteen, and even sixteen bandolier collars. In the early modern period (referring to the 17th, not 20th century), just as 'cannon' referred to a particular caliber of field artillery piece, so too did the term 'musket' refer to a particular caliber of firearm fired from the shoulder, rather than just any old firearm in general. Ammunition at this time was issued by weight (pre-packaged cartridges were still a thing of the future), and the most commonly used musket's bore took twelve rounds to the pound of lead. Given this, it doesn't take a genius to realize that a musketeer issued with a pound of lead, powder and match proportionate (a common scale of issue of the period), would have twelve rounds, and consequently would require twelve bandoliers.

The appearance of collars of fifteen bandoliers is almost certainly associated with the use of 'bastard muskets,' which had a slightly smaller bore than a musket, and taking fifteen bullets to the pound. Likewise, collars of sixteen or more bandoliers are associated with muskets of 'caliver' bore, taking sixteen or more bullets to the pound. Both of these types of 'muskets,' especially 'bastard muskets,' were more commonly used in Ireland, and during the Civil War, than the older and rather heavier 'true' musket.

The term 'Apostles' may, therefore, certainly been applied as a nickname to early bandoliers, and may have been continued in use to include collars of fifteen or more bandoliers. However, although it may be acceptable usage to refer to the full set of bandoliers as 'Apostles,' it is not strictly accurate. The reason for this is simply that contemporary evidence does not substantiate the term. Nor would it be correct to refer to the individual charge as an 'Apostle,' as is certainly done by nearly everyone at musters.

With regards to the individual chargers themselves, contemporary documents invariably refer to them 'bandoliers,' 'boxes,' or as a 'charge' -- hence in most drill manuals the command 'open your charge.' Hopefully, given time, the proper term will be heard at musters and become a replacement in everyone's vocabulary.


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