When the 51st North Carolina organized on April 30, 1862, the regiment was almost fully equipped. Training camps had been established the previous year, and the army had adequate supplies of food. The volunteer companies comprising the regiment brought enough clothing with them to make do until the soldiers were issued uniforms. The most critical need facing the new regiment was weapons for the soldiers.
The British-made Pattern 1853 Enfield rifle musket was the most widely used firearm by Confederate infantry. The weapon was 4 1/2 feet long and weighed 9 1/2 pounds. It fired a .577 caliber Minie ball. The ball and powder were contained in a paper cartridge to facilitate fast loading of the rifle. A percussion cap ignited the cartridge when a soldier fired his gun.
On May 6, 1862, a week after the Fifty-First organized, Colonel Cantwell received a shipment of Enfields. The batch included 100 rifles, 5 bullet molds, 10 nipple keys, 10 packing boxes, and 5,000 cartridges with caps. A similar requisition was likely placed for each of the regiment’s ten companies. Company B received their rifles on May 12.
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