During the American Civil War, which lasted from 1861-1865, over 620,000 accounted soldiers were killed. Known as the "the first modern war", historians generally agree that the reason for this was because this was a time of transition for the military. Armies and Navies were still using tactics where they would gather large forces of firepower to bear on the enemy. At the same time, weapons were being developed which were accurate and lethal well beyond any arms of the earlier conflicts. As a result of these two conditions many more casualties were sustained. Add to that the lack of medical knowledge of disease and infection and the numbers truly began to grow. This paper is an overview of the types of weaponry that was used during this time.
Artillery generally falls into three basic categories; guns, howitzers and mortars. The main difference between them being the trajectory of the round fire. A gun has a high muzzle velocity and a very flat trajectory. Normally a gun is used in a direct fire mode where the target can be seen and penetration is desirable. Good targets for a gun would be things like brick or earth forts, ships, buildings, and targets in tree lines.
Howitzers have a somewhat lower muzzle velocity and arc their shells onto a target. They are used in both a direct fire and indirect fire mode. Keep in mind with the limited range of the pieces available during the Civil War there was no indirect fire such as we know it today. Targets were generally always within the line of sight of the artillery men. This is especially useful when an enemy is concealed behind a prepared position or the artillery men desire to have a shell explode over an enemy’s head. The air-burst does less damage to hardened targets such as masonry walls, and redoubts, but causes many more human casualties due to the shrapnel covering a large area.
Mortars have a very pronounced arc of flight. They have a relatively low muzzle velocity... [continues]
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