The Weapons of the American Civil War
The Civil War, also called The War Between the States, was one of the bloodiest wars in American history. What made the Civil War such a massacre? The Civil War was such a bloodbath because the technological advances were so far superior to the tactics of the infantry, that the weapons virtually obliterated the soldiers. Soldiers would form lines known as a battalions. In these battalions, soldiers would basically march to their deaths. In addition to weapons doing so much damage, fortification on the battlefield was far more advanced than had ever been before. The Cheveau-de-frise was the main focus of armored fortification in the Civil War. This fortification consisted of 10 to 12 foot logs with large spiked-shaped, wooden stakes attached to the top of them. The Cheveau-de-frise would hold soldiers at bay while the opposing soldiers dismantled the battalion with cannons and rifles. Between the fortification and the weapons, humans did not have the slightest chance of survival.1 Part I: Union Weapons and Artillery
The Union used many weapons in the Civil War. Among these, the most popular was the Model 1861 Springfield Musket, manufactured in the North for $15 to $20 to the government at The Springfield Armory in Springfield, Massachusetts. The rifle weighed 9.25 pounds, was 58.5 inches in total length, it came with a triangular 21 inch socket bayonet and fired a .58 caliber conical shot at a velocity of 950 feet per second. The company produced an improved rifle in 1863, but the Model 1861 was the most widely used model in the Civil War.2
Union soldiers mainly used this weapon for the improved accuracy and distance of the shot. According to author Francis Lord, in his book Civil War Collector's Encyclopedia: Arms, Uniforms and Equipment of the Union and Confederacy, this weapon saw action in every battle of the Civil War. The soldiers proclaimed the Model 1861 as a "dependable masterpiece." 3
In addition to the Model 1861, the Spencer rifle also contributed to the success of the Union forces. The most substantial amenity to this weapon was the rate of fire. Most Southern soldiers could fire their muzzleloaders at three rounds per minute. The Spencer shattered the Confederate weapon and boosted the fire rate to 14 rounds per minute with the weapons built in primer. In addition to being such a powerful asset when in control by the Union forces, the Spencer was also helpful when scavengers from the Confederacy tried to fire the weapon. The reason for this is ammunition. The ammunition for this weapon was so limited that the Southern forces would basically find it useless.4
Although the Model 1861 and the Spencer were the primary weapons for Union soldiers, their side arms were equally important. The Colt Army Model 1860 was the most popular sidearm among the Union army. The Colt Model 1860 was a .44 caliber six shot weapon which weighed 2 pounds 11 ounces. At $13.75, the Colt Army Revolver was much more expensive than those made by Remington or Starr. Production for the Colt Model 1860 ceased in November 1863. This pistol was the main weapon carried by upper class lieutenants, colonels, and generals throughout the war.5
Another side arm that was popular among the Union forces was the Starr Revolver. The .44 caliber six shot weighed almost three pounds and could be shot multiple ways. The Starr could use a combustible cartridge or could be fired by use of loose gun powder and ball. The government threatened the company (Starr) by saying they were going to move to a cheaper model of sidearm if the weapons price did not reside. Starr complied and began manufacturing the weapon for twelve dollars; the Union forces purchased 25,000 of these revolvers.
Whereas the Model 1861 and the Colt Army Model 1860 were the premier weapons used on the battlefront, bladed weapons were still in use with deadly force. The most widely used of these weapons...
Bibliography: Coggins, Jack, Arms and Equipment of the Civil War. (New York: Doubleday Publications, 1962).
Ward, Geoffrey, The Civil War, (New York: Randomhouse, Inc., 1990)
Drury, Ian, The Civil War Military Machine: Weapons and Tactics of the Union and Confederate Armed Forces, (London: Smithmark Inc,1993)
Hesseltine, Wiliam, Civil War Prisons (New York: Udgar Co., 1964)
Pritchard, Russ. Civil War Weapons and Equipment (Guilford: Lyons Press, 2003)
Andre Jounieau, Jean-Marie Mongin, Alan McKay, Officers and Soldiers of the American Civil War: Cavalry and Artillery, Vol. 2, (London: Histoire and Collections, 2000)
Lord, Francis, A., Civil War Collector 's Encyclopedia: Arms, Uniforms and Equipment of the Union and Confederacy, (New York: Dover Publications, 2004)
Brooks, Victor, D. Secret Weapons in the Civil War. (New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 2000).
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