(Left) Union General George B. McClellan with staff, dignitaries,
and sabers in Autumn 1861. (Right) Confederate Cavalry, with weapons, near Monroe's Crossroads in 1865.
Although at the beginning of the Civil War the Regular Army
was generally armed with rifled muskets, most of the combatants at Bull Run were state volunteers, armed with whatever weaponry
that had been purchased by state authorities. These included various types and calibers of domestic and foreign smoothbores,
some of which had only recently been converted from flintlock; and various types and calibers of rifles; and the longer rifled
In 1861 a shortage of rifles on both sides forced the Northern
and Southern governments to issue the older smoothbore weapons or purchase weapons from European nations. As the war progressed
most soldiers eventually were armed with rifled muskets, although even late in the war some troops on both sides still carried
During most of the war the standard infantry weapon was the
.58-caliber rifled musket, adopted by the U.S. Army in 1855 to replace a .69-caliber smoothbore musket. The new infantry arm
was muzzle loaded, its rifled barrel taking a hollow-based cylindroconical bullet slightly smaller than the bore. The loading
procedure required the soldier to withdraw a paper cartridge (containing powder and bullet) from his cartridge box, tear open
one end with his teeth, pour the powder into the muzzle, place the bullet in the muzzle, and ram it to the breech using a
metal ramrod. A copper percussion cap was then placed on a hollow cone at the breech. To fire the weapon the hammer was cocked,
and when the trigger was pulled the hammer struck the cap and ignited the powder charge. Each soldier was expected to be capable
of loading and firing three aimed shots per minute. Although the maximum range of a rifled musket might be over 1,000 yards,
actual fields of fire were often very short, the emphasis of musketry fire resting upon volume at close range rather than
accuracy at long.
The basic ammunition allowance for each infantry soldier was
40 rounds in a leather cartridge box. When a large action was expected, 20 additional rounds were issued to each soldier,
who placed them in his uniform pockets or knapsack. In addition, 100 rounds per man were held in the brigade or division trains
and 100 rounds in the corps trains.
Officers generally carried both single- and multiple-shot handguns.
Although the types of handguns used by both sides were innumerable, two of the most common were six-shot revolvers produced
by Colt and Remington, both in .36- and .44-caliber. Union cavalrymen were initially armed with sabers and handguns, but soon
added breech-loading carbines. In addition to Sharps and Spencer carbines, dozens of other types of breech-loaders, from .52-
to .56-caliber, were issued. Confederate cavalrymen might be armed with a wide variety of handguns, shotguns, muzzle- loading
carbines, or captured Federal weapons.
Typical Civil War Small Arms
Effective Range (in yards)
Theoretical Rate of Fire (in rounds/minutes)
|U.S. rifled musket, muzzle-loaded, .58-caliber
|English Enfield rifled musket, muzzle-loaded, .577-caliber
|Smoothbore musket, muzzle-loaded, .69-caliber
|List of Civil War Weapons
|Comparison, range, capability of firearms
|Civil War weapons, guns, and small arms
|Civil War guns, revolvers, carbines, and even shotguns had many common parts
Any weapon smaller than a cannon and carried by a soldier was known as a
small arm. During the Civil War, small arms included muskets, which were smoothbore, long-barrelled shoulder arms; rifles,
shoulder guns with spiral grooves cut into the inner surface of the barrel; carbines, short-barrelled rifles; and handguns,
including pistols and revolvers. Like artillery, small arms also were designated by their caliber, mode of loading (breech
or muzzle), and maker. The principal small arms on both sides, muzzleloading arms that fired the deadly Minie ball, were the
.58 caliber 1861 Springfield rifle-musket, .577 caliber 1853 Enfield Pattern rifle-musket, and
the .69 caliber 1842 Harpers Ferry Rifle (rifling and a long range sight were added by the Springfield arsenal in the late
The introduction of these rifled pieces would compel a radical change in infantry tactics, which had been based on
the use of the shorter range, less accurate smoothbore muskets. Using smoothbores, firing lines at more than 100 yards apart
could not inflict massive casualties. For an attack to be successful, soldiers were forced to mass and fire volleys,
advance, mass and discharge the weapons, and then charge with fixed bayonets directly into the enemy. The Civil
War rifled musket, with its greater accuracy and longer range, was able to kill at an effective range of 400 yards, making
a direct, frontal assault a particularly deadly affair. Trained soldiers were able to fire at a rate of three aimed shots
per minute while maintaining accuracy to 400 yards, though firing distances in the war were often much shorter.
One of the greatest small arms controversies during the war involved the
debate over breechloaders and muzzle-loaders. Because breechloaders were able to fire more rapidly, they created a need for
more ammunition, which neither army had in great supply. Breech-loaders were used primarily by the cavalry: one of the most
effective was the recently-invented Spencer carbine. The Spencer carbine, which held seven .52 caliber cartridges, was easy
to use and lightweight. Other important shoulder arms included the Henry repeating rifle, which carried 15 rounds of .44 caliber
cartridges in its magazine, and the Sharps carbine. Hundreds of thousands of revolvers of different makes and models were
used by Confederate and Union soldiers. By far, the most common was the Colt revolver, primarily the .44 caliber Model 1860
and the .36 caliber Model 1851 Navy, both of which were lightweight (less than three pounds). The Remington New Model and
the Starr Army Percussion revolvers were also purchased in large numbers by both sides.
As in artillery, the North enjoyed an overwhelming advantage over the South
in small arms. For most of the war, the Confederacy depended on imports smuggled through the increasingly effective naval
blockade. Several different foreign models, particularly from France and England, were imported by the Confederate army, and
some were made famous by the generals who employed them. The limited production French LeMat revolver, for instance,
was favored by Confederate generals JEB Stuart and P. G. T. Beauregard. Developed by a French-born New Orleans physician,
the .44 caliber was produced in France when the Confederates could no longer supply the machinery or metal at home. The English
Enfield rifle, which fired a .577 caliber shot, was another appreciated import, with approximately 900,000 used by Confederates
during the war. See also Civil War
Weapons, Firearms and Small Arms.
|Civil War Weapons, Firearms, and Small Arms
|US Model 1842 Smoothbore Musket was modified with rifling in the 1850s
The U.S. Model 1842 Springfield was a .69 caliber musket used mainly at
the onset of the Civil War, and was a continuation of the Model 1816 line of muskets but was generally referred to as its
own model number rather than just a variant of the M1816. Manufactured
by Harpers Ferry and Springfield armories from 1844-1855, with approximately 275,000 produced (Harpers
Ferry Armory 103,000; Springfield Armory 172,000), the Model 1842 was the last U.S. smoothbore musket, but the first
regulation musket in the percussion ignition system manufactured at the national armories. Both Harpers Ferry and
Springfield had fully interchangeable parts, and only a fraction of these weapons were modified with the .69 caliber
rifled barrel and utilized on the battlefield.
Many features that had been retrofitted into the Model 1840 were standard on the Model 1842.
The M1842 was the first U.S. musket to be produced with a percussion lock, though most of the M1840 flintlocks were converted
to percussion locks before reaching the field. The percussion cap system was vastly superior to the flintlock, being much
more reliable and resistant to weather. Like all Model 1816 derivatives, the M1842 was
a .69 caliber with a 42" barrel length, an overall length of 58 inches, and a weight of 10 lbs.
A great emphasis was placed on manufacturing processes for the Model 1842. It was the first small
arm produced in the U.S. with fully interchangeable (machine-made) parts. Although approximately 275,000 Model 1842 muskets
were produced at the Springfield and Harper's Ferry armories between 1844 and 1855, the musket was also produced by private
contractors, though few in number. Some were made by A.H. Waters and B. Flagg & Co, both of Millbury, Massachusetts.
These were distinguished by having brass furniture instead of iron. A.H. Waters went out of business due to a dearth of contracts
in New England, and Flagg entered into a partnership with William Glaze of South Carolina. They relocated the machinery to
the Palmetto Armory in Columbia, the state's capital. Instead of “V” over “P” over the eagle’s
head, these guns were usually stamped “P” over “V” over the palmetto tree. Most of the output of the Palmetto
Armory went to the state militia of South Carolina. There were only 6,020 1842 type muskets
produced on that contract through 1853.
Like the earlier Model 1840, the M1842 was produced with an intentionally thicker barrel than
necessary, with the assumption that it would later be rifled. As the designers anticipated, many of the 1842 muskets had their
barrels rifled so that they could fire the newly developed Miniť ball. Tests conducted by the U.S. Army indicated that
the .69 caliber musket was not as accurate as the smaller bore rifled muskets. Also, the Minie ball, being conical and elongated,
had much more mass than a round ball of the same caliber. A smaller caliber Miniť ball could be used to provide as much mass
on target as the larger .69 caliber round ball. For these reasons, the Model 1842 was the last .69 caliber musket. The Army
later standardized on the .58 caliber Minie ball, as used in the Springfield models of 1855 and 1861. Both the original smoothbore version and the modified rifled version of the Model 1842 were used in the
Civil War. The smoothbore model was produced without sights, as they provided little value to a weapon that was only accurate
to about 50 to 75 yards. When Model 1842 muskets were modified to have rifled barrels, sights were usually added at the same
time as the rifling. See also Civil War Weapons, Small Arms, Firearms, and Edged Weapons: A Photographic
|Union firearm of choice
|Springfield Model 1861 Rifle-Musket was the most widely used firearm by the Union
1) The Springfield Model 1861 (also known as Model 1861 U.S. rifle-musket)
was a .58 caliber Miniť-type rifled musket shoulder-arm used by the Union Army and marines during the Civil War.
Known as the "Springfield," after its place of production, Springfield, Massachusetts, it was the most widely used Union
Army weapon during the conflict and it was favored for its range, accuracy, and reliability. Union total, including variants, was more
than 1,000,000. Some variants of the Springfield, however, were also appreciated by the Union soldier, such as the
1863 Springfield rifled-musket, allowing the Springfield to remain the weapon of choice.
The Springfield was aimed using flip-up leaf sights. The sight had two leaves, one for 300 yards
and the other for 500 yards, and with both leaves down, the sight was set for a range of 100 yards. By contrast, the British
Pattern 1853 Enfield, favored by the Confederates, utilized a ladder-sight system with 100 yard increments, using steps from
100 to 400 yards and a flip up ladder for ranges beyond 500 yards. While the Enfield's sights did allow finer range settings,
the Springfield's simple leaves were more rugged and were less expensive to produce. The Enfield's sights extended to 900
yards (and further, on later models), compared to the 500 yard maximum range of the Springfield's sights.
|Confederate firearm of choice
|Enfield Pattern 1853 Rifle-Musket, aka Pattern 1853 Enfield, P53 Enfield, and Enfield Rifle-Musket
2) The Enfield Pattern 1853 rifle-musket (aka Pattern 1853 Enfield, P53
Enfield, and Enfield rifle-musket) was a .577 caliber Miniť-type muzzle-loading rifle-musket, used by the British Empire from
1853 to 1867. The Enfield 1853 rifle-musket was also used by both the North and the South in the Civil War, and was the second
most widely used infantry weapon in the war, surpassed only by the Springfield Model 1861 rifled-musket. For
Confederate forces, the Pattern 1853 had the ability to use the Union Springfield rifle ammunition and its own .577 caliber
type, allowing its soldiers to use captured Union ammunition as well as their own issued supply. Since the South held little
in the way of heavy industry, this feature proved a key logistical benefit. The Confederates imported more Enfields
during the course of the war than any other small arm, buying from private contractors to gun runners. It has been estimated
that more than 900,000 P53 Enfields were imported to the United States and saw service in every major engagement from the
Battle of Shiloh (April, 1862) to the Siege of Vicksburg (May 1863) to the final battles of 1865. The gun was highly sought
after in the Confederate ranks. According to British officials during the early stages of war, nearly 70% of the
Confederate soldiers were armed with smoothbore weapons, such as the Model 1842 Springfield, among others. Later in the conflict,
the British stated that more than 75% of the Confederate forces had attained a rifle, with the majority armed with the
prized Pattern 1853 Enfield.
|Civil War weapons and lethal Miniť Bullets
|Miniť Bullets made smoothbore weapons obsolete
The development of this half-inch lead rifle bullet revolutionized warfare,
while the slowness of Civil War military leaders to adapt their tactics to adjust to the new technology was greatly responsible
for the overwhelming number of battlefield deaths.
Before the introduction of what soldiers commonly referred to as the "minnie
ball"--even though it was indeed bullet-shaped--the use of rifles in battle was impractical and largely limited to corps of
elite marksmen. Expensive, tight fitting projectiles had to be jammed into the grooves of the rifle's muzzle, a time-consuming
In 1848, however, French Army Captain Claude F. Minie created a smaller,
hollow-based bullet that could quickly and easily be rammed into the bore. Expanding when the weapon was fired, the Minie
spiraled through the rifling and exited the barrel. That spin made the Minie ball, like other, more expensive and
unwieldy rifle bullets, a highly precise and far traveling projectile. Although it could traverse more than 800 yards,
the average soldier could easily hit a target, known as effective range, 250
By 1855, Harpers Ferry Armory worker James H. Burton had honed an even cheaper
version of the Minie ball, which, along with the rifle itself, soon became widely used in the U.S. Army. It was the standard
bullet for both sides in the Civil War, although neither anticipated the enormous difference this would make on the battlefield.
Against a defensive line using musket fire-requiring a 25-second reloading period and accurate to only 100 feet or less--a
frontal infantry charge was likely to be successful if the assaulting force advanced quickly enough. See also Civil War Weapons and Small
The widespread use of the Minie bullet, however, shifted the balance greatly
to the defense's favor. Nevertheless, Civil War generals continued ordering such attacks, learning only after hard and bloody
battlefield experience--from the assault on Marye's Heights at Fredericksburg to Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg--that their
strategy would have to be altered. See also The
American Civil War Soldier and Firearms.
|Result of Civil War small arms and firearms
|Results of outdated tactics applied against modern weapons of the Civil War
|Civil War Edged Weapons
|JEB Stuart with cavalry saber
Bayonets, sabers, swords, short swords, cutlasses, Bowie knives, pikes,
and lances, classified as "edged weapons," appeared in considerable profusion during the Civil War. Although they served to
decorate their original possessors and delight modern collectors, they inflicted few casualties.
Bayonets were detachable blades put on the muzzle ends of muskets and rifles,
for use in hand-to-hand fighting. Most bayonets were angular (or socket) bayonets. The three steel and/or iron
parts of an angular bayonet were the blade, socket and clasp. The blade had a sharp point and usually three fluted sides The
socket fit tightly over the outside of the muzzle and was secured to a stud on the barrel by the clasp. Generally, the front
sight of the gun was used as the bayonet-stud for angular bayonets. Bayonets were more of a psychological weapon than a practical
one. A company of infantry charging with polished bayonets created quite a site. However, the problem with the bayonets is
that if you were to stab someone with it, the gristle of the person you had stabbed would close in around the bayonet, making
it difficult to remove. Therefore, many bayonets were put to other uses such as tent pegs, pot hooks, candlesticks, skewers,
and entrenching tools.
(Right) James Ewell Brown (JEB) Stuart (1833-1864). Confederate general J.E.B. Stuart with his
1860 sabre. It was shorter, lighter and less curved than the 1840 model.
In his acclaimed Regimental Losses, Fox indicates that of the approximately
250,000 wounded treated in Union hospitals during the war only 922 were the victims of sabers or bayonets. "And a large proportion
of these originated in private quarrels, or were inflicted by camp guards in the discharge of their duty." A few instances
Of Bayonet Attacks were recorded.
Among the few recorded instances are the charge of the 17th Wisc. at Corinth,
Miss., 3 Oct. '62, routing a Mississippi brigade; and the night bayonet attack of the 6th Me. and 5th Wisc. at Rappahonnock
Bridge and Kelly's Ford, Va. 7 Nov. '63.
Sabers, which are cavalry swords, are a legitimate weapon of the mounted service and dangerous
in the hands of a trained trooper. The volunteer horsemen, however, had trouble learning to handle them. There were a good
many lop-eared horses in the early months of the war. Gigantic "wrist breakers" with 42-inch scimitar-type blades were soon
cut down to 36 inches and were reasonably effective.
|Civil War Weapons
|Confederate Sword and Scabbard
(Left) Sword reputedly worn by William Barksdale at Gettysburg. Confederate
Brig. Gen. Barksdale, while leading an assault against Union forces in the vicinity of Cemetery Ridge on July 2, was wounded
in his left knee, followed by a cannonball to his left foot, and finally was hit by another bullet to his chest, knocking
him off his horse. He told his aide, W.R. Boyd, "I am killed! Tell my wife and children that I died fighting at my post."
Although his troops were forced to leave him for dead on the field, he died the next morning in a Union field hospital.
The former U.S. congressman turned Confederate general had died at age 41.
Courtesy Mississippi Department of Archives and History.
Swords until recent years in America were the symbol of an officer's
authority, and served this primary function in the Civil War. The short artillery sword with which the gunners were supposed
to disembowel the horse that had overrun their position and then dispatch the rider--was among the most useless of weapons,
according to some of the war's combatants. See also Photographic History of
Civil War Cavalry Weapons.
The lance, another serious weapon
in the hands of a trained trooper, also appeared in the war. The 6th Pa. Cav., "Rush's Lancers," was armed with this weapon,
in addition to its pistols and a few carbines, until May '63. The weapons shortage in the South led its leaders to
give serious consideration to arming troops with lances and pikes. In early 1862 a set of resolutions provided for 20 regiments
of Southern pikemen, and on 10 Apr. '62 an act was passed that two companies in each regiment be armed with pikes. "Strangely
enough, such foolishness met with the complete approval of the military leaders, and even Gen. Lee on April 9, 1862, wrote
Col. Gorgas (Chief of Confederate Ordnance), 'One thousand pikes should be sent to Gen. Jackson if practicable". Georgia's
gov. spurred the Production of weapons that are now known as "JOE BROWN'S PIKES."
Many different military blades, from Bowie knives to Arkansas Toothpicks,
were popular among Confederate soldiers early in the conflict. Soon, however, the impractical sharp weapons were discarded
and replaced with additional revolvers.
Widely employed swords, sabers, and knives during the Civil War, included:
Model 1832 Foot Artillery Sword, Model 1832 Dragoon Saber, Model 1840 Light Artillery Saber, Model 1840 Army Noncommissioned
Officers’ Sword, Model 1840 Cavalry Saber, Model 1860 Light Cavalry Saber, M1860 Cutlass, Model 1850 Army Staff &
Field Officers’ Sword, the Mameluke sword as well as the Bowie knife. See also: Civil War Cavalry and Infantry
Weapons: A Photographic History of Small Arms.
|13 inch seacoast mortar
|13 inch mortar "Dictator" and railroad cars in front of Petersburg, Virginia, 1865
The Union Army classified its artillery into three types, depending
on the gun's weight and intended use. Field artillery were light pieces that often traveled with the armies, while siege
and garrison artillery were heavy pieces that could be used either in attacking or defending fortified places. Seacoast artillery
were the heaviest pieces and were intended to be used in permanent fortifications along the seaboard and were primarily
designed to fire on attacking warships. The distinctions, however, are arbitrary, because
field, siege and garrison, and seacoast artillery were all used in various attacks and defenses of fortifications. See
also Civil War Artillery Weapons and Characteristics:
A History and Civil War Artillery.
All firearms larger than small arms
are known as artillery or cannon. Although there were dozens of different types of cannon used during the Civil War,
they all fell into one of two categories: smoothbore or rifled cannon. They were further designated by the weight of their
projectile (12-pounder, 24-pounder, 32-pounder, etc.), the caliber or size of their bore diameter (3-inch, 8-inch, 10-inch),
method of loading (breech or muzzle), and often their inventor or the factory in which they were made (i.e. Dahlgren, Napoleon,
Rodman, Parrott, Whitworth). A further distinction involved the path of their trajectories: guns had a flat trajectory, mortars
a high, arching path, and a howitzer a trajectory between the other two. Civil War artillery was also classified according
to its tactical deployment, including field, seacoast, and siege artillery. Cannon were made of steel, bronze, or iron, depending
on the availability of material.
(Right) Seacoast artillery were the heaviest pieces and were intended to
be used in permanent fortifications along the seaboard.
The favorite artillery piece
in both the Union and the Confederacy was the Napoleon, a smoothbore, muzzle-loading, 12-pounder "gun-howitzer." Developed
under the auspices of Louis Napoleon of France, it first appeared in the American artillery in 1857. Relatively light and
portable, the Napoleon was used as both an offensive and defensive weapon by both armies. Initially made of bronze, Napoleons
were cast from iron when the South ran short of the other metal. Its maximum effective range was about 1700 yards, but it
was most effective at about 250 yards or less. Firing canister (see below), the Napoleon probably inflicted more casualties
than all other artillery pieces combined.
The most used rifled guns were the 3-inch Ordnance and 10-pdr Parrott
rifles. These cannon were more accurate and had a longer range - up to about 2,300 yards - than their smoothbore counterparts.
During most battles, however, the longer range was unnecessary and relatively ineffective. During this period, a gunner had
to see his target in order to shoot with any accuracy, and the shorter range Napoleons were adequate for that purpose.
However, rifled cannon were particularly effective in knocking down fortifications
and played decisive roles at Vicksburg and Atlanta. Almost all Civil War cannon were muzzleloading; breech-loading models,
such as the British 12-pounder rifled Armstrong and Whitworth cannon, were generally unreliable and awkward. The 12-pound
mountain howitzers were among the smallest and most portable artillery and were useful in battles fought in the mountainous
regions of the Western theater. Naval and siege cannons, including Dahlgrens and Rodman smoothbores, were among the heaviest
and most powerful. The 8- and 10-inch siege howitzers had ranges of over 2,000 yards and could fire 45- and 90-pound shells.
Artillery ammunition included solid shot, grape, canister, shell, and chain shot, each of which came in any of the nine common
artillery calibers. Solid shot and shell were used against long-range, fixed targets such as fortifications; chain shot, consisting
of two balls connected by a chain, was used primarily against masts and rigging of ships.
Very frequently used was canister; which, like its larger cousin,
"grape shot," was a scattershot projectile consisting of small iron balls encased in a container. Canister projectiles came
packed in a tin can while grape shot was usually wrapped in a cloth or canvas covering and tied with string which made it
look like a bunch of grapes. When fired, the can or wrapping disintegrated, releasing the shot in a spray. In effect, then,
a gun loaded with grape shot or canister acted like a large, sawed-off shotgun; it was particularly lethal when fired at a
range of 250 yards or less. Grape was less often used by the field artilleries of the day as it was more effective to fire
the smaller and more numerous canister balls at an advancing enemy. Thanks to its superior industrial strength, the North
had an overall advantage over the South in all types of artillery, as well as a higher percentage of rifled cannon to smoothbore
cannon. See also American Civil War Artillery Organization.
|Civil War weapons,small arms, and firearms
|Civil War weapons caused more deaths and casualties than all previous US wars combined
Weapons, Firearms, and Small Arms
A variety of weapons was carried at Gettysburg. Revolvers, swords,
and bayonets were abundant, but the basic infantry weapon of both armies was a muzzle-loading rifle musket about 4.7 feet
long, weighing approximately 9 pounds. They came in many models, but the most common and popular were the Springfield and
the English-made Enfield. They were hard hitting, deadly weapons, very accurate at a range of 200 yards and effective at 1,000
yards. With black powder, ignited by percussion caps, they fired "Minie Balls"—hollow-based lead slugs half an inch
in diameter and an inch long. A good soldier could load and fire his rifle three times a minute, but in the confusion of battle
the rate of fire was probably slower.
There were also some breech-loading small arms at Gettysburg.
Union cavalrymen carried Sharps and Burnside single-shot carbines and a few infantry units carried Sharps rifles. Spencer
repeating rifles were used in limited quantity by Union cavalry on July 3 and by a few Union infantry. In the total picture
of the battle, the use of these efficient weapons was actually quite small.
Those who fought at Gettysburg with rifles and carbines were
supported by nearly 630 cannon—360 Union and 270 Confederate. About half of these were rifled iron pieces, all but four
of the others were smoothbore bronze guns. The same types of cannon were used by both armies.
Almost all of the bronze pieces were 12 pounders, either howitzers
or "Napoleons." They could hurl a 12-pound iron ball nearly a mile and were deadly at short ranges, particularly when firing
canister. Other bronze cannon included 24 pounder howitzers and 6 pounder guns. All types are represented in the park today,
coated with patina instead of being polished as they were when in use.
Most of the iron rifled pieces at Gettysburg had a 3-inch bore
and fired a projectile which weighed about 10 pounds. There were two types of these—3-inch ordnance rifles and 10 pounder
Parrotts. It is easy to tell them apart for the Parrott has a reinforcing jacket around its breech, The effective range of
these guns was somewhat in excess of a mile, limited in part because direct fire was used and the visibility of gunners was
|Civil War Weapons at Culp's Hill, Gettysburg
|Firearms and small arms discharging at close range
|Civil War Weapons
|Artillery firing canister into Pickett's Division
Two other types of rifled guns were used at Gettysburg—four bronze James guns and two Whitworth rifles.
The Whitworths were unique because they were breech loading and were reported to have had exceptional range and accuracy.
However, their effect at Gettysburg must have been small for one was out of action much of the time.
These artillery pieces used three types of ammunition. All cannon could fire solid projectiles or shot.
They also hurled fused, hollow shells which contained black powder and sometimes held lead balls or shrapnel. Canister
consisted of cans filled with iron or lead balls. These cans burst apart on firing, converting the cannon into an oversized
Weapons influenced tactics. At Gettysburg a regiment formed for battle, fought, and moved in a two rank line,
its men shoulder to shoulder, the file closets in the rear. Since the average strength of regiments here was only 350 officers
and men, the length of a regiment's line was a little over 100 yards. Such a formation brought the regiment's slow-firing
rifles together under the control of the regimental commander, enabling him to deliver a maximum of fire power at a given
target. The formation's shallowness had a two-fold purpose, it permitted all ranks to fire, and it presented a target of minimum
depth to the enemy's fire.
Four or five regiments were grouped into a brigade, two to five brigades formed a division. When formed for
the attack, a brigade moved forward in a single or double line of regiments until it came within effective range of the enemy
line. Then both parties blazed away, attempting to gain the enemy's flank if feasible, until one side or the other was forced
to retire. Confederate attacking forces were generally formed with an attacking line in front and a supporting line behind.
Federal brigades in the defense also were formed with supporting troops in a rear line when possible. Breastworks were erected
if time permitted, but troops were handicapped in this work because entrenching tools were in short supply.
Like their infantry comrades, cavalrymen also fought on foot, using their horses as means of transportation.
However, mounted charges were also made in the classic fashion, particularly in the great cavalry battle on July 3.
Cavalry and infantry were closely supported by artillery. Batteries of from four to six guns occupied the
crests of ridges and hills from which a field of fire could be obtained. They were usually placed in the forward lines, protected
by supporting infantry regiments posted on their flanks or in their rear. Limbers containing their ammunition were nearby.
Because gunners had to see their targets, artillery positions sheltered from the enemy's view were still in the future.
|Civil War Weapons
|Casualties of the Civil War
The deadly effectiveness of the rifle-musket loaded with a miniť bullet
was largely to blame for the Civil War’s appalling casualty rates. During the nearly 10,500 skirmishes and battles of
the war, more than 110,000 Union soldiers and 94,000 Confederates were killed, and an additional 275,000 and 194,000, respectively,
were wounded. Rifle bullets, primarily the miniť bullet, caused 90 percent of all these casualties. Artillery projectiles
accounted for less than 9 percent, and swords and bayonets, less than 1 percent. Considering all this evidence, it is fair
to conclude that the rifle-musket and miniť bullet greatly affected the overall course of the Civil War and foreshadowed
20th-century warfare. The equations and formulas of warfare had been changed completely, mostly by a simple firearm and bullet:
the rifle-musket and Miniť ball.
The Civil War rifled musket, with its greater accuracy and longer range,
was able to kill at a distance of over a half-mile, making a direct, frontal assault a particularly deadly affair. While trained soldiers
armed with more accurate, greater distance, faster-firing rifled muskets were able to fire at a rate of three aimed shots
per minute while maintaining accuracy up to 500 yards, Napoleonic Tactics, which had used the smoothbore musket at less than 100 yards, were maintained thus producing catastrophic casualties.
Pickett's Charge included approximately 12,500 men in nine infantry brigades and it was
textbook Napoleonic. While Pickett's division had advanced over open fields for three quarters of a mile and headlong
into heavy Union artillery and rifle fire, the division had been decimated, with more than 50% casualties, in less than
High casualties were the direct result of Napoleonic Tactics being applied throughout the four
year Civil War. With modern weapons employed on the battlefield, Union and Confederate generals, battle after battle
and year after year, failed to adapt their battlefield tactics, only to agonize over the massive attrition
and decimation that the outdated tactics had caused in their ranks. While the stated tactics were the
principal cause of the high casualties, disease can primarily be traced to the wounded soldiers who had marched to the
beat of the ancient tactics. With failure to adapt, the conflict claimed approximately 620,000 Americans, which was more than
all previous U.S. wars combined. For each soldier killed or mortally wounded, two additional soldiers succumbed to disease.
Battlefield wounds often led to amputations, causing Gangrene to become the leading cause of death by disease. See also
Weapons: Hand Grenades, Torpedoes, Mines, and Booby Traps.
|Civil War double amputee
|Private Columbus Rush
|American Civil War veteran and double amputee
|Alfred A. Stratton
(Left) Alfred A. Stratton, an American Civil War veteran and double amputee.
Although one in thirteen Civil War soldiers became an amputee, the primary cause was the firearm or small arm. (Right) Private
Columbus Rush, Company C, 21st Georgia, age 22, was wounded during the assault on Fort Stedman, Virginia, on March 25, 1865
by a shell fragment that fractured both the right leg below the knee and the left kneecap. Both limbs were amputated above
the knees on the same day. He recovered quickly and was discharged from Lincoln Hospital in Washington on Aug. 2, 1865. In
1866, while being treated at St. Luke's Hospital in New York City, he was outfitted with artificial limbs.
Civil War casualties were defined as soldiers who were unaccounted
for or unavailable for service. Casualties included killed in action, mortally wounded, wounded, missing, died of disease,
died as a prisoner-of-war, died of causes other than battle, captured, and deserted. On the other hand, fatalities only included
soldiers who were killed in action, mortally wounded, and died of disease or from other causes. Civil War statisticians
had a strict application of the words, killed, died, dead, and deaths. Furthermore, casualties included fatalities, while
fatalities did not include all casualties. Casualty has been, by many, erroneously interchanged with fatality. See also Total Civil War killed and
dead by category for each Union and Confederate state.
Civil War caused 620,000 killed, and it forced the United States military to reexamine its stiff, outdated tactics and
strategies that had led to the carnage. The U.S. Military Academy, U.S. Naval Academy, and other military schools would
adapt, improvise, and overcome to meet the present and future challenges of war. After all, numerous inventions and innovations
were a result of the Civil War. The arts of tactics and strategy were revolutionized by the many developments introduced
during the 1860s. Thus the Civil War ushered in a new era in warfare with the: FIRST practical machine gun, FIRST repeating
rifle used in combat, FIRST use of the railroads as a major means of transporting troops and supplies, FIRST mobile siege
artillery mounted on rail cars, FIRST extensive use of trenches and field fortifications, FIRST large-scale use of land mines,
known as "subterranean shells", FIRST naval mines or "torpedoes", FIRST ironclad ships engaged in combat, FIRST multi-manned
submarine, FIRST organized and systematic care of the wounded on the battlefield, FIRST widespread use of rails for hospital
trains, FIRST organized military signal service, FIRST visual signaling by flag and torch during combat, FIRST use of portable
telegraph units on the battlefield; FIRST military reconnaissance from a manned
balloon, FIRST draft in the United States, FIRST organized use of Negro troops in combat, FIRST voting in the field for a
national election by servicemen, FIRST income tax—levied to finance the war, FIRST photograph taken in combat, FIRST
Medal of Honor awarded an American soldier. See also Civil War Comparison of the North
Losses in Excess of 500 Soldiers by Each Battle
||Bull Run, Va.
||Wilson's Creek, Mo.
||September 12 to 20
||Ball's Bluff, Va.
||February 14 to 16
||Fort Donelson, Tenn.
||March 6 to 8
||Pea Ridge, Ark.
||New-Berne, N. C.
||April 6 and 7
||Front Royal, Va.
||May 31 to June 1
||Seven Pines and Fair Oaks, Va.
||Cross Keys, Va.
||Fort Republic, Va.
||Secessionville, James Island, S. C.
||Oak Grove, Va.
||June 26 to July 1
||Seven days' retreat; includes Mechanicsville, Gaines' Mills, Chickahominy,
Peach Orchard, Savage Station, Charles City Cross Roads, and Malvern Hill
||Cedar Mountain, Va.
||July 20 to September 20
||Guerrilla campaign in Missouri; includes Porter's and Poindexter's
||August 28 and 29
||Groveton and Gainesville, Va.
||Bull Run, Va. (2d)
||September 12 to 15
||Harper's Ferry, Va.
||Turner's and Crampton's Gaps, South Mountain, Md.
||September 14 to 16
||September 19 to 20
||October 3 and 4
||Big Hatchie River, Miss.
||Prairie Grove, Ark.
||December 12 to 18
||Foster's expedition to Goldsboro', N.C.
||Holly Springs, Miss.
||December 28 and 29
||Chickasaw Bayou, Vicksburg, Miss.
||Dec. 31, 1862, to Jan. 2, 1863
||Stone's River, Tenn.
||Fort Hindman, Arkansas Post, Ark.
||March 4 and 5
||Thompson's Station, Tenn.
||April 27 to May 3
||Streight's raid from Tuscumbia, Ala., to Rome, Ga.
||Port Gibson, Miss.
||May 1 to 4
||Champion Mills, Miss.
||May 18 to July 4
||Siege of Vicksburg, Miss.
||May 27 to July 9
||Siege of Port Hudson, La.
||June 6 to 8
||Milliken's Bend, La.
||Beverly Ford and Brandy Station, Va.
||June 13 to 15
||June 23 to 30
||Rosecrans' campaign from Murfreesboro' to Tullahoma, Tenn.
||July 1 to 3
||July 9 to 16
||Second assault on Fort Wagner, S. C
||September 19 to 20
||Grand Coteau, La.
||November 23 to 25
||Chattanooga, Tenn.; includes Orchard Knob, Lookout Mountain, and
||November 26 to 28
||Operations at Mine Run, Va.
||Bean's Station, Tenn.
||Sabine Cross Roads, La.
||Pleasant Hills, La.
||Fort Pillow, Tenn.
||April 17 to 20
||Plymouth, N. C.
||Jenkins' Ferry, Saline River, Ark.
||May 5 to 7
||May 5 to 9
||Rocky Face Ridge, Ga.; includes Tunnel Hill, Mill Creek Gap, Buzzard
Roost, Snake Creek Gap, and near Dalton
||May 8 to 18
||Spottsylvania Court House, Va.; includes engagements on the Fredericksburg
Road, Laurel Hill, and Nye River
||May 9 to 10
||Swift Creek, Va.
||May 9 to 10
||Cloyd's Mountain and New River Bridge, Va.
||May 12 to 16
||Fort Darling, Drewry's Bluff, Va.
||May 13 to 16
||New Market, Va.
||May 16 to 30
||Bermuda Hundred, Va.
||May 23 to 27
||North Anna River, Va.
||May 25 to June 4
||June 1 to 12
||Cold Harbor, Va.
||June 9 to 30
||Kenesaw Mountain, Ga.; includes Pine Mountain, Pine Knob, Golgotha,
Culp's House, general assault, June 27th: McAfee's Cross Roads, Lattemore's Mills and Powder Springs
||Brice's Cross Roads, near Guntown, Miss.
||Kellar's Bridge, Licking River, Ky.
||June 11 and 12
||Trevellian Station, Central Railroad, Va.
||June 15 to 19
||Petersburg, Va.; includes Baylor's Farm, Walthal, and Weir Bottom
||June 17 and 18
||June 20 to 30
||Trenches in front of Petersburg, Va.
||June 22 to 30
||Wilson's raid on the Weldon Railroad, Va.
||June 22 and 23
||Weldon Railroad, Va.
||Kenesaw Mountain, general assault. See No. 2,345
||July 1 to 31
||Front of Petersburg, Va.; losses at the Crater and Deep Bottom
||July 6 to 10
||Chattahoochee River, Ga.
||July 13 to 15
||Tupelo, Miss.; includes Harrisburg and Old Town Creek
||Peach Tree Creek, Ga.
||Atlanta, Ga.; Hood's first sortie
||July 26 to 31
||Stoneman's raid to Macon, Ga.
||July 26 to 31
||McCook's raid to Lovejoy Station, Ga.
||Ezra Chapel, Atlanta, Ga.; second sortie.
||Mine explosion at Petersburg, Va.
||August 1 to 31
||Trenches before Petersburg, Va.
||August 14 to 18
||Strawberry Plains, Deep Bottom Run, Va.
||August 18, 19 & 21
||Six Mile House, Weldon Railroad, Va.
||Summit Point, Va.
||Ream's Station, Va.
||August 31 to September 1
||May 5 to September 8
||Campaign in Northern Georgia, from Chattanooga, Tenn., to Atlanta,
||September 1 to October 30
||Trenches before Petersburg, Va.
||Opequan, Winchester, Va.
||September 24 to October 28
||Price's invasion of Missouri; includes a number of engagements
||September 28 to 30
||New Market Heights, Va.
||September 30 to October 1
||Preble's Farm, Poplar Springs Church, Va.
||Cedar Creek, Va.
||Hatcher's Run, South Side Railroad, Va.
||October 27 and 28
||Fair Oaks, near Richmond, Va.
||Fort Kelly, New Creek, West Va.
||Honey Hill, Broad River, S. C.
||December 6 to 9
||Deveaux's Neck, S. C.
||December 15 & 16
||Beverly, West Va.
||January 13 to 15
||Fort Fisher, N. C.
||February 5 to 7
||Dabney's Mills, Hatcher's Run, Va.
||March 8 to 10
||Wilcox's Bridge, Wise's Fork, N. C.
||Averysboro', N. C.
||March 19 to 21
||Bentonville, N. C.
||Fort Steedman, in front of Petersburg, VA.
||March 26 to April 8
||Spanish Fort, Ala.
||March 22 to April 24
||Wilson's raid from Chickasaw, Ala., to Macon, Ga.; includes a
number of engagements
||Boydton and White Oak Roads, Va.
||Five Forks, Va.
||Fall of Petersburg, Va.
||Sailor's Creek, Va.
||High Bridge, Appomattox River, Va.
||Fort Blakely, Ala.
||Surrender of Lee
||Sam Jones surrendered
||Jeff Thompson surrendered
||Kirby Smith surrendered
Sources: National Archives; National Park Service; United States Army
Staff Ride Guidebook; Library of Congress; Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies; Civil War Society: Encyclopedia
of the Civil War; Boatner, Mark M. Civil War Dictionary; United States Army Center of Military History; Earl J. Coates and
Dean S. Thomas, An Introduction to Civil War Small Arms; Ian V. Hogg, Weapons of the Civil War; Myatt, Frederick (1994). The
Illustrated Encyclopedia of 19th Century Firearms: An Illustrated History of the Development of the World's Military Firearms
During the 19th Century. Crescent Books. ISBN 0-517-27786-7; Ricketts, Howard (1964). Firearms. Weidenfeld and Nicolson; Russ
A. Pritchard, Jr. Civil War Weapons and Equipment. Globe Pequot, 2003; Brent Nosworthy (2003). The Bloody Crucible of
Courage, Fighting Methods and Combat Experience of the Civil War. Carroll and Graf Publishers.
ISBN 0-7867-1147-7; Longacre, Edward G. Lincoln's Cavalrymen: A History of the Mounted Forces of the Army of the Potomac.
Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2000. ISBN 0-8117-1049-1; Gettysburg National Military Park; William H. Price, The Civil
War Centennial Handbook; National Museum of Health and Medicine; U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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