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CIVIL WAR WEAPONS

Contents Introduction Pistols and Revolvers Cavalry Carbines Rifles and Longarms
Hiram Berdan's Sharpshooters 6 8 64 124 200 208 238 256

Artillery Swords and Edged Weapons Acknowledgments

208

CIVIL WAR WEAPONS

CHAPTER FOUR

Artillery
As with other weaponry, the Civil War gave a huge

few states had artillery militia units of their own Although production on both sides was quickly stepped up as war began, recruitment continued to be difficult. As with their peacetime predecessors, most of the men who rallied to the colors again preferred the excitement and glamor of the infantry and cavalry. Artillery units needed a special type of man, one with technical aptitude as well as some mathematical education and ability These qualities had to be combined with the cold courage necessary to work methodically on the complex interconnected tasks of the gun crew while shot and shell landed about them. But the importance of the big guns was unanswerable, and the size of the artillery arm on both sides quickly grew, as did its reputation and professionalism. Civil War Artillery was divided into two main groupings, namely field and heavy artillery. Field artillery batteries, as the name suggests, were mobile units that accompanied the armies into battle, able to move with the infantry or cavalry

impetus to the development of artillery technology and tactics. Before the war, however, the artillery branch was by far the smallest in the army; an underfunded "Cinderella" unpopular with most West Point graduates. Service with the guns was

As the war progressed, Confederate artillerymen had to deal with shortages off all kinds. Ingenuity and

they supported, and to set up and be ready to fire within minutes. such W ithin as light the field artillery, mounted descriptions used . Heavy artillery was the name given to larger pieces, normally emplaced in static positions to defend key points such as fortresses, harbours, artillery,

improvisation helped overcome this, such as with these dummy guns made from Logs at Centreville, Virginia. From a distance these Looked real enough, and could intimidate an attacking force into staying in their own trenches. For a while.

artillery, horse artillery or even flying artillery were

seen

as lacking

the

excitement,

glamor

and

major towns and other valuable locations. Some heavy artillery was movable and could be deployed as a "siege train" to provide a powerful bombardment force for a besieging army All the guns in use at the start of the war were smoothbore muzzleloaders, firing a range of projectiles including solid shot, explosive shell and

opportunities for promotion of the infantry and cavalry Cannon were also expensive to make and required high-quality industrial facilities, such that when the regular army split apart in April 1861, the artillery branch of the United States comprised only 48 batteries of four or six guns, while only a

CIVIL WAR WEAPONS

209

A neat battery of guns at Fort Marshall,

Sullivan's on the

island,

South Carolina.

T he

nearest one,

Artillery in the field


The standard field artillery unit was the company or battery, commanded by a captain. Batteries were nominally grouped in regiments, but for all practical purposes this was ignored, and the

wheeled carriage, is lighter than most static defensive weapons, hut can still cause a fearsome amount of damage.

multi-projectile rounds such as grapeshot and canister. As the war progressed, rifled pieces became more common, as did a host of different designs of shell intended to be used in such pieces. But loading by the muzzle remained the method of choice for almost all the guns that fought, and unlike small arms such as the cavalry carbine, the widespread use of breechloading cannon didn't occur until after the war.

battery on campaign was treated as in independent command. Union field batteries normally had six guns, and Confederate batteries four, but in both armies the numbers varied considerably from unit
Overleaf Gunners had to he a special breed indeed. To carry out complex gun drills quickly and smoothly while shot and shell rained down about you took a particularly coldform of courage.

CIVIL WAR WEAPONS

239

purchase

finely

decorated

works

of

art

to

With their unwieldy saber bayonets towering above them, a .formation of men are led o.ff behind a drummer tapping out the cadence. Every rifleman was issued with a bayonet, although only a tiny percentage of the war's casualty list were injured by a bayonet attack.
war with their banners fluttering from their spear like lances. But in the end, the most common use for the soldier's edged weapon was around camp, in the day-to-day tasks of eating, making camp and making whatever small comforts they could. Never mind a sword or bayonet - every soldier needed a knife.

demonstrate their personal and financial status. The pre-war Navy had similar obsolete ideas of mass boarding actions being fought, where seaman and officers would wield broad-bladed cutlasses on contested decks. Again, in practice this almost never happened, although a hefty cutlass could be an intimidating tool for Union inspection parties when intercepting vessels suspected of running their blockade of southern ports. As for the mass of infantry, every soldier had a bayonet for his rifle
or

musket. Whether a sword or

socket type, they were awkward and cumbersome, affecting the balance and aim of the weapon while making loading more difficult. Initially intended to protect infantry formations from cavalry attack, by the start of the war they were then considered offensive weapons for massed charges. In practice this didn't happen particularly often, but a bayonet did give some protection to man with an empty rifle and no time to reload, and perhaps a boost to his morale when advancing forward into a storm of fire. And the truly anachronistic use of edged weapons is demonstrated by the unfortunate Confederate formations who were issued with pikes before their rifles became available, while the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry rode off to the wrong

Overleaf One action where massed cavalry .formations did clash in saber-to-saber combat was at Gettysburg, where Brigadier General Wade Hampton led his cavalry brigade in an attempt to ourflank the Army of the Potomac, and was intercepted in turn by Union cavalry. In the ensuing melee, Hampton was cut off by Union troopers and had to fight his way out. He was wounded in the action but soon returned to duty and ended the war as Lieutenant General. Hampton is shown wielding a non-regulation double edged straight sword while his assailant has a Model
1860 Cavalry Sabe1c