Sunday, September 26, 2010

Civil War Small Arms

During the Civil War, the small arms included smoothbore muskets; rifles with spiral grooves cut into the inner surface of the barrel; and carbines, which were short-barreled, rifles. The principal small arms on both sides were the .58-caliber Springfield muskets and the .69-caliber Harpers Ferry Rifle, both muzzle loading arms that fired the mini ball.
            As the war progressed the introduction of rifled pieces forced a radical change in infantry tactics, previously based on the use of the shorter range, less accurate smoothbore musket. Using the smoothbore, firing lines at any distance over 50 – 100 yards were ineffective. This forced soldiers to mass together and run directly into enemy fire. The rifle, with its greater accuracy and longer range, was able to kill at a greater distance—up to a half-mile, turning these direct, frontal assaults into slaughters and changing infantry tactics completely.
The cavalry primarily used breech-loaders.  Breechloaders could fire more rapidly, which created a need for more ammunition, which neither army had in great supply, so the breechloaders were not thought to be practical for the infantry masses.
            The North had an advantage over the South in small arms, with the Confederacy depended on imports smuggled through Federal naval blockade. The Confederate army imported several different foreign models. This included the English Enfield rifle, used by about 700,000 Confederates during the war.