Weapon Technology

The Civil War saw considerable technological innovation on both sides, North and South,

Table of Contents

Individual Weapons
Edged Weapons
Handguns
Rifles
Artillery
Field Artillery
Cutting Edge
Grenades
Machine Guns
especially in the field of weaponry. There were many inventions, such as the Gatling Gun,
Minie-Ball, and Rifled Barrel, that would go on to change the art of warfare. Other weapons,
such as pikes or the Elgin Pistol, were proven to be outdated, and were replaced with more modern weaponry. Below are some of the standard weapons used, as well as some of the more unusual ones.









Individual Weapons


Edged Weapons

There were a variety of edged weapons used throughout the civil war. One was known as the Foot Artillery Sword, and was meant to protect an artillery crew when being overrun by cavalry. It was notoriously impractical, and was mostly used for clearing paths. The navy was issued cutlasses in order for them to board ships.The Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry, also known as Rush's Lancers, were famous for their use of pikes. As the war progressed, though, the pikes proved ineffective, and were exchanged for more conventional weapons.

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Swords were used by Officers and Cavalry during the civil war, with varying success.

Swords were used by Officers and Cavalry during the civil war, with varying success.


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The LeMat revolver had, in addition to a nine round pistol, a secondary 16 gauge shotgun barrel directly beneath the pistol barrel.

The LeMat revolver had, in addition to a nine round pistol, a secondary 16 gauge shotgun barrel directly beneath the pistol barrel.

Handguns

The Colt Army Model 1860 was by far the most commonly used handgun within the Union, due to its reliability and accessibility. The Colt Navy Model 1851 was the preferred handgun of the south, and Confederate soldiers would often carry multiple pistols into battle with them, since reloading was such a lengthy process. On the left is a picture of the LeMat revolver, a dangerous combination of pistol and shotgun. It was capable of shooting nine pistol rounds and a 16-gauge shotgun shell, which made it a devastating close-range weapon.

Rifles
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Picture_5.png

The Springfield Model 1861 was by far the most common rifle in the civil war. The rifled barrel fired a .58 minie bullet, which added significant accuracy and range to the rifle compared to it's smoothbore predecessors. The Pattern 1853 Enfield was the second most common rifle, and was mainly used by the South. Throughout the war, there were a total of 900,000 Enfield rifles produced.

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The Springfield Model 1861 had a maximum range of up to 1,000 yard.

The Springfield Model 1861 had a maximum range of up to 1,000 yard.




Artillery


Field Artillery


At the start of the civil war, the majority of the cannons used by either side were smoothbores, since they were cheaper to produce. As the war progressed, the need for rifled barrels rose, due to the increased accuracy that the rifled barrels afforded. The most common cannon at the start of the war was the 12-pounder Napoleon cannon. With a range of 1,500 yards, this smoothbore was capable of firing all kinds of rounds, from grapeshot to shells.such as balls, shells, canisters, and grapeshot. Although the Napoleon was able to take the place of all previous field guns, it was eventually superseded by rifled field guns, which had far superior range and accuracy.

A 300-pounder Parrott Rifle, one of the largest of it's kind.
A 300-pounder Parrott Rifle, one of the largest of it's kind.

A 300-pounder Parrott Rifle, one of the largest of it's kind.




Cutting Edge


Grenades


The Ketchum Grenade was an early Union attempt at a handgrenade, with a startling likeness to a Nerf Football. The grenade was meant to be thrown over enemy lines, stabilized by the tail fins, and land front-first on the ground. The pressure plate at the front would then supposedly ignite the black powder on impact, sending shrapnel flying in every direction. Unfortunately, the Confederates soon caught on, and spread out blankets to catch the grenades. The grenades would bounce off harmlessly, and the Confederate soldiers would throw them back at the Union soldiers, with considerably more success.
external image Ketchum_cs.jpg
external image Ketchum_cs.jpg

external image HUK5048-L-F2-H.jpg
external image HUK5048-L-F2-H.jpg

Elgin Cutlass Pistols

The Elgin Cutlass Pistol was originally standard for Union naval boarding parties. The single shot pistol attached to the blade was meant to be fired after the blade had sunk into it's target, delivering a finishing blow to the enemy. The sailor found the Elgin clumsy and ineffective, so it was quickly replaced by a simpler cutlass.

Machine Guns


The Gatling Gun, known as the ancestor to modern machine guns, was first used by Union troops in the Civil War. A soldier would have to operate a crank that would fire and reload the weapon simultaneously, and a rotating array of barrels allowed the gun to fire for extended periods without overheating. Although it was capable of firing 600 shots a minute, many generals chose not to invest in one, mostly because they considered it a waste of ammunition.

The first Gatling Gun required a four-man crew to operate.
The first Gatling Gun required a four-man crew to operate.

The first Gatling Gun required a four-man crew to operate.