Saturday, September 22, 2018

Arms Development Between 1775 and 1861

Living in an age where technology keeps multiplying itself almost on a weekly basis, it seems hard to believe that military arms development regarding shoulder-fired weapons and even handguns and artillery during the 86-year period between our Revolutionary War and the Civil War was so limited.

From April 19, 1775, when the first shots were fired in the Revolutionary War, until April 12, 1861, when the Confederate shore batteries opened fire against Fort Sumter, the average grunt in both wars carried mostly the same type of single shot muzzle loading weapons. They were long and heavy and cumbersome to load, and except for the invention of the rifled barrel by the Americans during the Revolutionary War, both the Yankees and the Rebels of the Civil War (for the most part) were stuck in a 1775 firearms time warp.

Gary Miller, Author

Eventually, as the Civil War progressed, several successful designs of cartridge-fired bullets were developed, along with some single-shot breech-loading rifles such as the Burnside carbine, the Merrill carbine, the Palmer Carbine, Sharps, and several others. There may have not been any reliable repeating rifles until the Henry Model 1860 lever action came into production, and was issued in limited numbers to the Union troops. But the evolution in handgun technology progressed somewhat better during the time between the two wars. Although they still required a rather tedious loading process of each chamber of the cylinder, the early revolvers allowed more firepower than the single-shot pistols of the Revolutionary War, for sure.

Then Sam Colt developed improved versions of the early revolvers such as the Colt Dragoon and Colt Navy series. But it wasn't until the Civil War had ended that Colt produced the Army M1873 cartridge loading .45 caliber revolver that became known in the old west as the Peacemaker.”

And I'm sure by now that you are asking, “what about the Gattling Gun?”

Yes, the Gattling Gun was put into limited use in battle by the North. But it was more of an artillery piece than a skirmish weapon. But even in its limited use, it's firepower was devastating. And speaking of artillery, there is where the evolution of warfare weaponry really stalled out.

For the most part, the field artillery cannon used in the Civil War were of the same type of smooth bore pieces used by both sides in the Revolutionary war. They had to be loaded from the muzzle with powder and projectiles, and ignited with a fuse. Eventually both sides began the task of 're-boring' the cannon to add rifling to give them more accuracy with the new projectiles being developed at the time. But it was the popular old 'Napoleon' smooth bore cannon loaded with a 12-lb. ball which produced a 1,600 yard range, that was the most common artillery piece used on the Civil War battle fields.

So, not much innovation in weapons technology during that 86-yr. period, as I mentioned before. But in the 53-yr. period between the end of the Civil war, until the World War 1 hostilities broke out, the advances in all forms of weapons took a giant leap forward. But that's another story for another time maybe. --Gary Miller


DISCLAIMER: Gary Miller is NOT an expert or a professional in any of the subjects and activities presented in his blog posts. "My comments are based on my views gained from past experiences and from studies related to these subjects and activities, and upon input given to me by people (both professional and non-professional) who have also been involved in these activities," says Gary. "My posts are NOT to be interpreted in any way as advice. Anyone who chooses to participate in any of the activities represented in my posts should seek the advice of professional trainers and instructors."

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