Infantry Weapons

The basic arm of the Union infantry soldier during the American Civil War was a muzzle loading rifle musket and troops were armed with a bewildering variety of these weapons. Not only was there a scramble to get troops uniformed at the beginning of

Typical Union haversack in which soldiers kept their food and other essential requirements. The haversacks had a detachable inner lining shown on the right of the picture which could be taken out and washed. If the soldier was carrying salted pork or other forms of meat as part of his rations in hot weather, this was very necessary, although as plenty of accounts of the time reveal, many soldiers didn't bother to be so fastidious with their haversacks. Ed Dovey.

the war, there was also a panic to get recruits armed. The situation wasn't helped by the fact that the Confederates had captured Federal arsenals in South Carolina, Louisiana, and Texas, and at Harper's Ferry, Virginia. The total number of muskets available to Union soldiers looked fine on paper and numbered over 437,000, but less than 40,000 of these pieces were serviceable modern weapons. The majority were antique pieces that had been altered from flintlock to the percussion system.

The first 'modern' weapon used by Union troops was the 1855 rifle musket designed to take a Minie ball of the type invented in France to make loading rifled weapons easier. The rifle also used the Maynard percussion system which worked rather like a child's toy cap gun. Instead of placing a metal percussion cap on the nipple of the gun to fire the charge in the barrel, a mechanism rolled out a line of paper percussion caps each time the weapon was cocked.

The Springfield rifle musket, developed from the 1855 rifle musket which was expensive to produce, is the weapon most closely associated with American infantrymen and these weapons became the workhorse of Union forces in the Civil War. The Springfield Armoury in Massachusetts began turning out massive quantities of the rifles in 1861.

Both the Union and the Confederacy despatched

Civil War Stretcher BearersOfficers Sash Civil War

Regulations regarding facial hair during the American Civil War stated that beards should be kept trim and neat, but these rules were often ignored, which accounts for the spectacular beards sported by many officers and men. Goatees and moustaches were generally favoured by officers, although this officer has gone to extremes. He wears a regulation frock coat with a single row of nine buttons down the front, marking him out as a company officer. David Scheinmann.

agents to Europe to procure arms to supplement domestically produced weapons. Many rifles were imported from Germany and France but the most

A good view of the regulation waist sash worn by first sergeants. They were made out of red worsted material, with bullion fringed ends, meant to hang down no more than 18 inches from where the sash was tied on the left hip. Regulations stated that sashes were to be worn on all occasions apart from fatigue duties, but they were rarely seen on campaign. David Scheinmann.

serviceable and popular imported rifle muskets were British Enfield rifle muskets. By the middle of the war it was estimated that half of the Union troops were armed with Enfields and what made this weapon

Ostentatious Sergeant

Infantry officer in full dress complete with epaulettes and white gauntlets. It's likely that ostentatious officers may have worn epaulettes on campaign, but in the majority of cases they were replaced by ordinary shoulder straps. David Scheinmann.

Officers' waist sashes were fabricated out of crimson silk net but differed little from those worn by sergeants. This infantry officer also wears an expensive looking forage cap, its high crown perhaps marking it out as a McDowell pattern forage cap. David Scheinmann.

Infantry officer in full dress complete with epaulettes and white gauntlets. It's likely that ostentatious officers may have worn epaulettes on campaign, but in the majority of cases they were replaced by ordinary shoulder straps. David Scheinmann.

Officers' waist sashes were fabricated out of crimson silk net but differed little from those worn by sergeants. This infantry officer also wears an expensive looking forage cap, its high crown perhaps marking it out as a McDowell pattern forage cap. David Scheinmann.

particularly popular was that its calibre was almost identical to the domestically produced Springfield rifle musket. The same ammunition could be used for both weapons.

The method of loading a weapon hadn't changed dramatically since Napoleonic times. Soldiers still tore open cartridges and rammed home the charge; but unlike old flintlocks there were no priming pans on their rifles, the percussion system was much more efficient, particularly in wet weather. In many regiments soldiers found themselves with different weapons. In one company of a Pennsyslvania regiment

Belgian Musket

the majority had Enfield and Springfield muskets mixed with soldiers who carried Belgian and Austrian rifle muskets.

When it was mustered in, the 5th New York was armed with a mixture of weapons including Harper's Ferry muskets and muskets converted to the percussion system with locks dated 1844 and 1845. The regiment didn't exchange all its smoothbores for Springfield rifles until May 1862.

Thomas Meagher, who raised the Irish Zouaves, Company K 69th New York, and who later commanded the Irish Brigade in the Union Army,

The elaborate details of a privately purchased Zouave officer's uniform are shown here in a line drawing of the dress worn by Captain Felix Agnus of the 165th New York Volunteer Infantry. The trousers were a rust red colour trimmed in gold and the dark blue jacket featured yet more elaborate ornamentation. The false vest sewn into the jacket and held in place with flaps and buttons over the left shoulder, was decorated with ornate tombeaux designs, not visible in this picture. The Z in the regulation bugle horn motif worn on the front of Agnus' kepi was a common feature of Zouave officers' headwear. Ed Dovey.

S C5

mv-' <

[ '

Hfci

Bandsmen were important for morale and usually wore a more ornate version of standard infantry dress. These are men of the 12th Indiana Volunteer Infantry wearing the semi Zouave dress of the regiment. In battle, bandsmen acted as stretcher bearers. Michael J. McAfee.

wanted all his men to be armed with model 1842 smoothbore muskets. In theory, rifle muskets could be used at longer ranges because they were more accurate, but Meagher thought that having his men armed with less accurate smoothbore muskets would suit the close quarters fighting at which he wanted his men to excell and emulate their ancestors. But the truth is that although rifle muskets were more accurate than smoothbores their increased range was often negated by the tremendous amount of black powder smoke. In general soldiers could only see for short distances through this smoke, so the advantages of a rifled musket were often literally blotted out.

The effects can be appreciated by spectators at modern day Civil War re-enactments where even comparatively small amounts of men firing muzzleloading weapons quickly become shrouded in black powder smoke.

Breech-loading weapons were available in the Civil War, but were mainly confined to use by the cavalry. It was thought that if breech loading weapons were used by standard infantrymen then they would waste ammunition. However breech-loading weapons did see use with the infantry notably with the 42nd Pennsylvania and Berdan's Sharpshooters who used Sharps carbines. The Sharps carbine had a sliding breechlock which was opened by pulling the trigger guard down. A linen cartridge was inserted in the breech and when the breechlock was closed the back of the cartridge was sheered off. Sharps carbines had a percussion lock but a magazine held a number of detonating pellets which were ejected on to the nipple. An interesting feature of Sharps carbines was that some models incorporated a small coffee mill with a detachable handle in the butt.

Colt who were chiefly renowned for pistols, produced a rifle with a revolving chamber. It was the first repeating rifle adopted by the United States Government and early models had been used in the Seminole War in 1838, but there was a considerable sideflash when the weapon was fired and also the danger that all six cylinders would go off at once. The rifle saw limited use in the war; Berdan's Sharpshooters used them while they were waiting to be armed with Sharps rifles. In their formidable armoury, Berdan's Sharpshooters also had a variety of

Csa Slouch Hat
A lieutenant of the 18th United States Coloured Troops wears a broad brimmed slouch hat and a waistcoat under his frock coat. David Scheinmann.

specialist sniper rifles many of which had heen privately purchased.

The most sought after breechloading weapon of the Civil War was the Spencer carbine. A tube in the stock fed copper cased bullets into the breech. Southern soldiers said that Northerners could load up their Spencers on Sundays and fire them all week. Captured Spencers were highly prized, but the South lacked the capability of making ammunition for them. When stocks of captured ammunition were exhausted, they couldn't be used.

0 0

Responses

  • semhar
    What did the soldiers in the civil war wear officers?
    8 years ago
  • Samppa
    Which sergeants wear a sash civil war?
    8 years ago
  • kathrin
    What did the soldiers were in the american civil war wear?
    7 years ago
  • Kathrin
    Where sack coats used during the Civil war by the south?
    4 years ago

Post a comment