Civil War Regiment Photo


Civil War Regiment Prepares for Battle - California Photos


When first used in battle, the rifle was not much use due to a slow loading and firing rate. In 1848, however, a French officer named Captain Claude Etienne Minie, invented a practical musket with a much easier loading "minnie-ball" cylindrical bullet. Not many major wars were fought with or against these weapons before the Civil War, and as a result, classical tactics of getting in close before firing were still in practice. The longer range of these innovative new rifles made retreat very costly and caused casualties to be extremely high at the start of the war. As more and more rifles were issued to the troops, self-preservation overpowered honor, and defense tactics were changed. Troops began to take cover and send skirmishers out from the front lines.

In response to the new rifles, the grooved-bores were soon applied to field canons. The long ranges of the rifles were presenting a brand new threat to canon crews, making artillery almost entirely useless. When the canons were rifled, they could greatly increase their distance and precision.

One of the first innovations into a faster reload was the single-shot breechloading rifle. The main advantage was that the gun did not have to be turned around and have the charge rammed down the musket. The barrel could simply be dropped, and the charge and paper could simply be placed directly to the back of the barrel where they needed to be.

Soon after breechloaders became available, a repeating rifle was produced. The Spencer 7-shot and the Henry 16-shot breechloading repeaters were the most common. The third was the Colt revolving rifle. The weapon was considered a superior weapon and was released to select units. The new rifle may have looked good in reports, but many soldiers feared using it. They claimed that after being shot a reasonable amount of times for a skirmish, the chamber would heat up, exploding all six shells at once. This often shot off the soldier's hand used for aiming the rifle.


Confederates were desperate for these faster loading weapons, yet the Union was much more conservative in the arming of its troops.