Civil War Weapons

The United States was a leading firearms producer in the world, especially in techniques of mass production and standardization of parts, but the majority of equipment and raw materials were in the North.

Major developments:
Heavy reliance on fire power (the bayonet becomes obsolete)
Dramatic rise in the lethality of small arms in comparison to artillery or sword
Increased fire power doomed frontal assault and ushered in the entrenched battlefield

Rifled Musket
Backbone of war
Much more accurate than smoothbore musket, increased combat range, equipped with sight
New percussion ignition more reliable than flintlock
Reversed lethal capability between infantry weapons and artillery; rifle fire accounted for 90% of battlefield casualties
Increased range and rate of fire led to the spreading out of armies, actions longer and less decisive
Could stop attack at 200 to 300 yards
Fire 2 or 3 rounds per minute
Increased the power of the defender over the attacker by at least 3:1
Gave infantrymen a weapon with the same effective range as the largest and most powerful cannon
Soldier had to remain upright to load and in formation to have volume of fire needed to stop a charge
Leaders with experience from the Mexican War unfamiliar with the new capabilities of the rifled musket

Repeaters and Breechloaders
New inventions, did not play a major role
Army skeptical
15 to 20 designs for repeaters and breechloaders being presented to the army at any time during the war, each totally different in design, taking different type and caliber of ammunition
Cartridge cases and rifle designs in infancy
Manufacturing plants still not capable of producing breechloaders or repeaters in the amount needed

            Difficulties with design, weight and smoke produced
            Gatling gun not very practical, had to load and clean sleeves

Breechloading rifle
            Allowed quicker reloading without standing and exposing oneself to enemy fire
            Needed improved production and good brass cartridge to become more feasible

The Napolean, a smoothbore, muzzle-loading cannon, was the most popular artillery piece (maximum effective rate 4 rounds/minute
Rifled cannon

Minie ball

Land Mines
In use by the Confederates by 1862

  Return to Industrial Revolution & Warfare

Last update:  May 11, 2000