In 1855 the U.S. Army adopted a .58-caliber rifled musket to replace a .69-caliber smoothbore musket. The new infantry weapon was muzzle loaded, its rifled barrel taking a hollow-based cylindroconical bullet slightly smaller than the bore. The loading procedure required the soldier to withdraw a paper cartridge (containing powder and bullet) from his cartridge box, tear open one end with his teeth, pour the powder into the muzzle, place the bullet in the muzzle, and ram it to the breech using a metal ramrod. A copper percussion cap was then placed on a hollow cone at the breech. To fire the weapon, the hammer was cocked, and when the trigger was pulled the hammer struck the cap and ignited the powder charge. Each soldier was expected to be capable of loading and firing three aimed shots per minute. Although the maximum range of a rifled musket might be over 1,000 yards, actual fields of fire were often very short, the emphasis of musketry fire relying on volume at close range rather than accuracy at long.
The basic ammunition load for each infantry soldier was 40 rounds in the cartridge box. When more action was expected, 20 additional rounds were issued to each soldier, who placed them in his uniform pockets or knapsack. In addition, 100 rounds per man were held in the brigade or division trains and 100 rounds in the corps trains.
At the beginning of the war a shortage of rifled muskets on both sides forced the Northern and Southern governments to issue the older smoothbore weapons or purchase weapons from European nations. At the Battle of Ball's Bluff the regiments on both sides were armed mostly with smoothbore weapons, with a few companies armed with rifles. As the war progressed more soldiers were armed with rifles, although even late in the war some troops on both sides still carried smoothbores.
Both single-and multiple-shot handguns were generally carried by officers. Although the types of handguns used by both sides were innumerable, two of the most common were six-shot revolvers produced by Colt and Remington, both in .36- and .44-caliber.
The Union cavalry was initially armed with sabers and handguns, but soon added breech-loading carbines. In addition to Sharps and Spencer carbines, dozens of other types of breech-loaders, from .52- to .56-caliber, were issued. Confederate cavalrymen might be armed with a wide variety of handguns, shotguns, muzzle-loading carbines, or captured Federal weapons.
TYPICAL CIVIL WAR SMALL ARMS
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