A Look at Some Period Guns

by Fred Ray on June 20, 2015 · 0 comments

Just a quick look at some period firearms.

Cap and Ball, whom we have met before, shoots an original .58 cal. Springfield rifle-musket. He shows it can shoot quite accurately at a distance, but OTOH he’s an experienced shot and has fiddled with it a bit.

Then, a look at the Needham postwar conversion to breech loading. Also pics of the Snider-Enfield conversion and the Trapdoor Springfield. Three solutions to the problem of what to do with all those muzzle loaders that fill your arsenals.

The Dreyse Needle Gun, one of the first service breech loaders and the prototype for the bolt action rifle. Adopted in 1843 it was contemporary with the Late Unpleasantness.

The French answer to the Needle Gun was the Chassepot, which was considerably more advanced and had much superior long range performance, although it still used a paper cartridge much like that of the Sharps. The French were not able to produce enough of them for the Franco-Prussian War and ended up importing substantial number of American rifles, including Rolling Blocks, Henrys, and Spencers.

The last of the service black powder guns was the British Lee-Metford, which was a modern bolt action magazine repeater that still used a black powder cartridge. It worked well enough against the dervishes at the Omdurman, but not so well against the Boers.

And finally, if you’re able to get CSPAN3 they are having a wealth of Civil War programs that have included the re-enactment of Lee’s surrender, the Grand Review in Washington, and much more. tonight I listened to part of a program by Harold Holzer on his new book about Lincoln and the press.

UPDATE: Couple of more to add to the collection.

The mitrailleuse was an early attempt at a machinegun. Actually it was more of a volley gun but had some unique features of its own. The French, who fielded it in the Franco-Prussian War, intended it to be used as artillery as sort of a long range canister. It was not very successful but is a fascinating piece of machinery. Nice article with videos and animation.

The Palmer breech-loading carbine, which was issued to Federal cavalry in small numbers. It’s another weapon that few (myself included) have heard of.

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Grant & The Red River Campaign, Part 6

by Ned B. on June 13, 2015 · 5 comments

Continued from Part 5.

In previous posts I wrote about Grant’s orders to Banks on March 15 and March 31, 1864.  Grant continued to be anxious about the situation in Louisiana so in mid April he sent another set of orders to Banks.  This time he tasked Gen. Hunter with hand delivering the message and wrote additional instructions for Hunter.

In the message to Banks, Grant acknowledged “the difficulty of giving positive instructions to a distant commander” and thus sent Hunter to “express more fully my views than I can well do on paper”. 1 This is a dilemma that distant commanders had struggled with before.  For example, Halleck preferred to give ‘suggestions’ rather than orders because he felt the distance and resulting time delay made giving specific instructions difficult. Yet the ambiguities that came from these suggestions was also problematic. Likewise, Grant’s orders to distance commanders tended to be filled with contingencies — if this, then that — in hopes of addressing dynamic situations.  But the result can also be confusing if all branches of the contingency aren’t clear or feasible.

Grants orders to Banks in mid-March had spoken of Mobile as an uncertain possibility. Then at the end of March he wrote specific instructions for a campaign against Mobile but, as mentioned in the previous post, he seemed aware that it would not be possible by May 1st.  However in the mid-April orders, Grant wrote “I would much rather the Red River expedition had never been begun than that you should be detained one day after the 1st of May in commencing your movement east of the Mississippi.”  I find this statement at this point in the campaign to be exasperating. If Grant had expressed this a month earlier, it could have been helpful. But at the time this was written, Banks had not yet even received the previous message that first instructed him to move against Mobile.  The newer message wouldn’t reach Banks until April 27. Grant’s new timetable for a move toward Mobile was absolutely impossible. Though it revealed his frustration, Grant’s venting about wanting a move to the east before May 1 simply wasn’t helpful.

The instructions that Grant wrote to Hunter stressed two issues: “the importance of commencing operations at the very earliest possible moment against Mobile” and that Banks “should take with him the greatest number of troops possible from his command”.  2 These meshed with what he told Banks and with the idea of a prompt campaign against Mobile. But then Grant undercut his own intention by telling Hunter that “It is of the first importance that we should hold Red River.” Grant wanted the Red River held by Steele but added that “If, however, General Steele has not with him the necessary force to leave for this purpose, General Banks will have to supply the deficiency until re-enforcements can be got to General Steele.” These appear to be conflicting instructions — the emphasis on a move toward Mobile but declaring it of “first importance” to keep holding the Red River.

Grant ordered Hunter to “remain with General Banks until his move from New Orleans is commenced and a landing effected at Pascagoula, or such place as may be selected for the base from which to draw the supplies” but Hunter only stayed with Banks a few days and then left. Despite Grant’s effort to resolve the situation, nothing was accomplished by sending Hunter.

 

  1. Grant to Banks, April 17, 1864, Official Records, Series 1 – Volume 34 (Part III) p191
  2. Grant to Hunter, April 17, 1864, Official Records, Series 1 – Volume 34 (Part III) p190

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Check out the Siege of Petersburg Online for daily posts on battle accounts in newspaper articles, diary entries, letters and more!

What are your Top 10 Gettysburg Books? See what a panel of bloggers said recently.

Want to read some interesting Civil War content from amateurs and pros alike? Check out the Top 10 Civil War Blogs and Top 10 Civil War Blogs: 11-20.

Book Excerpt: The Battle of Petersburg, June 15-18, 1864, Part 8

by Brett Schulte June 8, 2015

Editor’s Note: This post was first posted at The Siege of Petersburg Online and has been crossposted here. This series of posts offer a look at Sean Chick’s new book The Battle of Petersburg, June 15-18, 1864.  The Battle of Petersburg was part of Grant’s First Offensive against Petersburg. Sean Michael Chick is a 33 […]

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Grant & The Red River Campaign, Part 5

by Ned B. June 7, 2015

Continued from Part 4. Grant’s first order to Banks reached him on March 26 at Alexandria, Louisiana, where the forces for the campaign had concentrated. Though delayed by the navy’s effort to get the boats over the rapids, Banks still hoped he could reach Shreveport around April 10 and return Sherman’s troops after that.1   […]

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Book Excerpt: The Battle of Petersburg, June 15-18, 1864, Part 7

by Brett Schulte June 1, 2015

Editor’s Note: This post was first posted at The Siege of Petersburg Online and has been crossposted here. This series of posts offer a look at Sean Chick’s new book The Battle of Petersburg, June 15-18, 1864.  The Battle of Petersburg was part of Grant’s First Offensive against Petersburg. Sean Michael Chick is a 33 […]

Read the full article →

Grant & The Red River Campaign, Part 4

by Ned B. May 30, 2015

Continued from Part 3. During the first week of March, 1864, Grant traveled from Nashville TN to Washington DC to meet President Lincoln for the first time. He was promoted to Lieutenant General on March 9th and the next day assigned to be general-in-chief of all US armies. He made a quick visit to the […]

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Indian Sharpshooters in Florida

by Fred Ray May 27, 2015

Some time ago I put up a post about a letter I have from a Union soldier who mentions Indian sharpshooters at the battle of Olustee, and also mentions them as bushwhackers. The most desperate enemy that we have to contend with here is the Florida Indians, who have organized themselves into roving bands of […]

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