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Stan Hutson

Weapons at Shiloh

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All,

I am sure many of you know Timothy Arnold, he worked at Shiloh and is now at Corinth.  I know he has been slowly trying to compile the "best list possible" of weapons used by individual units at Shiloh.  It is a slow work in progress, but I am not sure how much progress he has made on it as of late.

But, one thing that comes to mind.  We talk of tactics, movements, etc., etc.  But what I wonder is how did weaponry at Shiloh, if at all, influence combat in certain sectors of the battlefield.  Tim and myself have speculated on a point, roughly this:  Just say that Gladden's Brigade, say the 22nd Alabama, they were at least partially armed with Mississippi rifles if I have not totally lost my mind.  But, say they were going up against Miller's Brigade in Spain Field.  Say that Miller's men were armed with Belgian muskets (not sure off the top of my head what Miller's men were armed with during the battle).  Would the difference in weaponry make any difference in the outcome of that "battle within a battle".  I wonder if that weaponry difference played a part in the results of the fighting.

In the Peach Orchard, some Confederates had Enfields, where as their Federal counterparts were firing buck and ball smoothbores.  Confederates standing upright firing Enfields may indeed NOT have the upper hand on Federals firing buck and ball from the prone position.  So, in some instances, what would be considered an inferior weapon could actually do more damage and be of better use in that regard.  On the flip side, standing upright in a slug fest in the middle of a field, troops with Enfields or other rifled muskets could more easily push back an enemy firing buck and ball, especially at long range.

Not sure if anyone has speculated on this topic before.

So, fire away, pun intended.

Stan

 

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The identification of weapon in use by each infantry regiment (CSA and USA) at Shiloh is of interest, in order to compare and contrast: 1) who had the most modern equipment; 2) who had the most reliable equipment; 3) who had the most effective equipment. Oddly, "most modern" does not necessarily equate to "best," or most effective (case in point: the Springfield Model 1855 with Maynard Tape Primer, which did not function when wet.) On average, one would expect the Enfield and Springfield rifle-muskets to have the advantage beyond 300 yards; while inside 50 yards, a 12-gauge shotgun, double barreled, loaded with deer shot or equivalent (four to sixteen slugs) would be weapon of choice.

After the above "assessment," it is difficult to compare and contrast further, due to "other factors" that may have had significant, or overriding, impact, such as: 1) non-homogeneous forces confronting each other (two or more regiments operating in close support of each other, armed with different weapons... and sometimes different weapons within the same regiment); 2) availability of resupply of ammunition; 3) comparative size of forces confronting each other; 4) terrain advantage to one side, or the other (high ground, brush concealment); 5) man-made concealment (blinds) and protection (trenches); 6) associated support nearby (artillery, equipt with case shot or canister or shell); condition of the men, themselves (experience; fitness and health; how long ago was the last meal? last access to water? Intoxicated, or otherwise impaired; exhausted, vs well-rested; actual size of the regiment (1000 healthy men vs 400 - 600 "what's left" unit, with everyone else "gone" (dead; wounded in previous battle; or away sick.)

Probably the biggest overriding factor: the Tactics in use. Both sides were using Hardee's Tactics (which negated the advantage of the long-range Enfield and Springfield, and boosted effectiveness of close-in weapons); also, operating at close range, the man armed with quick-reload, slow-to-foul, reliable weapon would find himself holding the advantage after passage of a bit of time. And, the man armed with buck-and-ball would have the advantage at 50 - 100 yards (if your sole purpose was to "get a hit" that would likely result in a mobility kill.)

Tied in with Hardee's Tactics (and War of 1812 "fire when you see the white's of their eyes") and Mexican War of 1846 ("Wait until the enemy is twenty paces away before opening fire") there was the ever-available bayonet charge (seen as the "finish" to close-range shooting: for defenders to drive away attackers; or for attackers to consummate their assault by driving defenders away from their chosen position, possibly to a position not-as-good.)

Just a few thoughts...

Ozzy

Reference:  http://archive.org/details/hardeesrifleligh01hard  Hardee's Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics (1861)

 

 

 

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one other condition to consider ..would be the ability of the man to know how to fire the weapon they had been issued..some troops were armed as they arrived ..and how "seeing the elephant" affected their ability .

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Tim and myself agree, with regiment X going up against regiment X, the types of firearms they were carrying would have made a huge difference.  Thanks for the input!  

I think Ozzy hits a good point.  The physical health of the men would have been a huge factor too, given the terrain.  And Mona, yeah, can't imagine being handed a musket and only firing it for the first time while in combat!

Stan

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2 hours ago, mona said:

just wondering....wonder if there were any men present that had never fired a weapon prior?

I would say it is possible, particularly if the men had lived in urban settings their entire life.

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exactly..i you know thre had to be some on both sides..esp. the northern cities young men didnt have much opportunity to have a weapon...

 

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The adjutants' report for the 58th Illinois regt. states that the regiment was armed "with the most worthless arms " at Fort Donelson that had been cast aside by other troops.   (flintlocks)  .  When disembarking at Pittsburg landing they "exchanged arms" so assuming that they had never fired their newer rifles at Shiloh until engaged.

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On 3/23/2018 at 10:23 AM, mona said:

one other condition to consider ..would be the ability of the man to know how to fire the weapon they had been issued..some troops were armed as they arrived ..and how "seeing the elephant" affected their ability .

At Shiloh-- the type of arms issued to a Regiment did make a difference on how deadly they were. Remember, the tactics used at the beginning of the War were meant for troops armed with smoothbore muskets-- Closed ranks, firing volleys, and then a bayonet charge. The invention of the rifled-musket changed all that. They went from marching in ranks, stopping and firing-- to take cover, avoid frontal assaults if you can, dig trenches or embrasures for the infantry and artillery to save the men. The Rifle did that, not the smoothbores. Ranger Allen believes the terrain and dense woods on the Shiloh Battlefield made the smoothbore not such a bad choice. Well, I will tell you-- I shoot these guns in competition and have been doing it for 40 years and a smoothbore in the hands of a practiced shooter-- firing hundreds of rounds in his or hers personal smoothbore, can hit a man size target at 50 yards almost every time. Now---------- take someone who never fired one [they have no rear sight, just a front sight on the top barrel band] loaded that cannon up-- try to aim where??? up-down?? and let go-- you would be lucky to hit 1 out of 5 at 50 yards and at 75 to 100! guess??? The same with a rifle in the hands of a new shooter-- you would aim to high or to low until you got the feel of the gun. That is why the soldiers were told to aim for the opponents legs-- this negated firing high... And if in the woods-- I personally would rather have a rifle-- shooting at a target 50 to 75 yards away-- you almost could not miss. Now in the woods, with canister and shells bursting in the air in the trees-- balls and minies flying all over-- some enemy in the woods in front of you coming your way.. you had to be a hell of a man to just stand there and aim till you knew you had him... research continues...

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