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 Posted: Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 10:04 pm
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CleburneFan
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This never occurred to me before, but were any regiments or companies or even individuals in the Civil War ever equipped with bullet proof vests (or saber resistant vests? Of course, they wouldn't be as sophisticated as those worn today, but was there any kind of technology at that time that even minimally resembled such a thing?



 Posted: Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 10:46 pm
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Swamp Shadow
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In the most recent Civil War Times magazine there was an article mentioning bullet proof vests. The soldiers who had saved up their money could purchase shields and breast plates from suttlers following the armies. They were typically made of cast iron and were often manufactured by the G&D Cook Company or the Atwater Armor Company.



 Posted: Wed Jan 24th, 2007 02:40 am
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CleburneFan
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That's interesting. Cast iron! Think how heavy that would be. I guess the soldier could grill on it for dinner, too.:D  Just kidding. I wonder how effective such a vest would be and how commonly these were worn.

Maybe a cast iron vest would be more common on a cavalry man rather than an infantry man who would be hard pressed to march very far with that much weight, even if he wasn't wearing it, but jst lugging it around between battles.

Last edited on Wed Jan 24th, 2007 02:42 am by CleburneFan



 Posted: Wed Jan 24th, 2007 12:50 pm
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Widow
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CleburmeFan,

Cast iron indeed.  Good idea about using it to cook on.  Somewhere I read about this topic, but don't ask me the source.  The men soon found the armor was too heavy, too uncomfortable, and, worst of all, not much good.

Think of the knight's armor in the Goode Olde Days of Yore.  It had flexible joints, but still every time you twisted, the armor didn't twist with you, so your bones bumped into that steel; blisters, bruises, and calluses.  How hot did it get inside that portable furnace?  What to do when you need water or have to pee?  Fighting on horseback in that rig must have been a nightmare.  And of course, trying to get up after you've fallen, well, forget it.  No wonder the longbow beat out the lance.

Hm.  The technologies of the metallurgists and armorers were the most advanced of the day.  They could make wonderful things that were expensive and admirable, but not very user-friendly.  Sadly, the whole idea was flawed, and the products crashed often.

Why does this remind me of Windows?

:=))

Patty



 Posted: Wed Jan 24th, 2007 06:20 pm
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Doc C
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There's an interesting passage in Ray's - Shock Troops of the Confederacy by Lucious Crittenden, a sightseeing Washington bureaucrat touring the battlefield shortly after the fighting ended around Fr. Stevens. "near a large fallen tree lay one (southern sharpshooter) in the uniform of an officer. His sword was by his side, but his hand grasped a rifle. What could have sent an officer to act as a sharp-shooter?" he wondered. Chritenden put his hand on the man's chest to see if he was still alive, and was surprised to find that he was wearing " a sheet of boiler-iron, moulded to fit the anterior portion of his body, and fastened at the back by straps and buckles.." The armor had failed its purpose, however, since "directly over his heart, through the body, was a hole large enough to permit the escape of a score of human lives. A wound that large was probably caused by artillery fire.

Doc C



 Posted: Wed Jan 24th, 2007 09:38 pm
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calcav
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How effective was it?

Colonel William P. Rogers of the 2nd Texas was wearing cast iron body armor during the Battle of Corinth. His grave is right behind the Visitor Center. His body was hit in seven different places.

Tom



 Posted: Wed Jan 24th, 2007 09:56 pm
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CleburneFan
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Thank you all for the fascinating answers.  I guess no matter how well intended the attempts were to develop some form of torso protection, the mechanisms pretty much failed their users. That's too bad. It is a good thing, however, that inventors kept on trying and probably do still keep on trying to perfect this vital  protection.



 Posted: Wed Jan 24th, 2007 11:00 pm
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ole
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A sheet of iron light enough to carry on one's person could do very little to stop a direct hit. It may well have deflected a glancing shot, or stopped a spent shot, but the device apparently proved to be more a burden than a benefit.

Ole



 Posted: Wed Jan 24th, 2007 11:49 pm
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CleburneFan
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Good point, Ole. What about in the case of saber strikes during close-in fighting? Would such devices have been any use at all in deflecting well-aimed saber strkies? Or bayonet strikes for that matter? I, myself, have no idea.



 Posted: Thu Jan 25th, 2007 03:32 am
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susansweet
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The cavalry wore shoulder scales made of metal instead of epaulets of cloth.  These were supose to protect them in hand to hand saber fighting on horseback .  We had a speaker who collects military uniforms at our roundtable said that many didn't wear them as they were more trouble than they did any thing to protect them . 



 Posted: Thu Jan 25th, 2007 03:59 am
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ole
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Fan: Saber strikes were not particularly threatening to the chest. If you're going to whack at somebody with a saber (not usually fatal, but really, really scary) the head and shoulders are the likely object. The result of a saber slash was, more often than not, a scar. (Among the Prussian military, you didn't get far without a really good facial scar.)

The saber is a fearsome weapon. It was not designed to pierce or hack but to slash. Its purpose was not to kill but to frighten. (Frightening is better. The running opponent takes others with him; the dead ones do not.)

Whatever. The breastplate was sold to a few fools with a few dollars on his person. They didn't last much longer than the first 20 miles. In marches where soldiers discarded their greatcoats, haversacks, blankets, ground sheets and even muskets, you gotta know that a cuirass was the first to be jettisoned.

Ole



 Posted: Thu Jan 25th, 2007 02:27 pm
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CleburneFan
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Thanks for that informative response, Ole. I really had no clue about how sabers were used, what the best targets were, whether they jabbed, pierced, slashed, cut or what they did. It is hard enough for me to imagine how cavalry men managed to stay mounted on a racing or rearing horse while one hand is occupied doing something threatening with an unwieldy and heavy saber and all the while trying to stay on the horse, manage the horse and keep from getting cut up or shot...all offensive and defensive actions at once.

My hat is off to those who were able to do that and survive.



 Posted: Thu Jan 25th, 2007 06:25 pm
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ole
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Fan:

Sabers were fearsome, to be sure, but that was all they were: traditional and scary. You might note that the more notable mounted raiders -- Mosby, Forrest, Morgan, etc. -- didn't carry sabers, just two or more .44s.

Ole



 Posted: Fri Jan 26th, 2007 11:06 am
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Widow
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Right, ole,

Who wants to fight at the length of a saber when you can shoot it out at a distance?

At the last two reenactments of the Battle of Cedar Creek (Oct 1864), the cavalry fight was close to the spectators' area.  They were boot-to-boot, saber-to-saber, horses, men, flashing blades, boy, was that spectacular.  The horses knew what to do and what not to do.  Even though the soldiers weren't trying to hurt each other, there still was the danger of getting tangled or thrown, or the horse going down.

Thinking back again to the armored knights, they also put armor on their horses.  Their huge horses.  Good grief.

Patty



 Posted: Fri Jan 26th, 2007 02:11 pm
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Johan Steele
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THe sword was more decoration than practical weapon, the casualties inflicted by a sword were so minimal... as to be immortolized only by Hollyweird.  While Companies & often whole Regiments were armed only w/ swords there are VERY few cases of their effectivenes in battle.  The minie bullet proved them obsolete.

As to pistols... and men carrying two pistols... that was another so rare as to be in  the Hollyweird only department.  There just were not enough pistols out there.  In fact in modern re-enacting it is a flag for other re-enactors that denotes someone who has done their research in fantasy land or on TV.  I have read two first hand accounts of Cav carrying two pistols... both were noted by the men doing the writing because it was so unusual.

Both US & CS Regulations stated a Cavalryman was to have  pistol, saber and carbine.  The reality is that rarely did the average soldier carry more than 2 of the 3 and often only one.  If you look at the number of pistols available to the CS... there weren't enough to arm more than a third of the CS Cav.  Same is true for the US; though by the end of the War there were many US Regiments armed to Regulation standard but even by 1865 the number was not 100%.... especially in the western theatre.

Certain generals favored the sword, Hampton is the first to mind.  He had several Regiments armed only w/ swords up to the last dark days of the CS.  Wheras Forrests men generally carried breach loading carbines and 2 band Enfield rifles... and did most of their fighting on foot.  Then of coarse their are men lke Sheridan who had learned the effectiveness of mounted infantry from men like Wilder.

Now bullet proof vests... beyond useless as they would not stop a .58 minie and were cast iron or steel aka so heavy as to be impractical.  As to some of the modern body armor.  One called "Dragon Scale" is fairly light and will stop either a 7.62 x 39 or 5.56 Nato round completely... anything bigger than that I doubt and I question whether it was tested against the new Russian AP round.  Civilians love the idea of full body armor because they don't have to carry it in the field.  The modern armor in use in Iraq is less than half the weight of its Vietnam equivelant and more than three times as effective.  Hell the Flak Vest the WI ANG is carrying today is considerably lighter than the one I was issued just ten years ago. 



 Posted: Sun Jan 28th, 2007 02:01 am
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Widow
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Johan,

Mosby and his Rangers carried 3 to 4 pistols.  For their type of hit-and-run operations, that was just right.

It was a small outfit, and there was a ready supply of pistols and ammo at the nearest US quartermaster's camp.  No problem.

Patty



 Posted: Sun Jan 28th, 2007 02:06 am
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susansweet
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Quantrell and Billy Anderson's men also carried several pistols.  Look at the pictures they have pistols stuck everywhere . 



 Posted: Sun Jan 28th, 2007 03:39 am
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Texas Defender
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   Nathan Bedford Forrest did indeed carry a saber into battle, and he killed with it a number of times. He was famous for sharpening the top edge as well as the bottom edge of it.

 

Nathan Bedford Forrest | Mike's Civil War Musings

 

Nathan Bedford Forrest - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia



 Posted: Sun Jan 28th, 2007 07:04 am
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Johan Steele
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Quantrill & Bill Anderson... were not soldiers by any strech of the imagination... they were neither a majority and should not be looked upon as a standard of any kind.

Mosby's men are a good example of an exception to a rule; even that said very few of his men carried more than one pistol; though as I ubnderstand it his men were some of the best armed Cav in the CS.

A note on te phots... many of the weapons we see in CDV's are photographers props and were never carried in the field.



 Posted: Sun Jan 28th, 2007 10:33 am
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susansweet
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Johan you will not get any arguement from me on anything you just said.  I just read Black Flag by Thomas Goodrich.  the Civil War was  not the same war in Missouri as it was in other parts of the country.  The diary entries though out the book are amazing . 



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