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Technological advances in weaponry during the CW - Weapons of the Civil War - Civil War Talk - Civil War Interactive Discussion Board
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 Posted: Thu Feb 14th, 2008 07:20 am
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JoanieReb
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"So many changes and innovations; is it any wonder so many European Nations sent observers? Or that they were both suprised and frightened by what they saw. "

Now that is real food for thought.

"My favorite heavy artillery weapon of the war is the "Swamp Angel", the 16500-pound rifled Parrott cannon with an eight-inch bore and using a 17-pound powder charge.  It was used to shell the city of Charleston, but did not last very long as it broke free from its special platform in the swamp. It was also one of the first known uses of a compass to aim artillery fire."

Wow!  My mind is boggling....



 Posted: Thu Feb 14th, 2008 12:44 pm
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Johan Steele
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US didn't use them, land mines or torpedoes.

A comment about the revolution from smoothbore to rifle. THe most common arm in the US household was the shotgun. Most men had an idea how to fire a shotgun and hit a grouse or pheasent or to go deer hunting. Militry small arms were a slightly different critter. In particular the rifled ones. Most who knew how to use rifles were not accustomed to the minnie but the patched round ball w/ an average range of a little over 250 yards.

Realistic long range at the time was 250 yards... when you take a long hard lok at engagements in the CW most shooting was done at ranges of 50 to 100 yards. A range at which the rifle really has no advantage over a smoothbore firing buck n ball (a purely American thing I might add) the problem wasn't so much the innovation of the weapon but that no one bothered to really teach the private soldier how to shoot. Some men knew, some men thought they did and others just blasted away like it was their shotgun at home. Those who knew how to shoot made a difference and were often singled out right away for special duty.

Of all the Divisions, Corps and Armies of the CW only Cleburne set up a realistc and effective sytem to teach his men how to shoot. He used the British system which was very effective. A Colonel in an Iowa camp of instruction IIRC did something similar w/ the French system which was different as it stressed fire and rapid movement. Cleburne's actions are remebered while the Colonel isn't siply because his teaching system wasn't as effective for the tactics involved.



 Posted: Thu Feb 14th, 2008 12:50 pm
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Johan Steele
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As for the big guns and their little brothers in the field arty. I've always liked the 3" Ordnance Rifle. First in Service in the CW and still in use by the Japanese in 1945!

Rifled guns certainly made a dramatic debut in the CW and doomed forever the masonry fort.



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 Posted: Thu Feb 14th, 2008 10:06 pm
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Johan Steele
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Bama... in some instances I prefer a M1841 to an M16 or given the choice an O3A3. The M16 or M4 (the only quality version of the M16 IMO) in 5.56mm is designed for shorter ranges than the 03A3's big 7.62mm, an example of the evolution and tactical changesbrought about by military needs.

The rifling itself wasn't the leap (the Brits, German Jaegers & US Riflemen had proven the rifle was effective)but the Minnie bullet w/ the expanding base made it possible for anybody w/ a brain between their ears to shoot accurately out to effective combat ranges. In many of the battles of the Civil War the Smoothbore was not at as great a disadvantage as we might think. Those smoothies firing buck n ball at inside 100 yards are plenty nasty and inside 50 yards in some ways more effective than a rifle in that there are four pieces of lead going down range instead of just one.

Where the rifled musket or rifle comes into it's own is at combat ranges of greater than 50-100 yards. When masses of men could open fire at other masses of men at several hundred yards and start doing noticeable damage that was the leap. Really you don't see that very much in the CW; to me the starkest look at the effectiveness of such didn't come until Plevna years after when Peabody armed Turks mauled masses of attacking Russians at ranges that started at 1000 yards; and when they pushed to inside of 100 yards the turks dropped their Peabody's and picked up Winchesters. But in the close terrain of many Civil War battlefields that didn't happen. Places like Shiloh, Chickamauga, the Wilderness & Chanclorsville to name just a few the ranges were terrifyingly close, often well inside fifty yards.



 Posted: Thu Feb 14th, 2008 10:12 pm
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Rebel Yell
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I'm partial to the Whitworth "sniper" rifle with telescopic sight.



 Posted: Thu Feb 14th, 2008 10:28 pm
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ole
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The proverbial "edge" has been and may always be what the grunt can capably handle effectively. Accuracy may never have been a factor.

Bama has mentioned the M-16. It was adopted primarily because the grunt could carry more .223 rounds than he could .308. It was never, to my knowledge, influenced by accuracy. It was, however, a nod to rate of fire and weight of ammo.

The grunt has never been considered a point and shoot unit. It's more often that they might throw enough lead that way so the opposing force might get tired of dodging it and go away.

It is true that a handful of actual marksmen make a difference in a firefight, but it is also true that you can't know how many of those will actually function as marksmen when bullets are flying.

Firepower is elusive.

ole



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 Posted: Fri Feb 15th, 2008 02:23 am
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Johan Steele
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Bama I think you're quite right about it being an enormous leap. But tactically it wasn't recognized as much as we might think.

Ole, the M16 is actually one of the most accurate service rifles in the world today... I still hate the cursed thing mostly because of my poor experiances w/ them. I'll take a Galil or AUG any day of the week and twice on sunday. BUt that's beside the point.

Rifling and minnie bullets are indeed massive leaps but if the men using them aren't trained how to best utilize them...



 Posted: Wed Jul 20th, 2011 05:02 pm
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Lorraine68
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JoanieReb wrote:

"My favorite heavy artillery weapon of the war is the "Swamp Angel", the 16500-pound rifled Parrott cannon with an eight-inch bore and using a 17-pound powder charge.  It was used to shell the city of Charleston, but did not last very long as it broke free from its special platform in the swamp. It was also one of the first known uses of a compass to aim artillery fire."


Holy wow! Sounds impressive...looks impressive, too, I'll bet, but apparently not that effective..here's what wikipedia has to saw about the Swamp Angel at Charleston:

"Between August 22 and August 23, the Swamp Angel fired on the city 36 times (the gun burst on the 36th round), using many incendiary shells which caused little damage and few casualties..." (wikipedia 20/07/11)

Hmm..too much brawn, not enough brains (for artillery, that is).



 Posted: Wed Jul 20th, 2011 11:29 pm
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Hellcat
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Actually it was less about the destruction Swamp Angel inflicted and more about the psychological effect. The Swamp Angel was meant to inflict a lot of damage on Charleston, but was rendered useless when it exploded when firing the 36th round. But the real damage came in the moral effect it had on Charleston. It was a matter of Federal forces actually firing on the city itself rather than just it's defenses.  So people didn't know if the next shot was going to get them.

http://www.civilwarartillery.com/cannon/default.htm



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