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Arms & Equipment of the Civil War

Report by John Murray

Patrick Reardon presented his impressive collection of firearms. Before describing his collection, Patrick explained that prior to the Civil War musket production had centred on Springfield, MA and Harpers Ferry VA both locations close to water, which was necessary for transport and power.

Patrick described important individuals such as the master armourer at Harpers Ferry who was headhunted by the British in 1855 to come to Enfield where he was chief engineer until 1860, during which time the patent 1853 Enfield musket went into production. He came home for a rest and found himself at the Richmond armoury in Virginia.

Patrick described the ammunition of the time. Prior to the 1840s there were two types: spherical ball and buck and ball cartridge, effective between 100 and 120 yards. Then came the rifled musket and the development of the cylindrical conoidal bullet by Claude Minié which combined power with accuracy of shot up to 800 yards.

Seventeen muskets and carbines represented Patrick's Union collection. It included:

a) the Mississippi rifle (1854) a .54 calibre made at Harpers Ferry and used in the Mexican War: it had no bayonet fixing.

b) .69 calibre smoothbore (1842) the first US percussion model. An example of weapon interchangeability, it was effective to a maximum of 100 yards and was produced by the Federals up to 1863.

c) 1855 Springfield, .58 calibre, rifled. This used the Maynard tape primer paper cap which turned out to be hopeless in practice.

d) Pistol carbine, produced in 1855, with a detachable shoulder stock.

e) Sharp's infantry rifle, breach loader, .52 calibre, which used a lead ball with a linen tube (containing powder). Patrick's model had a box with cleaning tools.

f)1861 Springfield, extensively used, was found in New Hampshire with sling for bayonet and cap pouch, buckle and cartridge and shoulder sling.

g) 1860 Spenser carbine, breach loading for cavalry use before Gettysburg, it had a phenomenal rate of fire.

Before describing his Confederate collection of arms, Patrick explained that Southern arms production comprised Government manufacture, capture, importation of 400,000 long arms principally British and patent .53 Enfield muskets and rifles, and local production producing from a few hundred to a few thousand.

Patrick's equally impressive 7 Confederate arms included several highlights:

a) 1855 model with the Maynard primer taken away which could use the standard Federal bayonet. Carved on this model was the name "J.W.Cool". Cool, of the 10th Virginia, enlisted in March 1862. Company D of the 10th fought in the Valley and Seven Days campaigns, the Second Manassas campaign, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, where Cool was killed.

b) A Richmond rifle musket made in March 1862 and virtually identical to Cool's. This had belonged to James Clay of Co. G , 18th Virginia, Garnett's Brigade. Clay was hit by a shell fragment at Gettysburg but survived and fought on to Sayler's Creek.

Several members of the audience had the privilege of handling these historic pieces. Patrick displayed and described other items from his collection (swords, holster, pistol, cartridge box and Federal canteen) David Hughes showed sonic of his collection of swords (Confederate and Union) infantry, artillery and navy cutlass and his revolvers (Remington and Colt .44s and the unusual Le Mat). Phil Lewis displayed some of his pistols, including a Colt 1860 Army .44 and a rusty Belgian pistol which had belonged to Randolf H. McKim, who enlisted with the 1st Maryland in 1862 and fought at Stephenson's Depot and at Culps Hill, Gettysburg.

© ACWRT (UK) 2002

Picture: Tony Brown


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