Technological Defeat

June 5, 2008
"There's no use fighting against such guns," a single Confederate soldier observed after seeing a Spencer repeating rifle. (Betram Barnett) The Spencer repeating rifle was one of the many weapons exclusive to the Union. Over 94,000 units were produced. (Betram Barnett) The North's industry clearly gave them a lead over the Confederates. “The Sharps was the only carbine in actual production at the outbreak of the Civil War.” (Dick Weeks) The Union even gained the benefit of having an early start to weapon assembly. The development of new weaponry gave the Union an advantage over the Confederacy.

The Civil War drove new technologies into production and common use. The rifle bore guns quickly replaced the inaccurate smooth bore weapons. Breech loaded rifles began replacing muzzle loaded muskets. (Travis Yates) However, this rush towards developing new guns had created some dilemmas for soldiers. “The new rifle may have looked good in reports, but many soldiers feared using it. They claimed that after being shot a reasonable amount of times for a skirmish, the chamber would heat up, exploding all six shells at once.” (Travis Yates) Some of the technologies produced were proven defective. However, the Civil War still did help bring forth new weapons. The demand for firepower helped fuel the industrial revolution, making better weapons more available.

The South’s technology was inferior in comparison to that of the North. One of General William Tecumseh Sherman’s soldiers stated,”I think the Johnnys are getting rattled; they are afraid of our repeating rifles. They say we are not fair, that we have guns that we load up on Sunday and shoot all the rest of the week.” (Bertram Barnett) The North was stocking up all of the latest weaponry, while the South was busy attempting to reproduce the same cannons that they were being shot with. The foreign weapons that were bought by both armies proved to be less useful than locally produced guns. (Bertram Barnett) The factories in the Union were able to manufacture weapons cheaply in comparison to the Confederates’ private companies. Colt, a Southern company, charged $25.00 per revolver, while Remington, a Northern business, could sell them for $12.00 per gun. (Bertram Barnett) The Union had superior weapon production compared to the crippled industry of the Confederacy.

The Confederates’ lack of new weaponry put them at a disadvantage in the Civil War. Confederates were reduced to salvaging weapons from the battlefield. “One Confederate officer had told his men that they were to concentrate their fire on single man in order to capture his weapon.” (Travis Yates) The Confederates couldn’t keep up with the factories of the North. The Union’s private manufacturing companies were already shipping out machine guns, while the Richmond Sharps Rifles were so defective that Confederate soldiers were better off using stolen weapons. New weaponry helped lead the North to victory.

Even before the war had started, the Union was better equipped to fight a war. Over 800,000 British Enfields were imported by both sides of the war. (Bertram Barnett) “By the end of the war, total production [of Springfields] approached 1.5 million weapons.” (Bertram Barnett) The newly created weapons that the North started mass producing just showed exactly how much of an advantage the Union had over the Confederacy. Would the war have concluded differently if the South had an adequate supply of weapons?

Work Cited
Barnett, Bertram. “Civil War Small Arms.” Gettysburg National Military Park. National Park Service.
May 7 2008 .

Brick, Chuck Ten. “The Weapons.” The Civil War Artillery Page. October 31 2000. May 9 2008

Rosoff, Iris. Civil War. New York, New York: Darling Kindersley Publishing Inc, 2000.

Ward, Geoffrey C. The Civil War. New York: Alfred A. Knope Inc, 1990.

Weeks, Dick. “Weapons of the American Civil War.” Home of the American Civil War. February 2
2002. May 21 2008 .

Yates, Travis, Seat, Rober. “Weapons of the Civil War.” AS Middle School. 1998. May 7 2008

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