The two most important things to a Civil War soldier going into battle was his gun and canteen. A trustworthy and superior gun affected a soldier’s survival and morale. According to Roger Hannaford of the Second Ohio Volunteer Cavalry (which later joined the Second Ohio Cavalry), “give men arms that they have confidence in, + a General of like mould, + my word for it they will be called good + brave men, while give the same men poor arms, + I dont care if they have good officers, their reputation will be below par.” 1 The bravery Hannaford spoke of was inspired, in part, by the men’s increased ability due to their Spencer seven-shot carbines. Spencers are only one type of carbine; other carbines are just as glorified or opposingly scorned. Those devices would ultimately made it easier for the soldiers to protect themselves due to the breech-loading mechanisms, the shorter rifled barrels, and the improvements in the ignition system.
Yet, the stories behind these guns go beyond the cavalrymen's use. Some manufacturing machines were advanced in order to efficiently make the carbines and equip them with improvements. These carbines stood for not only the soldiers that held them, but the men that made them, designed them, and, furthermore, the men that designed the machines that made the gun parts. These guns symbolized the potential for the manufacturing and armament industries and their inventors. The Union’s carbines in the Civil War are not just weapons but the genius of a generation that creatively used technology and politics to drastically change the idea of a gun.
1 Roger Hannaford Collection p. 54c Cincinnati Museum Center. Hannaford wrote these words in reference to "Wilder's celebrated Brig." who had Spencer repeating carbines
In the beginning years of the war, Union soldiers used four times the amount of imported rifles as those American-made. However, American manufacturers far surpassed the international manufacturers in the production of carbines (Deyrup 178).** need to insert in above paragraph
It has been said that the two most important things to a Civil War soldier going into battle were his gun and his canteen. A trustworthy and superior gun affected a soldier's survival and morale. According to First Sergeant Roger Hannaford of the Second Ohio Volunteer Cavalry (which later joined with the Second Ohio Cavalry),
"give men arms that they have confidence in, & a General of like mould, & my word for it they will be called brave & good men, while give the same men poor arms, & I don't care if they have good officers, their reputation will be below par."1a
Arms', in particular carbines', stories did not start on the battlefield. Inventors designed the carbines, and manufacturers created and modified them. Unlike Civil War rifle production, American manufacturers far surpassed international factories in providing carbines for the Civil War.2 Therefore, the carbines directly represent the innovation of American manufacturing and design at that time. After production, military officers and political leaders used their agency to supply troops with the latest and best carbine models. The carbines were not simply a weapon, they were an economic, mechanical and political achievement for the men and machines that fabricated them. During the Civil War, at least 450,300 and over 20 different brands of carbines were created.b Many those carbines were bought by the Ordnance Department, which presented a daunting and complicated challenge to all those involved, both in sellers' and buyers' financing and in mechanical feats. Overall, arming efforts during the Civil War changed the expectations for guns, the manufacturing process involved, gun inspection and procurement, and even battle tactics during the end of the war.
a Hannaford wrote these words in his Memoirs in reference to Wilder's use of the Spencer Carbine.
b The numbers are from personal calculations based on numbers in Norm Falyderman, Flayderman’s Guide to Antique American Firearms … and their values, 5th ed. (Northbrook: DBI Books, Inc., 1990).
1 Hannaford, Roger, Roger Hannaford Papers, Mss 579 Backlog, Cincinnati History Library & Archives, Cincinnati, Ohio, 54c.
2 Felicia Johnson Deyrup, Arms Makers of the Connecticut Valley: A Regional Study of the Economic Development of the Small Arms Industry, 1798-1870 (George Banta Publishing Company: Menasha, Wisconsin, 1948), 178.
Carbine: This type of gun is short arm that has a barrel that is shorter and lighter than a rifle. Carbines were primarily used by cavalry during the Civil War, because they were easier than a rifle to load while on a horse. The technology surrounding carbines include rifling, breechloading, their priming systems, and their ammunition advancements.
Patent Number 45,952
Patent belonging to Christopher Spencer that explains the magazine in the butt of the Spencer Carbine
This is a variation of the original Minie Ball that would have been used in the Civil War.
Artifact: National Firearms Museum
Photo: Allison & Brittany Venturella