Arming the Union through Innovation, Genius, and Agency
Men, Machine, & the Carbine
Although the Burnside Carbine was viewed as being reliable overall, the gun and its accessories did have some flaws, regarding before and after its use.
Hannaford and his fellow cavalrymen were taken by surprise by the Confederates, who were coming to attack their camp, and things break out into chaos...
I myself was cleaning my arms + had my Burnside out, even the smallest pieces drying in the sun + greased. [...] for my part I was
very busy putting my arms together. before I accomplished this Yankee was saddled and ready to start: + had scattered m things in
every direction. my overcoat I found smoldering on a fire which had scorched an ugly hole in the tails.1
Burnsides had many intricate parts, especially compared to other carbines. Although the amount of time spent on cleaning could depend on many factors, such as time between cleaning and the soldier’s knowledge of the gun, Hannaford’s cleaning of his Burnside seems to have taken too long. If he would have lost one of his parts while scrambling to put his carbine together or one of his parts were broken, it would have been difficult for him to get a replacement part or fix his carbine, because the Burnside’s parts were not interchangeable. He would have had to contact a gunsmith.
In the next passage, Hannaford was in a battle or skirmish and he describes his experience reloading his single-shot Burnside...
while I trying to load and also stop him [his horse who had took off while he was on him], found myself in the common predicament, +
could do neither; at last I determined to load, + dropping the bridle reins, at last got a cartridges, [the “s” in “cartridges” is crossed
out] (our[s] were Burnsides + the Cartridges were carried in a wooden frame in which they tightly fitted, making it neccessary [sic] to
use two hands, one to pull the Cartridge and the other to hold the frame-work.) At last my gun was loaded, but not before I was nearly
80 yards in the rear of the Co.2
The box that the Burnside Cartridges were stored in for travel was not convenient. Having to use two hands to retrieve the cartridge forced the soldier to lose too much time. Hannford also presents another question in his memoirs. Generally, when loading a breech-loading carbine while riding on a horse, the soldier used two hands. That action practically defeats breech-loading carbines’ purpose of easy and quick loading during battle (see Ambrose Burnside’s initial reason for creating his carbine). Struggling with loading as well as using two hands, as seen in the above passage, slowed the cavalryman down.
a Taken from his memoirs written one year after the Civil War ended.
1 Roger Hannaford, Papers (Mss 579 Backlog, Cincinnati History Library & Archives, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1865), 50c-50d
2 Roger Hannaford, Papers (Mss 579 Backlog, Cincinnati History Library & Archives, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1865), 74a
The Burnside Carbine
A Cavalryman's Point of View:
1st Sgt. Roger Hannaford, 2nd Ohio Volunteer Infantrya