The Spencer Carbine
Although the Company is no longer around and the mass production of Spencers has ceased,a the popular sentiment of the gun remains. The Spencer’s legacy was passed down through generations from story telling and the innovation in arms and battlefield tactics.
The Spencer did not fully reach its potential until the officers started taking advantage of its rapid fire power. The success of the troops armed with Spencers depended on the new tactics used with rapid fire carbines. In the last year of the war, tactics were expanded to utilize the Spencers to have an advantage over the normal line formations.1 Some of the tactics, according to history author Joseph G. Bibly, “provide[d] heavy suppressive covering fire for assults.”1 Due to the Spencer's rapid fire, the idea of quickly firing at an advancing enemy came into practice as well as "moving fire."2 However, the Spencer Carbines were never widely issued enough among the infantry to make a difference in battle, except at Chickamauga.1 That was due to the Ordnance Department's hesitancy in arming men in the army with breechloaders.
a The Spencer Repeating Rifle Company went out of business on Sept. 12, 1869, because of its overproduction during the war.3 The factory was sold at an auction to Winchester Repeating Arms Company. The Winchester Repeating Arms Company was born out of the New Haven Arms Company and manufactured the Spencer’s repeating arms competitor, the Henry Rifle.4
1 Joseph G. Bilby, A Revolution in Arms: A History of the First Repeating Rifles (Yardley, Pennsylvania: Westholme Publishing, LLC, 2006), 217
And its Legacy
PHOTO: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
"Two unidentified soldiers with Spencer carbines, 1860 sabers, and Colt Army revolvers, probably Union uniforms"
2 Edwards, Civil War Guns: The complete story of Federal and Confederate small arms: design, manufacture, identification, procurement, issue, employment, effectiveness, and postwar disposal (Secaucus, New Jersey: Castle, 1982), 156.
3 Arcadi Gluckman, Identifying Old U.S. Muskets, Rifles & Carbines (New York: Bonanza Books, 1965), 389; Arcadi Gluckman and L. D. Saterlee, American Gun Makers, 2nd ed. Revised (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: The Telegraph Press, 1953), 204; Edwards, Civil War Guns: The complete story of Federal and Confederate small arms: design, manufacture, identification, procurement, issue, employment, effectiveness, and postwar disposal (Secaucus, New Jersey: Castle, 1982), 157
4 Gluckman and Satterlee, American Gunmakers, 204