Civil War Weaponry Essay

1274 words - 6 pages

Ketchum Grenades
In August of 1861, William F. Ketchum patented the Ketchum Hand Grenade. Shortly after, in the years of 1863 and 1864, the grenade was implemented in the American Civil War.
With a lemon-shaped piece of iron and a tail made of paper or cardboard, the handheld explosive greatly resembled a dart. On the front of the grenade’s body was a plunger, which held a percussion cap filled with explosive material.When the the grenade fell onto its nose and applied pressure to the plunger, an explosion was triggered, only to be met by more gunpowder inside. Although the resulting explosion caused a great deal of mayhem and shrapnel, it was not very reliable because its detonation ...view middle of the document...

Gatling Gun
With two guns positioned at the Siege of Petersburg, and eight more on gunboats, the Gatling Gun was another military innovation of the American civil war. Its use by the American army was only officially recognized in the year 1866.
The Gatling Gun, although not completely automatic, was an early version of the modern machine gun. The gun’s six to ten revolving barrels were rotated by a hand crank; it required a person to operate it at all times for a constant stream of ammunition. Each barrel passed by a ammunition hopper where it gained a cartridge and proceeded to fire. It then moved out of its position and was replaced by another barrel.
In his submission to the United States Patent Office, Richard Gatling, the gun’s inventor, described the purpose of the Gatling Gun as being, “to obtain a compact, durable, and efficient firearm for war purposes, to be used in either attack or defence, one that is light when compared with ordinary field artillery, that is easily transported, that may be rapidly fired, and that can be operated by few men.” Gatling was granted the patent on November 4th, 1862.
The use of the gun was not very widespread by either army; however, it was a breakthrough in the field of military technology and especially well liked by the Union general Benjamin Butler. The Union army positioned two Gatling Guns on the ridges in the Siege of Petersburg and eight more on boats. Continuous damage to the Confederate army greatly weakened them. The time it took to load, fire, and reload a rifle was incomparable to the simple cranking of a handle by one Union soldier, and the damage from the Gatling Gun was even more severe. For troops to inflict any damage with a simpler gun, they needed to be skilled with their weapons. The Gatling Gun required minimal skill on the soldier’s part regarding their ability to aim and reload their weapon in a timely fashion.
Landmines
During the American Civil War, the landmines developed by General Gabriel J. Rains were a large cause for controversy among military leaders. The mines were primarily used by the Confederate troops, though even some Confederate generals, such as General James Longstreet spoke out against them. Among the disapproving Union generals were General George B. McClellan and General William T. Sherman. Mines were viewed as barbaric and unethical, even in the context of a brutal and bloody war.
These early explosives were simple by design. A small container made of iron held gunpowder, a fuse, and detonation cap. When stepped on, they inflicted serious damage. Besides physically harming the enemy, mines added a psychological aspect to the war. Generals marched in fear of unexpectedly losing men or even their own lives. One unfortunate step would cause unthinkable...

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