The Civil War played a crucial role in American history. Many different types of soldiers fought in this war, such as Cavalry soldiers, who fought on horseback. The Cavalry played a strong role in the fighting and used many different weapons and tactics.
One type of Cavalry weapon was the revolver. Only one hand was needed in the firing of this type of weapon. This was very important since the soldier’s other hand was used to manage the horse. The Colt was the most popular brand of revolvers during the war. The Army and the Navy were the two main models. The Army model was the most popular of the Union Army. It was a six shot, .44 caliber revolver that weighed two pounds. “This weapon accounted for 40% of all handguns bought by the Union Ordinance Department” (Weapons of the Civil War 2). The Navy model was very similar to the Army. It had a round barrel instead of an octagonal barrel and held .36 caliber cartridges. “38,000 were produced during The Civil War and 15,000 of those were produced within the Confederacy” (Weapons of the Civil War 2).
The most famous foreign pistol of the war was The Le Mat, produced by Dr. Le Mat in France. It was unique in that it had two barrels, like a small shotgun. The upper barrel shot .40 caliber rounds while the lower barrel shot .63 caliber rounds.
Starr was the third largest producer of revolvers. Starr was known for it’s six shot double action revolver that weighed three pounds and was used mainly by the Union soldiers. It was very convenient because it held combustible cartridges and could also be fired by the old ball and powder method. Since Colt had a patent on its firing procedure Starr was forced into coming up with its own. To fire this pistol a soldier would pull the trigger, which unlocks then rotates a hammer that then snaps back and fires the cartridge.
Another company was Savage, which produced the well-known “Figure of Eight” which had a very odd shape. “11000 were bought by The Union” (Commager 284). After it’s trigger was pulled the cylinder would be cranked forward to make a gas tight joint with the barrel prior to its firing.
The next most popular to The Colt was The Remington. Popularity is not everything though, some experts believe the Remington was better mechanically. Remington made two models, an Army and a Navy. The Army was .44 caliber’s while the Navy was .36. “125,000 were bought total in the Union” (Commager 283). That amount was only limited by the amount actually produced.
The next type of weapon used was the Carbine Rifle. These rifles were made for mounted troops, like the Cavalry. These guns had short barrels for easy handling. They were also made to be able to be loaded on a moving horse. In addition, they held moisture proof cartridges that were much better than paper. One brand was Spencer. This company sold their carbines to the Union and rarely was found in the South. This company’s cartridges were especially good because they were built in primer and became more durable and waterproof. Spencer’s rifle could also be a rapid-fire weapon. “The best soldiers could shoot fourteen rounds per minute” (Weapons of the Civil War 6).
Another popular brand was Sharps. 80,000 were produced during the war. This gun had a unique shot process. Before the trigger was pulled a block was lowered and a paper cartridge was released into a chamber. When the block closed the paper was slit exposing the gunpowder. Then, when the trigger was pulled, it would snap back into a percussion cap, which produced a flame that passed into a vent and struck the exposed powder.
The last type of weapon used by a Cavalry soldier was a saber. This was a type of sword, deadly in the hands of a trained soldier. In the early years of the war many soldiers were untrained though and many horses of untrained masters lost ears. These sabers had either a 42-inch or 36 inch blade. “Out of 250,000 total people wounded in Union hospitals approximately 922 were due to saber wounds” (Boatner 260). This weapon did become useless in the later years of the war due to modern rapid-fire weapons.
The cavalry had many uses in the war. One use was observing and reporting information about the enemy. This was a job given to the cavalry because they could get back and forth the quickest because of the horses’ speed. Another job was screening the movements of their own force so that the enemy could not see what they were doing. Also, they always remained a constant threat to the opposing Army’s rear. Other jobs were striking suddenly at detected weak points and turning exposed flanks. The last job was pursuing and demoralizing a defeated enemy.
The Civil War Cavalry used many different weapons and tactics. The Cavalry was the most expensive branch, but the importance of it overrode any costs. These mounted soldiers played a strong role in the warfare of their day and helped both the North and the South to win battles.