American Rifleman - July 2011 - 65

THE GUNS OF MANASSAS, 1861
continued from p. 45

had, in addition to supplies in
state hands, 159,010 small arms at
its disposal at six seized federal
arsenals. The largest stock, and
representative of the whole, was
at the Baton Rouge arsenal, which
held a hodge-podge of 47,372 guns
including some .69-cal. guns rifled
for conical projectiles and a few
.58-cal. rifle-muskets, as well as a
large number of percussion and
flintlock smoothbores, Model 1841
rifles, a few Colt revolving rifles and
revolvers, breechloading Hall and
other assorted carbines and singleshot percussion pistols. Gorgas
also had 3,200,000 cartridges of
various calibers and 168,000 lbs. of
powder in his inventory. Although
the highly efficient major got arms
into the hands of most Confederate
soldiers in fairly short order, many
of them were undeniably obsolete, and one observer recalled
that Confederate forces in Virginia in the summer of 1861 were
equipped with "ragtag equipment
for a tatterdemalion army."
Someone once wrote that "the
Confederacy died of states' rights."
While an exaggeration, like many
old nostrums, there was a kernel
of truth in the assertion. Governors
such as Georgia's Joseph Brown
often considered their states' interests more important than those of
their newly declared country, particularly in the case of firearm allo-

cations. On May 18, 1861, Brown's
adjutant general ordered that no
state-issued firearms could leave
Georgia, and that officers taking
arms, as well as men, into Confederate service would be held personally financially liable. In compliance,
three companies of the 8th Georgia
Infantry reluctantly handed in their
prized Model 1841 rifles. One captain secured a resupply of 1841s for
his company from the Confederate
ordnance department, but the others
reached Richmond unarmed.
Yet another company of the 8th,
the "Oglethorpe Light Infantry," an
elite unit from Savannah, eluded
Brown's edict and arrived in Virginia
with state-of-the-art .58-cal. Model
1855 rifles. The regiment's other
companies ended up shouldering .69-cal. smoothbore percussion
conversions. Other Southern units,
deemed elite by their own definition, managed to acquire Model 1841
rifles, including Roberdeau Wheat's
"Special Battalion" of roughneck
Louisiana Zouaves, also known as
the "Louisiana Tigers." Interestingly,
although Governor Brown is often
singled out as a prime example of an
uncooperative Southern state executive, the governor of Maine ordered
that the few hundred Model 1855
rifle-muskets issued to militia units in
Maine be collected and stored in the
state arsenal at the outbreak of war,
and Maine's men went to Washington

The 11th New York-the Fire Zouaves-as depicted in Don Troiani's "New
York's Bravest" (above) were armed with modern Model 1855 rifle-muskets,
but the 69th New York had a mixture of .69-cal. rifles and smoothbores.

continued on p. 76

"1st Rhode Island" by Don Troiani

"New York's Bravest" by Don Troiani

armed with smoothbores.
In January 1861, the U.S. Ordnance Dept. reported a total of
576,800 arms in service or storage,
exclusive of state stores, of which
35,335 were pattern 1855 .58-cal.
arms. Deducting the arms seized
by Southern states still left a significant number accessible to the
Union army. In the event, however,
federal militia and volunteer units
were hardly better armed than
their Confederate counterparts, as
the vast majority of guns in storage
were smoothbore muskets.
The experience of the New Jersey
militia brigade is perhaps typical
of early Union volunteers. The state
had fewer than 2,000 men in its
active militia units in 1860. While a
few companies were armed with
Model 1841 .54-cal. rifles, none had
access to the latest pattern arms.
The militia brigade the state hastily
raised to meet President Lincoln's
call for troops to defend Washington
mustered 3,075 men, who thought
they would be issued "first class
arms direct from Springfield Arsenal." Much to their dismay, however,
they were issued .69-cal. smoothbore percussion conversions from
the state arsenal at Trenton. One

JULY 2011 AMERICAN RIFLEMAN

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American Rifleman - July 2011

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of American Rifleman - July 2011

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