American Rifleman - March 2015 - 60

THE GUNS OF 1865

Revolvers, such as this .44-cal. Colt Model
1860, were used by cavalrymen, some
artillerymen and officers at close range.

at Olustee, Fla., and then again at Drewry's Bluff, Va., in
1864. In January 1865 those two regiments, plus the 13th
Indiana Infantry, also armed with Spencer carbines, were
assigned to Maj. Gen. Alfred H. Terry's amphibious task force
charged with capturing Fort Fisher, and thus closing access
to blockade runners to Wilmington, N.C., one of the last
open ports in the Confederacy.
Following a heavy naval bombardment, Union
infantrymen established a beachhead isolating Fort Fisher
from reinforcements, and then a 60-man, Spencer-armed
detachment from the 13th Indiana, supplemented by 40
men from a New York regiment carrying rifle-muskets
and shovels, rushed to within 175 yds. of the fort's walls.
The Hoosiers opened up a barrage on Fisher's parapets
with their Spencers while the New Yorkers quickly dug
entrenchments to establish a base of fire to cover a second
wave of infantrymen who then swarmed into the fort and,
after some hard fighting, captured it.
Trench warfare was the order of the day farther north,
where the Army of the Potomac's Overland Campaign had
stalled, seemingly indefinitely, on the Petersburg-Richmond
line the previous summer. General Robert E. Lee's attempt to
draw the Union army besieging him back to Washington by
dispatching Lt. Gen. Jubal Early up the Shenandoah Valley to
threaten Washington had failed, and Early's force had been
effectively destroyed in a series of encounters with Maj. Gen.
Philip Sheridan's Army of the Shenandoah. As the new year
approached, much of Sheridan's army returned to Petersburg
in preparation for a final, war-ending, push.
In the late summer and into the fall of 1864, as the
Petersburg siege lines hardened, the Army of the Potomac
created divisional sharpshooter units similar to the Army of
Northern Virginia's longstanding and highly effective brigade
sharpshooter battalions. While their Confederate counterparts carried Enfield muzzleloading rifle-muskets with a
scattering of long-range Whitworths, the Yankee sharpshooters were armed with some medium-weight civilian target
rifles with aperture and 'scope sights and as many Spencer
repeaters as possible. Information on marksmanship training
for these detachments is limited, although ranges along the
Petersburg trench lines were not particularly long.

60

MARCH 2015

Sharpshooters from both armies were intended to
function as skirmishers, leading the way in the advance
and maintaining a rear guard in retrograde actions, and
Spencers were ideal for these missions. Although there
were small lots of rifles in the Spencer production chain,
most of the guns issued to these detachments were the
far-more-common carbines, initially intended for cavalry use. A soldier from the 148th Pennsylvania Infantry
recalled that his unit was the "honored regiment" issued
Spencer rifles in his Second Army Corps division. In addition to the divisional sharpshooters, Union brigades also
established their own small detachments; the First New
Jersey brigade had a few men armed with Spencer rifles.
Like those of the 148th, the guns were previously turned
in by the 5th and 6th Michigan Cavalry regiments in
exchange for carbines.
The revolver, never a significant arm beyond certain
special tactical situations, became less so in the closing days
of the war. Gen. Dyer had not mentioned a need to develop
breechloading metallic cartridge handguns as one of his
ordnance priorities, no doubt believing the cap-and-ball
sixgun, which reached its apogee in the Colt and Remington
.44-cal. revolvers, was sufficient. The most significant latewar handgun victories, by Lt. Col. John S. Mosby's men over
the Spencer-armed 6th New York Cavalry and Blazer's Scouts
in the fall of 1864, could also be characterized as due to
bad timing on the part of the federals, who were caught in
tactically unsound positions-in fact Blazer's men, like their
opponents, were armed with multiple handguns, which did
them little good, in addition to their Spencers.
In the January 1865 Fort Fisher campaign, the Union
navy's use of handguns as primary assault arms led to
disaster when a naval landing party armed with revolvers
and cutlasses attacked the fort and was shot to pieces,
although the unfortunate sailors did apparently serve
as a diversion to assist the army's successful operation.
Handguns remained in service, however, sometimes in
surprising places. A soldier from the 5th Wisconsin Infantry
on patrol between the lines at Petersburg wrote, "it would
have taken several rebs to have taken us, for the other
fellow had a dispencer [sic] 7 Shooter rifle and I had a
musket and a six shooter revolver."
By early 1865, repeating rifles were used as enlistment
enticements. In Trenton on recruiting duty, Col. John J.
Cladek of the 35th New Jersey Infantry announced that he
had a trove of Henry rifles for sale to new volunteers. Lt.
Col. Samuel Simison of the 23rd Illinois Infantry announced
that he intended to arm his whole unit with Henrys, and
Spencers, and Henrys were offered to veterans who joined
Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock's First Veteran Corps.
As the war wore down, Union cavalrymen, finally seizing
the upper hand from their Confederate counterparts, seem
to have largely disregarded revolvers and depended not
AMERICAN RIFLEMAN



American Rifleman - March 2015

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of American Rifleman - March 2015

Contents
American Rifleman - March 2015 - CW1
American Rifleman - March 2015 - CW2
American Rifleman - March 2015 - Cover1
American Rifleman - March 2015 - Cover2
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 1
American Rifleman - March 2015 - Contents
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 3
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 4
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 5
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 6
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 7
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 8
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 9
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 10
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American Rifleman - March 2015 - 12
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 13
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American Rifleman - March 2015 - 15
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American Rifleman - March 2015 - 17
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 18
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 19
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 20
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 21
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American Rifleman - March 2015 - 31
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American Rifleman - March 2015 - 33
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American Rifleman - March 2015 - 35
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 36
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 37
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 38
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American Rifleman - March 2015 - 82
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 83
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 82b
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 83b
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 82c
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 83c
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 82d
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 83d
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 82e
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 83e
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 82f
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 83f
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