American Rifleman - March 2015 - 62

of Cavalry for the Military Division of the Mississippi, saw
an open road for a drive on Selma, and envisioned it as riding on a tidal wave of Spencer fire.
Wilson wanted every one of his men armed with a
Spencer carbine, which he concluded was "undoubtedly
the best fire-arm ever put in the hands of the soldier."
He also ordered new Blakeslee cartridge boxes, which
held six metal tubes, each loaded with seven cartridges
for rapid reloading into the Spencer's buttstock magazine, and although records are unclear, appears to have
received them. Although the jouncing of horseback riding,
which had a tendency to disintegrate Sharps paper and
linen cartridges in conventional cartridge boxes, led to an
occasional detonation of Blakeslee boxes, and there were at
least two such incidents during the Selma raid, the benefits
apparently outweighed the risk. Increased fire discipline
seems to have lessened the ammunition wastage occasionally evident with repeaters in 1863 and 1864, and Wilson's
men carried 100 rounds each with 85 in reserve, which
proved enough for the campaign.
When the flow of new carbines from the Spencer factory proved too slow for Wilson, he stripped garrison
units of Spencers for reissue to his 13,000-man field force,
which kicked off the last major campaign of the war on
March 22, 1865. Wilson's overwhelming numbers and
firepower brushed aside a much smaller Rebel command
that, even led by the redoubtable Lt. Gen. Nathan Bedford
Forrest, could do little to hinder his advance. Selma fell
on April 2, the same day the Petersburg line cracked and
Lee began his final retreat. Wilson continued his march
across the deep south, destroying infrastructure and
capturing Confederate President Jefferson Davis, who had
fled Richmond, (and whose bodyguards carried captured
Henry rifles) in the process. A less distinguished prisoner, Confederate chaplain Charles T. Quintard, confessed
to one of Wilson's officers that "our men using muskets
neither new in pattern nor effective in execution and the
federals armed with the Spencer rifle which discharged
seven loads in as many seconds" made opposition to the
Yankee tide "absurd."
Although there is no doubt that the outcome of the
Civil War would have eventually been the same without it,
the conflict ended with the Spencer repeating rifle being
proclaimed as the leading small arms technology of the
day and, seemingly, of the future. But that was not to be.
Spencers continued in service in the post-war period, but
ordnance priorities demanded a more powerful cartridge,

even for carbines, which, with the technology of the time,
could only be achieved in a single-shot design.
Firearm sales for all private contractors dropped dramatically with the end of the Civil War. The U.S. Government
had all the Spencers it needed, and postwar foreign and
domestic sales were not enough to keep the company afloat
beyond 1868. After 1873, Spencer carbines were replaced
by single-shot Springfields in the frontier army. Two
decades would pass before repeating rifles were chambered
for a round that met military standards, and by that time
the bolt-action was the system of choice. Ironically, the
Henry rifle, which could only manage a production rate of
200 guns a month during the war, evolved to become the
quintessential American rifle: the Winchester.
In July 1865, the men of Wilson's Cavalry Corps adopted a
corps badge featuring crossed sabers and a Spencer carbine.
Down all the days into the 20th century, until they were no
more, Wilson's veterans proudly wore the insignia that carried with it the memory of their invincible youth, and how
they ended the war with their fast-shooting Spencers.

Repeating rifles, such as the Henry (top) were used as enlistment
enticements for units such as the Union First Veteran Army Corps. The .50-cal.
breechloading Morse carbine (above) was produced at the South Carolina
State Works. Although plagued by problems and rejected by Confederate
Ordnance, it was nonetheless issued to South Carolina militia in 1865.

62

MARCH 2015

AMERICAN RIFLEMAN

"3rd Regiment, First Veteran Army Corps, 1865" by Don Troiani, Corbis Images

THE GUNS OF 1865



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
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 11
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 12
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 13
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 14
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 15
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 16
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
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 22
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 23
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 24
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 25
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 26
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 27
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 28
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 29
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 30
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 31
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 32
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 33
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 34
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 35
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 36
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 37
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 38
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 39
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 40
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 41
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 42
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 43
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 44
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 45
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 46
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 47
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 48
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 49
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 50
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 51
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 52
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 53
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 54
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 55
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 56
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 57
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 58
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 59
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 60
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 61
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 62
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 63
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 64
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 65
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 66
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 67
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 68
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 69
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 70
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 71
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 72
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 73
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 74
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 75
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 76
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 77
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 78
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 79
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 80
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 81
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
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 84
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 85
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 86
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 87
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 88
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 89
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 90
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 91
American Rifleman - March 2015 - 92
American Rifleman - March 2015 - Cover3
American Rifleman - March 2015 - Cover4
American Rifleman - March 2015 - CW3
American Rifleman - March 2015 - CW4
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