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Muzzle loaders dominated the battlefields of the Civil War, being used by both sides in hundreds of thousands. The bayonets attached to the guns were an important force multiplier during the war
Muzzle loaders dominated the battlefields of the Civil War, being used by both sides in hundreds of thousands. The bayonets attached to the guns were an important force multiplier during the war

The American Civil War, fought between the Union and Confederate forces, took place from 1861 to 1865. During the war, a variety of weapons were used on both sides. These weapons include edged weapons such as knives, swords, and bayonets, firearms such as rifled muskets, breech-loaders and repeating weapons, various artillery such as field guns and siege guns and new weapons such as the early grenade and landmine.[1]

The Civil War is often referred as one of the first "modern" wars in history as it included the most advanced technology and innovations of warfare available at the time. Some of the advances and innovations of the Civil War included mass production of war materiel, rifling of gun barrels and the use of the Minié ball, the advent of repeating firearms and metallic cartridges, transportation railroads with armed locomotives, ironclad warships, submarines, one of the first uses of air corps for aerial reconnaissance, communication (especially the telegraph), advances in medicine and the gradual decline of tactics from previous centuries.[2]

Personal weapons

Edged weapons

Model Notes for the subject
Arkansas toothpick Could be used as a sword in combat.[3]
Bayonet Attached to rifles and muskets.
Bowie knife Often carried by Confederates instead of bayonets.
M1832 foot artillery sword Issued to artillerymen. Based on the Roman gladius.
M1833 dragoon saber Issued to the US Cavalry. An engraved version was privately purchased by senior officers.
M1840 army noncommissioned officer's sword Issued to infantry sergeants.
M1840 cavalry saber Issued to Union cavalry.
M1840 light artillery saber Issued to mounted artillery.
M1850 army staff & field officer's sword Regulation officer's sword, though in practice most officers used cavalry sabers. Southern officers sometimes carried ancestral blades from the American Revolutionary War or even from the War of 1812.
M1852 naval officer's sword
M1860 cutlass Issued to naval boarding parties. Sailors also had access to harpoons, axes and grappling hooks.
M1860 light cavalry saber Issued to Union cavalry.
Mameluke sword Carried by Marine officers.
USMC noncommissioned officer's sword

In 1862 Joseph E. Brown governor of Georgia, proposed issuing pikes to the State militia to compensate for the shortage of guns. Thousands were made and issued but not known to have been used in combat.[4]


Model Notes
Adams M1851 revolver A double-action only revolver and predecessor to the Beaumont–Adams M1862.
Allen & Thurber M1837 revolver pepperbox With the shortage of pistols in the American Civil War, many soldiers on both sides carried these as a backup arm.
Allen & Wheelock M1861 revolver
Beaumont–Adams M1862 revolver Imported by both the Union and the Confederacy.
Butterfield M1855 transitional revolver A transitional revolver with tape primer invented in 1855 by Jesse Butterfield of Philadelphia. Two thousand were ordered by the US Army, but production was canceled in 1862.[5]
Colt M1836 Paterson revolver The first true revolver produced by Colt in 1836.
Colt M1847 Walker revolver Issued to the US Cavalry. A heavy .44 caliber revolver invented during the Mexican War and designed for killing the mounts of charging enemy troopers.[6]
Colt M1848 Dragoon revolver A .44 caliber revolver that was developed from the Colt M1847 Walker.
Colt M1849 Pocket revolver A popular revolver that was never officially issued but was often bought privately.
Colt M1851 Navy revolver Colt's most popular revolver for the 1850s civilian market in .36 caliber. The name 'Navy' came from the cylinder of the revolvers being engraved with a scene of the victory of the Second Texas Navy at the Battle of Campeche on May 16, 1843. The preferred sidearm of the Confederacy. Copies such as the Griswold & Gunnison were made all over the South.
Colt M1860 Army revolver A .44 caliber revolver made for the US Cavalry to replace the heavier Colt M1848 Dragoon. The Bessemer steel process invented in the 1850s made a lighter stronger revolver in .44 caliber possible.
Colt M1861 Navy revolver Updated version of the .36 caliber Colt M1851 Navy with lines similar to the Colt M1860 Army.
Colt M1862 Police revolver The .36 caliber Colt M1862 originally made for the New York Metropolitan Police Department.
Colt Root M1855 revolver The first of Colt's revolvers to use a "creeping" loading lever mechanism.
Deringer M1825 Philadelphia caplock pistol
Elgin M1838 cutlass caplock pistol Issued to navy personnel but proved unpopular and was quickly replaced with the M1860 cutlass.
Kerr M1855 revolver A five shot back-action revolver made by the London Armoury Company was used by Confederate cavalry.
Lefaucheux M1854 revolver A pinfire revolver imported from France by Union and Confederate officers.
Lefaucheux M1858 revolver
LeMat M1856 revolver Perhaps the most well known foreign designed revolver during the Civil War. It had two barrels, a .42 caliber barrel on top and a 20 gauge shotgun barrel underneath. The creator, a French doctor living in New Orleans, Jean Alexandre LeMat, moved back to France to create more revolvers for the Confederacy. The French made revolvers, however, proved unreliable and difficult to manufacture.
Moore M1864 revolver A seven shot revolver firing the .32 teat-fire cartridge.
Remington M1858 revolver Colt's chief competitor, the Remington Repeating Arms Company, also made revolvers during the Civil War. The most common was the Remington M1858 New Army in .44 caliber. The .36 caliber version referred to as the Remington M1858 New Navy.
Remington M1860 Elliot revolver pepperbox
Savage-North M1861 Navy revolver A proto double-action revolver with a second trigger underneath the first. Used by the Navy and a few Army regiments.
Smith & Wesson Model 1 Used as an alternative to the Colt and Remington revolvers. These usually fired brass rimfire cartridges.
Smith & Wesson Model No. 2 Army A larger version of the Smith & Wesson Model 1 chambered in .32 caliber rimfire.
Spiller & Burr M1861 revolver A cheaper version of the Whitney M1857 with a frame made from gunmetal (bronze) instead of iron and the steel in the cylinder was replaced with twisted iron. The muzzle was also rounded instead of having sharp edges.[7]
Starr M1858 and M1863 revolver A double-action revolver which was briefly used in the western theater of the war, until the U.S. Ordnance Department persuaded Starr Arms Co. to create a single-action variant after the discontinuation of the Colt revolver. The company eventually complied, and the Union acquired 25,000 of the single-action revolvers for $12 each.
Tranter M1856 revolver The first model also had a proto double-action with a second trigger underneath the first. But in a later model this was reduced to a single trigger that could work with both single-action and double-action.
Volcanic M1855 repeating pistol A lever-action repeating pistol made in 1855 and chambered in .44 rimfire. Privately owned by those who could afford them.
Walch M1859 revolver A very rare 12 shot revolver. Fewer than 200 were made.
Wesson and Leavitt M1850 Dragoon revolver A large single-action revolver in .40 caliber.
Whitney M1857 revolver First produced in 1857, this .36 caliber percussion revolver was the first to be produced with a solid frame, which meant that it was much sturdier than the traditional Colt revolver.

Some Confederate cavalry units were equipped with single-shot caplock or even flintlock pistols early in the war. Some pistols were of the military make and had been issued to the US Army but were obsolete by the time of the Civil War due to the introduction of revolvers.[6]

Rifles and muskets

Main article: Rifles in the American Civil War

Model Notes
Augustin M1842 musket The Augustin was an Austrian musket that featured in the U.S. Civil War in very small numbers.
Ballard M1861 rifle
Brunswick P1836 and P1841 rifle A British percussion rifle imported in small numbers by the Confederacy.
Burnside M1855 carbine A breech-loader invented by Ambrose Burnside and issued to the US Cavalry.
Charleville M1816 and M1822 musket French muskets converted to percussion cap from flintlock and used in small numbers.
Colt M1855 revolver carbine and rifle The Colt M1855 was an early repeater that was not favored by the troops because it tended to discharge all of its cartridges at the same time.
Deringer M1814 Common rifle
Deringer M1817 Common rifle
Enfield P1853 rifled musket The Enfield P1853 was used by both the North and the South in the American Civil War, and was the second most widely used infantry weapon in the war.
Enfield P1861 musketoon
Fayetteville M1862 rifle
Gallager M1861 carbine A single-shot breech-loading carbine with 17,782 sold to the US Army.
Hall M1819 rifle A single-shot breech-loader invented in 1811. A few were used by the Confederacy.
Hall-North M1843 carbine
Harper Ferry M1803 rifle
Henry M1860 repeating rifle The Civil War precursor to the Winchester repeating rifle based on early lever-action repeating rifles made by New Haven Arms Company Co. These highly prized weapons were privately purchased by those who could afford them.
Jenks M1841 Mule ear carbine All of these carbines were manufactured for the Navy and the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service.
Joslyn M1855, M1861, M1862, M1864, M1865 carbine and rifle The Joslyn was made in both percussion and rimfire configuration.
Lorenz M1854 rifled musket This Austrian firearm was the third most common rifled musket and imported by both sides. Many were modified to fire the same .58 caliber Minié ball as the Enfield and Springfield rifled muskets.
Maynard M1851 carbine
Merrill M1858 carbine
Mississippi M1841 rifle A 2 band rifle with a sword bayonet which was issued to Confederate NCOs.
P1839 and P1842 Brown Bess musket A caplock conversion of older flintlock muskets imported by the Confederacy.
Potzdam M1831 musket Prussian caplock muskets converted from flintlock and imported during the conflict.
Richmond M1861 rifled musket A Confederate copy of the Springfield M1855 without Maynard tape primer.
Sharps M1848, M1850, M1851, M1852, M1853, M1855, M1859, M1863, M1865 carbine and rifle The Sharps rifle was a falling-block rifle used during and after the American Civil War. The carbine version was very popular with the cavalry of both the Union and Confederate armies and was issued in much larger numbers than the full length rifle.
Sharps & Hankins M1862 carbine Carbines manufactured for the navy that were made with a protective leather barrel cover.
Smith M1857 carbine Patented by Gilbert Smith in 1857.
Spencer M1860, M1865 repeating carbine and rifle The Spencer M1860 was a manually operated lever-action repeating rifle fed from a tube magazine with cartridges. It was adopted by the Union army especially by the cavalry during the American Civil War, but did not replace the standard issue muzzle loading rifled muskets in use at the time. The Spencer M1860 carbine was a shorter and lighter version of the Spencer M1860 rifle.
Springfield M1795 musket The first .69 caliber smoothbore flintlock musket made in the US for the military.
Springfield M1812 musket
Springfield M1816 musket Many of these old flintlock muskets were converted to the percussion system and some of the barrels were even rifled to accept the Minié ball. The quality of these conversions varies from manufacturer.
Springfield M1822 musket
Springfield M1835 musket
Springfield M1840 musket The last flintlock musket manufactured for the US military. Most were converted to percussion and rifled.
Springfield M1842 musket The first musket produced with a percussion lock and last .69 caliber smoothbore. A large number were rifled prior to the start of the war.
Springfield M1847 musketoon
Springfield M1855 rifled musket First standard issue rifled musket and in .58 caliber. Used both the Maynard tape primer system and the Minié ball.
Springfield M1861 rifled musket Most widely used rifled musket of the civil war. Main feature was the elimination of the Maynard tape primer from the earlier Springfield M1855.
Springfield M1863 rifled musket A slightly modified version of the Springfield M1861.
Starr M1858 carbine
Tarpley M1863 carbine A Southern breech-loader which was not widely produced due to mechanical flaws.
Volcanic M1855 repeating rifle Used the same system as the Volcanic M1855 repeating pistol but with the exception of having a longer barrel, magazine, a larger lever loop and a stock. The repeating rifle was never issued but was bought privately.
Wesson M1859 carbine and rifle The Wesson M1859 was a breech-loading, metallic rimfire cartridge rifle used during the American Civil War and the Indian Wars. The carbine was used by US Cavalry, typically purchased by state governments or individuals.
Whitworth P1857 rifle Mainly imported by the Confederacy as a weapon for sharpshooters.

The .69 caliber muskets (mostly percussion, but some flintlocks as well) were common in the early part of the war (either in their original form or converted to rifling). Early in the war the Confederates used civilian firearms including shotguns and hunting arms like the Kentucky and Pennsylvania rifle due to the shortage of military weapons. The British officer Arthur Fremantle observed that revolvers and shotguns (especially double barreled models) were the favored weapons of Confederate cavalry and mounted infantry during his 1863 visit to the South.[8]


The American Civil War belligerents did have crude hand grenades equipped with a plunger that would detonate upon.[clarification needed] The Union relied on experimental Ketchum grenades with a wooden tail to ensure the nose would strike the target and start the fuse. The Confederacy used spherical hand grenades that weighed about six pounds sometimes with a paper fuse. They also used Rains and Adams grenades which were similar to the Ketchum in appearance and firing mechanism.[9]


Originally developed by General Gabriel J. Rains, were typically iron containers, loaded with gunpowder, a fuse and also a brass detonation cap. Some of these still-activated landmines were recovered in Alabama in the 1960s.

Landmines were an intimidating method of psychological warfare but were viewed as unethical. Union General William T. Sherman also hated them and declared them as not warfare but murder. Confederate General James Longstreet banned their use for a time.[10]

Rapid fire weapons

Similar weapons of the Union included the .58 caliber Agar machine gun also known as "coffee-mill gun" which was similar to the Claxton machine gun. Like the Gatling I and Gatling II machine gun, the cartridges of Ager's invention were fed by a hand crank with a hopper on top and had a steel guard, and this is why some people believe that President Lincoln called it "the coffee grinder gun".[citation needed] Other infantry support weapons included the Billinghurst Requa Battery volley gun which had eight banks of cartridge chambers that were rotated into alignment behind the row of 25 barrels.[11]

Chief of Ordnance, General James Wolfe Ripley was against issuing repeating rifles and rapid fire weapons to the Union army as he believed it would waste ammunition. Nevertheless, several generals, including General Benjamin Butler and General Winfield Scott Hancock, purchased Gatling machine guns that were the logical outgrowth of the trends portrayed in the Ager machine gun and the Ripley machine gun.[12]

The Confederacy used the single barrel hand cranked Williams machine gun that was similar to the single barrel hand cranked Gorgas machine gun and the Vandenberg volley gun that was similar to the French De Reffye mitrailleuse and the Belgian Montigny mitrailleuse.[13]


Special weapons








Air balloons


See also


  1. ^ "Ketchum's patent hand grenades". Archived from the original on 2013-07-14. Retrieved 2020-06-15.((cite web)): CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  2. ^ "Technology in the Civil War". Archived from the original on 2012-12-19. Retrieved 2012-10-15.
  3. ^ "Introduction to Arkansas". Retrieved 2007-06-19.
  4. ^ "Georgia Governor Joseph Brown Addresses the Mechanics". Retrieved 2014-04-20.
  5. ^ "NRA Museums".
  6. ^ a b Ricketts, H, Firearms (London, 1964)
  7. ^ "Dixie Gun Works Spiller & Burr .36 Caliber Revolver". Guns of the Old West. No. Summer 2014. May 16, 2014. Retrieved August 22, 2017.
  8. ^ Fremantle, Lieut.-Col Sir Arthur James (1864). Three Months in the Southern States: April–June 1863. Mobile, Alabama: S.H. Goetzel. pp. 36, 39.
  9. ^ Battle of 1st Bull Run Retrieved 3 May 2007
  10. ^ a b c d e f g Andrews 2018
  11. ^ Rapid fire guns of the Civil warArchived 2008-03-24 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ William B. Edwards, "Civil war guns", Thomas Pubns (October 1997)
  13. ^ Chinn, George M. (1951). The machine gun: Part II manually operated machine guns. Washington, D.C.: Bureau of Ordnance, Department of the Navy.