According to conventional wisdom, the Civil War was the first "modern" war. This contention is based on, among other things, the use of the telegraph for communications and trains for transporting troops by both sides, as well as intelligence gathering through aerial observation (from balloons) and mass production of the sinews of war by the Union. Another factor often used to buttress the modernity argument is the widespread use of long-range rifled artillery and small arms and the introduction of breech loading and repeating rifles.
As is often the case with broad historical generalizations, things are often not as they first appear, particularly in the case of small arms. While it is true that the rifle-musket became the standard infantry arm for both Union and Confederate infantrymen in the Civil War, it is less wellknown that these "modern" weapons were not general issue until the war's mid-point.
As late as the battle of Gettysburg, July 1, 2 and 3, 1863, 10.5% of the regiments in the Army of the Potomac, the best-equipped Federal army, were still armed, in whole or in part, with obsolete smoothbore muskets. Except for their percussion ignition, these guns differed little in ballistic capability from the weapons shouldered by those Yankee soldiers' grandfathers in the Revolution and the War of 1812. Smoothbores were common issue in Confederate ranks and in both armies west of the Appalachians well into 1864.
Many analysts attribute the heavy casualties suffered in Civil War battles to the fact that commanders failed to recognize the extended
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Publication information: Book title: Civil War Firearms:Their Historical Background and Tactical Use and Modern Collecting and Shooting. Contributors: Joseph G. Bilby - Author. Publisher: Combined Books. Place of publication: Conshohocken, PA. Publication year: 1996. Page number: 11.
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