Monday, April 17, 2023

Booknotes: Weapons of the Civil War Cavalryman

New Arrival:
Weapons of the Civil War Cavalryman by John Walter (Osprey Pub, 2020).

From the description: "During the American Civil War, the mounted soldiers fighting on both sides of the conflict carried a wide array of weapons, from sabers and lances to carbines, revolvers, and other firearms. Though some sections of the cavalry placed their trust in the sabre, the advent of viable breechloading carbines--especially repeaters such as the Spencer--was to transform warfare within little more than a decade of General Lee's final surrender at Appomattox.

However, output struggled to keep up with unprecedented demands on manufacturing technology and distribution in areas where communication was difficult and in states whose primary aim was to equip their own men rather than contribute to the arming of Federal or Confederate regiments. In addition, the almost unparalleled losses of men and equipment ensured that almost any firearm, effectual or not, was pressed into service. Consequently, the sheer variety of weaponry carried reflected the mounted soldiers' various roles in different theaters of operation, but also the availability--or otherwise--of weapons, notably on the Confederate side.

Using text generously augmented through high-res color photography, Volume 75 of Osprey's Weapon series, John Walter's Weapons of the Civil War Cavalryman, surveys a large selection of breechloading carbines, pistols, and edged weapons. The carbine sections helpfully include select lists of regiments that were armed (in full or in part) with the weapon. Also detailed are production dates and numbers, specific model design features, broad assessments of design and performance strengths and weaknesses, and end-user reactions to them. There is much more gun mechanism and part jargon in this title's text than there is in the series volume (#56) covering Civil War sharpshooting rifles. Greatest emphasis is placed on domestic production, but some imported models, mostly from Britain and France, are also highlighted.

The "Use" section delves into organization, tactics, and the integral roles these weapons played in both regular and irregular ACW warfare. The "Impact" section very briefly discusses Civil War era debates (and beyond) surrounding the most suitable cavalry weapon types for mounted charges, ranged firing, and close combat.

More from the description: "Fully illustrated, this study assesses the effectiveness of the many different weapons arming the Civil War cavalryman and analyses the strengths and weaknesses of the decisions made after 1865 concerning the armament of the US cavalry."

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