This is a Question About the US Union Ordinance Department In the Civil War. . .

Art

Monthly Donor
One thing that always made me angry about the American Civil War is that, as far I can tell, the United States of America's Ordinance officer, a man named Ripley, wanted to equip the first 75,000 man Militia muster, with mostly smoothbore muskets and Springfield Armory Rifle-Muskets.

There see to have been sufficient revolvers from Colt and Remington, as well as European Arms Maufacturers, to equip both Union and Confederate, but equipping rifle muskets when you have Henry and Spencer, as well as Sharp's rifles that could kill a buffalo, let alone a horse, and Gatling patenting his mechanical gun the next year, the vibe I get from Ripley is he thought armies would fight in Napoleonic fashion, even though most of North America is totally unsuited for such blundering. Shiloh is not the North German Plain, where European armies had clashed for centuries.

Any thoughts?
 
One thing that always made me angry about the American Civil War is that, as far I can tell, the United States of America's Ordinance officer, a man named Ripley, wanted to equip the first 75,000 man Militia muster, with mostly smoothbore muskets and Springfield Armory Rifle-Muskets.

There see to have been sufficient revolvers from Colt and Remington, as well as European Arms Maufacturers, to equip both Union and Confederate, but equipping rifle muskets when you have Henry and Spencer, as well as Sharp's rifles that could kill a buffalo, let alone a horse, and Gatling patenting his mechanical gun the next year, the vibe I get from Ripley is he thought armies would fight in Napoleonic fashion, even though most of North America is totally unsuited for such blundering. Shiloh is not the North German Plain, where European armies had clashed for centuries.

Any thoughts?
I must disagree. While definitely a conservative, there were perfectly sound reasons for Ripley's decision.
  1. At the onset of the war, the United States has limited arms manufacturing capacity and an existing stock of muskets and rifles of varying calibers and degrees of usefulness. A good deal of armories and manufacturers have already been seized by the rebels. Remember that the United States Army at April 1861 was just a force of 16,000 men. The initial call up of 75,000 volunteers basically expanded the army by 369%. Tell me, with such a massive increase in army size and such a limited manufacturing capacity, is it really better not to just grab everything in the armory than to build an entirely new stock of arms that have not even been adequately tested yet?
  2. The rifle musket was still a relatively modern and tested weapon. The Springfield rifle was just as capable as the Lorenz and Enfield rifles that equipped the Austrian and British army respectively and was already in production and tested. The Henry, Spencer and Sharp rifles were basically brand new weapons. To put this in a WW2 scenario, it would be like telling the Americans not to produce the M3 Lee tanks in 1941 because M4 Shermans would be ready in 1942 when the Allied Armies needed every tank they could get.
  3. The production of these weapons was very slow and Ripley had nothing to do with these delays. There were plenty of orders for Breechloaders in 1861, but in most cases, it took until 1863 just to satisfy the relatively small initial orders. While one could argue that the private companies the US Gov't contracted to produce Springfields could have been producing breechloaders, the private companies weren't very good at producing these rifles in large quantities (14,336 in mid-1862 vs the order of 854,000). There's also the issue that breechloaders are mechanically complex. Converting the Springfield armoury to produce these weapons is not a good option either. All the machinery in place was designed for the Springfield rifle, so they would have to take time to retool the machinery for any specific breechloader. This doesn't sound good when you have tens of thousands, later hundreds of thousands needing a good gun (like a rifle-musket). Better to have a good weapon today than a perfect weapon ten years later.
  4. Even in 1863, not all the Union regiments had the chance to be armed with relatively modern rifle-muskets. About 25% of Grant's Army of the Tennessee were still armed with rifled muskets and one regiment was even armed with a smoothbore musket. By the end of the Siege of Vicksburg, Grant explicitly authorized these regiments to drop their outdated equipment for captured Enfield rifle-muskets. At Gettysburg, 10.7% and and 15.8% of regiments were wholly or partially armed with smoothbores and second-rate rifles respectively.
  5. The fear that a regiment would simply fire off all of its ammunition and withdraw isn't actually fictional. When a regiment ran out of ammunition, it simply had to withdraw from the attack/defense to get to the wagons for a resupply. This actually occurred at Shiloh and Champion Hill and is quite illustrative as to why officers were worried about this possibility. At Champion Hill, Hovey's veteran division successfully routed a Georgian brigade off the critical Champion Hill. However, in doing so, they had expended most of their ammunition. The ammunition wagons were not in place for a resupply because this was a meeting engagement. When Bowen's Confederate Division counterattacked, Hovey's Division, which had fought gallantly for the hill, could do little to resist the enemy advance. The hill had to be retaken by a counterattack from Grant's reserves. If this occurred with rifle muskets, then it'll definitely happen with breechloaders.
To be frank, unless there is something that shakes up the U.S. government between the Mexican-American War and the ACW, the production capacity simply isn't there to arm the Union army with repeaters and breechloaders.
 
One thing that always made me angry about the American Civil War is that, as far I can tell, the United States of America's Ordinance officer, a man named Ripley, wanted to equip the first 75,000 man Militia muster, with mostly smoothbore muskets and Springfield Armory Rifle-Muskets.

There see to have been sufficient revolvers from Colt and Remington, as well as European Arms Maufacturers, to equip both Union and Confederate, but equipping rifle muskets when you have Henry and Spencer, as well as Sharp's rifles that could kill a buffalo, let alone a horse, and Gatling patenting his mechanical gun the next year, the vibe I get from Ripley is he thought armies would fight in Napoleonic fashion, even though most of North America is totally unsuited for such blundering. Shiloh is not the North German Plain, where European armies had clashed for centuries.

Any thoughts?
Well, to be fair, Ripley's department had to supply ammunition for literally dozens of different types of weapons.

If it would have been possible, I'd want to see the Union Army fully-equipped with Sharps breechloading rifles; the cavalry would have Spencers.
 

Art

Monthly Donor
Sounds more effictive then Missippi pattern rifles made 20 years before and kept in militia armories for a rainy day. . .
 
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