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Weaponry Before 1865

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What do the American Revolution and the Civil War have in common? They both required each side to use weapons to defend (or claim) their territory. However, the weapons employed in conflicts before 1865 were very different from those employed today. For example, today, the armed forces rarely used swords in open combat. However, during the American Revolution, swords were a necessity as Donald M. Moran states "During the era of George Washington, a gentlemen would no more leave his quarters without his sword then without his pants!" (Moran). Continuing, Moran explains the prestige associated with swords as "To the civilian it was the symbol of his standing in a highly systemized Society. To a military officer it was an emblem of his rank and often a reward for gallantry, having been presented to him. To the common soldier or sailor it was the weapon of “last resort”" (Moran). These weapons, continued to be used even during the Civil War, as models such as the 1840 Calvery Saber would be issued to members of the Union Calvary (Wikipedia). This continues to show that swords were a prominent part of the army. However, thanks to advancements in other weaponry fields, we no longer need these tools to defend ourselves.

As you look through this collection, ask yourself "What is different between this weapon and its modern counterpart?" This collection will analyze the rifles, sabers and handguns of the late 18th and early 19th centuries and help you experience what it would be like to fight with these weapons. Additionally, we will take a look at important advancements such as Minni Balls and their contribution to the field of weaponry.


Donald M. Moran - George Washington's Swords - http://www.revolutionarywararc...

Wikipedia - List of Weapons in the American Civil War - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/...

Richard Wilson Brown Bess Musket, 1761

National Museum of American History

Enfield Pattern 1853 rifle-musket owned by Walter Denning

National Museum of African American History and Culture

Colt Model 1861 Special Musket:

National Museum of American History

Minni Balls

Mike Cumpston

Colt 1851 Navy Revolver

National Museum of American History

Colt Model 1860 Army Revolver

National Museum of American History

McClellan's Colt Model 1861 Navy Revolver

National Museum of American History