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A Soldier's Weapons | Uniforms & Gear | Camplife & Hardtack

Fifth Minnesota Kids: Military

The Civil War was one of the bloodiest wars EVER fought by the United States. This was largely because of the types of weapons carried by soldiers in both armies. During the time of the American Revolution, most military weapons were still SMOOTHBORE. A Smoothbore weapon is one that does not have RIFLING. Rifling is a system of spirialing grooves cut into the inside of the barrel of a firearm to help the bullet to be more accurate. The smoothbore, without the grooves, cannot fire as far. So when, in the Revolution, soldiers lined up shoulder to shoulder and fired at one another-the chance of being hit was actually fairly small. As weapon technology advanced before the Civil War, more and more Muskets (A common term for Military firearms) were made with rifling. Suddenly, a soldier who used to be only able to hit accurately a target at 200 Yards ( or 600 feet), could easily hit one at 500 Yards (or an astounding 1500 feet). One would imagine that with the improved weapons, that tactics (ways one fights battles) would change too. But they didn't change. So suddenly soldiers lined up shoulder to shoulder weren't quite as safe anymore, and many men would be killed.

For soldiers in the 5th Minnesota, we could have been issued one of these two Muskets. The M1842, or the M1861 Springfield. Let's take a look at both of them.


Click this link here for a video showing more about Muskets!

Both of these weapons are MUZZLE-LOADERS. A Muzzle-loader is a firearm that is loaded by putting gunpowder and a seperate bullet down the muzzle (the opening of the barrel)and then using a RAMROD (A long metal rod used to stuff the powder and bullet down to the bottom of the barrel). To make the weapon fire, a small cap called a PERCUSSION CAP is placed on a vent called a nipple. This cap, when struck by the hammer of the musket, explodes and sneds a jet of flame into the barrel through a small hole. This flame makes the gunpowder explode and send the bullet flying out of the weapon. The earlier model M1842 is a .69 smoothbore musket. It fires a larger bullet, but it is not as accurate. The M1861 is a .58 rifled musket, and although the bullet is smaller it is also MUCH more accurate. The soldiers of the 5th Minnesota would have carried either of these weapons when they marched away to war.

Firing a volley with Muskets


Sometimes, a soldier would be given the order to "Fix Bayonets!". A BAYONET is a long triangular bladed weapon that can be fitted to the end of the musket. This basically turns the musket into a spear, and was sometimes used when soldiers got close enough to each other in battle to fight "hand to hand". In truth though, the bayonet was hardly ever used in the Civil War for fighting. In fact, most soldiers used the bayonet for candle holders and cooking pokers than warfare.

The "middle guard" position for Bayonet Drill

A Soldier's Weapons

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