Civil War Assignment
By John Jang
Weapons and Armour
Most civil war soldiers carried a rifled musket, which had quickly replaced the smoothbore muskets. Te old smoothbore muskets had very limited range and were not very accurate. In places where soldiers on firing lines were more than a hundred yards apart a smoothbore musket wouldn't do much damage. Mass numbers of soldiers would often charge next to each other towards the defensive line and use bayonets and their superior numbers to wipe out the enemy. However rifled muskets changed the way that soldiers fought. It was a muzzleloader and had grooves inside the barrel that guided the bullet much more accurately. A charging mass of soldiers would be caught in enemy fire half a mile away and so it was impossible for them to get to the defending enemy and kill them. But these new rifles could not be fired very fast. Before a soldier could fire his musket, he had to bite open a paper cartridge, pour powder down the musket barrel, push the bullet in with a ramrod, cock the hammer, and set the percussion cap. New soldiers spent weeks trying to learn how to do t his quickly, but even the rifle fire from experienced soldiers was slow Heavy guns were also loaded by pouring in the powder and then the charge. Between shots the barrel was swabbed out. If a spark remained from the previous shot, the new powder being poured in would explode. This makes the guns very dangerous. Most heavy guns had smooth bores and were not very accurate, but when fired against a mass of advancing infantry they were deadly.
The official uniform for the Union soldiers was blue but many regiments chose their own uniforms. "The Blue and Gray" has become the name for the soldiers of the civil war probably because many people thought that all Northern troops wore blue uniforms and all Southern troops wore grey. However this was not always true. A famous New York group of volunteers wore baggy red pants and short red jackets. The Iron Brigade of Michigan wore wide-brimmed black hats, with a feather curled up at the side. The United States Sharpshooters wore dark green uniforms, leather leggings, and feathers in their hats.
Uniform was scarce for Southern soldiers. Before the war, the South sent almost all its cotton to Europe or the Northern states to be made into cloth. There were no factories in the south to make uniforms. Women in the south learned from their grandmothers or from their poorer neighbours how to weave homespun cloth. They made dye for the cloth from butternuts. Soon the most common colour worn by Confederate soldiers was not grey but the warm brown of butternuts.
Union Tactics at the Battle of Gettysburg
On June 24, 1863, General Robert E. Lee led his Confederate Army across the Potomac River and headed towards Pennsylvania. In response to this threat President Lincoln replaced his army commander, General Joseph Hooker, with General George Mead. As Lee's troops poured into Pennsylvania, Mead led the Union Army north from Washington. Meade's effort was inadvertently helped by Lee's cavalry commander, Jeb Stuart, who, instead of reporting Union movements to Lee, had gone off on a raid deep in the Union rear. This action left Lee blind to the Union's position. When a scout reported the Union approach, Lee ordered his scattered troops to converge west of the small village of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
On July 1, some Confederate infantry headed to Gettysburg to seize much-needed shoes and clashed west of town with Union cavalry. The Union commander, recognizing the importance of holding Gettysburg because a dozen roads converged there, fought desperately to hold off the Rebel advance. Other Union troops briefly stopped some Rebels north of town. During heavy fighting, the Confederates drove the Union troops through the streets of Gettysburg to Cemetery Hill south of the town. Lee ordered General Richard Ewell, now commander of the late Stonewall Jackson's old units, to attack this position "if practicable", a vague order that Jackson normally took to mean launch an all-out attack. Ewell was not Jackson. He decided not to attack once he saw the Union artillery atop the hill. Had he attacked and succeeded, it might have changed the course of the war.