View Full Version : Book: Earl J. Hess "The Rifle Musket in Civil War Combat: Reality and Myth"
10-20-2008, 09:45 AM
Gentlemen and -women,
Has anybody read Earl J. Hess' The Rifle Musket in Civil War Combat: Reality and Myth (http://www.amazon.com/Rifle-Musket-Civil-War-Combat/dp/0700616071/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1224509370&sr=8-1) yet?
It seems that he is touching some ground also covered by Brent Nosworthy in The Bloody Crucible of Courage: Fighting Methods and Combat Experience of the Civil War concerning the role/usability of the rifle-musket.
10-20-2008, 04:23 PM
The book is more like Paddy Griffith's earlier work, except Hess has added a lot of primary sources to the discussion. I highly recommend it.
10-21-2008, 02:36 AM
OK Ben, added to my Amazon wish list:):):)
10-21-2008, 07:40 AM
It is always gratifying to find printed reenforcement for the proposition that smoothbore muskets were not dinosaurs surviving redundantly on Civil War battlefields. Years ago I wrote a series in "Camp Chase Gazette" entilted "Pumpkin Slingers" to familiarize the then almost exclusively .577/.58 armed reenactment community with the ubiquitous place the smoothbore musket had in the hands of Civil War infantry in the war's first half and, for Confederates (esp. in the western theatre), clear to the end of the war. Based upon feedback, it struck a cord. In the earlies one had to use originals or reverse the ignominy of sporterization many .69s suffered in the decades after the war. Since then several more-or-less worthy replica 'slingers have gone into production and into the hands of our fraternity, which warms my heart. Availability is now taken for granted. As one Union officer with combat experience opined: the .69 smoothbore "tells" in real battle. In live fire, buck-and-ball, ball, and buckshot can and have taken critters up to and including bear. A patched round ball can be surprisingly accurate out to that magic 100 yards. With birdshot, they make hilarious skeet guns. I've a .69 calibre rifled-musketoon I cobbled together from original parts, the barrel relined. I've yet to get much accuracy out of the huge minies, but it shines at reenactments. Pumpkin slingers are weapons for manly men. Then and now.
Gary of CA
11-03-2008, 09:04 PM
Hess shows that despite the touted greater range of the rifle musket, combat distances didn't really change that much. He also points out the it was the one war where the rifle musket became the predominant arm of both armies - and the last one that it would too (Joe Bilby also says this in another book). Hess points out that infantry could withstand a cavalry charge even before the rifle musket came upon the scene (how many British squares were broken by Ney at Waterloo? None). If anything, Hess argues that the rifle musket has been given too much undeserved credit for altering warfare. It's an excellent read. Thumbs up.
04-23-2009, 09:18 AM
I've never been able to find it again, but there's an article floating about somewhere that shows some statistics on major battles from the F&I War to the CW. It compared casualty rates to the ratio of rifled & smoothbore muskets per number of combatants involved. I remember that Waterloo shared a casualty rate comparable to Gettysburg despite a significantly lower ratio of rifled weapons involved.
Crucible of Courage makes the point that rifled muskets have a lower velocity and therefore require a more arcing trajectory to achieve range, which requires the soldier to be more concerned with estimating range accurately. With the average Civil War soldier receiving no training in range estimation to speak of, the effective range of the rifle in that soldier's hands was not much better than the higher velocity-flatter trajectory smoothbore.
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