PDA

View Full Version : Worthless Enfields



hireddutchcutthroat
04-20-2004, 05:20 PM
(Edited to add the complete account.)

Lieut. W. S. DAVIS,
A. D.C. and A. A. A. Gen. First Brig. Morell's Div., Porter's Fifth Army Corps.

LIEUTENANT: In accordance with instructions, I have the honor to make the following report of this regiment in the action of Saturday, 20th instant:
Early on Saturday, 20th September, while in camp at this place, the regiment, under command of Colonel Prevost, was ordered to be in readiness to march with the brigade, and, with entire force of officers and men of 737, at about 8 o'clock a.m. took up the line of march in rear of Thirteenth New York, down the ravine, and forded the Potomac River at Blackford's Ferry, when the column filed to the right, and after marching about 300 yards was halted, and about 9 o'clock a.m. the One hundred and eighteenth was ordered to file left up a ravine and form line of battle on the top of a bluff, and under cover, supported on the right by Thirteenth and Twenty fifth Regiments New York, and on the left by First Michigan, Twenty-second and Eighteenth Massachusetts, and Second Maine Regiments. Owing to the nature of the ground the regiment came in line in right by file. Seven companies only had got in line when firing was heard on our right flank, and on advancing in line to the crest of the hill, we found the enemy advancing in heavy force in front and on our left. Colonel Prevost posted in person the three left companies to meet a flank movement of the enemy on a knoll on the left of the regiment, who became almost immediately engaged with the enemy; about the same time the right was fired on from a heavy force in front, and commenced by my orders to fire by file. Owing to the worthlessness of our pieces (condemned Enfield), not more than 50 per cent. of which could be discharged, the line began to waver, when Colonel Prevost advanced with the colors to the front, and was almost immediately severely wounded by a rifle shot from the enemy, and went to the rear.
The command now devolving upon me, and the enemy threatening us in front, I rallied, with the assistance of Maj. C. P. Herring, about 200 men, and charged over the slope of the hill in front, where a heavy fire was poured on us from the left. I fell back under the brow of the hill with my command, and reformed with the intention of repeating the charges. At this moment one regiment of the enemy, with colors displayed, crowned the hill on our left and commenced firing on us. 1 ordered a fire to the left in response, and was going through the line pointing out the proper direction for the fire, when Adjutant Perot, of my regiment, came to me and said by Colonel Barnes' order I was to withdraw the regiment and retreat in good order, our right and left flanks being both turned. Our only way of retreat was over the bluff, and it was very precipitous. I sent word along the line to fail back, get into the road, and retreat across the river. On getting on the road under the bluff, we were immediately fired on by the enemy from the summit, with great effect.
The regiment crossed at the dam opposite the ferry under a galling fire of the enemy, and reformed about 2 p.m. in the same camp vacated in the morning.
The loss on this first essay of the regiment in killed, wounded, and missing was 277. I have furnished a detailed list of the casualities, to which I have the honor to refer you.

I am, sir, most respectfully, your obedient servant,
JAMES GWYN,
Lieut. Col., Commanding 118th Pennsylvania Volunteers.

Charles Heath
04-20-2004, 10:15 PM
For a horrific account of this nasty little fight, see Inside the Army of the Potomac: The Civil War Experience of Captain Fraincis Adams Donaldson, edited by J. Gregory Acken. Capt. Donaldson mentions his deja vu feeling about this battle, since he was also a survivor of the Ball's Bluff catastrophe. Several factors contributed to the Corn Exchange Regiment being handled roughly that day.

Charles Heath

theknapsack
04-21-2004, 02:19 AM
This is from the Diary of Pvt. Jefferson Moses of the 93rd IL infantry, Co. G. wrote how displeased he had been with their Enfields:

"April 16th, 1864

Today our regiment is on pikett again. Yesterday we drawed our new guns the springfield rifle musket. They are a very neat gun. They are not as heavy as the Enfield Rifle. They are neatly polished. The Enfields are Tarnished and a very rough gun."

I can only guess that he didn't like his Enfield very much. I understand this is on how many would discharge, but it adds to soldiers' displeasure with the Enfield. If you want to read more of his accounts go to this site (http://www.ioweb.com/civilwar/).

[Edit: This is a great primary source diary. he talks of issueings what he did that day, etc. I HIGHLY recommend reading it. - R.E.]

justthemiller
04-21-2004, 08:52 AM
Hello All,

Although the official account of the 118th Pa. in the battle of Shepherdstown places the blame squarely on "condemned Enfields", Capt. Donaldson does make a good case for the fact that the soldiers themselves were to blame in that they were not properly trained to load them. In his account of the battle it seems that many soldiers in his company were loading the minie ball in first, followed by the powder with disasterous results. The 118th Pa. (The Corn Exchange) Regiment had never received training with their Enfields and had only been issued ammunition for them on the way to Sharpsburg! It is not surprising then to see the sad results that followed at the battle of Shepherdstown.

hireddutchcutthroat
04-21-2004, 02:45 PM
Hello All,

Although the official account of the 118th Pa. in the battle of Shepherdstown places the blame squarely on "condemned Enfields", Capt. Donaldson does make a good case for the fact that the soldiers themselves were to blame in that they were not properly trained to load them. In his account of the battle it seems that many soldiers in his company were loading the minie ball in first, followed by the powder with disasterous results. The 118th Pa. (The Corn Exchange) Regiment had never received training with their Enfields and had only been issued ammunition for them on the way to Sharpsburg! It is not surprising then to see the sad results that followed at the battle of Shepherdstown.

James

I am of the undestanding that the mainsprings were breaking due to shotty workmanship. Lets both post our finding...this could get good. :wink_smil

RyanBWeddle
04-21-2004, 03:29 PM
James

I am of the undestanding that the mainsprings were breaking due to shotty workmanship. Lets both post our finding...this could get good. :wink_smil

Bob -
Last year, the SGLHA did an event at the C&O Canal, portraying the Corn Exchange Reg't. Sam Cathey did a bunch of research on the unit and their action (or lack of) at Sheppardstown. I don't have it here, but you can email Sam for it. samcathey@hotmail.com

hireddutchcutthroat
04-21-2004, 03:46 PM
Bob -
Last year, the SGLHA did an event at the C&O Canal, portraying the Corn Exchange Reg't. Sam Cathey did a bunch of research on the unit and their action (or lack of) at Sheppardstown. I don't have it here, but you can email Sam for it. samcathey@hotmail.com

Thanks Ryan.

hireddutchcutthroat
04-21-2004, 04:00 PM
Hello All,

Although the official account of the 118th Pa. in the battle of Shepherdstown places the blame squarely on "condemned Enfields", Capt. Donaldson does make a good case for the fact that the soldiers themselves were to blame in that they were not properly trained to load them. In his account of the battle it seems that many soldiers in his company were loading the minie ball in first, followed by the powder with disasterous results. The 118th Pa. (The Corn Exchange) Regiment had never received training with their Enfields and had only been issued ammunition for them on the way to Sharpsburg! It is not surprising then to see the sad results that followed at the battle of Shepherdstown.

James

If Donaldson was correct, that would point to them using British rather than domesic manufactured rounds.

GACornbread
04-21-2004, 05:18 PM
I had to go get my copy of "Inside the Army of the Potomac" and look this account up. We should note that Captain Donaldson absolutely despised Lt Col Gwyn. He often acused him of being drunk and missing during battles, so we should be suspect of Gwyn's report. Here is the actual quote from the book:

"At this time,too, something got wrong with the muskets, they became defective and I was surrounded by the poor fellows asking what they should do. Taking a nipple pick from one of them, I found in many cases, in their haste and confusion they had put the bullet in first, and of course the gun became useless. One man said that something was the matter with his musket because he couldn't get the ram rod down. On examination I found he had, in the first instance, put the bullet in first, and the cap exploding, thought he had fired it off, so rammed another cartridge until the gun was full. It was the same thing throughout the regiment, a vast majority of the Belgian muskets became useless, and the men running hither and thither without pieces and loudly calling for them. pp 133

Note that Donaldson says it was the Belgian Muskets ...and not enfields!

Houston White
Cpl. 42 GA
Pvt. 10 Texas

hireddutchcutthroat
04-21-2004, 05:43 PM
Wasnt there an Enfield knockoff produced in Liege?

GACornbread
04-21-2004, 06:02 PM
Yes, there was. Check this site:

www.geocities.com/pentagon/quarters/2421/

then look under "Foreign Imports"

He states on his site that the US buyers would buy anything to keep it out of conferderate hands. He also states the .577 Liege was a good musket. It was the other calibers that were bad: .69 and .71.

Houston White
Cpl 42 GA
Pvt 10 Texas

hireddutchcutthroat
04-21-2004, 08:04 PM
Houston

On that site, the author states that there were Enfields produced in Belgium and France. Does anybody know if those were direct Enfield copies or were they just .577?

Curt Schmidt
04-21-2004, 08:51 PM
Hallo Kameraden!

Both. There were the British government contracts which carried a measure of standards, proofs, and inspection (although these were rated lower than the RSAF made ones, such as the American made Enfields, by the British Government), and then there was the "private speculation" market where anything went.

Liege, Belgium had established itself as a gun making center, producing mostly French-style arms (including copies for Russia) but also was tapped to handled the demand during for the British Government (as well as speculators) the Crimean War that the British system could not handle.
They were known to mkae anything for a price, and were "rated" as a poor hand operation inferior to even the Birmingham Small Arms Trade (which itself being a "hand" and "non-interchangeable parts" production was slowly being squeezed out by the British Government's RSAF at Enfield).

I believe the references to poor workmanship and period acccounts of "Enfields" being so rough that they cut the hands of the men trying to use them- all apply to poorly made and finished Liege-made junk quickly thrown together to be sold to overly eager US and CS agents.

However, to a soldier, an "Enfield" was an "Enfield." (Not to overlook the historical and archaeological documented, reversed cartridge problem among apparently untrained soldiers.) And, as a result, from some of the surviving accounts, it would seem that the men were often fearful of getting junk when they learned "Enfields" were on their way to be issued.

Also, the France and Belgium made French Model 1859 Rifle was .71 caliber.

The French Model 1859 Short Rifle (Pondir) ran .58-.61 but was considered a nominal .58. However, the Ordnance Department in 1865 does list them as
"Rifles, Liege, sabre bayonet- caliber .577," a first class weapon. (So the "Enfield" Enfield confusion was shared by more than just the men... ;-) )

The "Belgian trade" supplied a demand for copies of a wide range of French guns, such as the "Liege made" "French .58 Rifle-Musket" which looks like the French M1857 .69 just in .58 caliber. As well as a "French Model 1859 Brass Mounted Light Minie Rifle."

Curt-Heinrich Schmidt

hireddutchcutthroat
04-22-2004, 07:08 PM
Bob -
Last year, the SGLHA did an event at the C&O Canal, portraying the Corn Exchange Reg't. Sam Cathey did a bunch of research on the unit and their action (or lack of) at Sheppardstown. I don't have it here, but you can email Sam for it. samcathey@hotmail.com


A source that Mr Cathey pointed me in desrcibed, poor mainsprings and shattered cones. Unfortunately it did not go any deeper than that.