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  • #31
    Re: Officers side arms

    Originally posted by RebelReefer View Post
    I rarely if ever carry a sidearm when i'm on staff as a 2nd L.T.. When i do, i carry a 36. cal colt navy revolver. The few times i've used it, i usually fire it at my own men as they are running away from the line. I too agree that it is a great weight on the sword belt, and being a little guy, "5 foot 5", i don't let my kit get to heavy, otherwise it makes running difficult.

    I would think a Staff officer would need a side arm more than a line officer. I have read a few accounts of officer being killed or captured when away from their troops. Staff Officer in my opinion would find themselves in this situation more than any other officer would.

    People on this thread keep taking about officers shooting there own men for trying running away or when they start routing. I have yet to find a historical event that this happened could you enlighten me with some evidence? :thinking:
    Last edited by hendrickms24; 07-11-2007, 04:59 PM. Reason: Grammar and spelling!
    [FONT=Courier New]Mark Maranto[/FONT]

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    • #32
      Re: Officers side arms

      I really wonder how often a commissioned officer in the Civil War used his side arm to shoot his own men. Maybe folks have watched the goofy opening sequence of the film Enemy at the Gates too many times...?

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      • #33
        Re: Officers side arms

        " I really wonder how often a commissioned officer in the Civil War used his side arm to shoot his own men. "

        Kevin, are you including all the men hit from behind by officers trying to fire at the enemy between files ?

        When an officer, I carry an 1858, 7 barrel, rim-fire 22 that looks like a toy but carries in my pocket as easy as a comb. It would be usefull at about a yard if someone was trying to strangle me or a very aggressive ferret approached, which are exactly the sort of situations I'd see myself using it. If my men are breaking, and I can't stop them by command and example, then I'll try to run as fast as they do so I can reform them when they decide to halt. If I shot a couple first I think I'd be getting some hard looks later on.
        John Duffer
        Independence Mess
        MOOCOWS
        WIG
        "There lies $1000 and a cow."

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        • #34
          Re: Officers side arms

          Originally posted by john duffer View Post
          " I really wonder how often a commissioned officer in the Civil War used his side arm to shoot his own men. "

          Kevin, are you including all the men hit from behind by officers trying to fire at the enemy between files ?

          When an officer, I carry an 1858, 7 barrel, rim-fire 22 that looks like a toy but carries in my pocket as easy as a comb. It would be usefull at about a yard if someone was trying to strangle me or a very aggressive ferret approached, which are exactly the sort of situations I'd see myself using it. If my men are breaking, and I can't stop them by command and example, then I'll try to run as fast as they do so I can reform them when they decide to halt. If I shot a couple first I think I'd be getting some hard looks later on.
          It was probably a death sentence for that officer...flat of the sword works better. Shaming men to do their duty by setting an example was the standard method, not shooting your own men. Let the firing squads do that.

          I carry a Colt Navy or other 32-36 cal when in a command position where a side arm might be useful. Firing and loading ain't leading...someone once said, so if you see me pull that bad boy, the situation is grim, and as John says, I am surrounded by angry ferrets.
          Soli Deo Gloria
          Doug Cooper

          "The past is never dead. It's not even past." William Faulkner

          Please support the CWT at www.civilwar.org

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          • #35
            Re: Officers side arms

            Originally posted by john duffer View Post
            When an officer, I carry an 1858, 7 barrel, rim-fire 22 that looks like a toy but carries in my pocket as easy as a comb. It would be usefull at about a yard if someone was trying to strangle me or a very aggressive ferret approached, which are exactly the sort of situations I'd see myself using it. If my men are breaking, and I can't stop them by command and example, then I'll try to run as fast as they do so I can reform them when they decide to halt. If I shot a couple first I think I'd be getting some hard looks later on.
            Yeah! Let's hear it for one of those odd little guns! I think a lot of those, Sharps, and Smith & Wesson revolvers saw service, and are under-represented because they're not reproduced. An officer's side arm is for self-defense, and his sword a symbol of authority. In forming or reforming the line, you use the latter. If the situation has really gone up, then he's going to have to shoot his way out of some very close work. I just can't see a captain or lieutenant firing on one of his own men. It's just callous beyond belief. I've been a combat arms officer, and I simply can't imagine what internal emotional checks you'd have to overcome to fire on men whom you know by name. By and large, these officers came from the same counties and hometowns as their troops. Could you ever see a man going home after gunning down a resident of that same home town? How about his continued command in that same unit? Remember, the rest of the men who survived saw you do that, and may just get the message that they're next. Bravery in the Civil War is a difficult subject, too. Brave men endured too much, broke and ran, and often came back either to a field hospital to serve, or back with their comrades when the situation stabilized. Would I even think of returning to a company where the captain had tried to shoot me? Not on your life. Just a few observations from someone who's spent a long time in the ranks, and worn the rank for real.
            Rob Weaver
            Co I, 7th Wisconsin, the "Pine River Boys"
            "We're... Christians, what read the Bible and foller what it says about lovin' your enemies and carin' for them what despitefully use you -- that is, after you've downed 'em good and hard."
            [I]Si Klegg[/I]

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            • #36
              Re: Officers side arms

              Originally posted by Kevin O'Beirne View Post
              I really wonder how often a commissioned officer in the Civil War used his side arm to shoot his own men.
              Here I am answering my own question, in part.

              In recentlly reading a couple books on the batles of Iuka and Corinth, I was surprised to come upon two incidents of a Federal officer shooting his own men with a handgun: one at Iuka and one at Corinth. One was a line officer, and one was General Stanley--a division commander. Both claimed in writing, or were witnessed by others, as each shooting two of their own men in these battles, when their lines were breaking under fire and a rout starting.

              While I certainly don't believe that officers shot their own men with any frequency or regularity--I still believe it was pretty uncommon--it was interesting to stumble across two accounts in quick succession, while I'd never read anything like it before in almost 20 years of reading Civil War histories.

              One interesting aspect was that Iuka and Corinth were, according to their participants, two of the most hotly contested and, as a percentage of men engaged, deadly battles of the entire war. The combat at both is repeatedly described as "furious" and "brutal" and so it would stand to reason (to me) that it would take an exceedingly desperate fight for any commissioned officer to consider (let alone actually do it) using his side arm on his own men.

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              • #37
                Re: Officers side arms

                What do the photos of the day show? In my own viewing I would say I've seen about 1/3 of the officers in a field environment carrying pistols and through some curious conversations w/ some collectors most of the sidearms w/ known provenance are the smaller caliber lighter arms in .32-.36. The comments about fighting the company instead of playing cowboy are quite apt. One man w/ a six shooter is about useless if he can't point his 50 odd man comapny in the right direction.

                A pistol useful in an 1860's Infantry battle? If an officer gets to the point where he needs to use it; he's well past boned... he's dead or a prisoner. Dead or a prisoner... the question then becomes which would you prefer?
                Johan Steele aka Shane Christen C Co, 3rd MN VI
                SUVCW Camp 48
                American Legion Post 352
                [url]http://civilwartalk.com[/url]

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                • #38
                  Re: Officers side arms

                  " I just can't see a captain or lieutenant firing on one of his own men. It's just callous beyond belief. I've been a combat arms officer, and I simply can't imagine what internal emotional checks you'd have to overcome to fire on men whom you know by name. By and large, these officers came from the same counties and hometowns as their troops. Could you ever see a man going home after gunning down a resident of that same home town? How about his continued command in that same unit? Remember, the rest of the men who survived saw you do that, and may just get the message that they're next. Bravery in the Civil War is a difficult subject, too. Brave men endured too much, broke and ran, and often came back either to a field hospital to serve, or back with their comrades when the situation stabilized. Would I even think of returning to a company where the captain had tried to shoot me? Not on your life. Just a few observations from someone who's spent a long time in the ranks, and worn the rank for real."


                  THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU.
                  Chris Suppelsa

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                  • #39
                    Re: Officers side arms

                    The few times I've served as an officer have been on staff, my promotion being largely a function of penmanship. :) At those times I carry only a sword, and perhaps some very sharp nibs, but I have often wondered just what Elisha Hunt Rhodes was packing on May 7, 1864, while serving as adjutant:

                    “How the old Second R I did fire. I fired over a hundred rounds myself... a bullet struck me in my right breast, tore my coat, glanced on my pocket book and bruised my right arm.”

                    Then we have this description of the death of A. L. Peel of the 19th Mississippi, KIA at Spotsylvania:

                    "Adjutant Peel had thrown aside his sword and with a very fine rifle, captured from the enemy, he was shooting as rapidly as he could reload. He fell, shot through the head at the foot of an oak tree which had been cut down by deadly missiles."

                    In European armies practice seemed to range from the "gentlemen don't dirty their hands" school (English officer to sergeant at Hougomont: "Be a good man and shoot that fellow"), to hands-on instruction (under the 1846 tactics, Prussian officers on the skirmish line were to take ranging shots for their men). The American view might be illustrated by the injunction in the tactics against officers taking part in skirmishes with personal weapons. On the other hand, it would hardly be worth forbidding the practice if no one had ever done it in the first place.

                    So it's hard to get to a general conclusion. Perhaps late war officers felt more of a need to fire back, or perhaps this was something peculiar to adjutants, who didn't have a company to direct and had all that built-up frustration from paperpushing to work off. My overall sense is that the combination of weight, cost (officers would have to pay for their own personal weapon and ammunition), and being busy doing other things would generally lead officers to eschew firearms or, as several have mentioned, perhaps have a pocket pistol purely for use in extremis.
                    Michael A. Schaffner

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                    • #40
                      Re: Officers side arms

                      What's discouraging in this thread is the use of non-period references like "fragging" and the types of responses starting with something like "I know what I would do (or what I would have) in that situation," as if their mode of operation would have been a period mode of operation.

                      From period accounts it's apparent the mindset of the times was different than ours today. Today we obsess over details like carrying pistols / swords or not. We go to great lengths to discover one or two period accounts that would support some trivial practice. Such thinking has lead today to too many pistols generally, too many officers in proportion to privates, and too many high-topped boots. (Or for that matter too many dirty and barefoot infantrymen, too much sleeping on hard ground, too much drum and fife at all times of the day, and too many kepi visors curled up or down).

                      Certainly some regulations were considered important, but apparently many more weren't. Some artillerymen had rifles. Some infantry manned gunboats. As for our topic here, a soldier's or officer's particular acroutements (pistols, cartridge cases etc.) could even change based on one small incident of fate or choice - a new battle order or a bad bet.

                      In any event the photo or written evidence for who had a pistol or sword, or not, is not the most reliable way of ascertaining. At the time, one might not want such intrusive objects on their belt unless the need was imminent. Posing for a photo - and nearly all photos were posed - is not a time when the need was imminent. (Well, except for an officer wanting to record his status by wearing a sword). In the mindset of the times, farm boys and tradesmen didn't fuss about their tools back home, and they probably didn't fuss much about their tools as a soldier. It wasn't something to photograph or note any more than having a jacknife was.

                      Certainly, and by accounts, lots of the boys carried pistols on occasion, as did their officers. They might have carried them for their entire service or only for a few days. If they found a pistol and grabbed it for it's value (especially if you couldn't afford to buy one or weren't issued one) they may have dropped it a month later as the reality of the march set in and the novelty wore off. Officers were issued sidearms, but based on accounts some used them and some didn't.

                      Go ahead and wear your pistol, it's historically irrefutable.

                      Dan Wykes
                      Last edited by Danny; 07-18-2007, 01:58 PM.
                      Danny Wykes

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