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Cas City Forum Hall & CAS-L  |  Special Interests - Groups & Societies  |  Spencer Shooting Society (Moderator: Two Flints)  |  Topic: Spencer vs. Henry in Civil War 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Author Topic: Spencer vs. Henry in Civil War  (Read 11020 times)
Two Flints
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« Reply #25 on: March 26, 2007, 12:56:14 pm »

If I can just add to what TL has written above, after the war, Springfield Armory altered approximately 11,000 war model carbines. A device know as the “Stabler Cut Off” was added which enabled the gun to be used as a single shot, keeping the magazine in reserve. This was a small piece very similar to a wing nut. It was mounted on the trigger plate just ahead of the trigger. When positioned lengthwise it prevented the breech block from opening far enough for the magazine to fee a fresh cartridge. When turned sideways it allowed the block to open fully.  Again, the intent was to conserve ammunition, single shot 'availability', and 'repeatability' when necessary.

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« Reply #26 on: March 27, 2007, 01:58:00 pm »

No effort to hijack this thread, but I have seen several sources stating that one or more of the Spencer Rifle-armed independent companies of Ohio sharpshooters were assigned or at least designated as bodyguards for various generals during the War.  I don't recall such references to Henry-armed units, but that's not to say it didn't happen.
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« Reply #27 on: March 27, 2007, 02:34:59 pm »

I only know of one General, James Blunt, that had Henry guards.

After shooting my 1860 model some more, I really think it thumps.  I made some big rocks into little rocks.  375 grain .54 caliber bullets at 1100 to 1200 FPS have some pizzaz!  Someone on the list dumped a nice deer with a Spencer last fall.
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« Reply #28 on: April 01, 2007, 04:08:07 pm »

I'm kind of getting off subject a little, but does anyone have an idea about why it was decide 180 rounds per trooper was what Wilson took on his Selma campaign?
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« Reply #29 on: April 02, 2007, 06:44:00 pm »

180?  That sounds odd.  Where did that number come from?

Well, IF these were directly issued to the troops (unusual) and if it were 20 + 42x4 (188) then I'd have a sneaking suspicion that someone was smart enough to issue 4 factory boxes of ammo, plus a carbine box full.
Of course, they may not have filled the box!

In any case, 180 sounds a little weird. 42x5 would be the way to have done it, approximating 210 rnds. But who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of over-fed supply clerks.  At least the Spencer rounds that weren't on the guy's belts would have a chance of surviving the ammunition mules. 'Wouldn't say that about paper rounds.

On a seperate note, I thought the 1st OH SS was the headquarters guard for the Army of the Cumberland, and served 'Old Rosy and Thomas.
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« Reply #30 on: April 02, 2007, 08:23:36 pm »

Hello SSS,

According to Joe Bilby,

"Some commanders may have exercised considerable fire discipline, however. The number of relatively heavy Spencer rounds a man could carry (especially an infantryman) was necessarily limited. In Major General James Wilson's massive cavalry raid in the final weeks of the war, troopers were issued 100 rounds each with another 85 per man in reserve. Considering that a Spencer can (conservatively) be emptied in under ten seconds and reloaded in well under a minute, Wilson's horsemen could have, in theory, expended their whole ammunition supply in half an hour. Yet this supply was considered enough for a whole campaign, and proved sufficient through several battles".

Extracted from page 206, Civil War Firearms:Their Historical Background Tactical Use and Modern Collecting and Shooting by Joe Bilby (SSS Member)

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« Reply #31 on: April 04, 2007, 02:02:11 pm »

 Grin- Yeah- that's the one.
One day this past year (-30) I was perusing the net, and hit into the official war end report of one of the original regiments from the Lightning Brigade- I think it was the 102 Ill.
If I am remembering right, they took more casualties on the Selma Campaign than they did on the Atlanta campaign, so it was no cakewalk.
And they did it with 185 rounds for each trooper.
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« Reply #32 on: April 14, 2007, 07:15:57 pm »

  Howdy Pards!

   Generals Rosecrans, Thomas, and Sherman pulled Spencer rifle-armed companies from the various Ohio Independent Companies of Ohio Sharpshooters to serve as "headquarter guard."

   Company "C" of the 7th ICOVSS served as Sherman's bodyguard, and were known as "Sherman's Bodyguard."

   Mick Archer

   
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« Reply #33 on: April 14, 2007, 08:36:07 pm »

Thanks Mick for the posts and the photo.  Tell us more about your Spencer rifle and your unit!

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« Reply #34 on: April 14, 2007, 09:28:29 pm »

How about this for fun.  The Spencer and the trapdoor!?

I was reading a while back that Custer and his troops, during his Civil War period, were generally (no pun intended) armed with the Spencer.  Just before the Little Bighorn the 7th was re-armed with the Trapdoor 45-70.

He and the troops were used to the firepower of the Spencer during both the Civil War and most of his Indian War career.  Would the Spencer have changed the outcome of the the Little Bighorn?!  With 5000 Indians in my face I would rather have the Spencer than the Trapdoor at 1000 yrds!  As noted earlier, Beacher's Island!

Bet so!  In spite of the Indian's Henrys! Grin

David
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« Reply #35 on: April 15, 2007, 10:24:47 am »

  Howdy Pards!

   One of my Civil War "units" was Company "C,"  (Barber's then Squire's Sharpshooters) of the 7th Independent Company of Ohio Volunteer Sharpshooters which was formed in the county where I used to live.  "C" was detached to be General Sherman's headquarters/personal guard.
   They were dressed and equipped as per "federal," with the excpetion of green "branch of service."  While it is not obvious in the photo, the sergeant's   chevrons are green rather than blue.
   The rifle is one of Larry Romano's...

    Like Berdan's and Post's U.S. Sharpshooters, Ohio's companies were not "understood'' by the Army brass, and as a result were divided up and parcelled out mostly for skirmishers and scouts- so the rapid fire potential of Berdan's NM1869 Sharps' Rifles and the Ohio SS's Spencers was wasted.
    However, in one engagement where they were doing a recon-in-force, they encountered a Confederate unit.  At the first volley, the CS commander had his men fall to the ground to avoid the shots.  Thinking that the Yanks were empty and had to reload, the rebels popped back up...  :-)  :-)

   Yes, Custer's "Michigan Brigade" was armed with Spencer rifles at Gettysburg.  Against Confederates mostly armed with muzzleloading musketoons some of which had been issued just nine rounds.  Custer's men later replaced the Spencer rifles with Spencer carbines.

   "Out West," the 7th Cavalry replaced Spencers in 1868 with the new M1868 Springfield .50-70 Trapdoor, followed by a mix of
M1870 Springfields,  M1870 Sharps,  M1870 Remingtons, and I forget the model number of Ward-Burton carbines..
    Custer delayed the 1874 Black Hills Expedition so that they could be refitted with the new M1873 Springfield .45-70 carbine and M1873 Colt revolvers.

    IMHO, the way the advance of 7th Cavalry troops C, E, F, I, and L toward the middle ford down "Custer Hill" went, against the numbers of warriors swarming to meet and overrun them, it was not so much a rate-of-fire and available ammo issue with the Trapdoor.  Had they had their pre 1868 Spencer carbines, it may have prolonded the inevitable a few more minutes- they being piecemeal scattered in advancing skirmish order all over Custer Hill and just overwhelmed.

   

   A view from Custer Hill...  June 25th.

   Mick Archer

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« Reply #36 on: April 16, 2007, 06:53:39 pm »

Mike
Thanks for the great photos. Nice kit. Wink

About the "Reasonable to carry..." argument for ammunition.  I would beg to differ. I doubt many officers cared a hoot about what was 'reasonable', unless they were going to be asked to fill out ordinance paperwork about what was expended.

I'm basing my assertion on a poor memory that reminds me that, at least in infantry regiments, it occured repeatedly where soldiers would be issued their 40 rounds, and then be given as many as 50-60 more to carry where ever they could put them. Of course the idea was to empty them into the nearest rebel from the business end Grin I still remember Marcot commenting that the initial rifles when issued came with a cleaning kit, a leather box that holds 42 rounds, and 100 rounds. 

Also, I'd be interested to see the numbers.  I suspect that Spencer rounds aren't significantly heavier than a .58 paper cartridge - the ball is a little lighter, and the copper might make up for that. And I'd prefer to have spencer rounds rolling about my haversack or pockets any day to having them damnable paper things breaking open in there.

Mike - do you use one of those belt-boxes? 'Never got around to making one.
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« Reply #37 on: April 17, 2007, 10:09:39 am »

  Howdy Pards!

  Not "my unit," but I seem to recall that the 1st Independent Company was oranzed at Camp Dayton in September 1861, and was "detached" or "attached" to Birge's Western Sharpshooters, 14th Missouri Infantry, and later as Company "G" of the  66th Illiinois.

  I will look it up and report back..

  It is interesting that the lore and reality about Ordnance folks being skeptical of the Spencer as too prone to waste ammunition seems the reverse of actual practice.  Meaning Ordnance Department reports show that of the roughyl 32 types of breechloaders, the highest nmbers of ammunition purchase was Spencer at  94,196, followed by Sharps at 80,512, Burnside a  55,567, and Maynard at 20,002.

  Until  at the end of the the Civil War,  the common cartridge boxes for Spencer rifle armed infantry was the standard .58 cartridge box, and for cavalry the carbine box.   For the infantry this was the standard Pattern of 1857 or Pattern of 1861 "rifle-musket" box minus its tin liners.  Instead, two wooden blocks were bored out to hold the copper cartridges.  Ten paired holes per block, which made a pair of 20 round blocks.  The extra amo had to be carried in pockets or knapsack.

  IMHO, the real incease in sustained firepower came with the late War Blakeslee cavalry boxes that initially held 7 and later 10 or 13 loaded Spencer magazine tubes!  Ordnance Department records  shows that 43,000 Blakesleee boxes were purchased and issued with only 1,000 going to infantry.

  Mick Archer
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« Reply #38 on: April 18, 2007, 07:41:23 pm »

As Mick points out, Sherman did have a body guard unit. The Spencer armed Co. C of the 7th Ohio Independent Sharpshooters were known as "Sherman's Bodyguards" (also part of Headquarters Guard). Jim Strange, international editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, has done some good research on this unit for its N-SSA incarnation.

If you ever go to Chichamauga, check out the area around Sherman's HQ. Not only was most of Wilder's command there, the 5th, 6th and 7th Ohio Independent Sharpshooters and much of Minty's cavalry were right there too. Most of the Spencer rifles made up to that point were within a quarter mile of HQ.

                                   

Personally, I'd take a Spencer way before a Henry. the Henry is lighter, but the exposed magazine fills with dirt, the action gets loose and is hard to clean, the ammo is positivly puny, and the gun is a major pain to reload in a hurry, especially on horseback. A Spencer rifle can be reloaded easily with the sling wrapped around your arm. A carbine can say on the strap. The Henry has to be turned around and over, the follower retracted and the barrel end turned. If your horse is having a bad day it's quite a feat to pull off. The big disadvantage of a Spencer is that you can drop the magazine follower. However, of you do, you still have a single loader.

Joe's book has some excellent examples of units wasting ammo with repeaters. At Hoover's Gap Wilder's men fired almost 125 rounds each in about 20 minutes, and were essentially out of ammo when the Confederates fell back. Southern casualtys weren't very high (I'd have to look up the numbers), but the volume of fire convinced the Confederates that a whole division was coming on the field. Of course, it's not wasting ammo (at least in the military sense) when you convince the other guys to quit, reguardless of the casualty rate.

Most of the Spencer armed troops quickly shed the inserts in their cartridge boxes, filling them with 42 round packets, and stuffed more in their pockets. I suspect that Wilson's 180 rounds per trooper was because that's all he could put his hands on before beginning the campaign. He probably planned on resupply as more ammo was delivered.
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« Reply #39 on: April 19, 2007, 09:24:39 am »

  Howdy Pards!

  If he is the lad I think he is, an editor with the CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER, he "jined" the N-SSA's "Sherman's Bottleguard" after I had left after 17 years...   Wink  Cheesy

  Not that it is the same, but the single shot Berdan Contract NM1859 Sharps Rifles issued to Berdan's, have a similar concept of
"ammo.'
  For their battlaion sized reconnaissance in force, to Pitzer's Woods at Gettysburg, the Berdan's had 100 rounds per man.  After their encounter with several regiments of Wilcox's Alambama brigade, it was recorded they came back having shot off allmost all their ammo or 95 rounds before retreating.  (With a gun held to fire 10-12 rounds per minute)

  I will skim Wilder's Brigade to see what I have on Spencer rifle info...

  Mick Archer
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« Reply #40 on: April 24, 2007, 11:02:38 am »

I just read Wiley Sword's Henry Rifle Book from cover to cover for the first time on my flight from back East.  I have read excerpts, but never the whole thing. 

Random observations:

Between 200 and 300 iron frame Henry rifles were manufactured, frames and buttplates contracted from Colt (propbably).  It is assumed that these were among the first to see action in the Civil war.  Henries (iron andbrass) were appearing starting mid-1862. 

Though less in numbers than the Spencer, the Henry was spread much wider throughout the Army than the Spencer as 90% of the Henries were private purchase arms.  Virtually all Spencers were issue arms, so you had to be in a unit that was issued them to have one. Henries, on the other hand, were spread throughout the entire army, especially the Army of ythe West.  Too many units to count had at least few Henry rifles.  Some infantry units had their Henry armed men mounted to use as scouts.

For the most part, Henries began gaining a reputation in mid 1862, at least a year or more before the Spencer was widely known.

Winchester enhanced the popularity of the Henry by using the press (newspapers), causing private sales to exceed his production capacity.  Spencer never did go after private sales but did land lucrative government contracts that eluded Winchester.  The government contracts allowed Spencer to expand to increase productivity. Lack of these contracts denied Winchester the capital necessaryto expand his facilities.  Winchester was stuck at about 200 (give or take) Henries a month most of the time.

The Sword book paints a little better picture of the widespread use of Henries than the Bilby book does, at least in the sense of identifying lesser units partially armed with Henries.

The shear number of Spencers in service at the end of the War (at least ten times as many as Henries) caused many Spencers to be surplused out to the civilians cheap.  Henries, on the other hand, had been private purchases, and were never surplused out, but went home with their original owners.
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« Reply #41 on: April 24, 2007, 11:44:33 am »

I have the book but havent read it yet.  Thanks for the readers digest version.  Deadeye.
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« Reply #42 on: April 24, 2007, 02:51:06 pm »

 Huh Hello the camp
I am confused... I was under the impression that Sherman was no where near the battle Chickamauga- so I assume you are talking post Chattanooga?
I was also under the impression that Wilder's Brigade was re-equipped and then operated as a standard cavalry unit after Chickamauga, but I'm no expert (advice on a good book pertaining to the unit would be highly appreciated).
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« Reply #43 on: April 24, 2007, 04:37:08 pm »

Matt45,

A really great book (and one of my favorites Grin) with lots of Spencer photos is, Blue Lightning, by Richard A. Baumgartner; also, Lightning at Hoover's Gap by Glenn W. Sunderland. But, the former has some really great photos of soldiers with Spencers in hand!

Two Flints
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« Reply #44 on: April 24, 2007, 09:47:27 pm »

  Howdy Pards!

  Rick B. is a nice guy, and we have spent mucho hours sitting in the shade discussing CW stuff, but also WWI German  (he used to be a large uniform collector).
  He has a nice "line" of Civil War books.

  Mick Archer
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« Reply #45 on: April 29, 2007, 03:13:37 pm »

Quote
...caused many Spencers to be surplused out to the civilians cheap.

That's the myth about the Spencers covered in Marcot's book as well as in others. Spencer sales (by the military) were verboten until the mid-1870's with few exceptions, e.g., Argentina & some to state militias. Ironically, few soldiers that were mustered out after the Civil War elected to buy their Spencers. Probably sick of fighting I'm sure. This is covered as well in the following highly recommended book:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_b/103-3496050-0462209?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=CARBINES+OF+THE+U.S.+CAVALRY+1861+-+1905%2C+by+John+D.+McAulay&Go.x=3&Go.y=12
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« Reply #46 on: April 30, 2007, 01:52:00 pm »

True, I didn't mean surplused out right after the war. They were issue cavalry arms (and some infantry) and or in storage until the 1873 Springfield was issued. It was then that they were surplused out.
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