Burnside carbine

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Burnside carbine
Burnside carbine.jpg
Burnside carbine
Type Carbine
Place of origin  United States
Service history
Used by United States
Wars American Civil War
Production history
Designer Ambrose Burnside
Designed 1855
Manufacturer Bristol Firearms Company and Burnside Rifle Company
Produced 1858 to 1870
Number built 100,000
Specifications
Weight 7 lb (3.2 kg)
Length 39.5 inches (1,000 mm)

Cartridge Brass
Caliber 0.54 inches (14 mm)
Muzzle velocity 950 ft/s (290 m/s) [1]
Effective firing range 200 yd (180 m) [2]

The Burnside carbine was a breech-loading carbine that saw widespread use during the American Civil War.

Design[edit]

The carbine was designed and patented by Ambrose Burnside, who resigned his commission in the U.S. Army to devote himself full time to working on the weapon. The carbine used a special brass cartridge, also invented by Burnside. Pressing the weapon's two trigger guards opened the breech block and allowed the user to insert a cartridge. When the trigger was pulled, the hammer struck a percussion cap and caused a spark; a hole in the base of the cartridge exposed the black powder to this spark. The unique, cone-shaped cartridge sealed the joint between the barrel and the breech. Most other breech-loading weapons of the day tended to leak hot gas when fired, but Burnside's design eliminated this problem.[1]

Service history[edit]

In 1857, the Burnside carbine won a competition at West Point against 17 other carbine designs. In spite of this, few of the carbines were immediately ordered by the government, but this changed with the outbreak of the Civil War, when over 55,000 were ordered for use by Union cavalrymen.[2] This made it the third most popular carbine of the Civil War; only the Sharps carbine and the Spencer carbine were more widely used.[3] They saw action in all theatres of the war. There were so many in service that many were captured and used by Confederates. A common complaint by users was that the unusually shaped cartridge sometimes became stuck in the breech after firing.[4]

By using ordnance returns and ammunition requisitions, it has been estimated that 43 Union cavalry regiments were using the Burnside carbine during the 1863-1864 period. Additionally, 7 Confederate cavalry units were at least partially armed with the weapon during this same period.[5]

Five different models were produced.[6] Toward the end of the Civil War, production was discontinued when the Burnside Rifle Company was given a contract to make Spencer carbines instead.[7]

Effect of the carbine on Burnside's career[edit]

Though he was a poor military officer, Ambrose Burnside rose through the ranks partly because his carbine was so well known.[8] He was pressured by President Lincoln several times to take command of the Union Army of the Potomac. He repeatedly declined, saying "I was not competent to command such a large army as this."[9] When he eventually did accept command, he led the Army of the Potomac to defeat at the Battle of Fredericksburg. The battle and the subsequent abortive offensive left Burnside's "officers complaining loudly to the White House and the War Department about his incompetence."[10] He also performed poorly at the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, and a court of inquiry blamed him for the Union failure at the Battle of the Crater.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Drury, Ian; Tony Gibbons (1993). The Civil War Military Machine. New York: Smithmark Publishers, Inc. pp. p59. ISBN 0-8317-1325-9. 
  2. ^ Drury, Ian; Tony Gibbons (1993). The Civil War Military Machine. New York: Smithmark Publishers, Inc. pp. p59. ISBN 0-8317-1325-9. 
  3. ^ Smithsonian Institution. "Burnside Carbine". Retrieved 2006-04-30. 
  4. ^ Coates, Earl J.; Dean S. Thomas (1990). An Introduction to Civil War Small Arms. Gettysburg: Thomas Publications. pp. p38. ISBN 0-939631-25-3. 
  5. ^ Coates, Earl J.; Dean S. Thomas (1990). An Introduction to Civil War Small Arms. Gettysburg: Thomas Publications. pp. p93. ISBN 0-939631-25-3. 
  6. ^ Smithsonian Institution. "Burnside Carbine". Retrieved 2006-04-30. 
  7. ^ Coates, Earl J.; Dean S. Thomas (1990). An Introduction to Civil War Small Arms. Gettysburg: Thomas Publications. pp. p38. ISBN 0-939631-25-3. 
  8. ^ Drury, Ian; Tony Gibbons (1993). The Civil War Military Machine. New York: Smithmark Publishers, Inc. pp. p59. ISBN 0-8317-1325-9. 
  9. ^ Davis, William C (1991). The Battlefields of the Civil War. New York: Smithmark Publishers, Inc. pp. p87. ISBN 0-7651-9836-3. 
  10. ^ Kagan, Neil; Harris J. Andrews and Paula York-Soderlund (2002). Great Battles of the Civil War. Birmingham, AL: Oxmoor House. pp. p109. ISBN 0-8487-2704-5. 
  • Ambrose E. Burnside - Improvement in metallic cartridge -