List of weapons in the American Civil War

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Muzzle loaders dominated the battlefields of the Civil War, being used by both sides in hundreds of thousands. The bayonets attached to the guns were an important force multiplier during the war
Muzzle loaders dominated the battlefields of the Civil War, being used by both sides in hundreds of thousands. The bayonets attached to the guns were an important force multiplier during the war

The American Civil War, fought between the Union and Confederate forces, took place from 1861 to 1865. During the war, a variety of weapons were used on both sides. These weapons include edged weapons such as knives, swords, and bayonets, firearms such as rifled muskets, breech loaders and repeating weapons, various artillery such as field guns and siege guns and new weapons such as the early grenade and landmine.[1]

The Civil War is often referred as one of the first "modern" wars in history as it included the most advanced technology and innovations of warfare available at the time. Some of the advances and innovations of the Civil War included mass production of war materiel, rifling of gun barrels and the use of the Minié ball, the advent of repeating firearms and metallic cartridges, transportation railroads with armed locomotives, ironclad warships, submarines, one of the first uses of air corps for aerial reconnaissance, communication (especially the telegraph), advances in medicine and the gradual decline of tactics from previous centuries.[2]

Personal weapons[edit]

Edged weapons[edit]

Model Notes for the subject
Arkansas toothpick Could be used as a sword in combat.[3]
Bayonet Attached to rifles and muskets.
Bowie knife Often carried by Confederates instead of bayonets.
M1832 foot artillery sword Issued to artillerymen. Based on the Roman gladius.
M1833 dragoon saber Issued to the US Cavalry. An engraved version was privately purchased by senior officers.
M1840 army noncommissioned officer's sword Issued to infantry sergeants. The Marines had their M1859 version.
M1840 cavalry saber Issued to Union cavalry.
M1840 light artillery saber Issued to mounted artillery.
M1850 army staff & field officer's sword Regulation officer's sword, though in practice most officers used cavalry sabers. Southern officers sometimes carried ancestral blades from the American Revolutionary War or even from the War of 1812.
M1852 naval officer's sword
M1860 cutlass Issued to naval boarding parties. Sailors also had access to harpoons, axes and grappling hooks.
M1860 light cavalry saber Issued to Union cavalry.
Mameluke sword Carried by Marine officers.
USMC noncommissioned officer's sword

In 1862 Joseph E. Brown governor of Georgia, proposed issuing pikes to the State militia to compensate for the shortage of guns. Thousands were made and issued but not known to have been used in combat.[4]


Model Notes
Adams M1851 revolver A double-action only revolver and predecessor to the Beaumont–Adams M1862.
Allen & Thurber M1837 revolver pepperbox With the shortage of pistols in the American Civil War, many soldiers on both sides carried an Allen & Thurber revolver pepperbox as a back up arm.
Allen & Wheelock M1861 revolver
Beaumont–Adams M1862 revolver Imported by both the Union and the Confederacy.
Butterfield M1855 transitional revolver A transitional revolver with tape primer invented in 1855 by Jesse Butterfield of Philadelphia. Two thousand were ordered by the US Army, but production was canceled in 1862.[5]
Colt M1836 Paterson revolver The first true revolver produced by Colt in 1836.
Colt M1848 Dragoon revolver Issued to the US Cavalry. A heavy .44 caliber revolver invented during the Mexican War and designed for killing the mounts of charging enemy troopers.[6]
Colt M1849 Pocket revolver A popular revolver that was never officially issued but was often bought privately.
Colt M1851 Navy revolver Colt's most popular revolver for the 1850s civilian market in .36 caliber. The name 'Navy' came from the cylinder of the revolvers being engraved with a scene of the victory of the Second Texas Navy at the Battle of Campeche on May 16, 1843. The preferred weapon of the Confederacy. Copies such as the Griswold & Gunnison were made all over the South.
Colt M1860 Army revolver A .44 caliber revolver made for the US Cavalry to replace the heavier Colt M1848 Dragoon. The Bessemer steel process invented in the 1850s made a lighter stronger revolver in .44 caliber possible.
Colt M1861 Navy revolver Updated version of the .36 caliber Colt M1851 Navy with lines similar to the Colt M1860 Army.
Colt M1862 Police revolver The .36 caliber Colt M1862 originally made for the New York Metropolitan Police Department.
Colt Root M1855 revolver The first of Colt's revolvers to use a "creeping" loading lever mechanism.
Colt Walker M1847 revolver A .44 caliber revolver that was developed into the Colt M1848 Dragoon.
Deringer M1825 Philadelphia caplock pistol
Elgin M1838 cutlass caplock pistol Issued to navy personnel but proved unpopular and was quickly replaced with the M1860 cutlass.
Kerr M1855 revolver A five shot back-action revolver made by the London Armoury Company was used by Confederate cavalry.
Lefaucheux M1854 revolver A pinfire revolver imported from France by Union and Confederate officers.
Lefaucheux M1858 revolver
LeMat M1856 revolver Perhaps the most well known foreign designed revolver during the Civil War. It had two barrels, a .42 caliber barrel on top and a 20 gauge shotgun barrel underneath. The creator, a French doctor living in New Orleans, Jean Alexandre LeMat, moved back to France to create more revolvers for the Confederacy. The French made revolvers, however, proved unreliable and difficult to manufacture.
Moore M1864 revolver A seven shot revolver firing the .32 teat-fire cartridge.
Remington M1858 revolver Colt's chief competitor, the Remington Repeating Arms Company, also made revolvers during the Civil War. The most common was the Remington M1858 New Army in .44 caliber. The .36 caliber version referred to as the Remington M1858 New Navy.
Remington M1860 Elliot revolver pepperbox
Savage-North M1861 Navy revolver A proto double action revolver with a second trigger underneath the first. Used by the Navy and a few Army regiments.
Smith & Wesson Model 1 Used as an alternative to the Colt revolver and Remington revolver. These usually fired brass rimfire cartridges.
Smith & Wesson Model No. 2 Army A larger version of the Smith & Wesson Model 1 chambered in .32 caliber rimfire.
Spiller & Burr revolver A cheaper version of the Whitney M1857 with a frame made from gunmetal (bronze) instead of iron and the steel in the cylinder was replaced with twisted iron. The muzzle was also rounded instead of having sharp edges.[7]
Starr M1858 and M1863 revolver A double action revolver which was briefly used in the western theater of the war, until the U.S. Ordnance Department persuaded Starr Arms Co. to create a single-action variant after the discontinuation of the Colt revolver. The company eventually complied, and the Union acquired 25,000 of the single action revolvers for $12 each.
Tranter M1856 revolver The first model also had a proto double action with a second trigger underneath the first. But in a later model this was reduced to a single trigger that could work with both single action and double action.
Volcanic M1855 repeating pistol A lever action repeating pistol made in 1855 and chambered in .44 rimfire. Privately owned by those who could afford them.
Walch M1859 revolver A very rare 12 shot revolver. Fewer than 200 were made.
Wesson and Leavitt M1850 Dragoon revolver A large single-action revolver in .40 caliber.
Whitney M1857 revolver First produced in 1857, this .36 caliber percussion revolver was the first to be produced with a solid frame, which meant that it was much sturdier than the traditional Colt revolver.

Derringers, pocket pistols, small revolvers and revolver pepperboxes like the teat-fire cartridge Colt M1847 Baby Dragoon revolver were often carried by enlisted men as a backup weapon for close quarters fighting. Single shot caplock pistols copied from the prewar French models were issued to the US Navy. These had brass barrels to prevent corrosion. Some Confederate cavalry units were equipped with single shot caplock or even flintlock pistols early in the war. Some pistols were of the military make and had been issued to the US Army but were obsolete by the time of the Civil War due to the introduction of revolvers.[6]

Rifles and muskets[edit]

Model Notes
Augustin M1842 musket The Augustin musket was an Austrian musket that featured in the U.S. Civil War.
Ballard M1861 rifle
Burnside M1855 carbine A breech loader invented by Ambrose Burnside and issued to the US Cavalry.
Colt M1855 revolver carbine and rifle The Colt M1855 was an early repeater that was not favored by the troops because it tended to discharge all of its cartridges at the same time.
Deringer M1814 Common rifled musket
Deringer M1817 Common rifled musket Many of these old flintlock muskets were converted to the percussion system and some of the barrels where even rifled to accept the Minié ball. The quality of these conversions varies from manufacturer.
Enfield Pattern P1853 rifled musket The Enfield Pattern P1853 was used by both the North and the South in the American Civil War, and was the second most widely used infantry weapon in the war. Obsolete Brunswick M1836 rifled muskets and caplock conversions of the Pattern P1722 Brown Bess muskets were also imported by the Confederacy.
Enfield Pattern P1861 rifled musketoon
Fayetteville M1862 rifled musket A Confederate copy of the Springfield rifled musket.
Gallager M1861 carbine A single shot breech loading carbine with 17,782 sold to the US Army.
Hall M1819 rifle A single shot breech loader invented in 1811. A few were used by the Confederacy.
Hall-North M1843 carbine
Harper Ferry M1803 rifled musket
Henry M1860 repeating rifle The Civil War precursor to the Winchester repeating rifle based on early lever-action repeating rifles made by New Haven Arms Company Co. These highly prized weapons were privately purchased by those who could afford them.
Jenks Mule ear carbine All of these carbines were manufactured for the Navy and the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service.
Joslyn M1855, M1861, M1862, M1864, M1865 carbine and rifle The Joslyn rifle was made in both percussion and rimfire configuration.
Lorenz M1854 rifled musket This Austrian gun was the third most common rifled musket and was imported by both sides. It fired the same .58 caliber Minie ball as the Enfield rifled musket and Springfield rifled musket.
Maynard M1851 carbine
Merrill M1858 carbine
Mississippi M1841 rifled musket A 2 band rifled musket with sword bayonet which was issued to Confederate NCOs.
Richmond M1861 rifled musket Confederate copy of the Springfield M1855 without Maynard tape primer.
Sharps M1848, M1863 carbine and rifle The Sharps rifle was a falling block rifle used during and after the American Civil War. The carbine version was very popular with the cavalry of both the Union and Confederate armies and was issued in much larger numbers than the full length rifle.
Sharps & Hankins M1862 carbine Carbines manufactured for the navy that were made with a protective leather barrel cover.
Smith M1857 carbine Patented by Gilbert Smith in 1857.
Spencer M1860 repeating carbine and rifle The Spencer M1860 was a manually operated lever action repeating rifle fed from a tube magazine with cartridges. It was adopted by the Union army especially by the cavalry during the American Civil War, but did not replace the standard issue muzzle loading rifled muskets in use at the time. The Spencer M1860 repeating carbine was a shorter and lighter version of the Spencer M1860 repeating rifle.
Springfield M1812 musket A very unreliable flintlock musket that was not used very often.
Springfield M1816 musket Some of these old flintlock muskets were converted to the percussion system.
Springfield M1822 musket The .69 caliber muskets (mostly percussion, but some flintlocks as well) were common in the early part of the war (either in their original form or converted to rifling).
Springfield M1842 musket
Springfield M1847 musketoon
Springfield M1855 rifled musket The Springfield M1855 used both the Maynard tape primer system and the Minie ball.
Springfield M1861 rifled musket The Springfield M1861 was the most widely used rifled musket of the civil war.
Springfield M1863 rifled musket A slightly modified version of the Springfield M1861.
Starr M1858 carbine
Tarpley M1863 carbine A Southern breech loader which was not widely produced due to mechanical flaws.
Volcanic M1855 repeating rifle The Volcanic M1855 repeating rifle used the same system as the Volcanic M1855 repeating pistol but with the exception of having a longer barrel, magazine, a larger lever loop and a stock. The repeating rifle was never issued but was bought privately.
Wesson M1859 carbine and rifle The Wesson M1859 was a breech loading, metallic rimfire cartridge rifle used during the American Civil War and the Indian Wars. The carbine was used by US Cavalry, typically purchased by state governments or individuals.
Whitworth M1857 rifled musket Mainly imported by the Confederacy as a weapon for sharpshooters.

Early in the war the Confederates used civilian firearms including shotguns and hunting rifles like the Meylin M1719 Pennsylvania-Kentucky rifled musket or the Hawken M1823 rifled musket due to the shortage of military weapons. The British officer Arthur Fremantle observed that revolvers and shotguns (especially double barreled models) were the favored weapons of Confederate cavalry and mounted infantry during his 1863 visit to the South.[8]


The American Civil War belligerents did have crude hand grenades equipped with a plunger that would detonate upon. The Union relied on experimental Ketchum grenades with a wooden tail to ensure the nose would strike the target and start the fuse. The Confederacy used spherical hand grenades that weighed about six pounds sometimes with a paper fuse. They also used Rains and Adams grenades which were similar to the Ketchum in appearance and firing mechanism.[9]


Originally developed by General Gabriel J. Rains, were typically iron containers, loaded with gunpowder, a fuse and also a brass detonation cap. Some of these still-activated landmines were recovered in Alabama in the 1960s.

Landmines were an intimidating method of psychological warfare but were viewed as unethical. Union General William T. Sherman also hated them and declared them as not warfare but murder. Confederate General James Longstreet banned their use for a time.[10]

Rapid fire weapons[edit]

Similar weapons of the Union included the .58 caliber Ager machine gun also known as "coffee-mill gun" which was similar to the Claxton machine gun. Like the Gatling I and Gatling II machine gun, the cartridges of Ager's invention were fed by a hand crank with a hopper on top and had a steel guard, and this is why some people believe that President Lincoln called it "the coffee grinder gun".[citation needed] Other infantry support weapons included the Billinghurst Requa Battery volley gun which had eight banks of cartridge chambers that were rotated into alignment behind the row of 25 barrels.[11]

Chief of Ordnance, General James Wolfe Ripley was against issuing repeating rifles and rapid fire weapons to the Union army as he believed it would waste ammunition. Nevertheless, several generals, including General Benjamin Butler and General Winfield Scott Hancock, purchased Gatling machine guns that were the logical outgrowth of the trends portrayed in the Ager machine gun and the Ripley machine gun.[12]

The Confederacy used the single barrel hand cranked Williams machine gun that was similar to the single barrel hand cranked Gorgas machine gun and the Vandenberg volley gun that was similar to the French De Reffye mitrailleuse and the Belgian Montigny mitrailleuse.[13]


Special weapons[edit]

Animals in the American Civil War[edit]








Air balloons[edit]



This equipment was carried by the troops for emergency situations


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-07-14. Retrieved 2020-06-15.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  2. ^ "Technology in the Civil War". Archived from the original on 2012-12-19. Retrieved 2012-10-15.
  3. ^ "Introduction to Arkansas". Retrieved 2007-06-19.
  4. ^ "Georgia Governor Joseph Brown Addresses the Mechanics". Retrieved 2014-04-20.
  5. ^ "NRA Museums".
  6. ^ a b Ricketts, H, Firearms (London, 1964)
  7. ^ "Dixie Gun Works Spiller & Burr .36 Caliber Revolver". Guns of the Old West. No. Summer 2014. May 16, 2014. Retrieved August 22, 2017.
  8. ^ Fremantle, Lieut.-Col Sir Arthur James (1864). Three Months in the Southern States: April–June 1863. Mobile, Alabama: S.H. Goetzel. pp. 36, 39.
  9. ^ Battle of 1st Bull Run Retrieved 3 May 2007
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h history, "8 unusual civil war weapons".
  11. ^ Rapid fire guns of the Civil warArchived 2008-03-24 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ William B. Edwards, "Civil war guns", Thomas Pubns (October 1997)
  13. ^ Chinn, "The machine gun: Part II manually operated machine guns".
  14. ^ "Animal Mascots of the Civil War". Retrieved 2021-03-10.


External links[edit]