31375Re: [civilwarwest] New Book on Henry's and Spencer's
- Jun 7, 2005The Civil War Invention That Changed How Wars Are Fought
Historians often call the American Civil War the first modern war, pointing to the use of observationballoons, the telegraph, trains, mines, ironclad ships, and other innovations. Although recent scholarship has challenged some of these “firsts,” the war did witness the introduction of the first repeating rifles.Prior to the Civil War, muzzle-loading arms, limited to at most three
shots a minute, regulated the rules of engagement and pace of battle. Rapid fire small arms introduced new and more deadly tactical possibilities,
and no other innovation of the turbulent 1860s would have a greater effect on the future of warfare. In A Revolution in Arms: A History of the First Repeating Rifles, historian Joseph G. Bilby unfolds the fascinating
story of how two New England inventors, Benjamin Henry and Christopher Spencer, each combined generations of cartridge and rifle technology to develop reliable repeating rifles. In a stroke, the Henry rifle and Spencer rifle and carbine changed warfare forever, accelerating the abandonment of the formal battle line tactics of previous generations. As graphically demonstrated
at Gettysburg and Chickamauga, firepower could cause heavy casualties in an opposing force and, properly applied, alter the course of a battle.
Although slow to enter service, the repeating rifle soon became a sought after weapon by both Union and Confederate troops. Oliver Winchester purchased the rights to the Henry and transformed it into “the gun that won the West.” The Spencer, the most famous of all Civil War small arms, was the weapon of choice for Federal cavalrymen. The revolutionary technology represented
by repeating arms used in the American Civil War, including self-contained metallic cartridges,large capacity magazines, and innovative cartridge feeding systems, was copied or adapted by arms manufacturers around the world, and these features remain with us today.
Joseph G. Bilby is a columnist for Civil War News and author of many works on Civil War history, including Civil War Firearms, recipient of the LSU Civil War Center’s Award of Excellence, and Remember Fontenoy: The 69th New York and the Irish Brigade in the Civil War.
Westholme Publishing • Fall 2005 • 1.800.621.2736 2
A Revolution in Arms A History of the First Repeating Rifles
Joseph G. Bilby
Military History/Civil War
Trim: 6 x 9
Illustrations: 45 b/w
Series: Weapons in History
Fall2005CatalogueB 6/6/05 9:51 AM Page 2