And we are always experts at winning the last war. Never before in America had such armies engaged or delt with such a large front.
Then the addition of railroads and telegraphs brought a undreamed of change to the war.
Please understand I am not trying to be personally critical of you or put words in your mouth, but this goes to the statement/belief that is too often used to explain why “Napoleonic and even actually earlier Battle Tactics” were used in the early stages and for much of the UnCivil War. Such thinking does not take into account the primary Infantry Weapons available in the early years of the War.
Going back to my original post, probably the most deadly accurate of all troops at the beginning of the War, were those who got training with the M1855 Rifle Musket (RM for abbreviation from now on) at 200 to 700 yards and especially those troops who used these RM’s in combat prior to the War. However, there just were not that many Officers and Men who had that training and experience and some of them went home to the South at the beginning of the War. These Veterans could have formed a nucleus of Marksmanship Training for both sides as long as
the New Troops they taught were actually armed with a new Model RM. But, that is the “gorilla in the room” as most troops did not have the new Minie’ Ball firing RM’s at the beginning of the War, so we must consider what Arms were available.
By far the most common Arms available on both sides at the beginning of the War were Smoothbore Muskets with a maximum effective range of 100 yards that was the same going all the way back to the AWI and earlier. These included 700,000 M1816/22/30/40 that had been converted to Percussion and some that were then converted to Percussion, 275,000 M1842 Percussion Muskets and some civilian contract copies; and believe it or not there were still a fair number of “English” or Brown Bess muskets left over from the War of 1812. (There was a Michigan Regiment at Gettysburg that was still armed with Brown Besses in 1863, though I don’t know whether or not they were converted to Percussion.) So there was no such thing as “Long Range Tactics” that were possible with those Arms. OK, so what about other Military Rifles?
Approximately 70,000 Model 1841 “Mississippi” Rifles were produced by Harpers Ferry and contractors between 1846 and 1855 and there were also left over M1817 Rifles converted to percussion. However, these were Round Ball Rifles used with Patches and not Minie’ Ball RM’s. Their maximum effective range might have been 300 yards, but probably 200 yards was the combat effective range just as it had been for RB Rifles going back to the AWI. BTW, this Model Rifle was THE most common Arm contracted for with Southron Armsmakers in the early stages of the War, as it had such a good reputation with Southron Troops using it in the Mexican War AND they knew how to make Round Ball Rifles.
OK, what about the number of M1855 RM’s available and that actually used a Minie’ Ball that were effective at much longer distances than the Arms previously mentioned? Total production before the War was 80,000 and those were split up between the Pre-War Regular U.S. Army as well as having been sent to National Armories in both the North and the South. 10,000 had been sent to California, so they were not available for use in the East or what they considered “The West,” that we now consider the Mid-West.
The Model 1861 Rifle Musket did not get into production and sent to Troops until very late in 1861 at the earliest and not in any major quantity until 1862. British Enfield Rifle Muskets were purchased during the same period by both the South and the North, the latter because even with Springfield Armory and other Contractors in the North manufacturing M1861’s at full production output, they could not keep up with demand for the New Minie’ Ball firing RM’s.
What this tells us is the Overwhelming Majority of Weapons
available to BOTH sides in the early stages of the UnCivil War were no more accurate than Arms dating back to the Revolutionary War, though of course with the Percussion System, they were more weather proof and more “sure fire.” So it was just not possible to have any really Long Range Accuracy with most of the Arms available and a MAJOR FACTOR of why they had to stick with “Old Fashioned Linear Tactics” dating back from before the Revolutionary War. But even this does not account for the “Other Gorilla in the Room” that explains why “Napoleonic or Linear Tactics” were so widely used throughout the War.
The other “Gorilla in the Room” was the fact that even with the most Up To Date Percussion RM’s, Breechloaders and even early Cartridge Arms in the UnCivil War were still using Black Powder
. When large bodies of Troops fired ANY Black Powder Arm, they still had to deal with the effects of Black Powder. One Volley by either side made it difficult to see or be seen until the smoke cleared. Two or more quick Volleys often/usually unintentionally set up a “smoke screen” that masked both sides from being clearly seen. If you can’t clearly see your target, you can’t accurately hit the target at long range, nor even rather close range. So even if a Unit had Long Range Capable, Minie’ Ball Firing RM’s; there were only going to be so many times they could fire at extended range in between waiting to have the smoke clear. As both sides closed and firing increased, it was difficult to see other than large formations to shoot at beyond 100 yards. This is no doubt the reason they were still using “Outdated” Linear Tactics, even though the effective range of Minie’ Ball Firing RM’s was so much greater than earlier Smoothbore Muskets.