Tell me more! Gun ownership in the mid 1800's.

Joined
Oct 24, 2019
Location
Texas
By 1850 it no longer did. Most militias was is very poor shape... and the active ones where social clubs. And there was no State oversight on if men was actually listed on the rolls and if they had the arms they where suppose to have.

In the south it was s bit better since the militias was need in case of a slave revolt, but still in poor shape.
John Browns raid, got the south started to actually focus on their militias and some started spending some money on equipment... giving them a head start when the war broke out.
That's suprising to me, the Mexican American war wasn't all that long ago, you'd think there would be a lingering effect on the country.
 
Joined
Oct 24, 2019
Location
Texas
Shotguns were the classic American arm. If the average person had one gun, it was a shotgun. I beleive that the shotgun was actually the gun that won the west after the War. It was so versatile, able to shoot a heavy ball to take down large game (the native americans used smoothbores for hunting Buffaloes) as well as shot for fowl. However loaded, it was a powerful self defense weapon.
This is the feel I get, the versatility of the shotgun made it a good aquisition for many.
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
Not sure about that I have to brush up on his biography. Burnside wasn't fired after Fredericksburg. Burnside was luck to have McCelllan has a friend in need who was a friend in deed.
Leftyhunter
Actually per Wiki postbellum Burnside was an elected governor of Rhode Island, a Senator very briefly before he died and served on many corporate boards despite his failure manufacturing firearms.
So not all together bad luck. Sleeping in McCelllan's mansion sure beats sleeping on the sidewalk any day or a nagging Mother in Law by staying at her abode.
Leftyhunter
 
Last edited:

FedericoFCavada

First Sergeant
Joined
Jan 27, 2015
Location
San Antonio, Texas
Earl J. Hess's book The Rifle Musket in Civil War Combat: Reality and Myth (Kansas) has a chapter on the firearms culture that Civil War soldiers inhabited, and what formed their sensibilities about arms prior to their enlistment. Then, as now, there was an avid interest in firearms and technology, and people followed developments and technological changes quite closely. Thus, many a recruit, particularly in the West (meaning our Midwest and the Southern States bestride the Mississippi) insisted on the best and most modern guns available, even as an enlistment bonus.

What was civilian gun ownership like during the mid 19th century in America?
Commonplace-- Of course historian Bellisles lost his job at Emory for his book on arming America because it was picked to pieces by historians more familiar with its subject, and any number of errors cropped up in the book that were beyond mishandling of sources or sloppy research... An admirably "counterintuitive" thesis, namely, that post-Civil War firearm companies, threatened by insolvency and/or possessed of a surplus of arms, basically "dumped" guns on the postwar public, and created the market demand for their products. Unfortunately, there really was a pre-Civil War gun culture that was heavy into guns.
How much did firearms cost?
Naturally, this varied. A perusal of old advertisements and so on and then looking at 19th century household wealth patterns, wage scales, etc. would show that they were pretty expensive as a rule, and that people viewed them as an important "durable good." To chime in with what people have said up post, many were indeed handed down in wills and estates.
did most people own a firearm, or were they just for the wealthy? How many were heirlooms passed down from generation to generation? Were gun smiths common? If you couldn't afford a gun were there cheaper options?
Yes, no, not entirely, some were, yes, well, there were really cheap gun options. Recall that prior to the United States being a gun culture, it had long been a knife culture... Witness the lore surrounding the "Sand Bar fight" and the elevation of a grifter and mean-when-drunk virtuoso of killing people with a huge knife, James Bowie, into a legend and naming said huge knife after him.

A sword or knife from a blacksmith maybe? Did the variation of gun depend on what region of the country you were in? Were Fowlers the most common firearm amongst the general public

Some of the earliest percussion guns made in the United States were the under-hammers from New England--New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and New York gun makers. A fowler or shotgun would have been almost ubiquitous on farms, which remained for the most part the chief profession. Various regions of the country had become synonymous for particular styles of rifle, and this did not go away overnight.
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
I am thinking that if one lived in a medium or large city and cruised the Pawn Shops frequently and was not adverse to bargaining then a good deal could be found.
I can't know for sure but most likely layaway was a frequent option to purchase a firearm.
Leftyhunter
 

FedericoFCavada

First Sergeant
Joined
Jan 27, 2015
Location
San Antonio, Texas
Not really. There was no draft during the Mexican American War and especially in the South the various states who were raising US Volunteers had to turn away recruit's.
Leftyhunter
On the demise of the militia system in the Northeast in particular--enter volunteer fire departments and street gangs instead-- and much on the Mexican War, See, Paul Foos, A Short, Offhand, Killing Affair-- https://uncpress.org/book/9780807854051/a-short-offhand-killing-affair/

The militia system in the U.S. South, where slave labor remained central to the economic system, had social control imposed by pass laws, invigilation of African Americans, slave paterollers, and a functioning militia system. It was given renewed emphasis by the Nat Turner affair, and fears that African atavism and savagery lurked beneath a docile façade of bondsmen and women. Of course, in the American frontier, a militia tradition, however informal, would have remained more important too.
 
Joined
Oct 24, 2019
Location
Texas
Earl J. Hess's book The Rifle Musket in Civil War Combat: Reality and Myth (Kansas) has a chapter on the firearms culture that Civil War soldiers inhabited, and what formed their sensibilities about arms prior to their enlistment. Then, as now, there was an avid interest in firearms and technology, and people followed developments and technological changes quite closely. Thus, many a recruit, particularly in the West (meaning our Midwest and the Southern States bestride the Mississippi) insisted on the best and most modern guns available, even as an enlistment bonus.

What was civilian gun ownership like during the mid 19th century in America?
Commonplace-- Of course historian Bellisles lost his job at Emory for his book on arming America because it was picked to pieces by historians more familiar with its subject, and any number of errors cropped up in the book that were beyond mishandling of sources or sloppy research... An admirably "counterintuitive" thesis, namely, that post-Civil War firearm companies, threatened by insolvency and/or possessed of a surplus of arms, basically "dumped" guns on the postwar public, and created the market demand for their products. Unfortunately, there really was a pre-Civil War gun culture that was heavy into guns.
How much did firearms cost?
Naturally, this varied. A perusal of old advertisements and so on and then looking at 19th century household wealth patterns, wage scales, etc. would show that they were pretty expensive as a rule, and that people viewed them as an important "durable good." To chime in with what people have said up post, many were indeed handed down in wills and estates.
did most people own a firearm, or were they just for the wealthy? How many were heirlooms passed down from generation to generation? Were gun smiths common? If you couldn't afford a gun were there cheaper options?
Yes, no, not entirely, some were, yes, well, there were really cheap gun options. Recall that prior to the United States being a gun culture, it had long been a knife culture... Witness the lore surrounding the "Sand Bar fight" and the elevation of a grifter and mean-when-drunk virtuoso of killing people with a huge knife, James Bowie, into a legend and naming said huge knife after him.

A sword or knife from a blacksmith maybe? Did the variation of gun depend on what region of the country you were in? Were Fowlers the most common firearm amongst the general public

Some of the earliest percussion guns made in the United States were the under-hammers from New England--New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and New York gun makers. A fowler or shotgun would have been almost ubiquitous on farms, which remained for the most part the chief profession. Various regions of the country had become synonymous for particular styles of rifle, and this did not go away overnight.
Wow dude, thank you for answering so many of my questions.
 

7thWisconsin

Sergeant Major
Joined
Nov 21, 2014
Gun ownership in the mid-19th century was not quite what you'd expect, especially if you grew up on 1960s westerns. We get the impression that those who were armed were clanking about with the most up-to-date firearms available, and replaced their guns as technology advanced. Gun ownership was pretty widespread, but the quality of the arms themselves was, at least to me, shockingly poor. There were an awful lot of small caliber single-shot pistols floating around. Remember that although a gun might be obsolete, on the civilian market, if the owner is happy with it, then it stays in use. Lots of .32 and .36 caliber. The percussion revolution was sweeping, though; within 20 years of its introduction, the percussion system had replaced the flintlock ignition system. Not that everybody ran out and bought a new gun, mind you. A lot of flintlocks were converted - a cone added to the barrel, the pan cut off and a new percussion hammer fitted to the old lock. Ugly, but very functional. That little 4-barrel Sharps derringer was very popular, despite looking useless to most of us. A muzzleloading rifle was a very useful tool, no matter where you were. A lot of them belonged to farmers, and a lot of them went West in the 1850s and 1860s. Charles Ingalls, Laura's "Pa", owned a muzzleloading rifle (which she descibes lovingly in "Little House in the Big Woods,") a shotgun (which is only mentioned a couple times in her books) and a revolver (which she might only reference once). I would say that he was a slightly above average armed settler. When the Nez Perce War started, civilian "Scouts" turned up, offering their arms and services to the Federal government. They were very poorly armed with muzzleloading and single shot rifles, many of which were poorly maintained. If they were going to be useful, the government was going to have to supply them with decent arms. And that's on the "frontier." You might get the impression of civilian gun ownership, especially on the frontier, being all business and state-of-the-art, but I think the reality was that there were a lot of very mediocre guns in the hands of the population.
 
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