Hatchets as Civil War weapons.

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major bill

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When Colonel John T. Wilder converted his infantry in to the famous Lighting Brigade of mounted Infantry, he originally armed them with Spenser rifles and hatchets. He did not think mounted Infantry needed sabers. However, the hatchets were soon gone. Why would he decided on hatchets only to discontinue using them?

The use of hatchets by some soldiers in America predate the Civil War. Some hatchets were used in the French and Indian War and as late as the War of 1812. So what changes in warfare had occurred between the War of 1812 and the Civil War that made hatchets obsolete as a military weapon?
 

captaindrew

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Only a guess but I would say with the improved accurate range of the rifled musket that opposing forces rarely got close enough to use such a weapon. I would also think it would be heavy and cumbersome to carry around and not much use for anything else. Unlike the bayonet which is pretty easy to carry and is a useful tool for many other things. There were not very many bayonet wounds in the CW.
 
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Kurt G

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There is a famous use of a hatchet during the Civil War . . Lt. Stephen Brown of the 13th Vermont was put under arrest before Gettysburg for allowing his men to fill their canteens against orders . His sword was taken away , so he grabbed a camp hatchet and joined the fight , taking a sword from a Confederate officer he attacked . The monument to the 13th shows him holding a Confederate sword with a hatchet at his feet .
 

thomas aagaard

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In 1854 The danish army issued a sidearm similar to the heavy artillery sword.
It was issued as a tool and it was forbidden to do an sort of training with its use for hand to hand combat.

I would guess this was issued as A useful tool.
 
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Tom Elmore

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I am aware of a reference to two hatchets being issued to each infantry company in a Federal regiment (13th Massachusetts) at the beginning of the war, as part of a set of handy tools that included axes, rakes, shovels and picks. As the war progressed most of these implements disappeared, although a handful of such tools might still be found in some regiments, carried in a baggage wagon. No doubt hatchets were also kept by some pioneer units.
 

major bill

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Did not sailors have boarding axes which are really hatches? Usful as a tool to chop rope or the enemy?
 
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gary

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Who is that Civil War Union lieutenant who was under arrest before Gettysburg, was released from arrest prior to the battle but didn't have time to retrieve his sword, picked up a hatchet and charged into battle with that? He frightened a Confederate into surrendering.

The statute for the regiment features the lieutenant with a hatchet at his feet.
 
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Irishtom29

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During our rebellion against Britain British regular troops, who unlike in our mythology adapted to American conditions, often carried tomahawks and hatchets and not just Light Bobs but line companies and grenadiers too. But Brits relished coming to grips with the enemy, Americans not so much.
 
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AUG

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Not as weapons, but Pvt. Frank M. Mixson in the 1st South Carolina Infantry (Hagood's) mentions using hand axes to help build breastworks at Spotsylvania:

"The men, of their own accord, commenced to cut down pine trees to build breastworks. The only tools we had for this purpose were the little hand axes, about three inches wide, which some of the men had. These they had carried in their belts and used them to chop wood for fires. But now they put them to bigger use and would not hesitate to jump onto a pine tree that would square twenty inches; and it was surprising how soon they would have it down, cut off, trimmed up and cut off again. Then the whole company would take it up, place it in position. We worked this way for some hours into the night."
(Reminiscences of a Private, p. 74)

Lt. Col. John Fiser of the 17th Mississippi was said to have had tucked a camp hatchet in his belt before the charge on Fort Sanders, planning to cut the down the Stars and Stripes once inside. However, he was shot through the arm on the parapet, later having it amputated.
 
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James N.

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There is a famous use of a hatchet during the Civil War . . Lt. Stephen Brown of the 13th Vermont was put under arrest before Gettysburg for allowing his men to fill their canteens against orders . His sword was taken away , so he grabbed a camp hatchet and joined the fight , taking a sword from a Confederate officer he attacked . The monument to the 13th shows him holding a Confederate sword with a hatchet at his feet .
Brown's statue on the 13th's monument at Gettysburg; he's holding his sword, but the notorious hatchet lies at his feet:
DSC05169.JPG
 

7thWisconsin

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I am aware of a reference to two hatchets being issued to each infantry company in a Federal regiment (13th Massachusetts) at the beginning of the war, as part of a set of handy tools that included axes, rakes, shovels and picks. As the war progressed most of these implements disappeared, although a handful of such tools might still be found in some regiments, carried in a baggage wagon. No doubt hatchets were also kept by some pioneer units.
Isn't there a famous woodcut that shows the unit leaving home with a belt axe in each man's belt? Maybe in "Hardtack and Coffee?"
 

Glen_C

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I'm inclined to think the hatchet was used as a tool instead of a weapon
Ya think? :wink:

Not surprisingly, the second militia act of 1792 is bereft of any mention of hatchets or tomahawks. Despite "The Patriot" and the Roger's Rangers hawks, the black powder community of the 21st is far more likely to consider hawks as weapons than what the truths of history show. Reverting back again to the Lewis&Clark journals and MANIFEST, hatchets were acquired in great numbers for TRADE. There are zero instances of a hatchet or hawk being used offensively or defensively during the entirety of the journey (correct me if I have overlooked something there).

Boarding axes (which are not hawks or hatchets)? Well into and towards the end of sail.
http://www.boardingaxe.com/functionandform.html

Yes, hatchets and axes used by the infantry for fascine work. The ACW was very much an artillery war.

Did Wilder's Light Brigade have bayonets for their Spencers? Or was it "Raise Hatchets! Charge!"

Cheers
GC
 
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DixieRifles

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Back in the early 1980's, I was interested in black powder and the ole mountain men equipment. I bought a hand-forged "sqaw" hatchet and loved throwing it. However, I don't think the primary use of the hatchet was as a projectile.

My nephew lost it on a hike and I never replaced it.
 

scone

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In the brake through at Franklin , Tn Nov 30th 1864 any and all items where used you name it I don't have the direct source but I in hand to hand you grab what ever you can It may there or another battlefield ,,, as a shovel or pick/ax a rock, dirt, Sand etc
 
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7thWisconsin

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In the flintlock era, firearms were unreliable at best, and every soldier needed some back up weapon that never needed reloading. In Europe, that tended to be a hangar. In North America, short on swordsmiths but with an abundance of blacksmiths, it tended to be a long knife or tomahawk. All 3 weapons are useful in close quarters, can do things a triangular bayonet can't, and have the added advantage of being useful as camp tools. By the time of the Civil War, though, they're only useful for camp tools. I think hatchets as bona fide weapons were sort of like the patchbox on a Sharps rifle- vestige of a day gone by.
 

Glen_C

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Here are your hawks for the colonial act of 1777
every non-commissioned officer and private with a rifle and tomahawk, or good firelock and bayonet, with a pouch and horn, or a cartouch or cartridge box, and with three charges of powder and ball; and, moreover, each of the said officers and soldiers shall constantly keep one pound of powder and four pounds of ball, to be produced whenever called for by his commanding officer. If any soldier be certified to the court martial to be so poor that he cannot purche such arms, the said court shall cause them to be procured at the expense of the publick, to be reimbursed out of the fines on the delinquents of the county, which arms shall be delivered to such poor person to be used at musters, but shall continue the property of the county; and if any soldier shall sell or conceal such arms, the seller or concealer, and purchaser, shall each of them forfeit the sum of six pounds. And on the death of such poor soldier, or his removal out of the county, such arms shall be delivered to his captain, who shall make report thereof to the next court martial, and deliver the same to such other poor soldier as they shall order.
https://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/An_act_for_regulating_and_disciplining_the_Militia_May_5_1777

Note the lack of inclusion in regulation in the militia acts of 1792
with a musket, bayonet and belt, two spare flints, a box able to contain not less than 24 suitable cartridges, and a knapsack. Or, those enrolled, were to provide himself with a powder horn, ¼ pound of gunpowder, 20 rifle balls, a shot-pouch, and a knapsack

https://www.kshs.org/kansapedia/pipe-tomahawk/10379
Lewis and Clark took 50 pipe tomahawks with them on their expedition (the Corps of Discovery) to trade or present as gifts.
There is an assumption the entire group in the expedition carried hawks but it is not borne out in the journals (from my recollections). Oh yes, much of his party were regular army.

Cheers
GC
 
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