Just how prevalent were flintlocks during the Civil War?

SeaTurtle

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Jun 14, 2021
I've seen various mentions of soldiers (particularly Confederate) using flintlock firearms, both muskets and shotguns (haven't heard of any handguns yet). Could anyone give me a better idea of just how prevalent flintlocks were during the Civil War (for instance if there were whole units being issued them, or only individual soldiers on an ad-hoc basis), as well as what patterns/models were typically used and any details or anecdotes of their use in combat?

I'm asking specifically about firearms that retained a flintlock mechanism when used, not guns that were converted from flint to percussion before seeing combat.
 

Championhilz

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In Mississippi in 1861, flintlocks were pretty common; here is a list of correspondence from Mississippi Governor John J. Pettus at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History:

Governors' Calendars Search​


GovernorDate(s)Item TypeLetter FromLetter ToTopicSeries #Box #Folder #

John J. Pettus6 /27 /1861LTRBlythe, A[Ndrew] K.Pettus, John J.Letter From Preston, Miss., By Blythe, Requesting To Exchange Flintlock Rifles For Percussion Rifles. (Co. E, 44th Miss. Inf.).7579329

John J. Pettus7 /26 /1861LTRHarper, W[Illiam] L.Pettus, John J.Letter From Harper, Captain Of An Artillery Battery, Requesting Flintlock Muskets For The Unit. (Jefferson Flying Artillery).7579391

John J. Pettus9 /16 /1861LTRTravis, JohnPettus, John J.Letter From Captain Travis At Grenada, Miss., Concerning The Alteration Of Shotguns And Flintlock Muskets For Military Use.7579398

John J. Pettus6 /14 /1861TELMoody, George V.Pettus, John J.Telegram from Moody at Vicksburg, Miss., asking Pettus for 90 flintlock muskets, as his company is about to leave for Virginia and has no arms.7609481

John J. Pettus9 /21 /1861TELAlcorn, J.L.Pettus, John J.Telegram from General Alcorn informing Pettus that he has only 1,200 flintlock muskets and asking for more weapons.7609482
 

James N.

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Woodbridge uniform studies 20th Tenn..jpg

The 20th Tenn. was only one regiment that had the misfortune to actually take the field armed with flintlocks. They were engaged at the Battle of Mill Springs, Kentucky in a drizzling rain that rendered their weapons useless, thereby contributing to the Confederate defeat which turned into a rout. Units armed with them replaced them as soon as possible with more modern weapons.
 
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FedericoFCavada

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Shiloh may be the last major battle in North America fought with some flintlocks still in use... At least some Tennessee CSA troops smashed their flintlocks after they got percussion muskets and rifles so that no one would undergo the same experience they had...

The last major battles in Latin America/Spanish America in which flintlocks took part would be the Paraguay War, aka. War of the Triple Alliance.
 

ucvrelics

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I seen a documentary on Shiloh. It was mentioned that some soldiers carried flintlocks into battle. It’s safe to assume it was mainly prevalent in the early stages of the war.
I would say yes as far as large armies go. I sure there were still some in the local militia's.
 

Craig L Barry

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This comes up from time to time, I am pretty sure it has been addressed on this forum previously. According to Robert Reilly in United States Military Small Arms 1861-1865. "...it is an established fact, and readily accepted as such, that the Confederate soldier was issued far more flintlock arms than his northern counterpart. Nevertheless a number of instances are recorded which indicate without question that at least some Federal soldiers went to war with flintlock muskets on their shoulders. After the Battle of Fredericksburg, for instance, fought in December, 1862, there were thirteen flintlock muskets included among the more than 9,000 recovered from the field by the Confederates."

There is anecdotal evidence of flintlocks in use later in the war. IIRC, the last recorded use of flintlocks by Confederates was in the trenches outside of Atlanta in 1864. Now in that case, a flintlock was known to be in use because the soldier recalled having his cheek singed by the flash from the pan of his file partner. The reason some flintlocks were returned to service that late was because of the loss of a large quantity of modern arms by the Confederates earlier at Missionary Ridge.
 
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ucvrelics

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There is anecdotal evidence of flintlocks in use later in the war.
Most of the troops here in the Demopolis parole camps were issued inferior arms when they left in March 1864 headed to Chattanooga. That is where the cave guns came from.
 

limberbox

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This comes up from time to time, I am pretty sure it has been addressed on this forum previously. According to Robert Reilly in United States Military Small Arms 1861-1865. "...it is an established fact, and readily accepted as such, that the Confederate soldier was issued far more flintlock arms than his northern counterpart. Nevertheless a number of instances are recorded which indicate without question that at least some Federal soldiers went to war with flintlock muskets on their shoulders. After the Battle of Fredericksburg, for instance, fought in December, 1862, there were thirteen flintlock muskets included among the more than 9,000 recovered from the field by the Confederates."

There is anecdotal evidence of flintlocks in use later in the war. IIRC, the last recorded use of flintlocks by Confederates was in the trenches outside of Atlanta in 1864. Now in that case, a flintlock was known to be in use because the soldier recalled having his cheek singed by the flash from the pan of his file partner. The reason some flintlocks were returned to service that late was because of the loss of a large quantity of modern arms by the Confederates earlier at Missionary Ridge.

It seems like I've read that Price's force had a lot of flintlocks in his Fall 1864 invasion/raid into Missouri.
 
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