Breechldrs Discussion Ripley's Dilemma: Or, Breechloaders, Logistics, and Sharps Knockoffs

OldReliable1862

First Sergeant
Joined
Jul 2, 2017
Location
Georgia
In discussion of the Union army in the Civil War, General James Wolfe Ripley, the Chief of Ordnance until 1863, has faced quite a lot of criticism for his refusal to outfit more units with repeating arms. It was fuddy-duddyism on Ripley's part, supposedly, that kept the Union army from taking full advantage of the benefits of repeating arms in combat.

However, there are those who have pointed out that Ripley may have been justified for his reticience toward equipping units with repeating arms. To keep units so equipped supplied with ammunition would have placed greater stress on the Union logistics system. Also, keeping up such a high rate of fire would not have been possible due to fouling - something which did happen to some degree to units with repeaters.

The logistics issue is something I've termed "Ripley's Dilemma" - all it means is that repeaters place greater stress on logistics to keep armies supplied. This certainly seems to have been born out by experience in WWI, where logistics played a role in the development of trench warfare.

Every now and then, I've heard people suggest that the Confederates should have invested more heavily in producing their knockoffs of the Sharps, as the paper cartridges would have been easier for them to produce. Of course, there are all the difficulties the Rebels would have had having their limited munitions industry switch over to the Sharps, but we also run into Ripley's Dilemma. What would have stressed the Union's logistics system would have utterly broken that of the Confederates. I highly doubt the ramshackle rail system would have been able to come close to meeting their army's needs.
 
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Jeff in Ohio

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 17, 2015
Here, here!
I have always been fascinated by logistics, meaning assuring that all the equipment / ammunition / food and so on could get to the men who needed the items.
In WWI, the US built docks fascilities and railroads to carry supplies from the ships to the front before sending over American troops.
 

ucvrelics

Colonel
Forum Host
Regtl. Quartermaster Shiloh 2020
Asst. Regtl. Quartermaster Antietam 2021
Joined
May 7, 2016
Location
Alabama
Ripley was correct as each breachloading carbine had its own ammo. It was an ordnance officers nightmare. When Gen Wilson made his raid into Alabama & Georgia in the spring of 65 he wanted only Spencers. He had to leave several brigades behind for lack of Spencers. We had a great thread a while back on the CS Ord Dept wanting muzzle loading carbine instead of breach for the same reasons.
 

OldReliable1862

First Sergeant
Joined
Jul 2, 2017
Location
Georgia
Ripley was correct as each breachloading carbine had its own ammo. It was an ordnance officers nightmare. When Gen Wilson made his raid into Alabama & Georgia in the spring of 65 he wanted only Spencers. He had to leave several brigades behind for lack of Spencers. We had a great thread a while back on the CS Ord Dept wanting muzzle loading carbine instead of breach for the same reasons.
This is an issue the Sharps fixes by having paper cartridges, but it still leaves another problem: how the Rebels would have produced all those cartridges, and how they would have kept troops supplied with them consistently.
 

poorjack

Corporal
Joined
Jul 17, 2015
Location
NC
In military matters it's often said- Amateurs talk about tactics while Professionals talk about logistics.
 
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