Tell me more! Were shotguns effective weapons?

Joined
Sep 17, 2011
Location
mo
Oh yes. Certainly.

Ten was a lot more common in the 19th century than it is now... But 8? Never too common, unless I'm mistaken. In much of the world, the "16 to a pound = 1-oz. x 16=1 lb." or 16 gauge was once much more common, while I think it was always a niche in the USA... Here tens and twelves ruled the roost until the 20th century, when it went to all 12 all the time... Followed by the 20, albeit distantly.
When I was a kid in the 80's would say 10, 16, and .410 were about equally common, and not really scarce.....though all 3 are far more rare to see used today. Probably see more 10's then 16's anymore, but we are on major waterway for goose/duck.

I remember when I was little, a cousin had a 10 guage bolt action clip fed......looked like a freaking anti aircraft gun :bounce:

Don't think recall ever seeing a 8 locally or in use, though see them at high end gun auctions occasionally.
 
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7thWisconsin

Sergeant Major
Joined
Nov 21, 2014
We keep comparing trench warfare in the Civil War with trench warfare in the Great War. They were not really similar at all. During the Civil War, infantry occupied positions supporting the guns which were fortified in redoubts or forts, and firing pits which were really static picket posts. Infantry combat consisted of flanking actions and direct assaults. Small unit action generally was confined to sharpshooting. Siege work in the 19th century was all about the guns. Infantry didn´t occupy the same position until relieved, but were marched back to their snug little cabins every day at a change of guard. Barbed wire, the trench mortar and the machine gun had not yet been invented. Positively civilized by 1916 standards when infantry stayed in place on the line and were expected to take on active patrolling and trench raids on enemy positions.
 

toot

Private
Joined
Jan 21, 2021
was it only the CONFEDERATE CALVERY that used shot guns. as opposed to the NORTH? seems that a load of BUCK & BALL would be the ALLEY SWEEPER of the day?
 
Joined
Jan 29, 2019
was it only the CONFEDERATE CALVERY that used shot guns. as opposed to the NORTH? seems that a load of BUCK & BALL would be the ALLEY SWEEPER of the day?
The Federal army issued primarily to its soldiers; rifled muskets, smoothbore muskets, carbines, repeating rifles and pistols. They were well supplied and equipped throughout the war, in comparison to the Confederate army. Whereas the Confederacy had severe inventory problems when it came to weapons and ammunition, and because of it suffered complications throughout the war. Primarily because, there were a wide assortment of weapons being used in the Confederate army, with many different calibers being represented, so much so, that it made the logistics of the Confederate government all but impossible to keep the whole army well supplied and equipped. Many of the weapons were brought with the men from their homes when they initially enlisted, and during the war, many would take rifled and smoothbore weapons, pistols, repeating rifles as well as carbines from dead Federal soldiers.

Looking at the requisitions of Brig. General S. W. Ferguson`s Cavalry Brigade alone bears this out. His Ordnance officer would requisition ammunition for many different calibers and types of weapons every week, some of those weapons being; Double Barrell shotguns, Enfield rifles, Springfield rifles, Burnsides carbines, Smith`s carbines, Sharps carbines, Hall`s carbines, Spencer carbines, Colt army pistols, Navy pistols, Lafourcheur pistols, as well as British, Austrian, Mississippi and Belgian rifles, Musketoons and some altered percussion muskets. The ammunition for the seven round Spencer`s could not be supplied by the Confederate army, so what ever supply they had came from the Federals during the war, by either collecting it from dead Federal soldiers, or by raiding and capturing supply wagons and ammo dumps. There were so many different weapons of various calibers in Ferguson`s brigade that it became near impossible to keep the whole brigade supplied, for lack of ammunition, regarding certain calibers at certain times. Each regiment of Ferguson`s brigade was required to be supplied weekly with .44, .54, .577, .58, .69, and .77 caliber ammunition, as well as loose Buckshot and Buck & Ball. Quite honestly, shotguns were the easiest for which to provide ammunition during the war, because of fewer challenges in procuring loose buckshot. In the absence of the proper shot, anything small enough to be rammed down the barrell and held in place with an over shot wad, could be used as ammunition. To include small pebbles and rocks, broken glass and even some of the shorter square head nails.

This wide assortment of different weapons and calibers became such a problem in Ferguson`s brigade that on 26 Mar 1864, at Canton, MS., only weeks after Sherman`s Meridian Campaign was brought to a close, S. W. Ferguson issued Special Order NO. 10 to his command to secure uniformity of arms. below is that Special order:

Headquarters, Cavalry Brigade, Calhoun Station, Mississippi, March 26, 1864.

III. In obedience to orders from Dept. Hd. Qtrs. and to secure uniformity of arms in the different commands. Regimental Commanders will turn over to Lt. J. West Thompson, Ordnance Officer of this Hd. Qtrs. tomorrow morning at nine o`clock a.m. the arms in the respective regiments as follows:

The 2nd Alabama Regiment. All their guns except Enfield Rifles, artillery carbines, and N. S. Springfield Muskets caliber .577.

The 56th Alabama Regiment (Partisan Rangers). All their guns except Austrian Rifles.

Col. Miller`s Regiment (9th Mississippi Cavalry). All their guns.

12th Mississippi Regiment. All their guns.

Ordnance Sergeants with a sufficient detail will be present to attend to the execution of this order, and will bring with them all arms herein ordered to be turned over.

IV. Lieut. Thompson, Ordnance Officer, will hereafter personally distribute the arms so as to secure the desired uniformity. Private arms will be appraised and paid for if turned over.

V. No soldier will be allowed to carry arms other than those of the kind of caliber distributed to his regiment or company, except his Company Commander forwarded through the proper channels. Any Officer authorizing or permitting a violation of this order will be arrested and tried for disobedience of orders.

By Command of,

Brig. General Ferguson
W. L. Nugent
A.A.G.

Note: Perrin`s Regiment Mississippi Cavalry (11th Mississippi Cavalry), who was also part of Ferguson`s brigade at this time, were the only regiment in the brigade whose arms were uniform, as on the day before Sherman crossed the Big Black river and initiated the Meridian Campaign, Perrin`s whole regiment was issued brand new Austrian rifles from the Quartermaster at Brandon, MS.


By collecting all of the weapons and redistributing them according to caliber to the various regiments of his brigade, Ferguson still had the same wide assortment of arms and varying calibers for which to provide ammunition in his cavalry brigade, but at least now, all regiments in his command would have uniformity regarding the specific arms and calibers that each regiment would supply for its troopers. Now uniform to the same caliber weapons regiment wide, even though the brigade as a whole was armed with a wide assortment of weapons and varying calibers. Making it much more easy to supply ammunition to each regiment individually.

The troopers of the Second Alabama Cavalry were known to use shotguns and pistols throughout the war, almost exclusively from 1862-1863, and even after they were issued rifles and carbines, from mid 1863 to 1865, many preferred the shotgun and kept them over rifles and carbines. The same regarding the 56th Alabama Partisan Rangers. However, those who were later issued smoothbore muskets, would also use Buck & Ball. For example on 7 Nov 1863, Lt. J. West Thompson, the Ordnance officer for Ferguson`s Cavalry Brigade, requisitioned 1,000 cartridges of Buck & Ball (.69 caliber), 22,000 rifle cartridges (.577 or .58 calibers), 19,600 rifle cartridges (.54 caliber), 10,000 army pistol cartridges (.44 caliber), among other inventory. Looking at the Ordnance officers requisitions from mid 1863 to the close of the war, he always requisitioned hundreds and thousands of pounds of loose Buckshot as well as Buck & Ball cartridges (paper) along with various rifle and pistol loads.
 
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FedericoFCavada

First Sergeant
Joined
Jan 27, 2015
Location
San Antonio, Texas
In WWI, the model 97 Winchester was dubbed a "trench gun." If an Allied soldier was captured with one, it was a death sentence. That's how much the shotgun with buckshot was feared. Many years ago, I was at a presentation by Bill Jordan, the famed pistol expert. After his fantastic demonstration, he was asked which pistol and load were best for self-defence. Without hesitation, he said, "a 12 gauge shotgun with buckshot."
In WWI, many things were a death sentence. German pioneer troops--basically quasi-engineers--were overloaded with gear, so it was thought to be handy to put a nice little saw on the back of their otherwise useless bayonet. Allied propaganda made this saw-back bayonet out to be a sign of German beastliness depravity and "Bocherie" and German troops so equipped were advised that if issued with one, they'd likely get killed on capture.

During the Meuse-Argonne, German MG 08/15 gunners would fire on attacking Americans until they ran out of ammunition, then stand up and surrender: "Kamerad! Shiessen sie nicht!" They were often bayonetted on the spot. Some German machine gunners had the foresight to remove any specialized badges from their uniforms if facing capture...

As for WWI, certainly the Germans in 1914 executed Belgians armed with shotguns, but the Kaiserreich was explicitly warned by the U.S. that reprisals would be taken if any summary execution of an American was reported.

There are, of course, instances where prisoners were killed in the Civil War too... Not sure if the weapon carried had any bearing on it.
 
Joined
Sep 17, 2011
Location
mo
We keep comparing trench warfare in the Civil War with trench warfare in the Great War. They were not really similar at all. During the Civil War, infantry occupied positions supporting the guns which were fortified in redoubts or forts, and firing pits which were really static picket posts. Infantry combat consisted of flanking actions and direct assaults. Small unit action generally was confined to sharpshooting. Siege work in the 19th century was all about the guns. Infantry didn´t occupy the same position until relieved, but were marched back to their snug little cabins every day at a change of guard. Barbed wire, the trench mortar and the machine gun had not yet been invented. Positively civilized by 1916 standards when infantry stayed in place on the line and were expected to take on active patrolling and trench raids on enemy positions.
For the record I'm not comparing shotguns in ACW to post 1900 wars.

I imagine some militia and early home guard may have used some shotguns, but for the most part, I guess due to importance of state to Union, it's rather amazing how early alot of home guard had uniform quality arms.
 

Polloco

Major
Joined
Sep 15, 2018
Location
South Texas
I would think shotguns were the choice of "common folk" back then. If you could just barely afford one firearm for defensive purposes or obtaining food, a shotgun would have been a logical choice.It could protect you family while putting food on the table as well. Plus it was probably a more economic choice. I really don't know how "pricey" a shotgun was back then but certainly not any more so than a pistol or rifle and maybe even less.
 

FedericoFCavada

First Sergeant
Joined
Jan 27, 2015
Location
San Antonio, Texas
For the record I'm not comparing shotguns in ACW to post 1900 wars.

I imagine some militia and early home guard may have used some shotguns, but for the most part, I guess due to importance of state to Union, it's rather amazing how early alot of home guard had uniform quality arms.
The only cartridges for buckshot or buck and ball or round ball in the Civil War were paper and string cartridges. Perhaps a Lefaucheaux pin-fire shotgun was fielded here and there, but for the most part, it is a muzzle-loaded proposition.

By the late 19th century and well into the 20th, paper cartridges with brass case heads on the shell and centerfire primers for use in a breech-loading shotgun were the rule. In WWI and WWII, all brass shot shells were developed for use in magazine-fed/tube-magazine repeating shotguns. The first repeating shotgun I'm aware of didn't come out until the 1880s.
 
Joined
Jan 29, 2019
The only cartridges for buckshot or buck and ball or round ball in the Civil War were paper and string cartridges. Perhaps a Lefaucheaux pin-fire shotgun was fielded here and there, but for the most part, it is a muzzle-loaded proposition.

By the late 19th century and well into the 20th, paper cartridges with brass case heads on the shell and centerfire primers for use in a breech-loading shotgun were the rule. In WWI and WWII, all brass shot shells were developed for use in magazine-fed/tube-magazine repeating shotguns. The first repeating shotgun I'm aware of didn't come out until the 1880s.
Exactly. Most shot guns of the Civil War and earlier were muzzle loaders, which used either a percussion cap or a flintlock to fire them. They were loaded from the muzzle with powder, an over powder wad, shot, then an over shot wad. The shot was commonly buckshot, but anything small enough to be pushed into the barrell(s) and packed down could be used, such as small rocks and pebbles, as well as broken glass. I have heard of all of these, as well as nails, being used in a pinch as shotgun ammunition during the war. As for rifles, there were a few different types available and used during the Civil War; smoothbore rifle, rifled muskets, repeating rifle, short cavalry carbines.
 
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FedericoFCavada

First Sergeant
Joined
Jan 27, 2015
Location
San Antonio, Texas
9 or so buckshot in a smooth-bore musket was often used by sentries or guards. It was relatively easier to "unload" by dragging out the bundle of shot or pouring out the loose shot after removing the wad than pulling a ball. Some sentries apparently were in the habit of putting a loose ball with no wadding or excess paper atop the powder charge, but not using the ramrod to ensure it could be pulled out of the bore easier. The easiest way to "unload" would be to point it in a safe direction and fire the thing, but of course some officers and NCOs probably did not want that done.
 

Story

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 5, 2011
Location
SE PA
I really don't know how "pricey" a shotgun was back then but certainly not any more so than a pistol or rifle and maybe even less.

One thing I noticed when looking at mid-19th century gunsmith/hardware store/dealers newspaper advertisements was the repetitive theme "we carry (finest English double barrel shotguns / affordable European shotguns / Colts revolvers/blah blah blah) without specific prices - maybe that's equivalent to current-day restaurants' chalk-board signs for fish, "market price"?
 

Story

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 5, 2011
Location
SE PA
One thing I noticed when looking at mid-19th century gunsmith/hardware store/dealers newspaper advertisements was the repetitive theme "we carry (finest English double barrel shotguns / affordable European shotguns / Colts revolvers/blah blah blah) without specific prices - maybe that's equivalent to current-day restaurants' chalk-board signs for fish, "market price"?

Some examples -


https://i.pinimg.com/564x/22/96/d0/2296d0621c5c7a385191846c0e45b434.jpg

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/p...TgPbFgnWuzhoGRV1gM7F3v8NY-sB4Rkgq5nF0ZxnBGJp8


https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/p...vZx1NrKp45Hn3VP58fto_UrlnnSLGUvYFVmG9THRRkAeg
 

8thFlorida

First Sergeant
Joined
Nov 27, 2016
Credit: Joe Owen.
In 1912, Private Alfred J. Wilson of the 1st Texas Infantry was interviewed for the book "Reminiscences of the Boys in Gray," by Mamie Yeary. The book is the result of interviews that Ms. Yeary obtained throughout Texas of Civil War Veterans. In this interview Private Wilson describes the first battle that Hood's Texas Brigade fought in, The Battle of Eltham's Landing on May 7, 1862, which took place during the Peninsula Campaign of 1862.
Private Wilson said:
Was in the battles of Eltham’s Landing, Seven Days around Richmond, Second Manassas, Gaines’ Mill, Cold Harbor, Sharpsburg, Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Chancellorsville, Mechanicsville, Deep Bottom and Fort Harrison, where we fought negroes twice the same day; the siege around Petersburg lasted for months and then the evacuation and retreat to Appomattox where we surrendered, stacked arms and hit the road for our own homes but was captured on the way by a fair damsel in Georgia, and was brought home to Texas and still remain in captivity.
Our first experience in battle was when our army evacuated Yorktown. It fell to the Texas Brigade to cover the retreat and after marching several days in the rain and mud, with water almost to our waists, and when near Eltham’s Landing, we were met by a heavy force which had been sent up York River to head us off and to intercept our artillery and wagon train. Hood’s Brigade was placed in line of battle at a point where some of Washington’s old breastworks still remained and made us quite a snug hiding place. When we gotten safely in position, Col. Rainey of Palestine, Texas, paraded up and down the line, persuading the boys to keep quiet and not to fire till they could see the whites of their eyes; then aim low, and you will cripple what you don’t kill. When the blue line came in sight and as they drew nearer we became so amazed at the beauty and grandeur of the scene that some of us would have forgotten what we were there for, but the ringing command of our officers which brought us to realize that this splendid array meant death and destruction and I frankly admit that some of us would rather have been somewhere else, but rallying to the situation we took aim and fired with such telling effect that it became their turn to fall into consternation and those who were not killed threw down their guns and ran for dear life, we following, shooting and giving vent to wild Texas yells. We pursued them to their gunboats and when night came on we quietly fell back out of their range. The Texas Invincibles were there with the same old guns, but after the battle we were supplied with guns, cartridge boxes and ammunition which the Federals had thrown away and our old ones were sent to the arsenal where they may be yet. The shotguns did the best execution as they were loaded with a charge called “Buck and Ball,” which consisted of one ball and a number of buckshot and was wrapped in a paper and tied up so that they were convenient to carry and load and when firing always found something. It was like a charge of grape and canister on a small scale. This little affair was only child’s play compared to what we were to see later on. We were nearly in all the hard-fought battles of the Army of Northern Virginia, to say nothing of the numerous skirmishes, the long hard marches with nothing to eat and a few clothes to protect us from the weather, all of which it would take a book to tell.
Look for Private Wilson's story and other Texas Brigade soldiers stories about the battle in my upcoming book, "A Fine Introduction to Battle: Hood's Texas Brigade at the Battle of Eltham's Landing, May 7, 1862,". By Fox Wood Publishers, scheduled release, Fall/Winter 2021I
 
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