Tell me more! Were shotguns effective weapons?

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Sergeant Charles Bennet of the 9th Michigan V.I. Left an account of a fight that occurred July 13,1862 in Murfreesboro TN... right where my house sits. The GA cavalry that Forrest ordered to attack the 9th’s camp at dawn was largely armed with shotguns. Bennet wrote that while organizing an effective response to the attack, a ball bounced off of his cross belt. That brought him to his duty & he began to fire his musket. The Old Mackerels put up such a stiff resistance that the cavalrymen were routed. They fled as hard as they could go until the exhaustion of the horses allowed them to rally at Readyville, ten miles eastward from whence they came.

Details of the horsemen’s panic is detailed in the courts marital of the officers. As The 1860 firing tests in Fuller found, buck & ball was only effective at ranges of less than 100 yards. As Sgt Bennet testified, the buckshot would not even penetrate the paper target past that range. Of course, the odds of hitting anything from the back of a moving horse at anything but point blank were extremely small.

Tactically, if the two rounds of a shotgun & the moral shock of the horse did not disrupt the opposition, the attacker became one massive target. The only thing harder than hitting a target from a moving horse was reloading a shot gun. If, as in the case of the 9th, infantry kept their wits about them, jamming home your spurs & running for it was the wisest course of action.
 
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bayouace

Corporal
Joined
Nov 22, 2020
Location
Louisiana
Two companies of Texas cavalry headed into Arkansas with Ben McCullough were able to arm themselves with shotguns bought from Ft. Smith merchants. McCullough had already bought pistols for many of his men at his own expense. Dismounted cavalry needed rifles. On the hoof, two shotgun barrels and pistols in close work was maybe better than a rifle that was hard to reload mounted.The CSA government generally treated the Trans-Mississippi as its "red-haired stepchild" in all phases of supply.
 

Story

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 5, 2011
Location
SE PA
Automatic caveat - could be a photographer's prop.
[Unidentified soldier in Confederate uniform with double barrel shotgun, Bowie knife, and two pistols]
Littlefield, Parsons & Co. <- which just seems to be the Daguerreotype Case & not providing any clues to the photographer
https://www.loc.gov/item/2015645466/ <- 96.3mb TIFF here, for the excessively curious
c7f61d693f244f188f3b62cd23e28933.jpg
 

toot

Private
Joined
Jan 21, 2021
Automatic caveat - could be a photographer's prop.
[Unidentified soldier in Confederate uniform with double barrel shotgun, Bowie knife, and two pistols]
Littlefield, Parsons & Co. <- which just seems to be the Daguerreotype Case & not providing any clues to the photographer
https://www.loc.gov/item/2015645466/ <- 96.3mb TIFF here, for the excessively curious
View attachment 400862
now that fella is armed to the teeth, literally!!!
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Automatic caveat - could be a photographer's prop.
[Unidentified soldier in Confederate uniform with double barrel shotgun, Bowie knife, and two pistols]
Littlefield, Parsons & Co. <- which just seems to be the Daguerreotype Case & not providing any clues to the photographer
https://www.loc.gov/item/2015645466/ <- 96.3mb TIFF here, for the excessively curious
View attachment 400862
The sword is interesting. It is very similar to the blacksmith made relics from the Battle of Kings Mountain during the revolution. Indeed, the weapons that festoon the belts of early CW images are generally photographer’s props. This sword certainly excites speculation about militia participation in the Revolution, War of 1812 & Texican - Mexico Wars.

Terrific photo, thanks for posting it.
 

Story

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 5, 2011
Location
SE PA
I'm not a uniform expert, but that looks like a 'battle shirt' and there's a strip on the seam of his pants.

Some online sources want to associate this photo with Texas.

*shrug*
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
WOE! would be the poor unfortunate who ran into a charge of BUCK & BALL,!! I will tell you that it would surely ruin your day!!!
The 1860 Ordinance Board tests reproduced in The Rifled Musket show that inside 100 yards buck & ball was potentially effective. Needless to say, the buckshot & pistol balls landed all over a 6’X6’ paper target. Beyond 100 yards, the pistol balls that made it to the target did not penetrate the paper. Buck & ball was dramatically less effective beyond 50 yards.

I have accounts of Union soldiers who had buckshot bounce off their cross belts.
 

toot

Private
Joined
Jan 21, 2021
The 1860 Ordinance Board tests reproduced in The Rifled Musket show that inside 100 yards buck & ball was potentially effective. Needless to say, the buckshot & pistol balls landed all over a 6’X6’ paper target. Beyond 100 yards, the pistol balls that made it to the target did not penetrate the paper. Buck & ball was dramatically less effective beyond 50 yards.

I have accounts of Union soldiers who had buckshot bounce off their cross belts.
they sure were the lucky ones!!!
 

8thFlorida

First Sergeant
Joined
Nov 27, 2016
The 1860 Ordinance Board tests reproduced in The Rifled Musket show that inside 100 yards buck & ball was potentially effective. Needless to say, the buckshot & pistol balls landed all over a 6’X6’ paper target. Beyond 100 yards, the pistol balls that made it to the target did not penetrate the paper. Buck & ball was dramatically less effective beyond 50 yards.

I have accounts of Union soldiers who had buckshot bounce off their cross belts
Interesting 🤔 so we have definitely established that buckshot is short range only.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Interesting 🤔 so we have definitely established that buckshot is short range only.
Absolutely, but lethal within that range. A couple of years ago a hospital grave site near Vicksburg was discovered. The bodies were a mix of CSA USA. One of the Union soldiers had a full charge of buck & ball. If you don’t have Fuller’s ‘The Rifled Musket” in your library, I encourage you to do so.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
We’ve dug lots of buck & ball loads in Vicksburg campaign sites....the .69 caliber musket ball with 3 buckshot balls topping it. Deadly at close range for sure.
I have a .69 cal ball from a buck & ball round found at Stones River that I carry in the pouch of bullets that I keep to show visitors. 60% of CSA & 40% of US infantry were armed with smoothbores. Some of Bragg’s regiments had muskets so decrepit that they had to carry the hammer in their pocket. Men in the rear ranks had worthless muskets that they intended to exchange for one of a fallen comrade.
 
Joined
Sep 28, 2013
Location
Southwest Mississippi
They were and still are utterly devastating when used within their intended parameters.
Key phrase .... still are.

Very little training is needed ... just point and shoot. (But remember, a shotgun is a very close range defensive weapon).
Other than that function or a dove/quail hunt, it's useless for any long range target.

At close range, whatever the threat may have been ... that threat is 99.9 % no longer a threat.

:wink:
 
Joined
Sep 28, 2013
Location
Southwest Mississippi
I have accounts of Union soldiers who had buckshot bounce off their cross belts.
Quite common.

I've been "peppered" by shotgun pellets harmlessly falling on me from a novice/excited bird hunter firing
toward my position on their first dove hunt ... (from a pretty good distance away).

That's only another example of why a shotgun is useless as a long range weapon.
But devastating at close range.
 
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115grfmj

Private
Joined
Apr 2, 2021
As a hunter I can tell you Buckshot( specifically OO or larger ) is devastating a ranges under 40 yards. Most hunters (that use buckshot) restrict their shots to 40yards or less, but thats only due to pattern density . Buckshot pellets of the stated size, can kill MUCH farther away. As a young man I remember, a local man was who tragically was killed by his partner, in hunting accident, when he took a single 00 pellet to the head at 125yards away. I remember it so distinctly because I was in the same woods that day, and saw the ambulance carting him out. At the time of the ACW shotgun slugs were also in use, I have one (dropped not fired) somewhere in my collection. They are at least the equal of smoothbore muskets, matching in range accuracy, terminal ballistics.
 
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