Why the guns at Gettysburg were found Loaded


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67th Tigers

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#4
However, in a firefight the normal state of a weapon is unloaded. Typically once the loading procedure was completed the soldier should discharge it almost immediately. It's only troops in march columns etc. whose weapons would expected to be loaded.
 

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#5
It's only troops in march columns etc. whose weapons would expected to be loaded.
partially loaded if the barrel is covered from rain / fog etc
and caps should always be missing (water / accidents) these were no modern guns

fully loaded weapons only if You know or expect the enemy to be there
 
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#7
Pity the man who picks up the gun with several loads, then caps and fires it
@thomas aagaard
do You know any regulations of contemporary European armies how do handle guns laying around in battle?
(oc not Your accidentely dropped own, where You do "know" the loading condition)

I think at least the major German armies had regulations for that
 
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#9
Just want to mention that Ian Harvey has misidentified the author of "Battle Tactics of the Civil War", the late Paddy Griffith, as female (Mr. Griffith died in 2010).
 
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#10
I'd always read that it was due more to the "freakout factor," to coin a phrase. The excitement is so great that the soldier forgets to fire, then reloads. In the main, Union soldiers experienced a higher rate of misfires than Confederates due to so much Union powder being produced by greedy industrialists who often used dirt in the process rather than the right combination of ingredients. I could see the high number of loads in a single weapon might also be to a kid with little or no training. My ancestors at the Battle of Murfreesboro learned their manual-of-arms under fire and were later sent in with some of the last attacks on Day One.
 

thomas aagaard

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#13
However, in a firefight the normal state of a weapon is unloaded. Typically once the loading procedure was completed the soldier should discharge it almost immediately. It's only troops in march columns etc. whose weapons would expected to be loaded.
I do not agree in any way.
If we define "loaded" as having a bullet in the barrel...
(and that is the only definition that make any sense in this case as I see it)
Then a soldier who is actively firing at the enemy will have a loaded musket 75+% of the time.

When I go into combat My musket is loaded until the moment I fire the musket.
If we say it take 20 seconds to load, then only the first 4-5 seconds will be with an empty barrel, after that there will be a bullet somewhere in the barrel. And if I experience any issues, it will most likely be with ramming the bullet completely down the barrel or with the percussion caps.

Then add all the men that was hit when moving with a loaded weapon or waiting with a loaded weapon.
 
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thomas aagaard

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#14
As some of you might remember I actually spend a good deal of time trying to track down the source for the numbers.
http://civilwartalk.com/threads/loaded-muskets-picked-up-after-the-battle-of-gettysburg.121524/

@thomas aagaard
do You know any regulations of contemporary European armies how do handle guns laying around in battle?
(oc not Your accidentely dropped own, where You do "know" the loading condition)

I think at least the major German armies had regulations for that
I don't remember seen anything on this.

But it should actually be pretty obvious.
When you ram down the bullet on top of the powder, the ramrod should stick out x length.

If the ramrod goes all the way down, the gun is empty.
If the ramrod hit a bullet and it sticks out the x length it should then it is loaded correctly.
If it stick out more than it should something is wrong.

If I was to walk a battlefield after the fight and pick up guns, I would simply remove the percussion cap and then put the muskets on a wagon. The risk of them going off without a cap is more or less zero.
Then at the arsenal, simply use a tool to clean out the barrels for any bullets.

With the prussian army it is a lot easier, since the needlegun is an early breech loaded rifle, so you can simply open it and look if it is loaded.
 

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#16
Here's what a soldier of the 4th Ohio had to say on the subject: [July 3] "Rifles and muskets were gathered together, many of them loaded to the muzzle, capped and stood against the stone wall, for use as 'grape and canister' into the ranks of any rebels that might make the attempt to climb the hill with belligerent intent. Some time after, this fact of guns loaded to the muzzle was blazed abroad through the dailies, to show that the men who had handled them were so excited during action that they did not know whether their guns had gone off or not, and did not even know whether the ramrod, in loading, extended a few inches or its entire length into the gun. To this nonsense the writer immediately sent a rejoinder setting forth the facts, to which were added short editorials, placing the correspondent in a ridiculous attitude." (William Kepler, History of the Three Months and Three Years' Service from April 16th 1861 to June 22d 1864, Fourth Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Cleveland, OH: Leader Printing Company, 1896, p. 130)
 

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#17
To this nonsense the writer immediately sent a rejoinder setting forth the facts, to which were added short editorials, placing the correspondent in a ridiculous attitude."
Those newspaper responses would likely make interesting reading. If only someone with the skill could dig them up. @lelliott19 ?
 
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#19
Here's what a soldier of the 4th Ohio had to say on the subject: [July 3] "Rifles and muskets were gathered together, many of them loaded to the muzzle, capped and stood against the stone wall, for use as 'grape and canister' into the ranks of any rebels that might make the attempt to climb the hill with belligerent intent. Some time after, this fact of guns loaded to the muzzle was blazed abroad through the dailies, to show that the men who had handled them were so excited during action that they did not know whether their guns had gone off or not, and did not even know whether the ramrod, in loading, extended a few inches or its entire length into the gun. To this nonsense the writer immediately sent a rejoinder setting forth the facts, to which were added short editorials, placing the correspondent in a ridiculous attitude." (William Kepler, History of the Three Months and Three Years' Service from April 16th 1861 to June 22d 1864, Fourth Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Cleveland, OH: Leader Printing Company, 1896, p. 130)
So some of the extra rifles were not brought forward and discharged, and some were not considered safe to discharge and were set aside.
There are other accounts that show the soldiers collected discarded rifles when they were on the defensive.
 

lelliott19

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#20
Those newspaper responses would likely make interesting reading. If only someone with the skill could dig them up. @lelliott19 ?
I took a quick look using obvious search terms but wasnt able to locate the articles referenced. Ive got family arriving later today for a Saturday Thanksgiving, but Ill look again later tonight or tomorrow using different search terms.
 

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