alternate englands - belated questions

Roger Burton West roger at firedrake.org
Tue Feb 15 08:49:16 EST 2005


On Mon, Feb 14, 2005 at 10:44:16PM -0000, AZS wrote:
>Googled and found: http://library.digiguide.com/lib/episode/290593
>It's called the Springfield rifle.
>Chronicling the enormous impact of technology on the history of war. This
>programme looks at the Springfield rifle, which helped the Union Army win
>its decisive victory at Gettysburg. Having greater range and speed than
>previous weapons, the Springfield helped pave the way for the industrialised
>carnage of the First World War.

Shocking as it may seem, I do not entirely agree with this. The
Springfield in use by the time of Gettysburg was a muzzle-loading
rifled musket, not in any way a remarkable development in firearms and
in no way superior to most of the other firearms in use.

Now, it's true that the Henry Rifle was one of the first practical
repeating rifles (lever-action), but it was not in any sense a
"Springfield Rifle", that term being reserved for the weapons actually
designed by workers at or at the very least constructed at the
Springfield Armory; the same applies to the Spencer Carbine, which came
rather later in the war. Both of these were supplied by private
manufacturers, sometimes under military contract.

If one wants to make a case for "industrialised carnage", the ACW shows
the first use of trenches as defensive works; the first large-scale use
of railways for troop transport; the first large-scale use of
telegraphs in war; the first use of land mines; the first large-scale
use of rifled artillery; and (in a very limited way) the first use of
the Gatling Gun, though the Maxim (lighter, self-cocking and more
reliable) had a much greater impact on the history of warfare.

Roger

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