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Civil War Guns Research Paper

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My 9th grader wrote this for his final composition paper. I am at a loss with how to grade this. The assignment was to use at least 3 sources and write an 11 paragraph paper on the various guns used during the Civil War. Thanks!

Civil War Guns

During the Civil War, a wide variety of guns were used. The various types of guns used had a major impact on the outcome of the war. Without the guns used, both sides of the war would have had to fight with swords and knives, which would have made a huge difference in how the war rolled out. Many of the guns used in the Civil War were more of a new addition to the military world. The origins of the various guns used, whether the guns were used by the Union Army or the Confederate Army, and which guns were more effective on the battlefield demonstrated the role that guns had in the Civil War.


The guns used in the Civil War, were a fairly new addition and had not been in use by the military world long before the war started. Many alterations and new developments of guns throughout the war greatly impacted the war. They were used to keep a safer distance from the enemy. There were many types of guns used by both sides of the war, some more deadly than others. The newer guns allowed for a longer firing range, as well as the ability for more bullets to be fired in a shorter period of time. These new guns saved a lot of lives, but also destroyed many lives at the same time.

While many of the guns were American made, a lot of the guns were imported from Europe. They brought the guns from Europe in ships that were then off loaded at ports in America. This was the reason that it was so important to have control of the ports during the war. The engineering of some European guns was superior to some of the American made guns and contributed to the reliance of the armies on the European gun. Americans were not able to duplicate the engineering of all European guns, but were successful in the ones they could. By utilizing the design of both European and American guns, both sides of the war were able to have military edition weapons and were by having access to them made for a nasty combination.

Some people even brought their own guns, instead of letting the Army issue military editions out to them. The best part about bringing their own gun was that they were comfortable with it. Even though many brought their own weapons, many more did not have that option and were issued the newer guns that were being manufactured for military use. The armies relied on various gun manufacturers to create weapons and issue them out to the army. Most of the weapons created used the same bullet as the guns brought in by the soldiers, which allowed for an easier transition between weapons. Many of the volunteers brought guns that had been used in the Mexican War, as well as during the Revolutionary day (Davis 256)

The Union army consisted mostly of soldiers from West Point, but it also had some civilians who were supportive of the cause. The Union prided itself with the use of smoothbores for short range tactical. The Remington revolver was used mainly by the Yankees and was considered a prize possession when it made its way into the hands of a Confederate soldier (Davis 267). The weapon of choice by the Union Army was the Springfield rifle. The Spencer repeating rifle allowed the shooter to pour out seven shots almost as fast as he could jerk the lever (Davis 260). The north had a definite advantage with an assortment of weapons to choose from.

The Confederate Army was mostly made up of civilians. The British Enfield rifles were the backbone of the Confederate Infantry’s armament (Davis 255). The Rebels often fought with whatever guns they could get their hands on, usually from the dead bodies of Yankee soldiers. In the South, manufacturers were severely limited by failing machinery and the scarcity of raw materials available. Consequently, most soldiers stuck with the simple muzzle-loading design (Davis 257). This limitation led to a serious detriment to the Confederate Army and would later cost the South greatly.

Both sides had their specialties, but most of the guns were the same or at least very similar in construction. The smoothbore, which is cited in The Widow Maker, was used a lot during the war (Howey). Both sides armed their troops with shoulder arms called carbines or musktoons (Davis 259). Most units were equipped with revolvers to be able to protect themselves from any close up encounters because of the ability to shoot faster and accurately. The Union and Confederate armies often relied on firearm manufacturing companies to duplicate the weapons that were most sought after by the other side. This duplication of weapons was a serious instrument in the firearms industry. Having more weapons available was a great advantage to both sides.

Long range weapons were used more for shooting objects from a safer distance. The down side to the earlier long range guns was their tendency to be inaccurate. As the war progressed, alterations were made to long range rifles that made them more accurate and increased their range. The Muzzle-Loader is a good example in that it was fast, accurate, and had amazing range. Bullets were also improved during the war that helped lower the time required to reload a gun and provided more power in each shot. According to The Widow-Makers, “ the musket rifles changed the warfare of the Civil War between an attacking army and a defending army.â€(Howey)

Short range weapons were used to help one get out of a situation if they were too close to the enemy. Most short range weapons were handguns, such as pistols and revolvers. According to Davis, the pistol could be fired as fast as one could cock the hammer and pull the trigger (Davis 267). Revolvers allowed for a revolving cylinder to be refilled as quickly as thirty seconds. Alterations were made to handguns to enable the use of bullets instead of powder. The use of bullets shortened the time a solider needed to prepare to fire the weapon. The accuracy of the short range guns made them a staple to the officers during the war.

More specialized guns came along at the end of the war. The rapid fire guns that were introduced during the Civil War were not true machine guns, but did represent the leap of firearms technology (Bilby). For instance, the Grape shot cannon held two cannon balls connected together with a chain and was strong enough to down a warship. The Requa gun had 25 barrels with a center axel that rotated when cranked. It could be fired at a rate of 175 shots per minute. The “Union Repeating Gun†was mounted on a light artillery carriage and was capable of firing 120 shots a minute (Bilby). The specialized guns developed during the Civil War helped win some of the battles due to the fast rate of fire and the power behind each shot.

Each gun had a unique purpose and advantage in the war, from where the gun originated from, who used the gun, and how effective the gun was in battle. Some soldiers preferred the newer guns made in both America and those that were imported from Europe, while others wanted to use guns that they were more comfortable with and had brought from home. Each side of the war had their own specialized guns, but most of the guns were used by both sides. Alterations were made to both short range and long range weapons. These alterations resulted in rapid fire guns being introduced during the Civil War. The Civil War was both won and lost by the destruction caused by the various guns used. If the advances made to weapons during the Civil War were not available, the result of the war could have been vastly changed.

Edited by mereminerals
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I think it's so hard to grade because it's more a list of things learned than an organized essay.


The closest thing that I can find to a thesis statement for the essay is the last sentence of the first paragraph:


The origins of the various guns used, whether the guns were used by the Union Army or the Confederate Army, and which guns were more effective on the battlefield demonstrated the role that guns had in the Civil War.


And I'm not even sure what that sentence means.


Most paragraphs are lacking a topic sentence, and transitions between different ideas, and references back to the introduction (to find your way on a map of the essay) are also non-existent.


General statements like:


The guns used in the Civil War, were a fairly new addition and had not been in use by the military world long before the war started. Many alterations and new developments of guns throughout the war greatly impacted the war.

Are not supported by specific examples.


The student needs work on the research process--you need to help him figure out what he learned from his research and how to organize it.


An advanced skill is to create a thesis that doesn't just list facts about guns (some came from Europe, some were used by the North, some worked better), but to create a thesis that answers the question "who cares?"


Example from a book:


During World War II, a group of Navajos developed and used a communication code based on their language.


Is a poor thesis for a report.. Who cares?


Now look at this one:


During a crucial time for American Forces in the Pacific, a group of Navajo Indians developed and implemented the strongest military code used during World War II.


Why should we care? It was a crucial time during the war, and the code was better than any of the other forces had. Of course, the report needs to go on to cite facts about why it was a crucial time, how it was stronger, how these Indians managed to get their code on the battlefield, whether there is any proof that it helped win battles, and so on, but you have hooked the reader's interest with a strong thesis statement.



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