Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Jeff Davis on Breechloading Rifles

In 1858 Davis said the following supporting breech-loading Carbines for the Calvary - but not the infantry:

"... the only value of a Breech-loading arm belongs to its use by the Calvary; that is in other words, the value of the breech-loading, so far as it applies to military purposes, is confined to those cases where the man does not have the freedom of action to load the piece at the muzzle. I think is better served by with a muzzle-loader than a breech-loading piece. When breech loading had its value in rapidity in fire, or in putting the ball in so as to be tight in passing out. All that has been superseded by the introduction of the expanding ball, which is put in loose at the muzzle, rammed home without delay, and passes out tight. There is, therefore, no advantage to the footman in loading the piece at the breech. There are many disadvantages. It complicates the machinery of the piece. It is liable to get out of order. It usually requires special ammunition, and when the special ammunition is exhausted troops must be supplied from cassions with that special ammunition. If however, the ammunition is of one kind, you can go to the first cassion you reach. All special ammunition are subject to objection. The parts cannot be interchanged with other arms, and if get out of order must be thrown away."

Per The Papers of Jefferson Davis Volume 6, Davis as Secretary Of War, showed little enthusiasm for breech loading rifles, and once back in the Senate, thwarted plans to convert muskets to breach-loaders or to buy new breech loading rifles.

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