E is for Enfield Rifle

Well, real life and a book nearing completion got in the way, but I’m going to try to get back on track if I can. I’m not sure I can finish as the book beckons and it’s taking priority.

At the beginning of the Civil War, the south was woefully unprepared. The governor of Louisiana asked Beauregard what Louisiana should do to prepare for war. Beauregard had resigned his command at West Point to become a private in the “Orleans Guards”, a battalion of French Creole aristocrats. Beauregard replied, “Buy all the armament, weapons, and ammunition you can. Buy more than you can afford.”

The governor scoffed at him, thinking the war wouldn’t be that serious. Sherman, Lee, and Beauregard seemed to be the only three who knew if war broke out, it would be long and it would be bloody.

Many of the southern troops went in armed with antique weapons if they had anything. Shotguns, muskets, pistols, and pikes were common even at Shiloh. The .577 calibre Minié-ball was gaining popularity as was the Enfield Pattern 1853 rifle-musket, which was a .577 calibre Minié-ball rifle. Until then, smooth bores had been used, but rifling gave the gun greater accuracy and distance. Instead of 100 yards, they might now have up to 2,000 yards, though accuracy dropped off after 600 yards. That’s a lot of advantage when you’re fighting from any kind of cover.

Rifling, grooving the inner bore of the barrel, improved the range of a long gun, but it had its problems. The black powder available at the time fouled the barrel fairly fast, making reloading slower and more arduous. Balls had to match the bore size of rifles closely. The Minié-ball solved that problem because it expanded as it discharged and didn’t foul the barrels. Fighting with smoothbores had another disadvantage, they produced a lot of smoke. Once a battle started with thousands of combatants, troops could easily be lost to sight in the haze..

At the Battle of Shiloh, a shocking 22,000 men fell and it’s estimated around 70% of the weapons in use were still smoothbores. Witnesses record groves of trees were completely felled simply by shot after the battle and clouds of smoke hung low over the battlefield so they couldn’t tell where anyone was. The Minié-ball had its advantages, but it also wreaked havoc on its target, human, animal, or forest it seems. A ball could go through a 4″ piece of wood even at distance.

As the war progressed, the Enfield became the weapon of choice for the south, while the Springfield grew in popularity in the north. Both were deadly .58 calibre weapons.

A demonstration shooting with an original Enfield.


  1. What a wonderful continuation of your theme for the #Challenge. I appreciate the amount of work you have done to offer an informative and well-presented blog post. This is how it is supposed to be done.

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