Enfields "Second Only To The Springfield"
Northern soldier William N. Meserve wrote in his wartime diary on August 15, 1862: "It was a notable day at Camp Lynnfield when uniforms and arms were distributed. Civilians were thus transformed visibly into soldiers and the writer hereof confesses to some pride as he assumed the army blue and received his Enfield musket."
The rifle muskets generally referred to as Enfields got their name from the British government's Royal Small Arms Factory in Enfield, England. The Enfield was adopted by the British army in 1855 and served as the army's general infantry weapon until the abolition of the breech-loader in 1867.
An Enfield had a bore diameter of .577 inches and weighed nine pound, three ounces, with bayonet. It fired a bulet similar to the minie` ball and was very accurate at 800 yards and fairly accurate at 1,100 yards. Though the rifles of this type used in the American Civil War were called Enfields, they were not made in Enfield. Sensitive about maintaining neutrality, the British government, as the owner of the factory, could never sanction such sales to either the North or the South. Instead, the rifle muskets used in the Civil War were made in England by private contractors in London and Birmingham.
A few other models, primarily the two-band rifles equipped with sword bayonets, were also imported from England. Unfortunately, the parts of these rifles were not interchangeable. Only the Royal Small Arms Factory had machinery capable of producing weapons with interchangeable parts; private contractors finished their weapons by hand.
The Enfield was a very popular weapon in the Civil War, with each side importing approximately 400,000. It was considered second only to the Springfield rifle as a primary arm for the infantry forces.
Fascinating Fact: The American Civil War was fought with what was probably the widest-ranging collection of weapons seen in any war, from flintlocks to breech-loading cartridge arms. The variety was due to a surge of experimental work on weaponry that had begun in the 1850's on both sides of the Atlantic.
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