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Research Papers on Civil War Weapons

Civil War Weapons research papers report that the Civil War “took place at a particularly interesting period in the history of weapon development.”  The most obvious determining factor in the production of weapons provisions during the Civil War was the fact that the Industrial base laid north of the Mason-Dixon line.  Only the Cumberland Iron Works in Nashville, and the famous Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond, Virginia, can be called the South’s greatest industrial manufacturing centers. Civil War WeaponsHowever, “this fundamental economic fact was overlooked by most people at the start of the war since, like all contestants in all wars, they were quite convinced that right would prevail and their side would win in a matter of weeks.”  Once the initial bloom of élan wore off, and the war’s duration became appreciated, did the South endeavor to make up for their manufacturing gap. However, as will be seen, several technological innovations, especially in naval arms, came out of the Confederacy. The following were some of the Confederate civil war weapons:

  • Arkansas Toothpick
  • Bowie Knife
  • Colt M1851 Navy Revolver
  • Fayetteville Rifle
  • Whitworth Rifle


Civil War Weapons and Lincoln

And while the North could consistently rely on the New England industrial base, army bureaucracy often stood in the way of President Lincoln’s desire to see that his troops had the best and most up-to-date arms.  His chief of ordinance, James W. Ripley, who objected to every new idea and referred each new technology to a board of inquiry, where the idea was quickly and quietly killed, chiefly hampered Lincoln.  The President was in favor of any new idea that promised to end the war.  He soon accumulated a treasure of models of proposed new weapons, occasionally trying them out on the White House lawn, but usually traveling to the Washington Navy Yard for demonstrations (about once a week).  In contrast, Ripley (born 1794) opposed the breech-loading rifle, the repeating rifle, the “coffee-mill gun” (a precursor to the machine gun), and most nearly every other military innovation.

History of Weapons

Firearms had been first developed in the 15th century and had changed little through the Napoleonic Era.  During the 1840s, the percussion gap gained popularity, making flintlocks obsolete. The next decade witnessed experimental work in artillery and firearms, especially small arms. Between 1836 and 1857, Samuel Colt held a virtual monopoly on the manufacture of pistols with mechanically-rotated cylinders in the United States. When his patent expired in 1857, the Smith & Wesson company stepped in with a master patent covering the manufacture of revolvers with bored-through chambers, providing them with a monopoly on breech-loading cartridge-firing revolvers. However, Smith & Wesson revolvers were of small caliber (usually .22) and generally worthless in combat.

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