American Civil War Weapons Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Heather Jenkins

Heather has a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a master's degree in special education. She was a public school teacher and administrator for 11 years.

Unfortunately, throughout history there have been many wars. During wars, the groups who are fighting use various types of weapons to defeat their opponents. In this lesson, you'll learn about weapons used during the American Civil War.

Weapons of War

Have you ever pretended to defend your tree fort from invaders or ran around like a knight storming a castle? During the American Civil War, men from the Union (north) and the Confederacy (south) were fighting each other, too ... only they weren't playing!

It's estimated that over 3 million soldiers fought for both the Union and Confederate forces during the Civil War. These soldiers used different weapons in battle to defeat their opponents. Not only were traditional weapons like guns and swords used, but new, advanced, and more deadly weapons were tested as well.

What types of weapons were used during the Civil War? Let's find out!

A Soldier's Weapons

Union and Confederate soldiers carried similar weapons during battle. At the start of the war, both sides purchased weapons from Europe to arm their troops, but these weapons were older and not very effective. The Union forces had more money and resources to purchase and make weapons, while the Confederacy struggled to keep their soldiers armed with the most effective weapons.

Musket and bayonet

Most infantry solders fighting on the ground carried a musket, which was a long gun that was loaded by pouring gun powder and the bullet into its barrel. It took very long to load and allowed soldiers to only fire about one shot per minute. It often had a bayonet, or a pointed blade, attached to the gun that could be used to stab the enemy.

As the war continued, the rifle became more popular because it allowed soldiers to load ammunition more easily and also shoot from up to 1,000 yards away. Infantry soldiers also carried smaller handguns and knives.

Calvary soldiers on horseback carried longer swords, called sabers. They also carried a variety of firearms including rifles, shotguns, and pistols.

Artillery Weapons

The Union and Confederacy both invested in artillery, or large guns used on land. Artillery used during battle was designed to be moved quickly and could hit targets far away.

The most popular artillery was the Napoleon cannon. Designed in France, the cannon weighed over 1,000 pounds and shot 12-pound cannon balls and other types of ammunition. Can you imagine having a huge metal ball drop out of the sky right on top of you?

A new artillery weapon, called the Gatling gun, was first used by the Union during battles in Petersburg, Virginia. It was made from a cylinder of six large barrels that were spun around while firing to create a rapid stream of 350 rounds of ammunition per minute. That's almost six shots per second!


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