Monday, December 04, 2006

The things Confederate officers carried.

Last Wednesday I got to spend several hours at the Bennett Place in Durham doing a bit of research for an upcoming book. While talking to Kent McCoury, he mentioned that he had Maj. George W. F. Harper̢۪s rifle, the rifle that Harper carried during the battle of Bentonville. The rifle was an Enfield, (model 1853, made in 1862), and was donated by Harper to the state museum in 1912. Isn't that odd:an officer carrying a rifle during a battle.

This led me to think of other strange things that officers carried during a battle. Officers traditionally carried swords and pistols, weapons more of self defense rather than offensive weaponry. The thought behind this is that officers needed to be more concerned in commanding their troops rather than on the firing line. The sword was almost purely a decoration, or a sign of rank, rather than a weapon, even though there are instances of men being slashed with swords (usually cavalry). The pistol, with its short range, was clearly a last attempt at survival weapon.

So what other odd things did officers carry into battle? We have Harper with his rifle. Then there is the case of James G. Harris of the 7th North Carolina State Troops, who went into battle at Deep Bottom armed with a frying pan.

Anyone else have any tales of unusually armed Confederate officers?


Anonymous said...


When General Henry Benning arrived at Catoosa Station on September 17th, in time for the battle of Chickamauga, he was on foot and reputed to be carrying an Axe.

I have several accounts of Union officers carrying rifles on the firing line instead of swords, including a pretty detailed one from the 74th Indiana, in a newspaper account discussing their fighting at Chickamauga.

Dave Powell

Anonymous said...

Some officers in the 1st Arkansas Infantry picked up Henry Repeaters after the repulse of the Union attack at Kennesaw Mountain and carried them til they ran out of ammunition. I have also seen a couple of other references to officers carrying axes, one was at the battle of Franklin.