The Arms & Equipment in the Civil War Message Board - Archive

Re: 32nd Tn. Inf. and flintlocks

Tom wrote: "Contrary to popular beliefs, reenactments, the Gods & Generals video, and assorted other war stories, the "Universal Yankee Killer" for Confederate troops in 1861/1862 was the M1822 .69 caliber musket, usually a flintlock."

Tom, I have to disagree that these were usually flintlocks. Below you will find some of what I have written on this issue in the past, mostly over on the Alabama discussion board.

"The greater part of the American arms reserve was made up of the .69 caliber smoothbore muskets, a few of them still equipped with flintlocks. The government decided in the mid-1850's to alter all arms to the percussion lock and, in addition, to rifle many of the .69 caliber smoothbore muskets to make them into acceptable rifled muskets. [...]By 1860, most of the flintlocks in Federal arsenals had been altered into percussion locks, with only 23,894 muskets and 652 rifles still unaltered to the new locks. [...It was] reported in November 1859 that the government supply of all rifles and muskets was as follows:

Smoothbore muskets

Altered to percussion, cal. .69 275,744
Altered to Maynard lock, cal. .69 14,765
Made as percussion, cal. .69 213,155
Total 503,664

Rifled Musket

Percussion, since rifled, cal. .69 33,631
Rifled muskets, cal. .58 24,105
Total 57,736


Altered to percussion, cal. 54 1,385
Altered to Maynard lock, cal. .54 43,375
Made as percussion, cal. .58 4,102
Total 48,862

Grand Total 610,598"

None of the above manufactured before 1822, and over fifty percent were produced after 1842.

By January 1861, the Grand Total had decreased to 576,800, due to the sale of 11,399 to the States and 31,610 .69 smoothbore muskets to private dealers.

[Source for all of the above: "Arming the Union: Small Arms in the Union Army" by Carl L. Davis, 1973]

All of the information below comes from the O.R.'s.

According to a report by Chief of Ordnance Gorgas, the guns seized at Mount Vernon were:

Over 17,370 unidentified percussion muskets, new and altered (as noted in Gorgas' report, some of these had been removed, so the original total was somewhat more than were then on hand in the arsenal at the time of the count)
20 U.S. Model rifle muskets
2032 Harpers Ferry rifles
33 percussion pistols
0 flint muskets
0 .69 cal. rifled muskets
0 Colt rifles
0 Hall rifles
0 carbines of any pattern

Most notable is the fact that there were *no* flintlocks seized from the arsenal, contrary to what has often been stated and what is common belief. As example of how widespread the belief in this is, within the past week I had an expert on Alabama weapons (maybe *the* expert on Alabama CW era firearms) tell me that *all* of the arms converted to percussion under contract with the State of Alabama (Davis and Bozeman, Dickson and Nelson, etc.) were those "8000-9000 flintlocks, which would have been in stores in the Mount Vernon Arsenal in Mobile." I have asked him where he got those numbers, but so far have not had a reply. [And never did. Comment added 3/27/03.]

The next item of interest explains where the above arms went:

Secretary of War:

Have furnished General Forney with all the arms I have. If he can get 500 of those at Charleston, brought by Nashville and Cecilia, he believes he can defend Mobile successfully. Its fall involves the arsenal at Mount Vernon, perhaps this place, and cuts off communication with Corinth. Shall send immediately an agent to Charleston to bring them, and most earnestly urge they be supplied. Alabama, in addition to turning over 21,000 stand taken at Mount Vernon, has armed over 18,000 troops now in other States. She asks but for 500.

Governor of Alabama.

Reply of Gen. R.E. Lee:

I have only heard of 3,000 arms having been brought to Charleston by the Cecilia; 2,000 were ordered to General Pemberton for Georgia troops and 1,000 to Chattanooga for the Alabama troops. So far as I know there are no arms in Charleston.


I have seen another report, but do not have it at hand, that further confirms that the Mt. Vernon Arsenal arms were sent to the Confederate Government (and in particular, to Major Gorgas).

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32nd Tn. Inf. and flintlocks
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Re: 32nd Tn. Inf. and flintlocks