This is an article written by former member Lee Rainey detailing the weapons carried by the 4th Texas in the Civil War. He did extensive research while writing this article. This article was published in an issue of our newsletter, the Rebel Yell, and later on his now-unavailable 4th Texas website. It has been saved from that website and is reprinted here in its entirety. Unfortunately, the pictures accompanying the article could not be saved.
Co. H, 4th Texas Infantry
One of the success stories of the Confederacy was the progress it made in arming its troops. At the start of the war in Virginia in 1861, modern military weapons were in very short supply. In the words of E. P. Alexander, at that time an ordnance officer of the Confederate Army of the Potomac, there was an
...endless variety of arms and calibres in use, scarcely ten percent of them being the muzzle-loaded rifle musket, calibre 58, which was then the regulation arm for United States infantry....The old smooth-bore musket, calibre 69, made up the bulk of the Confederate armament at the beginning, some of the guns, even all through 1862, being old flint-locks....1
However, the arms of the Confederate forces improved continually throughout the war, and Alexander notes that by the end of the Gettysburg campaign, "...the whole army in Virginia [was] equipped with the rifled musket..."2
The Texans who served in Virginia shared this pattern. Poorly armed at the start, their Alamo reputation earned them first claim on the modern arms available, and the Texans soon became among the best equipped of the Virginia Confederates.
Most Texans received their weapons in Virginia. Simpson's exhaustive history of Hood's brigade was able to identify only two companies that were well-armed with military firearms upon leaving Texas in 1861. One was Val Giles' Co. B, 4th Texas, armed with "Springfield rifles".3
Several Texas companies were requested by the local authorities to arm themselves before leaving for Virginia, and the results match the picture of the poorly-armed Rebel of legend.4 O. T. Hanks belonged to one such unit, Co. K, 1st Texas. He says when his company departed,
...Their arms consisted of almost every conceivable kind of gun that could be collected in the country. There were double barreled shot guns of various makes and calibers, squirrel rifles of various descriptions and sizes, some Colt's repeating rifles, Mississippi rifles, old army muskets...5
Most of the Texas companies were completely unarmed prior to reaching Virginia. For example, of five companies that left Texas with Val Giles, only one had weapons.6 Our company, Co. H of the 4th Texas, was one of the units that received no weapons in Texas, according to the reminiscences of J. T. Hunter, its long-time commander.7
The unarmed Texans were issued weapons at Richmond in October 1861.8 By a quirk of fate, we can tell exactly what our company received, since the original receipt for the issue of the arms has survived in the National Archives and accompanies this article.
Examination of the receipt shows that our Co. H was initially issued "Minnie muskets." Reenactors today are no longer familiar with this term, but it was well-known to military men of the day and applied to the 1855 rifled musket manufactured at Harpers Ferry and Springfield. Major Gilham of VMI described the weapon thus in his 1860 drill manual,
The smooth bore musket...is rapidly being superseded by the rifled musket, or Minie musket, as it is sometimes called....The dimensions of the rifled musket (U.S. pattern) are as follows: length, without bayonet, four feet eight inches; with bayonet fixed, six feet, two inches; weight ten pounds; diameter of bore 0.58 of an inch...The "altered musket" of the U.S. service, is the old pattern musket rifled; the principal difference between this and the new rifled musket being, that the altered musket has a larger bore, its diameter being 0.69 of an inch..."9
The term was common enough in its day that it even appeared on Confederate cartridge labels. (For example, note the packet of cartridges for the "Enfield Rifle and Minnie or Rifle Musket Calibre .577 and .58" pictured in Echoes of Glory: Arms and Equipment of the Confederacy.)10
We probably have a picture of one of these weapons in the engraving of Frank Chilton of Co H, 4th Texas, taken in Richmond in the fall of 1861 and reprinted in vol. 2, no. 6 of The Rebel Yell. It shows him with a three-band military musket, triangular socket bayonet, and a bayonet scabbard with the angled frog associated with Springfield weapons.11
Other Texas companies received a mix of weapons. Many soldiers received Enfield rifle muskets. In addition, a number of Enfield two-band rifles with saber bayonets were issued to the 5th. Some smoothbore .69 calibre muskets were also issued.12 Those companies armed with civilian weapons were also reequipped during the winter of 1861-62, and by the Peninsular Campaign, O. T. Hanks was able to report
...I must now say we had given up our old shot guns and rifles and were armed with regular army guns on account of ammunition suitable. They [the old guns] were all deposited [at the Texas Depot in Richmond]..."13
Though the evidence is somewhat confusing, it appears that sometime during the spring of 1862, Springfield rifle muskets of the 1861 model began to appear in the brigade as well.14 Thus, brigade historian Polley writes of Yorktown, "Armed as most of the Texans were with Minnie and Enfield rifles...",15 while Giles says of the same period, "...We were armed with Springfield, Enfield and Minie rifles and every man in the Brigade knew how to use them."16
The problem in pinning down the date stems from the fact that the 1855 rifle-musket came with two different lockplates, one stamped "Harpers Ferry" and one stamped "Springfield".17Depending on how and when the weapon came into Confederate hands, a .58 calibre "Springfield" rifle-musket could be the 1855, or 1861 (or eventually, 1863) model, or maybe even the Richmond-made clone of the 1855 rifle-musket. That makes it impossible to know for sure just what model would have been meant by J. T. Hunter of our Co. H when he said of the early spring when the Texans still picketed the Potomac "...we used the Springfield rifle musket, a long-range gun..."18
Overall, however, there appears to be no question that at least by the spring of 1862, if not earlier, the 1st and 4th Texas were armed exclusively with three-band military longarms, mostly of .58 calibre. The only two-band weapons were in the 5th, and they were imported Enfield rifles. These weapons were the backbone of the brigade's arsenal for the rest of the war, though as late as the battle of Chickamauga, we hear of an occasional Texan swapping his gun for one captured from the enemy.19
One new type of weapon was introduced into the brigade in 1863. The Texans had become famous for their marksmanship early in 1862, when their modern arms gave them the edge over not only most Yankees but also their Confederate comrades.20 During the Second Manassas/Sharpsburg campaign, Texas sharp-shooters had been active along the Potomac river.21 On the strength of this record, one Texan reports that prior to the Suffolk campaign, "...there were two or three long-range telescope guns received for division and corps..."22 The intent apparently was to make these the core of a sharpshooter battalion that General Robertson wished to create in the brigade. It was to have been commanded by Capt. Ike Turner of the 5th, but the plan was dropped when Turner was killed at Suffolk. The final disposition of the sharpshooters' rifles is unknown.23
In addition to the longarms of the line soldiers, reminiscences by members of the brigade also mention that some enlisted men on the regimental staff carried revolvers. Val Giles mentions seeing the commissary sergeant of the 4th carrying a revolver into battle at Gaines Mill,24 while regimental Quartermaster Sergeant Joe Polley describes himself as armed only with a pistol on an expedition to impress horses during the Pennsylvania campaign.25 The regimental color bearer apparently also carried a pistol. Capt. J. T. Hunter of Co. H mentions that the 4th's color bearer "...had gotten close enough [to the Union lines] to be using his pistol when killed..." at Chickamauga.26
Legend tells us that the bayonet was little seen in Lee's army, and many writers quote with approval the comment of artillerist Carlton McCarthy that "The infantry found out that bayonets were not of much use, and did not hesitate to throw them...away."27 In fact, bayonets seem to have been carried by the Texans throughout the war.
The receipt for the initial issue of arms to the company does not list bayonets. It does however list scabbards, with the implication that bayonets were also issued at that time or shortly thereafter, and the Frank Chilton photo of the same period shows a triangular socket bayonet.
Bayonets also figure prominently in accounts of the Texan battles. Polley describes a bayonet charge by the 4th Texas at Gaines Mill, and quotes brigade member William Hamby's description of using fixed bayonets to repel a Union cavalry counterattack.28 An account of the same battle by a lieutenant of the 5th mentions his men fixing bayonets to try to turn back a fleeing Georgia regiment!29
The detailed letters written by John C. West of the 4th Texas in 1863 also make clear that bayonets were in common use. He mentions a mock bayonet charge at a review in May, 1863,30and there are several references to using the bayonet for real at Little Round Top.31 West also left a detailed account of his own experiences during the first day at Chickamauga, noting that when the Texans broke the Union line, he took his bayonet off his musket and sheathed it so he could fire more rapidly. A bullet struck his bayonet in his scabbard and he was wounded badly by the flying fragments.32 Polley adds a story of a member of Co. D, of the 4th at who engaged in a bayonet duel Chickamauga with several Yankees.33
Some bayonets apparently did get too heavy during the brigade's trek to Knoxville. Polley reports that
...While in East Tennessee, [some soldiers of the 1st] took a notion that they could march with greater ease if relieved of the weight of bayonets, for which they had never had any need and never expected to have, and they threw them away. When at Spotsylvania quite a number of them felt the point of bayonets in the hands of the enemy, they "saw the point" that such weapons were good things to have, and quiet was no sooner restored than they went in search of them and were soon well-equipped with them--securing many from the abandoned guns of the Federals, and borrowing, "unbeknowst" to the owners, others from an Alabama brigade of another division."34
The bayonets served well as entrenching tools during the Wilderness/Spotsylvania campaign,35and Polley mentions their use in the desperate defense of Ft. Harrison in September of 1864.36
While the bayonet is well-documented in the brigade throughout the war, other edged weapons make only a slight appearance in the histories. Polley's Letters to Charming Nellie includes an undated photo of Pvt. J. F. Lown of Co. H, 4th Texas, which shows him carrying a large D-guard Bowie knife,37 and a large dirk appears in the 1861 Chilton photo. Val Giles mentions a canister ball at Gaines Mill which "struck the hilt of my big camp knife, breaking the blade..."38No references later in the war have been found.
Our club seeks to represent Co. H of the 4th Texas in 1863. There seems to be no question that at this point in the war, all members of our prototype unit were equipped with military three-band longarms, with the exception of a handful of snipers and enlisted staff personnel. Bayonets were also carried routinely. One is forced to the conclusion that Texan reenactors who lack the rifle-musket or the bayonet are dangerously close to farb. On the other side of the coin, as Co. H, we might do well to encourage a few more of the 1855 rifle-muskets in the company.
1 E. P. Alexander, Military Memoirs of a Confederate, Bloomington, IN: Indiana Univ. Press, 1962, p. 53-54.
2 Alexander, p. 54.
3 Mary Lasswell, Rags and Hope: The Memoirs of Val C. Giles, New York: Coward-McCann, Inc., 1961, p. 35. Harold B. Simpson, Hood's Texas Brigade, Waco, TX: Texian Press, 1970, p. 19.
4 Simpson, Hood's Brigade, p. 60.
5 O. T. Hanks, History of Captain B. F. Benton's Company, Hood's Texas Brigade, No place: Morrison Books, 1960, p. 2.
6 Simpson, Hood's Brigade, p. 19, Lasswell, p. 35.
7 J. T. Hunter, "When Texas Seceded", Confederate Veteran, XXV (Aug. 1917), p. 363.
8 Simpson, Hood's Brigade, p. 65.
9 William Gilham, Manual of Instruction for the Volunteers and Militia of the United States, Philadelphia: Charles DeSilver, 1861, pp. 59-60. (Note this work was written in 1860, before the appearance of the 1861 Springfield rifle-musket.)
10 Echoes of Glory: Arms and Equipment of the Confederacy, Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1991, p.39.
11 J. B. Polley, Hood's Texas Brigade, Dayton, OH: Morningside Bookshop, 1976, p. 153.
12 Simpson, Hood's Brigade, p. 65. Simpson mentions an account by soldier of Co. A, 5th Texas relative to receiving "new Enfield rifles". Earl J. Coates and Dean S. Thomas, An Introduction to Civil War Small Arms, Gettysburg, Pa: Thomas Publications, 1990, pp. 86-96 sought to determine the armament of Civil War regiments by examining surviving ordnance returns and ammunition requisitions in the National Archives. This method can confirm that particular arms were in use in the units, but the surviving data are so fragmentary, especially on the Confederate side, that the approach cannot provide a complete list of the arms found in a regiment during the war. The usefulness of the listing is also diminished by the fact that Coates and Thomas do not report dates at which the particular arms were in use. For the Texas Brigade, they identified the following weapons as being in use at some point during the war:
1st - smoothbore .69, 1861 Springfield, Enfield.
4th - smoothbore .69, Enfield.
5th - smoothbore .69, 1861 Springfield, Enfield, Enfield (two band) rifle with saber bayonet.
13 Hanks, p. 8.
14 Coates and Thomas, p. 90.
15 Polley, Hood's Brigade, p. 22.
16 Lasswell, p. 73.
17 Robert M. Reilly, United States Military Small Arms 1816-1865. No place: The Eagle Press, 1970, p. 74.
18 J. T. Hunter, "A Thirty Days' Scout on the Potomac in '62", Confederate Veteran, XXIV (Oct. 1916), p. 358. See also J. T Hunter "At Yorktown in 1862 and What Followed," Confederate Veteran, XXVI (Feb. 1918), p. 66. Speaking of Eltham's Landing, Hunter said, "We were armed with the Springfield rifle musket."
19 John C. West, A Texan in Search of a Fight, Waco, TX: Texian Press, 1969, p. 108, describes picking up a "splendid gun and accouterments (sic)" on the field the second day of Chickamauga.
20 Hunter, "A Thirty Days' Scout on the Potomac in '62", p. 358.
21 Jno. W. Stevens, Reminiscences of the Civil War, Hillsboro, TX, Hillsboro Mirror Print, 1902, p. 72.
22 William A. Fletcher, Rebel Private Front and Rear, Austin: University of Texas Press, 1954, p. 67.
23 Simpson, Hood's Brigade, p. 230.
24 Lasswell, p. 111.
25 J. B. Polley, A Soldier's Letters to Charming Nellie, Gaithersburg, MD: Butternut Press, 1984, pp. 124-5.
26 J. T Hunter, "Hard Fighting of the Fourth Texas," Confederate Veteran, XIV (Jan., 1906), p. 22.
27 Carlton McCarthy, Detailed Minutiae of Soldier Life in the Army of Northern Virginia, Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1993, p. 27.
28 Polley, Hood's Brigade, p. 60.
29 Polley, Hood's Brigade, p. 64.
30 West, p. 55.
31 Polley, Hood's Brigade, p. 169; Harold B. Simpson, Gaines' Mill to Appomattox, 2nd ed., Waco, TX: Texian Press, 1988, p. 140.
32 West, p. 107.
33 Polley, Hood's Brigade, p. 212.
34 Polley, Hood's Brigade, p. 238-9.
35 Polley, Hood's Brigade, p. 236.
36 Polley, Hood's Brigade, p. 253.
37 Polley, Letters to Charming Nellie, p. 240.
38 Lasswell, p. 112.