The American Civil War, which lasted from 1861 to 1865, forced military leaders to rethink standard tactics. Grooved barrel weapons, minie balls and other new armaments produced such an alarming casualty rate that fortifications and trenches surpassed cavalry charges and hand-to-hand combat as effective strategies of war.

Cannons

A canon in a cemetery at Gettysburg National Military Park.
A canon in a cemetery at Gettysburg National Military Park.

Bronze-, steel- or iron-barreled cannons ranged from 3 to 10 inches in diameter. The smooth bores had a smooth barrel, while grooved rifled cannons spun the projectile in a way that increased its accuracy and range. The cannons fired balls weighing 12 to 32 pounds or more. They were frequently deployed in batteries, which consisted of four to six cannons, each with its own crew. A good crew could load and fire two rounds in a minute.

Minie Ball Bullets

A Civil War rifle.
A Civil War rifle.

The minie ball emerged as the most deadly bullet of the war. It had a hollow base and a round nose and was smaller than the diameter of the barrel, making it easier to load and fire. It was more accurate than the ammunition it replaced and easy to produce in quantity. Minie balls accounted for most of the rifle bullets used in the Civil War.

Rifles and Pistols

A vintage civil war pistol.
A vintage civil war pistol.

For most of the war, the Union troops used 10-pound Springfield rifles. The rifles were so good that a decent shooter could be expected to hit a 4-inch target from 200 yards, says the "Civil War Times." Confederates mainly relied on the Enfield, though they also made use of Springfields captured from fallen Union soldiers. Repeating rifles like the Spencer could shoot seven shots in 15 seconds without the need to reload. Popular pistol models included the lightweight Colt .44 caliber, .36 Model 1851 Navy, Remington New Model and the Starr Army Percussion.

Edged Weapons

Recreation of civil war soldiers marching with bayonets.
Recreation of civil war soldiers marching with bayonets.

While most Civil War soldier's rifles came with bayonets, the blades were not frequently used. Only one percent of all casualties were caused by bayonets. Swords were carried by officers as a sign of rank and authority, but were mainly symbolic. A captured officer was expected to hand his sword to an enemy officer as a sign of surrender. Calvary men frequently used sabers in battle, steering the horse with their other hand.

Innovative Weaponry

A submarine.
A submarine.

Grenades and land mines were either introduced or attempted in the Civil War. Navy warfare changed forever with the introduction of the so-called ironclads that could easily destroy wooden ships. Submarines were used for the first time, as was the hot air balloon as an observation tactic.