posted on Nov, 13 2013 @ 02:17 PM
The US civil War was at he end of the "horse and musket" era of warfare.
Lines of infantry armed with (almost exclusively) muzzle loading firearms of short range and little accuracy evolved in Europe for a couple of
1/ control - having men massed made controlling them easier in an era where an officer's command reached as far as his voice.
2/ firepower - as has been mentioned, to get an acceptable number of hits you needed to fire a LOT of shots with those weapons, and so they had to be
concentrated to achieve anything
3/ Protection - conversely the massed firepower also protected the soldiers against close combat - ie hand to hand, especially from cavalry
These tactics evolved through the European wars of the 16th and 17th centuries - the great Dutch Rebellion against the Spanish, the French Wars of
Religion, the English Civil Wars, 30 years war, and all the others - there were LOTS of wars!!
They pretty much reached their peak in the Napoleonic Wars.
then came the rifled musket - rifles were well known before this - famously the Kentucky rifle of the AWI, and also various Jaegers and Schutzen and
Riflemen in the armies of Europe & the UK.
however these were hard to use - to engage the rifling the ball was normally forced into it all eth way from the muzzle, or, in some cases, the ball
was wrapped and the wrapping engaged the rifling - but this was not as efficient. In either case the rate of fire was abysmally slow - often only
1/3rd that of a smoothbore musket.
But Msr Minie solved this problem - by making a conical bullet with a hollow base. this bullet could be just dropped down eth muzzle, and the
explosion of the propellant would expand the hollow base of the bullet, thus engatging the rifling.
now rifles could fire as fast as smoothbore muskets - and be accurate and lethal to much longer ranges.
This was state of the art at the start of the ACW for most armies (not quite, but more on that later) - the armies in the US civil war started with
some (CSA) or mostly (USA) rifled muskets using minie system. By the end of the war only a few CSA units still had smoothbores.
But no-one had seriously used these in massed battles - hence the tactics were still Napoleonic.
However the officers and troops were NOT stupid - by the end of the war fighting was mostly done by relatively dense lines of "skirmishers" out
front of large formed bodies that were kept back to feed reinforcements forward. the lack of efficient cavalry (in a battlefield sense) in the
Americas made this a bit easier to do too.
come forward 1 year to the Austro-Prusian war and the battle of Konnigratz - the Prusians have breach loading rifles - the Dreyse "Needle gun". the
Austrians have muzzle loading minie-style rifles, and are handily defeated - one of the factors often quoted is that the breach loader can be fired
lysing down - which wasn't THAT important....but it presages things to come.
Another 54years to the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71. Now the armies are larger again - 100,000+ men on each side on a single "battlefield" - but
now both sides are armed with early bolt-action rifles - the French with the Chassepot, the Prussians/Germans still with the Dreyse.
Drill is still close order - troops still attack in dense columns and use lines for defence - but under even longer range and faster fire they often
spontaneously disintegrate into mobs of skirmishers.
Fast forward to the early days of WW1 - German infantry in Belgium and northern France are noted as advancing in columns - but again these
spontaneously disintegrate into looser formations under rapid fire from machineguns, QF artillery and magazine fed bolt action rifles.
so the ACW was the start of the end of "black powder" linear tactics - and the change took until 1915 to fully permeate the world's military.