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Thread: what kind of sidearms were popular with Civilians? iam building a outfit

  1. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by S.D.Swart View Post
    So what would your take be on Eastern Ky. and the mountain regions? Seems civilians had to be armed to a point to live at times. I would think they would certainly have shotguns, squirell guns, and other fouler style long guns, but other than hunting or traveling, they would be at home and handy. However, a town under military control, might be another matter.....

    Shawn
    Correct. And when people from those regions marched off to war, they brought many of those shotguns and mountain rifles with them. In the more metropolitan areas, sidearms were primarily worn by military and civilian law enforcement personnel. For close quarter personal self defense, a knife would be more common (for a variety of reasons). And virtually every civilian male above the age of five years carried at least a pocket knife.

    But I suppose that isn't what the civilian (re)enactor wants to know. So let's answer it this way, if a civilian were going to be carrying a sidearm in some context (for whatever reason) it would most likely be one of the small caliber "pocket" variety. For example, Colt made a line of small percussion revolvers in .31 caliber both with and without loading levers. There are period accounts of civilians shooting themselves in the foot, leg and whatnot, so obviously some people carried them at times. For purposes of Civil War civilian living history, it is an expensive prop without much potential utility.
    Last edited by Craig L Barry; 09-26-2012 at 09:15 AM.
    Craig L Barry

    Author: The Civil War Musket: A Handbook for Historical Accuracy

  2. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by S.D.Swart View Post
    So what would your take be on Eastern Ky. and the mountain regions? Seems civilians had to be armed to a point to live at times. I would think they would certainly have shotguns, squirell guns, and other fouler style long guns, but other than hunting or traveling, they would be at home and handy. However, a town under military control, might be another matter.....
    I agree. The stereotype of the armed and violent civilian was alive and well in the antebellum south, in contrast to the north (with the exception of "Young America" in northern cities). Harriet Martineau described the southwest--what we'd call the modern deep south--in its frontier days of the 1830s here, and it sounds just like the gunslinging violence of the later western frontier:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=FnZ...47&output=html

    The mindset hadn't changed much by the 1860s. A British traveller, writing about a trip in 1867, said:

    Not far from the town of Jackson, Miss., we came up with one of these poor animals that happened to be lying on the rails... The train was stopped and the cow taken out, which, though horribly mangled proved to be still alive. The conductor called out for the loan of a pistol to enable him to put it out of its misery. In an instant almost from every window on that side of the train a hand was extended offering the desired instrument. On my making some observations on the number of pistols that were forthcoming ready-loaded at a moment's notice, the gentleman seated next to me replied that it was quite possible that I was the only man unarmed on the train; in consequence of the frequent robberies no one ever thought of moving without his six-shooter. (F. Barham Zincke, Last Winter in the United States, 1868 )
    There are trial testimonies where well-dressed gentlemen immediately produced a pistol or bowie knife that hadn't been visible before. Haven't researched pistol holsters, but it took me forever to figure out how they were rigging knives to be instantly accessible from under their clothes, but now I can look like a gentleman yet have a 6-inch knife in my hand in a second. I suspect there were similar ways of carrying pistols.

    So then the question comes: was being armed a stereotype but not actually statistically that common? Or was it common under normal circumstances, but the specific situation of being a refugee would make one choose to go unarmed?

    In answer to the first, I haven't look at statistics of manufactured or imported pistols, but that would be one way to approach it, if they're available. Estate inventories would be another. A lot of work, unless someone has already done it.

    In reference to the second question, here's one newspaper article on the topic, showing both that arms were confiscated, but that there were plenty to confiscate:

    http://www.uttyler.edu/vbetts/nashvi..._ag62-fe63.htm
    NASHVILLE DAILY UNION, October 23, 1862, p. 3, c. 1

    Arms! Arms!

    Yesterday, a few hours after the publication of General Negley's order in reference to the giving up of private arms, a throng of citizens began to pour in to Headquarters for the purpose of complying with the requisition, bringing with them firearms of all imaginable kinds—shot guns, pop guns, single-barrelled guns, double-barrelled guns, rifles smooth bores, muskets, human pistols, colt pistols, jackass pistols, flint locks, percussion locks, carbines, single triggers, double triggers, hair triggers and no triggers at all. Some old shot guns were brought which had been so long disused that the mice had made nests in the barrels. Persons of known loyalty had no difficulty in retaining their arms. The disloyal ought not to be trusted with them.
    But, again, one would need to compare this "throng" to the number of citizens who didn't come because they didn't have arms, to conclude how common arms were. Still, it's another example that guns seemed to be common.

    I guess, to make a long story short, my opinion would be that portraying the stereotype of the armed southerner, not necessarily with a visible weapon but something more discreet, would be well within the range of average, unless there's some specific historic situation, such as all arms of disloyal men being confiscated, or some other reason not to do so.

    Hank Trent
    hanktrent@gmail.com

  3. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Craig L Barry View Post
    For close quarter personal self defense, a knife would be more common (for a variety of reasons).
    We were posting at the same time, but I do agree that one can't ignore the huge knife culture, especially in the south, starting in the 1830s-40s and continuing up through the war.

    From an 1859 Texas Supreme Court decision:

    The right to carry a bowie-knife for lawful defence is secured, and must be admitted. It is an exceedingly destructive weapon. It is difficult to defend against it, by any degree of bravery, or any amount of skill. The gun or pistol may miss its aim, and when discharged, its dangerous character is lost, or diminished at least. The sword may be parried. With these weapons men fight for the sake of combat, to satisfy the laws of honor, not necessarily with the intention to kill, or with a certainty of killing, when the intention exists. The bowie-knife differs from these in its device and design: it is the instrument of almost certain death. He who carries such a weapon, for lawful defence, as he may, makes himself more dangerous to the rights of others, considering the frailties of human nature, than if he carried a less dangerous weapon. (Cockrum v. State)
    Hank Trent
    hanktrent@gmail.com

  4. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by hanktrent View Post
    We were posting at the same time, but I do agree that one can't ignore the huge knife culture, especially in the south, starting in the 1830s-40s and continuing up through the war.

    From an 1859 Texas Supreme Court decision:



    Hank Trent
    hanktrent@gmail.com
    And the knife comes in handy for about a thousand other reasons. As the saying goes "...of what use is a man without a knife?"
    Last edited by Craig L Barry; 09-26-2012 at 09:28 AM.
    Craig L Barry

    Author: The Civil War Musket: A Handbook for Historical Accuracy

  5. #15
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    What county in Eastern KY?I am in SE KY myself.Many of the locals were armed with,as you pointed out,mostly longarms.Shotguns,hunting rifles,hog rifles,ect.From what I can see,either flintlock or caplock would be acceptable.As far as sidearms in eastern KY,if (and that's a big if) you with to carry one,try carrying a single shot pistol.Most people would have needed them mostly to scare of bears and mountain lions,as well as taking shots as snakes and wolves.There was no major need for firearms.But the best thing to carry is just a knife of some sort.
    Cullen Smith
    South Union Guard

    "Always carry a flagon of whiskey in case of snakebite, and furthermore always carry a small snake"~W.C. Fields

    "When I drink whiskey, I drink whiskey; and when I drink water, I drink water."~Michaleen Flynn 'The Quiet Man'

  6. #16

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    Pocket pistols were very popular with civilians, as were small pistols that will fit in your vest or coat pockets. The Sharps 4-barrelled pistol was extremely popular. For reenacting purposes, I have to echo the voices that caution that a pistol is an expensive prop for a civilian. Some small pistols (like the 4 barrel) are patently unsafe to be carried around loaded. Others, like muzzle-loading single shot pistols, are impractical. If you really want a prop, look for a non-firing repro. (I have a non-firing screw-barrel pistol that I carry as part of a Rev War militia outfit. It was cheap and sees service in scenarios all the time. A firing replica would be both expensive and unsafe.)
    Rob Weaver
    Pine River Boys, Co I, 7th Wisconsin
    "We're... Christians, what read the Bible and foller what it says about lovin' your enemies and carin' for them what despitefully use you -- that is, after you've downed 'em good and hard."
    -Si Klegg and His Pard Shorty

  7. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Weaver View Post
    Some small pistols (like the 4 barrel) are patently unsafe to be carried around loaded. Others, like muzzle-loading single shot pistols, are impractical. If you really want a prop, look for a non-firing repro.
    That brings up a good question, which I've not found a solution to, in reenacting.

    It seems that whenever one needs to actually use a civilian weapon, it's in close quarters--inside a house, or a face-to-face conversation--and that's difficult to accomplish safely. A lot of the time, I just avoid it, because I can't figure how to do it, but then I might as well not have had the weapon in the first place.

    Pre-scripted scenarios are simple, but I'm talking about the more common spontaneous things. Rules of engagement or hobby consensus don't usually cover civilian-on-civilian or civilian-on-military combat.

    It's worse with knives. I can think of two men who are "alive" today because I couldn't figure out how to slit their throats safely, despite having the opportunity. Rubber knives are a solution for defense, but useless in 90 percent of the situations one needs a knife.

    With pistols, the simple answer is to leave it unloaded, but a reenactor who suddenly feels a pistol barrel within inches of his head may (rightfully) want to discover if he's in imminent danger of a powder burn, losing his hearing or worse, and pausing for reassurance sorta ruins the moment. If he does trust it's unloaded and proceeds with the period situation, and you need to fire in 186x, saying "bang" just doesn't seem to have the right nuance.

    I recall a long event-stopping argument one time, when a reenactor insisted that I "missed" because I was aiming the gun in the air rather than directly at a man's head when I fired from three feet away. Uh, why do you think that was.

    So, as a practical matter, how do reenactors safely and practically use civilian weapons for personal defense at events?

    Hank Trent
    hanktrent@gmail.com
    Last edited by hanktrent; 10-01-2012 at 09:40 AM.

  8. #18

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    Hallo!

    "So, as a practical matter, how do reenactors safely and practically use civilian weapons for personal defense at events?"

    Hollywod FX (special effects) use metal plates as "armor" under the actor's clothes (which they do not care about anyways).

    As shared, the single shot pistol, and especially the pocket or derringer versions were a near "in your face" or "in your chest" point-blank concept if needed. IMHO, ANY such use of a pistol almost necessitates a script for safety if not host pre-approval. And would fall under the same light as infantry's use of bayonets, butt stroking, or "grappling/wrestling/fistacuffs."

    Historically, pistols were somewhat limited until the Industrial Revolution made them more affordable to other than more affluent folks or governments arming their cavalry or sailors. Some folks today are finding out that a well made custom-built pistol can fall in the range of a rifle or fowler. And, the early 19th century or 18th century hunter or farmer is more likely to invest his hard-earned or scarce money into an all-around weapon suitable for game, defense, or target.

    Others' mileage may vary...

    Curt
    In gleichem Schritt und Tritt, Curt Schmidt

    Not a real Civil War reenactor, I only portray one on boards and fora.
    I do not portray a Civil War soldier, I merely interpret one.

  9. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by Curt-Heinrich Schmidt View Post
    IMHO, ANY such use of a pistol almost necessitates a script for safety if not host pre-approval. And would fall under the same light as infantry's use of bayonets, butt stroking, or "grappling/wrestling/fistacuffs."
    I agree, but the only down-side of that, is that it means civilians must always "lose" to a man with a rifle, since he can safely use his weapon in reenacting but they can't. The strategy of grabbing a lead bushwhacker and holding a pistol to his head or a knife to his throat, while trying to negotiate with the rest, may be the only option in a last-ditch effort to save one's life, or at least take someone else with you when you go, but it's impossible to do safely. It leads to an epidemic of stoic resignation or pacifism among civilians.

    Hank Trent
    hanktrent@gmail.com

    Hank Trent
    hanktrent@gmail.com

  10. #20

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    Hallo!

    "It leads to an epidemic of stoic resignation or pacifism among civilians."

    That might be worthy of its own discussion in its own right.

    IMHO, "reenacting" can sometimes lead to just the opposite- where the lack or absence of the threat of Real Wounding or Real Death can lead reenacted soldiers as well as civillians to "behave" or "react" differently to life and limb threatening situations and engage in theatrical risk-taking and John Wayne/Rambo type movie heroicsl

    Meaning the angry defiance and suicidal stand of the single shot pistol-armed civilian against a squad or company of soldiers could be.. "over played." In the same way many reenacted POW's seem much more hostile, defiant, and arrogant than there real life counterparts are faced with loaded guns.

    Curt
    In gleichem Schritt und Tritt, Curt Schmidt

    Not a real Civil War reenactor, I only portray one on boards and fora.
    I do not portray a Civil War soldier, I merely interpret one.

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