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Daily life

Combat

Cannon of largest size mounted in fort, at Battery Rodgers.

Combat during the Civil War was especially brutal.

The Civil War was the first modern war seen by the world. In all previous wars, it was customary for two large armies to gather across a large field from each other, march face to face, and fire volley after volley with their muskets until one side decided to retreat.

These were the same tactics used by the generals early in the Civil War, but many things had changed.

First, there were advancements in artillery, which enabled one side to fire on the other as they approached the lines across that long field. The artillery could hurl cannon shots several hundred yards, so men were under fire for much of their march.

Many men were killed or injured just getting to the enemy.

Second, the musket was vastly improved, so that it could fire with far greater accuracy and travel a greater distance. Muskets in previous wars used a round ball fired from a smooth barrel, or smoothbore. The bullet would not go very far and would not be very accurate.

These new weapons used a rifled barrel, which was grooved, giving a pointed bullet far better accuracy and distance. This improvement made the enemy gunfire extremely deadly.

Also improved during the Civil war was the use of defensive features such as sunken roads, stone walls, or trenches. These features would further protect the men with their new weapons against an attack.

Since the men in the Civil War marched in long lines with their flags flying, lined up close together, and walked on a field for several hundred yards before getting close to the enemy, there were 625,000 casualties in the Civil War.

That is more casualties than all other American wars combined. If the men did get close enough to the enemy line, however, there was often brutal hand-to hand fighting until one side simply gave up and retreated.

The bravery of the Civil War lies with the divisions and brigades and regiments and men who would charge again and again at a position knowing it was almost certain death. Still, the flags flew high, the battles raged, and thousands of men died.

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