Date of Award

Winter 1991

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Director

Harold S. Wilson

Committee Member

Willard C. Frank

Committee Member

Carl Boyd


This thesis illuminates the state of United States Army tactical doctrine at the beginning of the Civil War. In 1855, the weapons available to the United States Army left much to be desired in terms of firepower. Their limited range and lack of accuracy meant that they could not be relied upon to render the final decision in battle. The tactical system of 1855, however, blended this firepower with the shock action effect of bayonets and sabres, permitting the capabilities of the weaponry to be maximized on the battlefield while at the same time minimizing the deficiencies.

This harmony between weapons and tactics was not to be long lived. In June 1855, the United States Army adopted the rifled musket which greatly increased the firepower capability of the infantry. However, the effect that this new firepower would have on the conduct of battle was not understood. Military manuals and literature published between 1855 and 1861 failed to adequately prepare the officer corps of 1861 for the carnage this weapon would produce on the battlefields of 1861 to 1865.


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