By the end of 1864, the Rebel army had been worn down so much, that in spring 1865 all it took was a determined push by the Federals to knock down the Confederacy.


It’s worth remembering, in this sesquicentennial year of the war, that in 1864, as the May issue of the American Rifleman magazine puts it “more and more repeating rifles—[seven-shot] Spencers and ‘sixteen shooter’ Henrys—made their way into Union units.

“The South was being overwhelmed by superior numbers and firepower. If 1863 was the year of the rifle-musket in America’s bloody Civil War, then 1864 was the year of the repeater.”

It’s a bit misleading to refer to these rifles as “repeaters” since they were semiautomatic not fully automatic. But semiautomatic was new and devastating enough.

The dwindling ranks of the 13th Mississippi Regiment, augmented by recovered wounded, late volunteers and a few conscripts, encountered semiautomatics often enough to notice the trend—including at the First Battle of Deep Bottom in July just north of the James River east of Richmond.

There, continues the magazine, dismounted Union cavalry of Gen. Phillip Sheridan, wielding Spencer carbines, “smashed an…

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