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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Sat 05 Mar, 2016 9:32 pm    Post subject: Book Review: Battle Weapons of the American Revolution         Reply with quote

I just added a review of this book to my book list here on myArmoury. However, I thought it would also be of value to post my review in the myArmoury forum itself, given that far fewer people are likely to read the review if it only remains in the myArmoury Library section.

Battle Weapons of the American Revolution, by George C. Neumann, is the author's exhaustive photo catalogue of nearly every conceivable weapon that could have seen use during the revolution. With a collection of over 2,200 photographs, this book is an amazing resource for those interested in the time period.

Each section of Neumann's book begins with a short introduction, followed by photographs and descriptions of the weapons. Neumman devotes the first chapter of his book to explaining the evolution of early firing mechanisms, with numerous hand-drawn and clearly labeled diagrams of matchlocks, wheel-locks, snaphaunces, miquelets, English locks and French locks. As someone with little knowledge of firearms, Neumann's overview is extremely helpful. The second chapter explains how weapons influenced tactics, and contains drawings of the major maker's marks of the time.

The best sections of this book are the sections on firearms, because Neumann provides multiple photos of each gun, with close ups to illustrate the trigger mechanisms, the butt, bores, and sometimes photos of markings found on the gun. A full page is dedicated to each gun, and includes a description of the weapon along with measurements of various components, a welcome resource for anyone looking to commission a replica piece. The book catalogues some 160 muskets, 17 rifles, and 45 pistols, making it a superb resource on period firearms.

Other sections of the book include photos of bayonets, swords, halberds, partizans, spears, and other polearms that may have seen use. Each sword, for instance, includes photos of the obverse and reverse side of the hilt, as well as a full-length shot of the blade. Given that there can be a tendency to focus on hilts at the expense of showing a full blade, the full length shots of blades are a nice inclusion. Neumann also provides photos of the butt point variations on polearms, a thoughtful inclusion that could easily have been neglected.

What makes this book particularly outstanding is its comprehensiveness. Neumann does not simply provide photos of swords, guns and arms in the decades immediately prior to the revolution. Rather, he includes examples that span the 18th century to provide a truly representative understanding of all the different arms that might have possibly been used in the conflict. Also welcome is the fact that he includes numerous examples of continental European weaponry. Thus, although the focus of the book is the American Revolution, Neumann's text can really be considered to be representative of all of the major hand-held European and American weapons of the 18th century.

The only real drawback to this book is that the photographs are not in colour. Given that it is just over 380 pages long, this is understandable. However, the book was first published in 2011, around the time where even free newspapers started to make extensive use of colour images and it would be nice if this book could have done the same. Still, this is a fairly minor quibble.

I should also note that, as commented upon in the Gentleman of Fortune re-enactment page, Neumann's book is a great resource for anyone looking to learn more about the weapons used in the Golden Age of Piracy. Since he provides numerous examples of weapons throughout the 18th century, his book is a perfect resource for those who want to know what sorts of guns and swords were carried by the real pirates of the Caribbean.

There is one problem with the Gentleman of Fortune review that I should note. According to the review, which can be seen at: http://www.gentlemenoffortune.com/library.htm “Every [weapon type] from 1600-1800 is equally represented”. However, this is not actually true. Neumann does provide a few examples of 17th century guns, swords and arms, but his selection can hardly be said to be equally representative. Nor should it be; the purpose of including 17th century weapons is to show some of the oldest weapons that still could have conceivably seen use during the revolution.

What this means, though, is that those who, like me, are interested in the arms from the age of the buccaneers in the decades prior to the 18th century will be disappointed having read the online review. For instance, of the various swords shown, only about 20 (and this includes swords dated from circa 1700 A.D. onward) belong to the 17th century out of 186 swords in total. As an additional note, Neumann's book does not contain “axes”—unless by “axes” one means “halberds”—as the Gentlemen of Fortune web site claims.

All in all, Neumann's book is a superb resource for the American Revolution, an excellent resource for the Golden Age of Piracy, and a decent, though not stellar, resource for later 17th century arms. As its stated purpose is to catalogue weapons of the American Revolution, I highly recommend it for those interested in this time period. It is a must in the arms library for enthusiasts, historians, and re-enactors alike.
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Glen A Cleeton




Location: Nipmuc USA
Joined: 21 Aug 2003

Posts: 1,836

PostPosted: Sat 05 Mar, 2016 10:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nice write up but keep in mind that it was originally published in 1998 as a cloth bound hardcover.

The firearms section looks impressive. The Swords&Blades title goes back to the 1970s and has never been amended and I wonder how the two sword sections compare.

Cheers

GC
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Niels Just Rasmussen




Location: Nykøbing Falster, Denmark
Joined: 03 Sep 2014

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Posts: 800

PostPosted: Sun 06 Mar, 2016 7:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the review.
Sounds like an interesting book.

It makes me wonder about any kind of evolution of hand-to-hand combat in the american civil war? It was apparently primarily done with bayonet, sword and polearms (actually I didn't know about pole arm use‚ but I suppose it was mostly scaling actions?) as your review states, but I'm thinking if there could have been any similar development towards what we see in trench-battles in WW1? Here you see the use of spades, knifes, clubs in the trenches of WW1 under conditions where longer weapons would be at a disadvantage as you have little room to manoeuvre.
I'm wondering of the about the Sieges of Atlanta and Petersburg which had trenches for instance and also what about campaign is fairly close forests? Bowie knives had a long tradition so it should be obvious to use them under these kind of conditions?
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Glen A Cleeton




Location: Nipmuc USA
Joined: 21 Aug 2003

Posts: 1,836

PostPosted: Sun 06 Mar, 2016 3:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ho Niels

During the American Civil War, many more casualties were artillery and musket/rifle shot than bayonet charges and hand to hand knife work. Swords were really more of something to point with. Overall, there were comparatively few cavalry charges when compared to mounted artillery despite the many hundreds of thousands of swords deployed, they were a minor note in terms of casualties. Far more died of illness than from a blade.

Cheers

GC
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Niels Just Rasmussen




Location: Nykøbing Falster, Denmark
Joined: 03 Sep 2014

Spotlight topics: 15
Posts: 800

PostPosted: Mon 07 Mar, 2016 4:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Glen A Cleeton wrote:
Ho Niels

During the American Civil War, many more casualties were artillery and musket/rifle shot than bayonet charges and hand to hand knife work. Swords were really more of something to point with. Overall, there were comparatively few cavalry charges when compared to mounted artillery despite the many hundreds of thousands of swords deployed, they were a minor note in terms of casualties. Far more died of illness than from a blade.

Cheers

GC


It that respect WW1 was quite similar to the civil war.

It was these fairly rare instances late in the civil war (Alberta, Petersburg) when Union soldiers were assaulting confederate trench-positions and had to fight close hand-to-hand combat. They probably used bayonets initially (like in WW1), but I wonder if any soldiers in the civil war figured that short hand-to-hand weapons (like Bowie knives) are more useful in a trench than a bayonet on a long rifle?

As for cavalry action both the american civil war and WW1 showed that frontal charges were generally impossible (the French tried it in 1914 and had horrendous losses), but it proved quite effective to conduct hit-and-run attacks on enemy artillery positions (more so on other fronts of WW1 than the western). Especially the use of highly mobile cavalry looking for an opportunity as introduced by Nathan Bedford Forrest.....

Germans also were among the first in WW1 to conduct specific sniper action against artillery men - and officers - and that had been used in the american civil war as well.

So artillery (and in WW1 machine gunners) had to defend themselves against three primary threats:
1) Enemy artillery
2) Snipers
3) Hit-and-run cavalry attacks from the flanks or the rear.
That is pretty hard when you also have to concentrate on shooting.
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Glen A Cleeton




Location: Nipmuc USA
Joined: 21 Aug 2003

Posts: 1,836

PostPosted: Mon 07 Mar, 2016 6:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:
Glen A Cleeton wrote:
Ho Niels

During the American Civil War, many more casualties were artillery and musket/rifle shot than bayonet charges and hand to hand knife work. Swords were really more of something to point with. Overall, there were comparatively few cavalry charges when compared to mounted artillery despite the many hundreds of thousands of swords deployed, they were a minor note in terms of casualties. Far more died of illness than from a blade.

Cheers

GC


It that respect WW1 was quite similar to the civil war.

It was these fairly rare instances late in the civil war (Alberta, Petersburg) when Union soldiers were assaulting confederate trench-positions and had to fight close hand-to-hand combat. They probably used bayonets initially (like in WW1), but I wonder if any soldiers in the civil war figured that short hand-to-hand weapons (like Bowie knives) are more useful in a trench than a bayonet on a long rifle?

As for cavalry action both the american civil war and WW1 showed that frontal charges were generally impossible (the French tried it in 1914 and had horrendous losses), but it proved quite effective to conduct hit-and-run attacks on enemy artillery positions (more so on other fronts of WW1 than the western). Especially the use of highly mobile cavalry looking for an opportunity as introduced by Nathan Bedford Forrest.....

Germans also were among the first in WW1 to conduct specific sniper action against artillery men - and officers - and that had been used in the american civil war as well.

So artillery (and in WW1 machine gunners) had to defend themselves against three primary threats:
1) Enemy artillery
2) Snipers
3) Hit-and-run cavalry attacks from the flanks or the rear.
That is pretty hard when you also have to concentrate on shooting.


http://civilwartalk.com/
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