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Civil War Weapons

Ammunition magazine, Fort Preble, 1959
Ammunition magazine, Fort Preble, 1959

Item Contributed by
Maine Historical Society
Oriental Powder Mills, South Windham, ca. 1855
Oriental Powder Mills, South Windham, ca. 1855

Item Contributed by
Maine Historical Society

Rifled muskets, pistols, bayonets and swords all were weapons Civil War soldiers might carry with them. The major large weapons were cannons.

Usually only the cavalry troops used swords or bayonets, although officers often carried them as part of their uniform.

Rifled muskets were an improvement over old smooth-bored muskets and meant that soldiers shots were more accurate and could be fired at a longer distance from the enemy troops.

Some support for soldiers and their weapons came from close to home. The Oriental Powder Mills in South Windham, for instance, made gunpowder and supplied Union troops during the war. Oriental Mills in Gorham and Windham produced black powder until 1905. Other gunpowder mills in North Buckfield-Sumner, Camden, and Warren also prospered during the Civil War.

Gunpowder is made from saltpeter or potassium nitrate, sulfur, and charcoal. The manufacturing process is dangerous for the same reason the gunpowder is effective: explosions. During the war, saltpeter, which came mostly from India, was in short supply due to British embargoes.
Nevertheless, most gunpowder mills in Maine managed to get needed supplies and many reported their best business ever during the war.