Monday, June 2, 2014

April 29, 1864 (Sunday): Arm to Avoid Capture

Spencer Repeating Rifle

Camp Hamilton, Va., April 29, 1864.
Major General B. F. BUTLER,
Commanding Department of Virginia and North Carolina:
   GENERAL: In view of the approaching campaign, and more especially on account of the recent inhumanities of the enemy perpetrated upon troops of like character to those of my command, I deem it my duty to urge that these troops shall be more efficiently armed, to enable them to defend themselves and lessen their liability to capture.
    There certainly ought to be no objection to arming these troops with as effective a weapon as any that are placed, in the hands of white soldiers, who are to go into battle with none of the peculiar disadvantages to which my men will be subject. The present arms of several regiments in the division are inferior in kind and manufacture. The Springfield rifled musket of the Bridesburg manufacture is an unreliable gun. The contract Enfield rifle is also unreliable, and one regiment is armed with the old Harper's Ferry smooth- bore. Now, these arms will suffice, perhaps, and were for troops who will be well cared for if they fall into his hands, but to troops who cannot afford to be beaten, and will not be taken, the best arm should be given that the country can afford.
    The retaliation we should at present adopt is to arm our colored troops with Spencer repeating rifles, and I request that my division, or a part of them, may be armed with a repeating or breech- loading fir- arm.
     I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

     E. W. HINKS,
     Brigadier- General, Commanding.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 33, Part 1, Pages 1020-1021.

African-American troops had a legitimate concern of being shown no quarter after the recent events at Fort Pillow.  But repeating rifles were in short supply and not likely to be provided to relatively inexperienced troops. 

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