Monday, October 28, 2013

"almost every citizen has something of an acquaintance with firearms, and frequently a very great handiness in their use..."



Necessity Insured Perfection--War
With Spain Has Again Demonstrated
Accuracy of Yankees--Easy to Make
a Soldier.

   The war with Spain has demonstrated one thing quite clearly and that is that the American gunner knows how to shoot. His nice accuracy in pointing his weapon has produced most satisfactory results. This skill has been met by an inefficiency on the part of the Spaniard almost pitiful.


   Indeed, it seems like taking advantage of the situation to shoot at men who appear to have no notion that the ultimate purpose of a bullet is to end up somewhere with a bone-breaking, muscle-rending crash, and not keep indefinitely on plowing the air.

   There are several reasons why Americans do and should shoot well. We are still but a few stages removed from the pioneer in many sections of the country, and the rifle to the pioneer has been as necessary as the ax. He has depended upon it to furnish him a good share of his food and clothing. and in many localities the protection it gave him from the Indians constituted his sole lease on life, consequently it became traditional that all Americans should shoot well.

   Even to-day. aside from that unfortunate class confined in the large cities, almost every citizen has something of an acquaintance with firearms, and frequently a very great handiness in their use. For he has all the Anglo-Saxon's fondness for sport, and he has what the Anglo-Saxon has not--unless he be of the so-called favored class--namely, every opportunity to indulge that fondness. The woods and fields are still open; he can hunt as much as he likes, and where he likes. A certain curious affection for firearms is the result, and a liking to handle them, for one may become just as fond of a gun as of a horse or a dog.

   A man with these inclinations can be made into a soldier with very little trouble. There is nothing he has to master of the care or use of firearms. He learned all that as a boy when he tramped the fields and woods in quest of the elusive but highly desirable "cottontail." or surreptitiously slaughtered song birds in his destructive thirst for proficiency. The skill gained he is ready to turn to the very best account as a soldier, when it is seen that he has the extremely harmful habit of aiming his gun. He is not content with merely discharging it. He wants to land his bullet where it will do the most good.

Handy With a Gun.

   In the far West the need that still exists to go armed makes every man rather expert with his gun, and the cowboy regiments will probably serve to open the eyes of the Spaniards as to what a soldier may achieve with a revolver or rifle in the gentle art of filling your fellow-creature full of lead.

   In the Revolutionary war it was the skill of our soldiers with their favorite weapon that won battle after battle. Even the cavalry used the rifle in preference to the saber: indeed, most of the so-called cavalry troops were in reality mounted riflemen.

   It was the famous "minute men." with their long rifles, that threw a bullet no larger than a pea, that drove back the regulars at Lexington, with.a loss in killed and wounded of over 300 of their number.

   It was the close shooting of these same "minute men"--raw farmers--that, under General Stark, defeated Burgoyne and his splendidly trained German mercenaries.

   Later, in the civil war, it was this skill that made the battles of the period bloody beyond anything recorded In history.

   The freedom of the citizen in the use of weapons was found to be responsible for a curious condition at the outset of the rebellion. As cavalrymen the volunteers viewed the saber with mistrust, much preferring to pin their faith to the arm with which they were most familiar.

   The effect of horsemen charging, sword in hand was very great in all European armies and it was one of the military maxims of the time that the cavalry relying on fire arms must surely be beaten.

   In America the idea of the common soldier, at least, was quite different, and at the breaking out of the war the volunteers displayed an extraordinary contempt for the saber. The very small force of regular horse, trained on the approved European plan, alone placed trust in it.

   The Southern troops in particular so heartily despised the weapon that nothing could make them give way to a charge of cavalry saber in hand. Lines of skirmishers and lines of battle when charged by the regularly equipped cavalry of the North would send up a jeering cry, "Here, boys, are those fools coming again with their swords; give it to them!"

   The Western troops had the same feeling at first, and when the "rough riders" of the '60s were molded into cavalry they showed the utmost reluctance to abandon the rifle. At the very beginning of the war much of the cavalry was hastily raised and very imperfectly armed, often with double-barreled shotguns, which did deadly work at close quarters when loaded with a handful of slugs or buckshot. So armed they would charge at-full speed and deliver their fire in the very faces of their enemy, and then dash through with a dreadful thumping of gun butts on the men's heads.

[The Kansas City Sunday Journal, Kansas City, July 3, 1898. Volume XLI. No. 23. Pg. 11]

No comments: