A while back I was contacted by A&E marketing with a request that I do a review of their series “Tales of the Gun”. I agreed to do a review and blog it so they sent me a free copy of “Tales of the Gun: Guns of the Civil War”.
I have to apologize to the A&E marketing people because it took me so long to get around to doing this that the marketing outreach director had to send me a reminder email last week. Unfortunately, I was in New Orleans last week on businesses so I couldn’t get it done until now.
Better late than never I guess.
First, I must say that I’ve always been a big fan of the History Channel which is affiliated with A&E…in fact, the History Channel consumes about 75% of my meager weekly television ration.
With that in mind, it is notable that this series combines two of my favorite things: guns and history. It’s hard to lose in that light.
The episode that I chose, “Guns of the Civil War”, was selected specifically because that is an era of firearms where my knowledge is not as deep as others. I wanted to pick an episode that would actually teach me something. Also, the civil war era was a groundbreaking time in the realm of firearms. The transition from loose powder and percussion caps to self-contained cartridges and from single shot muzzle loaders to breach loaders and repeating arms was a seminal period in firearms technology. These breakthroughs directly lead to the later development of autoloading firearms by the venerable John Browning and his contemporaries.
With that in mind, I was very eager to learn more about the period and I was not disappointed in this video. In the standard model of the History Channel and A&E, the program was anchored by historians and scholars who described the advances in firearms technology of the time and elaborated on the impact of those advancements on historical events of the time…namely, in this case, the civil war. Probably the most sobering part of the show was the graphic illustration of the age old adage: you always fight the last war. The use of “Napoleonic” infantry tactics in the face of the more modern, accurate and deadly weapons of the day was tantamount to suicide for the troops.
Another interesting sideline was the resistance of the higher ups in the army to repeating firearms like the Spencer and Henry repeating rifles. They felt that the higher rates of fire of which the new rifles were capable would cause the troops to burn through too much ammunition, it would be impossible to keep them supplied with sufficient ammo and the ability to fire so rapidly would encourage the troops to be less careful in their target selection and firing precision…a mistake repeated in the early 20th century when the Army Ordnance department resisted the adoption of autoloading technology.
In any case, the show was very educational and informative while being entertaining and interesting at the same time; a trick that the History Channel and A&E have mastered. I highly recommend the series and encourage my readers to visit the History Channel Web site to purchase the whole collection, or single episodes.