Case #772.0

Civil War Shoulder Arms (B)

Publication Date: January 01, 1987
Current Stock:

Educator Access

A review copy of this case is available free of charge to educators and trainers. Please create an account or sign in to gain access to this material.

Permission to Reprint

Each purchase of this product entitles the buyer to one digital file and use. If you intend to distribute, teach, or share this item, you must purchase permission for each individual who will be given access. Learn more about purchasing permission to reprint.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, the Union army faced the task of supplying the growing numbers of Union conscripts with shoulder arms. Existing government stockpiles were inadequate, and the chief of ordnance was forced to consider the alternatives: government inventories of outmoded muskets; private manufacturers; and European arms manufacturers. Further confusing matters was the fact that, given recent strides in rifle development, new weapons promised higher rates of fire and easier handling, but high-quality innovations in rifle design were scattered among many impractical ones. Part A provides an overview of the complicated character of the ordnance environment at war's outbreak and lays out the tensions between improving Army rifle design and maintaining a smoothly functioning supply system. Part B chronicles the efforts of Christopher Spencer, inventor of an innovative repeating rifle, to secure contracts with army ordnance in the face of resistance.

Learning Objective:
The case is designed to illustrate problems in the management of procurement and supply under critical circumstances and the place of innovation in that process: How reasonable is technological conservatism in times of crisis? It also raises issues of the interaction between existing strategic doctrine and new technologies. Finally, it illustrates some of the sources of innovation in weaponry and the paths by which such innovations may be adopted.

Other Details

Case Author:
Melissa Williams
Faculty Lead:
Michael O'Hare
Pages (incl. exhibits):
United States