Museum to display Civil War weapons

Published 9:04 pm Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Visitors preparing for the Battle of Selma, which kicks off today, will see the live re-enactment of the 1865 event, but they shouldn’t miss an opportunity to see the weapons used during the Civil War, up close and personal.

The Vaughan-Smitherman Museum will have on display shotguns, rifles and pistols from the era, beginning today through Saturday.

These weapons date back to the 1830’s and up to 1865. Some of the items on display:

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Greener double barrel shotgun. The Greener family was well-known in the 19th century as maker of fine weapons for the royalty of England. Those weapons also won awards in the Americas. The Greener was very popular in the South.

Flintlock muskets — This weapon, which came into being around the 17th century, kept European armies going. They were of large caliber. Most of them had no chokes, so they could be used to fire a ball, or they could be loaded with shot. Most military historians say armies loaded the weapons with a ball or a mixture of ball with some large shot, known as “buck and ball.” The effective range was about 246 feet to 328 feet.

Navy Colt pistols — There are several of these of note related to the Civil War. The Confederate States of America used the Colt Revolving Belt Pistol, Naval caliber, which was .36 caliber, designed by Samuel Colt. Historians have said this was a favorite weapon of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Army Colt pistols — The Union Army favored the Colt Army Model 1860, which was a muzzle-loaded cap and ball .44-caliber revolver. More than 127,000 are said to have been issued to Union troops during the Civil War. It fired a .454-inch diameter round ball or shot shaped like a cone, using a 30-grain charge of black powder. A copper percussion cap with fulminate of mercury ignited the powder.

Smith and Wesson pistols In 1857 Smith and Wesson introduced its first firearm, the Smith and Wesson Model 1. It used rimfire cartridges, instead of the balls, powder and percussion caps. The second and third models followed in 1860 and 1868.

Some bullets dug up from the battlefields will also be on display.

Other than this special display, the Vaughan-Smitherman also has a pardon signed by President Abraham Lincoln four days before his was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth.

The museum also has on display a portrait and roster of the Independent Blues of Selma. The company was formed in Selma in 1861 and became Company D of the 8th Alabama Infantry regiment of the Confederate States of America. It signed up for the duration of the war.

Other items on display at Vaughan-Smitherman are ammunition made at the Naval Foundry in Selma, a Spencer repeating rifle carried by one of Gen. James Wilson’s troopers, and reconstruction money from the Selma, Marion & Memphis Railroad Co., which bears the signature of Nathan Bedford Forrest, president of the railroad after the Civil War.

The museum is open from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. It is closed from noon until 1 p.m. for lunch. Admission for the tour is $3. Children under 12 are admitted free.