Best Gun in the World

Best Gun in the World

George Woodward Morse and the South Carolina State Military Works

  • Author: Seigler, Robert S.
  • Publisher: University of South Carolina Press
  • ISBN: 9781611177923
  • eISBN Pdf: 9781611177930
  • eISBN Epub: 9781611177930
  • Place of publication:  South Carolina , United States
  • Year of digital publication: 2017
  • Month: October
  • Language: English

A thoroughly researched account of weapons innovation and industrialization during the Civil War

A year after seceding from the Union, South Carolina and the Confederate States government faced the daunting challenge of equipping soldiers with weapons, ammunition, and other military implements during the American Civil War. In The Best Gun in the World, Robert S. Seigler explains how South Carolina created its own armory and then enlisted the help of a weapons technology inventor to meet the demand. Seigler mined state and federal factory records, national and state archives, and U.S. patents for detailed information on weapons production, the salaries and status of free and enslaved employees, and other financial records to reveal an interesting, distinctive story of technological innovation and industrialization in South Carolina.

George Woodward Morse, originally from New Hampshire, was a machinist and firearms innovator, who settled in Louisiana in the 1840s. He invented a reliable breechloading firearm in the mid-1850s to replace muzzleloaders that were ubiquitous throughout the world. Essential to the successful operation of any breechloader was its ammunition, and Morse perfected the first metallic, center-fire, pre-primed cartridge, his most notable contribution to the development of modern firearms.

The U.S. War Department tested Morse rifles and cartridges prior to the beginning of the Civil War and contracted with the inventor to produce the weapons at Harpers Ferry Armory. However, when the war began, Morse, a slave-holding plantation owner, determined that he could sell more of his guns in the South. The South Carolina State Military Works originally designed to cast cannon, produced Morse's carbine and modified muskets, brass cartridges, cartridge boxes, and other military accoutrements. The armory ultimately produced only about 1,350 Morse firearms. For the next twenty years, Morse sought to regain his legacy as the inventor of the center-fire brass cartridges that are today standard ammunition for military and sporting firearms.

  • Cover
  • The Best Gun in the World
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • CHAPTER 1. George Woodward Morse
  • CHAPTER 2. Morse’s Early Patents
  • CHAPTER 3. Nathan M. Muzzy
  • CHAPTER 4. War Department Evaluations, 1857–1858
  • CHAPTER 5. Springfield Armory
  • CHAPTER 6. Morse’s New Carbine, 1860
  • CHAPTER 7. Morse in Late 1860 and Early 1861
  • CHAPTER 8. Harpers Ferry, Nashville, and Atlanta
  • CHAPTER 9. South Carolina State Military Works and David Lopez Jr
  • CHAPTER 10. 1862
  • CHAPTER 11. Morse Comes to South Carolina
  • CHAPTER 12. Labor
  • CHAPTER 13. 1863
  • CHAPTER 14. Lopez’s Resignation and Successor
  • CHAPTER 15. Morse’s Brass-frame Carbine
  • CHAPTER 16. Sale of the State Works
  • CHAPTER 17. Late 1863 and 1864
  • CHAPTER 18. 1865
  • CHAPTER 19. State Military Works and Lopez, Postwar
  • CHAPTER 20. Morse’s Postwar Patent Petitions and Lawsuits
  • CHAPTER 21. Morse’s Final Productivity
  • Conclusion
  • Appendix 1. Inventory of Machinery, Tools, and Stock of Tennessee Armory, Atlanta, March 1862
  • Appendix 2. Surviving Morse Firearms Listed by Serial Number
  • Appendix 3. List of Slave Workers
  • Appendix 4. List of White Employees
  • Appendix 5. Total Production of Morse’s Firearms
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index


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