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Rather, Guelzo argued that in actual battlefield conditions, until the development of smokeless powder, the benefits of rifling were largely nullified.Therefore, generals did not alter their tactics not due to ignorance, but because the battlefield had not changed substantially from the Napoleonic era. Traditionally, mounted soldiers carried a lance, sword, or pistol and could sweep enemy infantry weakened by artillery or musket fire.Casualty estimates compared with expended ammunition from battles indicate 1 casualty for every 250 - 300 shots discharged, not a dramatic improvement over Napoleonic casualty rates.

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The bores were partially cleaned by the loading process.

Black powder also quickly obscured the battlefield, which led military leaders of the time to conclude that the greater range of rifles was of little value on the battlefield.

During the American Civil War, an assortment of small arms found their way onto the battlefield.

Though the muzzle-loading percussion cap rifle was the most numerous weapon, being standard-issue for both the Union and Confederate armies, many other firearms, ranging from the single shot breech-loading Sharps and Burnside rifles to the Spencer and the Henry rifles, two of the world's first repeating rifles, were issued by the hundreds of thousands, mostly by the Union.

Once the infantry began the main engagement, visibility quickly was reduced to almost nil.

With the lack of visibility, only massed infantry fire was effective, and this reality is reflected in the tactics of the time. ISBN 978-0-307-59408-2.) Guelzo also points out the technical difficulty of aiming a rifled musket.However, most American army officers in 1861 had been schooled in obsolete Napoleonic tactics, especially since many of them had served in the Mexican War, which was still fought in the old way with smoothbore muskets and linear formations.As such, officers typically failed to realize the power of rifles and continued to launch massed attacks against fortified enemies, which invariably resulted in heavy losses.Loads used for smoothbore muskets did not need to fit as tightly or be pushed past rifling grooves in the barrel and, therefore, did not suffer from the slow loading problem common to rifles.The MiniƩ ball solved both of these issues because it was smaller than the bore but expanded on firing.Live fire drills were seldom performed, and many soldiers never properly learned how to use the sights on rifles for aiming. In actual battlefield situations, such precise aiming was virtually impossible.