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Small Arms at Gettysburg: Infantry and Cavalry Weapons in America's Greatest Battle Hardcover – December 18, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Joseph Bilby is the assistant curator at the National Guard Militia Museum in New Jersey. He is also a regular columnist to the popular Civil War News.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 294 pages
  • Publisher: Westholme Publishing; 1st edition (December 18, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594160546
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594160547
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #880,845 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author


Joseph G. Bilby was born in Newark, New Jersey, received his BA and MA degrees in history from Seton Hall University and served as a lieutenant in the First Infantry Division in Vietnam in 1966-1967 and in the Army Reserve as assistant economics officer in the 303rd Civil Affairs Company from 1968-1970. He is retired from his position as Supervising Investigator for the New Jersey Department of Labor, has taught military history on the community college level and lectured widely on Civil War and New Jersey history. He is currently part time Assistant Curator of the New Jersey National Guard and Militia Museum in Sea Girt, New Jersey and a free lance writer and historical consultant. He is the author, editor or co-author of fifteen books and over 400 articles on New Jersey history and folklore, military history and Outdoor subjects in both Internet and print venues and also a columnist for The Civil War News and New Jersey Sportsmen News.
Mr. Bilby has appeared on the History Channel's Civil War Journal, the Discovery Channel's Discovery Magazine, and RTE, the Irish National television network, as an expert on the Civil War and 19th century firearms, and wrote the historical liner notes for David Kincaid's CD albums The Irish Volunteer and The Irish American's Song. He was a panelist for the NJ Historical Commission's 1996 seminar on Civil War Studies and is a Trustee of the NJ Civil War Heritage Association, a member and publications editor of New Jersey's official Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee and content editor of the Committee's website. He has lectured widely in New Jersey, at libraries, bookstores, historical societies and historical events, from Cape May to Sussex Counties.
Since the publication of the first edition of Three Rousing Cheers: A History of the 15th New Jersey Infantry from Flemington to Appomattox, in 1992, Mr. Bilby has written Forgotten Warriors: New Jersey's African-American Civil War Soldiers, Remember Fontenoy: The 69th New York and the Irish Brigade in the Civil War, co-edited My Sons Were Faithful and They Fought: The Irish Brigade At Antietam, and co-authored Remember You Are Jerseymen: A Military History of New Jersey's Troops in the Civil War with William C. Goble. All were published by Longstreet House, Hightstown, NJ. He received a grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission to assist in the research for Three Rousing Cheers, and Forgotten Warriors received a publication grant from the same institution. Remember Fontenoy was awarded the 1997 William Donovan Award for Excellence in Military Literature and, in a softbound edition as The Irish Brigade in the Civil War, published by Da Capo Press, was a Military Book Club selection and is currently available as a Kindle title. Mr. Bilby's Civil War Firearms, initially published by Combined Publications and now by Da Capo, is in its third printing, was a Military Book Club selection, runner-up in the history category in the 1997 Small Press Book Awards and received the Louisiana State University Civil War Center's Award of Excellence. His book A Revolution in Arms: A History of the First Repeating Rifles, was published by Westholme Publishing in November, 2005. Westholme also published his Small Arms at Gettysburg in December, 2007. His Sea Girt: A Brief History, was published by The History Press in July, 2008 and his Asbury Park: A Brief History, co-authored with Harry Ziegler, was published by The History Press in May, 2009. In 2010 he edited New Jersey Goes To War, a book on 150 of the state's personalities of the Civil War era, for the Sesquicentennial Committee. His history of the Battle of Monmouth, Monmouth Courthouse: the Battle that Made the American Army, co-authored with Katherine Bilby Jenkins, was published by Westholme in June 2010 and was a Military Book Club selection. Freedom to All, his new book on the Civil War and other military experiences of New Jersey's African-American soldiers, was published by Longstreet House in 2011, as was New Jersey's Civil War Odyssey, which he edited for the Sesquicentennial Committee. He is currently writing a military history of New Jersey for Westholme, and has co-authored, with James M. Madden and Harry Ziegler, Hidden History of New Jersey, New Jersey history stories from 1755 to 1951, published in November 2011 by the History Press. He recently worked with the firearms curator of the Dutch National Military Museum on the English translation of a book on the museum's collection of historic arms.
Mr. Bilby also contributed a number of entries on historical and outdoor subjects to the Encyclopedia of New Jersey (Rutgers University Press, 2004). A second, expanded, edition of his history of the 15th New Jersey Infantry was published in July 2001. He was appointed a Guest Curator for the New Jersey State Museum's New Jersey Civil War flags exhibit, which was opened to the public on October 26, 2000, a consultant to the Middlesex County Heritage Commission's 2004 Civil War exhibit, a member of the Board of Review for the Princeton Historical Society's 2007 Civil War exhibit and has reviewed and edited manuscripts for Rutgers and the State University of New York presses. He was the 2011 recipient of the Jane G. Clayton Award, annually presented by the Monmouth County Clerk to honor an individual who, over a substantial number of years, has made exceptional contributions to an awareness, understanding, and/or preservation of the history of Monmouth County, New Jersey. New Jersey Goes to War, which he edited, was named the "Best New Jersey Reference Book" for 2010 by the New Jersey Studies Academic Alliance, and he is also the recipient of a 2011 New Jersey Historical Commission Award of Merit for his work on the state's military history. Mr. Bilby is a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America, the Society of the First Infantry Division and the Company of Military Historians. He is married, has three grown children and lives at the New Jersey shore.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Trinque VINE VOICE on January 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover
"Small Arms at Gettysburg: Infantry and Cavalry Weapons in America's Greatest Battle" should be of value to anyone seriously interested in the nature of fighting at Gettysburg in particular or the American Civil War in general. The author examines the numerous types of firearms used by both the Union and Confederate armies at Gettysburg, cavalry as well as infantry. The development history of these weapons is covered, as well as how they were actually used on the battlefield.

Although the greatest space is devoted to rifle-muskets (as well it should be, since rifle-muskets by far were the most common shoulder arms used at Gettysburg), smoothbore muskets and breechloading rifles and carbines and revolvers are also described as well. An item of especial interest to me was the author's detailed discussion of the "buck-and-ball" ammunition commonly used in smoothbores (and, as is made clear, a good many smoothbores remained in the soldiers' hands at the time of the battle), the most detailed description of this ammunition type I have ever seen: usually, it is mentioned only in passing, almost as a curiosity rather than a significant piece of military technology, but in "Small Arms at Gettysburg" the history and employment of "buck-and-ball" is given its due attention for the first time.

The writing is vivid, yet detailed. If you are a serious student of the military side of the American Civil War, this is a volume that belongs on your bookshelf.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Although the Battle of Gettysburg has been extensively studied, there are relatively few full-length treatments of the types of arms used in the conflict. Joseph Bilby's "Small Arms at Gettysburg: Infantry and Cavalry Weapons in America's Greatest Battle" (2008) offers a detailed discussion of the carbines, single-shot rifles,repeating rifles, smoothbores, sabres, and handguns that were used at Gettysburg. Bilby has written extensively on Civil War weaponry. He has also written regimental histories of Irish units during the Civil War.

In places, Bilby's book is technical and presupposes considerable background knowledge in the reader about Civil War arms. He discusses the history and technological development of the various types of small weapons (that is not including artillery) that found their way to Gettysburg. He also provides fascinating information about the companies and individuals that developed the weapons. But when it comes to explaining the manner in which each weapon worked and how, for example, one model of carbine differed from another, he is frequently difficult to follow. Bilby assumes that any reader interested in this book will have a more than elementary familiarity with firearms. Diagrams of selected weapons showing how they were loaded and how they operated together with some simple preliminary information would have been useful.

In addition to the technical information on the weapons, Bilby discusses the way the arms were used, developed, and tested during the Civil War. His discussion of these matters is insightful and clear even for those readers without much background in arms.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By LimaBN on July 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is well-written, informative, and a real treasure for those with a serious (i.e., have already read five-plus books on the topic) interest in the American Civil War. Ignorant of firearms and their development, I found
the author's detailed treatment of the topic to be both appropriate and highly useful.

His treatment of cavalry action on the first and third days is especially
well done, and his considered conclusions regarding the development and use of weaponry are insightful.

This one stays in my library - as soon as I get it back from my brother-in-law, who owns a gun shop...
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Colonel Moran on July 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Joseph Bilby, author of an excellent work on the development of repeating rifles, has provided another fine monograph on Civil War weaponry. This time he discusses the weapons used at our nation's largest battle. Bilby manages to make rather technical issues surprisingly interesting and understandable to the non-technical reader. In addition to discussing the weapons themselves, he illustrates their uses in battle. His section on sharpshooters is outstanding and worth the price of the book itself. While not a book for the beginner in Civil War history, this is a very readable work that will not fail to inform any reader.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. Groen VINE VOICE on February 21, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book was recommended to me by the American Rifleman (one of the magazines for NRA members), and I'm glad that they recommended it. This is an excellent book that covers all the small arms used during the battle of Gettysburg and some that weren't. It does expect an understanding of the battle prior to the reader picking it up so I recommend that you read the Gettysburg book by Sears, Trudeau or Coddington first. Of course, if you have read any book that covers the whole battle, then you will be prepared for this.

The book covers all the small arms, each in its own chapter. First, the cavalry carbines are covered, then the rifled-muskets are covered, then the smoothbores, the repeating rifles, the sharpshooters and then it ends with pistols and sabers. The book provides the history of the development of the weapon and then some examples of its use at the battle of Gettysburg, and if not used there, its use in other Civil War (or even other military) actions.
All the major weapons, and not so major, are covered, the Sharps carbine, the Enfield and Springfield rifle-musket, the Spencer rifle, the Sharps rifle, and the Colts pistol and rifle.

Here are some interesting anecdotes that I picked up to whet your appetite.
1. The cavalry at Gettysburg used numerous different carbines, the Sharps, the Merrill, the Burnside, the Gallager, and even a rifle, the Spencer. It must have been a challenge to keep all of these different carbines supplied since they each used different bullets.
2. There were three major rifle-muskets used during the battle - the Springfield was the most used, and then the Enfield and an Austrian Lorenz in a number of different calibers.
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