Lava Beds
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Appendix F

In addition to the mountain howitzers and Coehorn mortars, a few notes may be found concerning the small arms used by the combatants. The standard weapon for infantrymen at the time of the Modoc War was the 50-cal. Springfield musket, M1868 or M1870. There are several references to Springfields in the records and it is assumed that the infantry companies and most of the artillery batteries were armed with this weapon.

Most of the cavalry troops, and probably Battery B, 4th Artillery (which was mounted), carried 50-cal. Sharp's carbines, which fired center-primed ammunition. Troop F was the exception; it carried Spencer carbines, which used rim-primed ammunition. Hardin (not in Troop F) wrote that the Spencers were unsatisfactory: "Several men of that troop told me that the failure of so many cartridges almost caused panic." He said that the Sharp's carbines rarely misfired.

Ammunition forwarded to the lava beds from the Vancouver Arsenal included:

40,000 rounds, center-primed, metallic cartridges, cal. 50.

5,000 rounds for Spencer carbine.

4,000 rounds for Remington revolvers, muzzle loading, 44-cal.

2,000 rounds for Remington and Colt revolving pistols.

(These last two are probably for the same weapon.)

In August 1872, several troops of the 1st Cavalry were designated to receive an experimental Remington single-barreled pistol. Among the troops were four that served in the Modoc war—F, G, H, and K. If this weapon was issued as scheduled, it is quite possible some of the enlisted men of these four troops carried them into action—officers purchased their own weapons.

The report discusses the Modocs collecting weapons in the field after the 1st battle of the Stronghold—carbines and rifles of various makes. They probably collected even more after their attack on the Thomas patrol, April 26. It may be assumed they were as well armed as the troops, many of their weapons being army-issue. The Yreka Union reported in March 1873 that the Modocs had 13 breech-loading rifles, four of them "needle" or Springfield rifles. They were said to have a number of muzzle-loading weapons.

One weapon not used was poison gas, although it was recommended by an interested citizen in New Jersey.


Modoc War
©1971, Argus Books
thompson/modocwaraf.htm — 11-Nov-2002