Rifles of the Civil War & Frontier

By Kathleen Denly

In my upcoming novel, Murmur in the Mud Caves, the hero, a veteran of the Civil War, carries a Henry repeating rifle. Patented in 1860, a single man armed with this weapon held the firepower of a dozen marksmen armed with muzzle-loading muskets. 

Caption: This photograph shows an early Henry Rifle. (Photo Credit: Hmaag. CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.)


President Lincoln, the Secretary of War, and the Secretary of the Navy were all gifted beautifully engraved, gold-plated Henry rifles in an attempt to convince the Union to order the weapon for their soldiers. Unfortunately, only 1,731 were ordered by the Union. 

Caption: This photograph shows an early Henry Rifle and a Winchester Model 1866 Rifle. Both shoot .44 caliber Rimfire. (Photo Credit: Hmaag. CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.)

However, the weapon was so well regarded for its faster loading and greater reliability that many soldiers invested their own money to purchase a Henry rifle. In the end, it is estimated that 6,000 Union Soldiers were armed with the Henry rifle. Major William Ludlow was said to claim that what saved his men at the Battle of Allatoona Pass was the fact that many of his men were armed with Henry rifles. Confederate Colonel John Mosby, after encountering Union soldiers armed with Henry rifles, declared, “It’s a rifle you could load on Sunday and shoot all week long.” Despite its solid reputation, the Henry rifle was discontinued in 1866.

Caption: This photo shows an 1873 Winchester rifle. (Photo Credit: Ricce, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.)

Today, the 1873 Winchester is known as the gun that settled the west. What many people don’t know, however, is that it was based on the Henry rifle. My husband, Luke, has an interest in historical weapons, so for Christmas I bought him a replica of the 1873 Winchester. Recently, I talked him into:

  • Explaining how the 1873 Winchester differs from the Henry rifle
  • Discussing what made these two weapons so important to fighting the Civil War and settling the frontier
  • Demonstrating and explaining how the 1873 Winchester works and is maintained 

In the video below, you’ll get to see and hear what it was like to fire this weapon. I hope you enjoy his presentation.

Did you learn something new today? Which part of Luke’s presentation did you find the most interesting?


He came to cook for ranch hands, not three single women.

Gideon Swift, a visually impaired Civil War Veteran, responds to an ad for a ranch cook in the Southern California desert mountains. He wants nothing more than to forget his past and stay in the kitchen where he can do no harm. But when he arrives to find his employer murdered, the ranch turned to ashes, and three young women struggling to survive in the unforgiving Borrego Desert, he must decide whether his presence protects them or places them in greater danger.

Bridget “Biddie” Davidson finally receives word from her older sister who disappeared with their brother and pa eighteen years prior, but the news is not good. Determined to help her family, Biddie sets out for a remote desert ranch with her adopted father and best friend. Nothing she finds there is as she expected, including the man who came to cook for the shambles of a ranch.

When tragedy strikes, the danger threatens not only her plans to help her sister, but her own dreams for the future—with the man who’s stolen her heart.

Ebook purchase links: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Apple Books | Kobo

Paperback purchase links: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million


If you preorder Murmur in the Mud Caves before May 16th, 2023, don’t forget to register your purchase by emailing proof of purchase (screenshot) to kdpreorderbonuses@gmail.com before May 16th.

Everyone who registers their preorder purchase will receive a FREE ebook copy of the 31-day companion devotional, His Broken Treasure, written by Kathryn Breckenridge and edited by Kathleen Denly.


His Broken Treasure will also be available for separate purchase beginning May 20th, 2023.



About Kathleen Denly

Kathleen Denly writes historical romance to entertain, encourage, and inspire readers toward a better understanding of our amazing God and how He sees us.

Award winning author of the Chaparral Hearts series, she also shares history tidbits, thoughts on writing, books reviews and more at KathleenDenly.com.

Connect with Kathleen:

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Giveaway Details

One Winner will receive:

  • 1 Antique Map Leather Pen/Pencil Organizer
  • 1 ebook copy of Waltz in the Wilderness 

Eligibility: Due to the cost of shipping, Winner must have a U.S. shipping address to receive the prize as described. An international winner must accept a $5 Amazon giftcard in lieu of the Leather Pen/Pencil Organizer. Void where prohibited.

To Enter:

Leave a comment on this blog post answering one or both of these questions: Did you learn something new today? Which part of Luke’s presentation did you find the most interesting?


PSST! Are you new to my Chaparral Hearts series? If so, you may be happy to know that members of my Kathleen’s Readers’ Club can download a free copy of the prequel novella, Ribbons and Beaus. Click here to join!


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43 thoughts on “Rifles of the Civil War & Frontier”

    • I was fortunate to take a history of firearms class in college and the professor’s personal collection covered everything from matchlocks to modern weapons. The best part was being able to fire them. My favorite is the model 1859 navel revolver fir a hand gun and the Winchester for a rifle.
      The book sounds great.

      • That sounds like a fascinating class! I almost used the 1859 Navy revolver in one of my previous books, but ended up choosing a different model that better fit the character’s background. In Murmur in the Mud Caves, my hero carries an Army revolver in addition to his Henry rifle.

  1. I have heard of the Henry rifle, but I didn’t realize that the Winchester came right after! One interesting thing I learned from the video was that the bullets were interchangeable with a sidearm. What a great idea! It was also fun to see the smoke from firing the Winchester rifle. Pretty neat!

    • Yes, I thought the convenience that came with the change in bullets made a lot of sense and helped explain why the 1873 Winchester became as popular as it did. And I’m glad you liked seeing the smoke. It looked so cool in person, I was glad I was able to capture well with the camera.

  2. As a history and English teacher, I’ve taught some of this, but it was good to be refreshed and reminded. Thanks for a good article.

  3. Never knew that the Winchester was patterned after the Henry. Thought it was the other way around. The video was very informative. You could tell that Luke enjoyed talking about the rifles.

  4. I have heard of the Henry. I enjoyed this interesting and very informative video. It gave me much more insight into the subject.

  5. Interesting post about riffles. The Henry had to be better then the ones you had to reload every time. My son has a Winchester .22 Magnum that his grandfather gave him years ago.

    • Yes, the Henry was a revolutionary step forward in firearm technology and, as I mentioned, did make a significant difference in the outcome of at least one (though likely several more) Civil War battle. It sounds like your son has a very special gift to cherish.

  6. Discussing the intricacies of the Winchester and realizing that it was such a vital weapon. Thanks for this fascinating video and view.

  7. I love learning little bits of history about the history of our country. The history of the Henry rifle was new to me.

  8. I found the entire presentation very educational. I have shot a hand gun as well as, long ago, my first husband gave me the opportunity to shoot his 30.06 rifle which he went moose hunting with. It had a lot of kick and wasn’t something I was comfortable, being a woman. Your husband did a great job of describing the Winchester and the differences between it an the Henry rifle. It is definitely wise to use something with the easiest methods of keeping the rifle clean and exceptionally able to keep clean for maximum performance.

    • Yes, some firearms have serious recoil/kick. I’ve been knocked in the forehead a couple times because I had my face too close to a scope when firing. This is something that comes up in my current work in progress, Shoot at the Sunset, book 5 of the Chaparral Hearts series. The hero of Book 5 was one of Berdan’s Sharpshooters in the Civil War.

  9. I was reminded of the movie Jimmy Stewart was in! LOL I also liked the video. Very informative. I liked the part of using the same cartridges. And my husband asking what was I watching this morning! When I told him,”Really??? You never seize to amaze me, dear.” Hehehe

    I like the sound of this new book. I remember reading some of this series. I’ll have to get back to where I left off! Thanks for dropping by!

    • Well, now you’ve taught me something. I have watched plenty of old movies (I love Fred and Ginger!), but I hadn’t heard of Winchester, ’73. I had to ask my husband if he knew what you were referring to and he did. Now I’ll have to go watch that movie. 🙂 Thanks! And the conversation with your husband sounds funny. Thank you for sharing it with me. I hope you get to continue reading this series, and if you do, let me know what you think!

  10. Wow, what a great presentation, your husband did great in explaining so many things. My husband and I used to go target shooting with our pistols, we haven’t done it for awhile but it was alot of fun. My husband has one of his grandfathers rifle, I’m not sure what it is though. Your book sounds like a great read! Have a great rest of the day and a great weekend. Thank you so much for this Awesome and very awesome and very valuable lesson.

    • Yes, his memory is exceptional and he has spoken to audiences of hundreds as part of his job. The experience helped his passion for this subject come through in the video. I am so glad you enjoyed it. I also enjoy target shooting. Unfortunately, I am still recovering from a shoulder injury I incurred last year and haven’t been able to shoot anything since then. In the meantime, I’m grateful to have him as a stand-in to help me experience shooting these historical weapons. I also have a replica 1858 Remington Army revolver which is the other weapon the hero of Murmur in the Mud Caves carries. I am hoping to put together a similar video for that firearm soon.

  11. No I really didnt learn much today. My husband and son were in Civil War reenacting for about 20 years. Our daughter and I got to take pictures/sew for them all that time. Ok our daughter did the picture taking, I did the sewing. LOL We all learned so much about that period. What was really right and what was never mentioned in schools, etc. quilting dash lady at comcast dot net

  12. I’ve never seen a demonstration of a rifle so it was all new to me and I was particularly interested seeing the closeups at the very end of the video where he showed how to load, the elevator movement and other features that idk anything about. Your husband explained it in a very clear way.

    I appreciated hearing that Winchester hired Henry and obviously paid him for his expertise instead of simply copying his work.

    • My husband has a gift for teaching things he’s passionate about. I’m so grateful for his assistance with this topic and glad you enjoyed his demonstration.

  13. Great information! I didn’t know anything about the Henry rifle. I was especially interested by how it was loaded. Great job!

    • It’s a blessing to have these replicas which help us truly understand the details of life back then. I’m so glad you enjoyed the demonstration. Thanks for visiting the post.

  14. Your husband did an excellent job explaining the two guns and demonstrating the Winchester. I had heard of the Henry, but knew nothing about it. I didn’t realize any rifle loaded the way the Henry did with an open tube from the end of the barrel. I can see what a drawback that would be and how hard it would be to keep clean. His showing the mechanism for loading the chamber in the Winchester was a good idea and well done. I did not realize the Winchester came in 3 barrel lengths.
    Thank you for an interesting post and the lovely giveaway.

  15. There were some details about the Winchester that I did not know before. Your post was interesting and informative.

  16. I learned ALOT new. I was not even aware of the Henry at all. The open magazine was very interesting! The fact they had to worry about and debris getting in and causing a miss fire, yikes ?

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