The novel’s Private Burton Laing hated to give up his British Enfield rifle, even after it misfired and he had trouble extracting the Minie ball from the barrel for a reload. He especially hated it when Corporal MacGavin handed him an American Springfield rifle, instead.
The Rebels, too, often preferred the older 1853 Enfield, with its hand-made fittings, to the newer, machine-made 1861 Springfield. They made the point in their battlefield requisitions, trading Springfields for Enfields when their owners no longer had any use for them.
Although the Enfield sometimes had ignition problems, the troops believed that it was more accurate at longer ranges. Today’s black-powder enthusiasts—using modern reproductions of each single-shot rifle—can’t see much difference between them. But it could be the reproductions have eliminated whatever differences there were one hundred and fifty plus years ago. On the other hand, by the end of the war both sides preferred the seven-shot Spencer repeater, when they could get one—usually off a dead cavalryman.