In the civil war, the commander of the Union “lightning brigade” personally took out a loan to buy his soldiers advanced new repeating rifles because the government would not supply them. Using the firepower advantage afforded by the new rifles, his brigade proved extremely effective in combat.

John T. Wilder

John Thomas Wilder (January 31, 1830 – October 20, 1917) was a colonel in the Union Army during the American Civil War, noted principally for capturing a key mountain pass (Hoover’s Gap) in the Tullahoma Campaign in Central Tennessee in June 1863. Wilder had personally ensured that his ‘Lightning Brigade’ of mounted infantry would be equipped with the new Spencer repeating rifle, though he initially had to appeal to the rank-and-file to pay for these weapons themselves, before the government agreed to carry the cost. Victory at Hoover’s Gap was attributed largely to Wilder’s persistence in procuring the new rifles, which totally disoriented the enemy.

Wilder was also an engineer who operated the first two blast furnaces in the South.

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