Technology in Civil War

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Civil war over time has motivated man to develop technology that will give him the upper hand against his enemies. American civil war was the first modern Civil war. Civil war was the main cause of death in America in 1861 to 1865, this deaths were mostly due to the use of advance weapons. Aside from the destruction and death cause by the civil war the upside of it was the advancement in technology and weapon development. However, this weapon changed the way both the union and confederates soldiers fought. During the civil war, there were some technological advancement such as musket, telegram, submarine, railroad, camera, hot air balloon, ironclad, different kind of rifles and bayonet that were used and are still in use today.

The repeating rifle was among the most remarkable mechanical developments of the Civil War. During the Civil War, fighters used different rifles before settling on the repeater. Both camps at the beginning of the war were using the smooth bore musket. The barrel of the smoothbore musket had a range of 300 feet and lacked accuracy. Its main problem was that it took long to be loaded. Only the trained Calvary soldier could use the rifle for they could fire and reload it within a few minutes. What’s more, the smooth-bore black powder guns could take in round formed projectiles that were about a similar size as the distance across of the barrel, making the exactness of the shot less successful. Running to the adversaries was the only option for the soldier to hit the target.

Rifling or rifled musket was the next big this in terms of accuracy with increased accuracy of around 550 yards. Rifled musket looked similar to smoothly bored gun, but the significant difference between the two was the barrels design. The barrel of the rifled musket had a groove that made the slug or bullet to turn when fired the result was severe damage to the enemy body parts. During this time there was high number of amputated soldiers due to impact of the rifled musket. Most preferred bullet for the Rifled musket was a cone-like shaped bullet .The regiment was supplied with over 400,000 grooved rifles. The biggest disadvantages of these two black powdered Rifled is that you could only fire one round at a time.

Creation of repeating rifle also known as Henry refiles by American gunsmith Benjamin Tyler Henry increased the amount of shot from one to twelve in just one load .This rifles were mostly used by the Union army while their counterpart the Confederates could not produce such rifles. This was a great advantage to the Union army, but this rifle had one disadvantage it took too long to load.

Later came the Spencer rifle the inventor of this rifle is Christopher spencer this was the improved version of the Henry Rifle. Spencer rifle was regarded as a blessing to the Union army and a curse to the confederate. During the war, Union Soldier wrote a quote referring to spencer refile that “we have guns that we load up on Sunday and shoot all the remainder of the week.”, for it was much easy to use and reload and I had the capability to fire more shot . The only problem with Spencer rifle was its capacity, it had less ability compared to the henrys rifle. In the four year duration of the war, the union soldier preferred to use the Henry rifle due to its bullet capacity. With the adoption of the different weapon form, the black powder rifle to the Spencer rifle, the different weapon at hand allowed soldiers to move swiftly during forward movement and cause immense damage to the confederates.

Gatlin machine gun is the father of the modern machine Gun .The Gatlin machine was invented by Richard Gatling ,it had six barrel gun with ability to fire 200 round in 60 seconds ,it was multi barrel and hand driven machine Gun . In the 1882 the first gun was created, it had a caps percussion and chambers made of steel which were easy to reload but it kept malfunction later in 1867it was redesign and made to used metal cartridge .Gatling created this Gun in the believe that if men saw the damage inflicted by the Gatlin machine there would stop fighting .

Professor Thaddeus Lowe invented the first ever hot air balloon used in the Civil War. The Union army was on a roll, making great improvement battle plan with the use of a hot air balloon. Professor Lowe first demonstrated the use of the balloon in front of President Abraham Lincoln the hot air balloon raised to the heights of about 500 meters above the Washington Mall where the current National Air and Space is now. President Lincoln later appointed Lowe, the commander of the newly formed Balloon Corp. later in 1861 in August Lowe received funds to build the first Hot Air balloon to be used in military affairs.

Lowe first recommended the use of the balloon to conduct an aerial survey for the Union Army .He requested the balloon be fitted with telegram another use of an invention by the Union Army. The aerial view allowed the Union army to be able to monitor the movement of the Confederate military without the Southern being aware, then sent message using the telegram back to Balloon Corp headquarters. Additional this made it easy for the Union army to fire accurately at the Confederate army.
Another Great Technological advancements for the Union Army was the Telegram. The telegram was a significant technological advancement for the army. Samuel Morse invented the Telegram in 1844 .The telegram utilizes the electrical signal to send it messages over a wire.

The first message was sent from Washington to Baltimore. The lines of telegram spread primarily on the eastern coast. During the war, the union army used the telegram to communicate battle strategy and tactic with its camps. Also the telegram allowed the Union Army to communicate with the air force department Balloon Corp. Abraham Lincoln became the first president to use the telegram to communicate with front line officer’s .In 1861 the first Military Telegram Corp was established and led by Andrew Carnegie. The media also relied on the telegram in receiving information from the army about the status of the war. The telegram was a significant advantage that the Union Army had over the confederates. One famous telegram was from telegram from Lieutenant General Grant to General H. Thomas relieving him of his duties in December 9 1984.

During the civil war, naval war was one of the great’s affairs between the two fronts, the Union Army had the ironclad warships while the confederate developed a submarine. At the start of the civil war, the Union army was superior in term of naval strength with their Ironclad warships which were efficient due to the armor cladding and it was capable of staying afloat while making progress in enemy fronts. The primary purpose of the ironclad was to barricade the ports preventing confederates boat from leaving their ports. To counter this, the Confederates developed the submarines; this invention was considered as one of the most magnificent designs during the civil war. One, in particular, was the one built by William Cheeney and Horace Hunley; the latter created several submarines during the period of the war, one the confederate favored most was the CSS.H. Hunley.

In 1864 on February lieutenant George Dixon and his crew were on a mission to find and destroy the Ironclad warship USS Housatonic. During the mission, the submarine released a coal torpedo from it front causing damage to the side ironclad ship thus sinking the USS Housatonic .CSS H.L. Hunley became the first submarine to destroy a warship although after the great victory submarine sunk killing everyone on board it is believe that the ship sunk due to the blast from the coal torpedo. While shockwave from the fired torpedo killed the crew by busting their blood vessel. The parts of the submarine can be found in Capitol Park Museum, Civil War-Era Submarine.

During the civil war, a torpedo was anything that could explode even the hand grenade of those time. The coal Torpedo was a hot iron cast which was hollow filled with explosives and was covered with coal. Thomas Courtenay was a Captain in the Confederate Army in the department of the secret service and was the inventor of this coal torpedo which main purpose was to be place in the enemy ship or train coal pile so when inserted in the boiler the torpedoes explodes and destroys the enemy compartments . The use of coal torpedo led to the development of the use of rats bombs. This rat’s bombs cause heavy damaged to Union Army ships.

Technological advancement in photography assisted great photographers to document the civil war. The invention of the camera was to allow the public to see the glories and horror of the war through the lens. It served no military purpose at that time. Mathew Brady and his compatriots Alexander Gardner and Timothy O’Sullivan were famous photographers during the civil war. Mathew employed both Timothy and Gardner to assist him in taking photographs, the equipment used were heavy. Also, the chemical used in making the photography were dangerous and required to handle by careful.

However they could not take pictures of live action in the field. Example of the image is the image of the damages of Fort Steven by Cannons[footnoteRef:6]. The images that were captured were of dead bodies and the area where the war took place. Common method of photography used at that time was stereo views and wet plate photography. The stereo view photography was the most common photography method, it had the mechanic to create a three-dimensional image. The camera provided a glimpse into the event and life of the civil war soldiers and offered a record that could be stored for future generation to understand their history. Furthermore most of the images that were framed were of soldiers returning from war. This inspired next war photographer to venture in battleground especially in the world war one and two and the Vietnam War.

During the war, there was a massive track of railway connecting the south and North, but Majority of it was on the North. The south had 9,000 mile of the trail while the North had 22,000 mile of track this gave the Union Army an advantage ,the union used the railway to move good and troops from region to region. Moreover, the tracks in the Northern side were better than those in southern side the track ,The north tracks were standard gauge meaning that any track can be used by the train cars while the south of tack, there track was not standardized meaning every point there had to switch train cars which were an inefficient and expensive system.

First organized medical transportation system was done by Jonathan Letterman, Medical Director of the Army of the Potomac. It consisted of a soldier who did not qualify as combat soldiers. The ambulance had a stretcher, and two pallet carries and driver. During the war, they would go into the war zone and pick up wounded soldiers and take them to the medic center; this idea of Jonathan is still used up to today by the military.

Shot gun –pistol revolver it the best of both centuries .Confederate army preferred to use the LeMat revolver also known as the Grape Shot Revolver it was had capacity of carrying nine rounds and with barrel buckshot shot gun below the mail barrel , it lack accuracy ,but was effective when closer to the enemy .besides you could shot both the bullet then the buckshot. Another disadvantage of the LeMat revolver is that it was too heavy. Soldiers prefer to carry the lighter colt 1860 revolver which was lighter than the Le Mat revolver. The colt 1860 revolver it was single action with six rounds with a barrel eight inch long .Most navy station in Minnesota used revolvers.

Finally the Bayonet , it was mostly used together with the musket , it was fixed on musket .When soldier had no more bullets their result to hand to hand compact .with the bayonet attached to the front of the Musket this allowed the soldier to continue to inflict damage on the enemy .

In conclusion this weapon formed the basis of the current weapon that exist today, over time the military has incorporated technology fully in its arsenal hence becoming more deadly and stealthy.


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  2. Hubbard, Lucius F, and Minnesota Historical Society. Civil War papers. St Paul, Minn.: Published by the society, 1908. Pdf. https://www.loc.gov/item/18018920/
  3. Tagiuri, and John. “Civil War-Era Submarine, Capitol Park Museum, 660 North Fourth Street, Baton Rouge, East Baton Rouge Parish, LA.” The Library of Congress. Accessed March 28, 2019. https://www.loc.gov/item/la0699/.
  4. Perry, George T., Lincoln, Abraham, Lee, Robert E., Brewerton, George Douglas, Elliott, Moore, Henry P., Gutekunst, Frederick, Nicolay, John G., Phillips, Eugenia Levy, Magnus, and Charles. “The Civil War in America April 1861–April 1862.” April 1861–April 1862 – The Civil War in America | Exhibitions – Library of Congress. November 12, 2012. Accessed March 28, 2019. https://www.loc.gov/exhibits/civil-war-in-america/april-1861-april-1862.html.
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  6. “Views of Civil War Fortifications, Gun Emplacements, Breastworks, with and without Personnel.” The Library of Congress. Accessed March 28, 2019. https://www.loc.gov/item/2004667323/.
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Cite this paper

Technology in Civil War. (2020, Sep 14). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/technology-in-civil-war/



How did technology change the Civil War?
Technology changed the Civil War by introducing new weapons and modes of transportation, such as the Gatling gun and the steamship, which increased the pace and scale of warfare. It also allowed for more efficient communication and logistics, which played a crucial role in the Union's victory.
what new technologies were used in the civil war?
Some new technologies that were used in the Civil War were the telegraph, which allowed for quick communication between generals, and the introduction of ironclad ships.
What was the most important piece of technology in the Civil War?
The most important pieces of technology in the Civil War were the guns and cannons.
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