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Modern Warfare: Military Technology in the Civil War

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Benjamin Scott May 3, 2004 Modern Warfare: Military Technology in the Civil War The American Civil War is considered by many historians to be the first modern war. It was the first war in which mechanized and electrified devices were used. Such technologies include photography, mines, submarines, torpedoes, rapid-fire guns, rifles, and the telegraph. Some of these innovations helped make the civil war one of the deadliest wars in history. Over 620,000 people died in the war; more casualties than all other wars involving Americans combined. Practical photography technology was not developed until the early 19th century. Although the military did not have much interest in photography in the beginning of the war, there were several photographers who captured many disturbing images. One of the most famous photographers was Mathew Brady. He and his twenty assistants made a complete record of all of the events of the civil war. Each assistant had his own traveling darkroom so that plates could be processed on the spot. In 1862, Brady shocked the country by displaying his photographs of corpses after the battle of Antietam. This was the first time the general public had seen images of the bloodshed of war. ...read more.


The Hunley also sank, due to unknown reasons. The sinking of the Hunley ended sub experimentation for the remainder of the Civil War. After the war, sub development eventually resumed. Self-propelled torpedoes were developed in about 1868 (Morris). Invented in 1862 Dr. Richard Jordan Gatling, the Gatling gun was the first successful rapid-fire gun used in war. It was used only a few times in the Civil War, and if it had been used more, there definitely would have been many more casualties. Apparently, Gatling "set out to create a weapon so devastating that it would make the idea of war so horrible that war would become unthinkable thus ending all wars" (Weapons). Unfortunately, the weapon was very efficient at killing people and eventually became popular, especially in the Spanish-American war. This 2,000 pound (900kg) gun was operated by a hand-crank, with six barrels revolving around a central shaft. Each barrel could fire over 100 rounds per minute, resulting in a weapon capable of firing over 600 rounds per minute! While the gun fired standard .58-caliber ammunition, it had so many mechanical problems that the US government was not interested in purchasing the weapon. ...read more.


Issued in 1863, this rifle was a great advantage for the North. Additionally, the South could not even use captured Spencers because of a lack of ammunition (Beck). The telegraph was a relatively new invention at the time of the Civil War. Invented in 1844 by Samuel F.B. Morse, by the time of the war, there were telegraph lines all over the eastern U.S. and even some lines across the country. By the end of the war, more than 15,000 miles of lines had been built for military purposes. When the war began, it quickly became the best means to communicate military intelligence, and soon became target for counter-operations. One Union commander captured two Confederate supply trains by intercepting messages and replacing them with disinformation. Both armies developed mobile telegraph units that traveled wherever the army went. The U.S. Government opened its own telegraph office, where President Lincoln often received information on the war (Telegraph). With all these modern technological developments, the Civil War was certainly the deadliest of the time. The overall consequence of these advances was the rapid application of new weapons and other technologies of war to the battlefield at a pace never seen before in history, with the corresponding result that weapons became more lethal than ever. Even today, the Civil War is still considered one of the bloodiest wars of all time. ...read more.

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