Civil War Tech

Events

U.S. Military Telegraph Corps

1861

The Telegraph was recently developed before the civil war by Andrew Carnegie, so Lincoln employed Carnegie’s technology for military use and made the U.S. Military Telegraph Corps In 1861.

Interesting Fact: “The next year alone, the U.S.M.T.C. trained 1,200 operators, strung 4,000 miles of telegraph wire and sent more than a million messages to and from the battlefield“ (history.com)*
The Telegraph was significant to the civil war because it allowed officers to contact their troops immediately, War strategies could be delivered on the spot, and battlefield reports could be given the day of that battle. Before this technology messages were mainly delivered by horse which could take days, weeks, and even months. The Confederacy was at a loss and the Union had the major advantage of good communication.

Aerial Reconnaissance

August 1861

In this time the Union began to use hot air balloons to spy on Confederate camps, hence aerial reconnaissance. In the balloon, spies would go up, watch, listen to the enemies, and report back to their officers through telegraphs.
This was significant to the civil war because it allowed the Union to collect intel from afar which would aid them to defeat the Confederates. This also set a precedent for future air warfare and espionage in later conflicts.
Fact: Thaddeus Lowe, a hot air balloon pilot, was the first to use a hot air balloon for civil war purposes. He took a 650 mile ride to South Carolina from Cincinnati in hopes to end up at the White House to offer support for the Union, but the wind blew him a little off course.

Gattling Gun

1862

In 1862, Richard Gatling invented the Gatling Gun, a machine gun driven by hand. It was the first reliable machine gun in the Civil War.
This was significant to the Civil War because it was the first firearm to solve loading, sustained firing, and reliability problems. It also allowed for less soldiers and in turn less casualties.
Interesting fact: Because this gun was so reliable,the US has used it in multiple wars and it’s still used today.

Ironclad Warships

March 9, 1862

On March 9, 1862 the first ironclad battle was fought between the CSS Virginia and the USS Monitor. An ironclad was a steamboat covered in iron panels for protection. This battle began because the south’s USS Virginia destroyed many of the wooden northern ships the night of March 8th, so the Union came back the next day with an ironclad of their own.

Interesting fact: The first ironclad, the CSS Virginia, was made from a captured Union steam frigate, the Merrimack, and built by the Confederates.
This was significant to the civil war because it made naval warfare a harder battle to win and tougher vessels. This set a precedent for stronger ships in later wars

Repeaters

1863

In 1863, the repeating rifles, or guns that could shoot multiple rounds without being reloaded, were developed.
Interesting Fact: The most famous repeater was called the Spencer Carbine which could shoot seven shots in thirty seconds
This was significant in the Civil War5t allowed for more casualties, less cargo, and faster battles. Since the south didn’t know how to make repeaters and didn’t have the resources, the Union had yet another advantage over the confederates.

Submarines

1864

Submarines were invented in the early 1800s, but the first successful military use of them was in 1864 with the first Confederate submarine, the Hunley. The Hunley‘s mission was to attach a naval mine to the bottom of the Union’s USS Housatonic. This action was successfully completed and it was the first submarine to sink a ship. The submarine was run by eight people who sat on a bench and turned a crank to power the propeller.

This was significant because it allowed for discrete fighting among the navy, so it sunk ships faster with less manpower. It was also an advantage for the Confederates and not the Union.
Interesting Fact: The Hunley only went on one mission and even though it successfully sank the USS Housatonic, it also sank itself.