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Forum LockedThe US Civil War and Military Innovation

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Post Options Post Options   Quote Constantine XI Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: The US Civil War and Military Innovation
    Posted: 15-Aug-2006 at 22:07
One thing which has played on my mind for a while now is how the US Civil War proved itself to be such a fruitful arena for the innovation and invention of military technology. It seemed that the war rechanneled the considerable American industrial and intellectual capabilities into refining the arts of war, perhaps more technologically than tactically.

A clear example is that in the year 1862 alone, 240 military patents were issued for new technology. That is an incredible figure for a single year.

One example which particularly impressed me with its scope of imagination, though not its effectiveness, was one in which two artillery pieces were set up on the battlefield. Each cannon was loaded with an iron ball, the two balls connected by a chain. The intention was for the two cannons to fire simultaneously at the enemy ranks, the two balls being sent flying. The chain inbetween them was then to cut a swathe through the enemy ranks. A pretty neat idea, though in practice I don't think they managed to refine getting both cannons to fire at exactly the same time. Just something I found rather imaginative. Please contribute any other aspects of US Civil War invention and innovation.
 
 
 
 
EDIT by Rider: I have decided to take this amongst the many upcoming military topics by nations, of which German Empire already exists. These will contain similiart information, so I hope you do not mind, all your previous posts shall be left here. Thanks,
 
On the 7th of September, 2006.


Edited by rider - 13-Oct-2006 at 15:52
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Post Options Post Options   Quote rider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16-Aug-2006 at 09:14
I do not know any, but after the Civil War ended, the people who has seen the horrors of war, might have wanted to create such a powerful thing that war would die out. For example, this was the prupose of Nobel. To create so powerful weapon that no enemy dared to attack but it unfortunately went the other way and wars became more agressive.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Constantine XI Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23-Aug-2006 at 18:23
This thread has been pushed back to second page?!?! Outrageous, I will have none of it. Where are all the Yanks (and Confederates) when you need them? Well I stubbornly refuse to let this thread die, so even if I am posting purely to improve my own command of English and understanding of the topic I will continue to do so.

The use of the railroad provides some interesting insights into the new nature of warfare. One Confederate general, writing circa 1900, notes how the Confederacy may have failed to make use of a decisive advantage, in that the Confederate States of America (CSA) occupied a central position whereas her enemies were spread around the periphery. Possessing interior lines, CSA General Alexander noted that the Confederacy could have used the railroad to transport a victorious army from one front in the East or West theatre to the other and then crush the enemy there with combined forces.

In one incident he cited how General Longstreet, upon learning that Gen. Lee had defeated Hooker's army at Chancellorsville, urged Jefferson Davis to use the railroad to transfer part of Lee's army to the West for operations before the USA could recover from Chancellorsville.

The plan never went ahead, but it is interesting to look at another conflict where an enemy, greatly outnumbered and with the odds against them, achieved victory through the exact same method proposed by Gen. Longstreet all those years ago. I speak of the Russian Civil War, in which the Bolsheviks, with internal lines of supply and rail transportation, were able to quickly concentrate a mass of troops on one front at a time and systematically destroy their many opponents.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote kilroy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23-Aug-2006 at 20:07
Ok then.  The Civil War is called the first 'modern war' for some good reasons.  I think many of the leaders in both armies recognized the need for better mobility, speed, and innovation.  Two of the best examples of this would probably be the extensive use of the railroad system, the use of steam powered boats throughout Grants Campaign in the West and also the confederates attempts at trying to break the Union blockade on they're ports. 
 
The confederates knew they did not have the numbers to defeat the Union at sea, but at the same time they needed they're ports open for trade, weapons shipments and troop movements.  Since they didn't have the numbers they needed to think outside the box and they did.  They created many naval innovations such as the CSS Virginia (Merrimac) and the famed Hunley and a number of other such submarines (which are being discussed in another topic).  The Union also saw the need for such machines and developed the USS Monitor and started to fit many other ships with iron sides. 
 
The US Corp of Engineers and the Topographical Engineer Corp (1838-1863)  also blazed the way for new railroad systems to be deveopled, improve the way ships can move in rivers, such as the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. 
 
The Confederate Army thrived on its aggression and depended on it and needed newer weapons, faster methods of transportation and the ability to keep up logistically in order to survive.  The Union side also needed a huge logistic's network in order to fight on two fronts far from the Northern states.  Grant made wide spread use of the Mississippi River during his western campaign and Sherman made wide spread use of the railroad to move his army quickly down during his march to the Atlantic.
 
The Civil war also bred the first weapon that would be banned in an International Threaty, the exploding Rifle Bullet(which was developed and used around the same time in Russia).  Land mines and machine guns were in wide spread use also. 
 
I'm glad you bumped this, i didn't see this topic last time i looked.  Although i hope this makes sense, i'm a bit tired.  Cheers.


Edited by kilroy - 23-Aug-2006 at 20:15
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Emperor Barbarossa Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24-Aug-2006 at 07:00
Ironic thing about the Civil War is that they used Napoleonic tactics whenever they had such great technology. The Napoleonic Era tactics were supposed to be used whenever you had innacurate muskets, not highly accurate rifles. This attributed to many more deaths than there really should have been. One thing I have not seen covered in this thread yet is the widespread use of trenches by the Confederates while they defended Virginia in 1864-1865. The use of these trenches were not enough to save them, but they introduced a new concept of warfare, not fighting in lines, but fighting in trenches. Later during the war, Grant, seeing how the entrenched Confederates slaughtered his troops(he charged them right into the trenches), he promised never to let such a thing happen again, and he built his own trench network.

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Post Options Post Options   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24-Aug-2006 at 07:37
Trenches were indeed a significant development, and usually overlooked. I hadn't really been aware of it until I saw Ken Burns' miniseries The Civil War (which I think holds the highest audience ratings ever for a PBS production).
 
You can I guess call them 'Napoleonic' tactics from the point of view of period, but actually they were more Wellingtonian than Napoleonic from the point of view of the individuals, weren't they?
 
It was also the first war in which cavalry - in the traditional sense of hussars, lancers, dragoons... - played no part, Stewart's and others' troops being more akin to mounted infantrymen.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Emperor Barbarossa Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24-Aug-2006 at 12:02
Gcle2003, I was referring to "Napoleonic" in the sense of "the era of Napoleon" not "of Napoleon". Cavalry played a small part, but they never really faced infanry(usually cavalry vs. cavalry battles were a bit common).

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Post Options Post Options   Quote kilroy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24-Aug-2006 at 14:29
I can't believe i forgot the use of trenches!   Very good catch Barbarossa! I do believe the battle you are refering to is The Battle of Cold Harbor Viriginia in 1864 which is considered to be one of the bloodiest and most lopsided battles of the war.  Infact Grant did remark in his memiors that it was one of two attacks he wished he never have ordered during the course of the Civil War.  This was also Lee's last great victory before he surrendered to Grant. 
 
Grant did eventually start building his own trench network but only after his corp commanders pleaded with him to cease the frontal assualts.  Some commanders refused to charge altogether.  But you must note, it wasn't only the trench system that won that battle, Meade also poorly moblized many of the attacks on the trenches, knowingly attacking without the numbers needed to break the Confederate line.  This followed with about ten days of trench warfare where the major players were sharp shooters, cannons and mortars. 
 
It is quite interesting that both sides stayed loyal to the 'Napoleonic Era' while having these new weapons and means of fighting.  You must not forget though, this was the way that many of them were taught at West Point and later put to practice in the war aganist Mexico.  I don't think any of the weapon developments were sufficent enough to change the method of fighting at the time.  Even when Grant faced the trench at Cold Harbor, he still resorted to the good old charge with alot of men method.  But he was facing this problem for the first time, and he did outnumber Lee by 20,000 men, i think he thought he had sufficent numbers to take Lee's position without having to resort to many changes in his method of fighting.  But, he was wrong of course and adapted accordingly.  While they did have a high number of military innovations during the time, i do not think they changed warfare suffciently in order to have the Generals at the time reform they're method of waging warfare.  However, i am interested in how you think they should have waged war with these new innovations instead, i don't think trench warfare would've been anymore less bloody then the rank and fire method that they used. 
 
Just my two cents, cheers. 


Edited by kilroy - 24-Aug-2006 at 14:55
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Post Options Post Options   Quote kilroy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24-Aug-2006 at 14:58
My mistake, it was typed in haste, fixed.

Edited by kilroy - 25-Aug-2006 at 12:46
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Post Options Post Options   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Aug-2006 at 07:08
Originally posted by Emperor Barbarossa

Gcle2003, I was referring to "Napoleonic" in the sense of "the era of Napoleon" not "of Napoleon".
OK.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Emperor Barbarossa Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Aug-2006 at 07:38
Originally posted by kilroy

I can't believe i forgot the use of trenches!   Very good catch Barbarossa! I do believe the battle you are refering to is The Battle of Cold Harbor Viriginia in 1864 which is considered to be one of the bloodiest and most lopsided battles of the war.  Infact Grant did remark in his memiors that it was one of two attacks he wished he never have ordered during the course of the Civil War.  This was also Lee's last great victory before he surrendered to Grant. 
 
Grant did eventually start building his own trench network but only after his corp commanders pleaded with him to cease the frontal assualts.  Some commanders refused to charge altogether.  But you must note, it wasn't only the trench system that won that battle, Meade also poorly moblized many of the attacks on the trenches, knowingly attacking without the numbers needed to break the Confederate line.  This followed with about ten days of trench warfare where the major players were sharp shooters, cannons and mortars. 
 
It is quite interesting that both sides stayed loyal to the 'Napoleonic Era' while having these new weapons and means of fighting.  You must not forget though, this was the way that many of them were taught at West Point and later put to practice in the war aganist Mexico.  I don't think any of the weapon developments were sufficent enough to change the method of fighting at the time.  Even when Grant faced the trench at Cold Harbor, he still resorted to the good old charge with alot of men method.  But he was facing this problem for the first time, and he did outnumber Lee by 20,000 men, i think he thought he had sufficent numbers to take Lee's position without having to resort to many changes in his method of fighting.  But, he was wrong of course and adapted accordingly.  While they did have a high number of military innovations during the time, i do not think they changed warfare suffciently in order to have the Generals at the time reform they're method of waging warfare.  However, i am interested in how you think they should have waged war with these new innovations instead, i don't think trench warfare would've been anymore less bloody then the rank and fire method that they used. 
 
Just my two cents, cheers. 


Yes, I was referring to the Battle of Cold Harbor. I believe that the Napoleonic Era tactics were for innacurate muskets, and the rifles kind of ruined the formations much quicker than should have happened. That is the problem of the American Civil War technology, it was better than Napoleonic technology, but there were no bolt-action rifles yet(not in high use though, I believe they created some type of quicker rifle, maybe not bolt-action, but close), so they could still use the old Napoelonic tactics.

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Post Options Post Options   Quote commander Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Aug-2006 at 11:53
One of the major innovative weapons created during the US Civil War was the Gatling Gun. It used a hand crank to rotate and fire shots from a cartridge. You could mow down an enemy line in seconds. The only bad thing is they had a tendency to over heat.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote pikeshot1600 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Aug-2006 at 13:15
Rick Shumaker:
 
The advances in technology were not yet understood by the generals.  They had all studied physics and mechanics and chemistry at West Point and VPI, but the art of war was still defined by the tactics and strategy of Bonaparte and Frederick.
 
After 1815, there were few wars, and at the same time, the advances of the industrial revolution had outstripped the tactical practice of Napoleonic warfare.  Exactly why, I have never been sure.  In the Crimea, there were hints of "things to come," and in northern Italy in 1859, the French and Austrians had some experience with the newer technical realities.  This was especially true of railways and rifled ordnance.  Probably the time frame was not long enough for these experiences to be digested during the period of warfare from 1855 to 1871 (Crimea to Franco-Prussian, and incl ACW).
 
In the ACW, armies were created from scratch with few experienced soldiers, and it was reasonable to train and drill in tactics that were understood and accepted.  That insured a slow and long learning curve, and very bloody lessons.
 
The same thing happened in WW I.  It took a long time to react and adjust to technological advances - actually moreso than in WW II.
 
 


Edited by pikeshot1600 - 25-Aug-2006 at 13:16
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Emperor Barbarossa Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Aug-2006 at 13:52
Originally posted by pikeshot1600

Rick Shumaker:
 
The advances in technology were not yet understood by the generals.  They had all studied physics and mechanics and chemistry at West Point and VPI, but the art of war was still defined by the tactics and strategy of Bonaparte and Frederick.
 
After 1815, there were few wars, and at the same time, the advances of the industrial revolution had outstripped the tactical practice of Napoleonic warfare.  Exactly why, I have never been sure.  In the Crimea, there were hints of "things to come," and in northern Italy in 1859, the French and Austrians had some experience with the newer technical realities.  This was especially true of railways and rifled ordnance.  Probably the time frame was not long enough for these experiences to be digested during the period of warfare from 1855 to 1871 (Crimea to Franco-Prussian, and incl ACW).
 
In the ACW, armies were created from scratch with few experienced soldiers, and it was reasonable to train and drill in tactics that were understood and accepted.  That insured a slow and long learning curve, and very bloody lessons.
 
The same thing happened in WW I.  It took a long time to react and adjust to technological advances - actually moreso than in WW II.
 
 


Yes, thanks for the information. That is another one of the problems, the commanders knew how to use Napoleonic tactics, but they were not able to adjust to the new technology fast enough, and thus, the generals were using outdated tactics. Also, commander does bring up another thing to this thread. The Gatling Gun was a new invention, but it was so rarely used during the war. It was used more in other wars, and was a precursor to the machine gun.

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Post Options Post Options   Quote kilroy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Aug-2006 at 15:13
Yes, thanks for the information. That is another one of the problems, the commanders knew how to use Napoleonic tactics, but they were not able to adjust to the new technology fast enough, and thus, the generals were using outdated tactics.
 
Yes, that was the point i was trying to make in my above post.  The weapon that really made many commanders in the army start to reconsider the way they went into battle was the Henry Repeating Rifle.  This weapon gave one man the firepower of a dozen muzzle loading riflemen.  It did not catch on in the mainstream army until around 1862 when many states such as Kentucky, Illinois and Indiana started to buy them for they're regiments going into combat.  Infact, an example of this would be at the Battle of Altoona Pass, "What saved us that day was the fact that we had a number of Henry Rifles." - Major William Ludlows. 
 
This rifle also made its power be known in Shermans March when Union soldiers were armed with Henry's and would throw back many Confederate attacks with minimum losses but inflicting horrible losses on the Confederates. 
 
 
Edited by Rider: Your Quote wasn't working. If you handtype it, make sure that the first brackets are like this: [quote ] and the final ones [/quote ]


Edited by kilroy - 26-Aug-2006 at 22:35
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Gundamor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Aug-2006 at 17:16
The use of the telegraph was used quite alot in the Civil War. It was quite effective when operational and was usually something that got cut by the enemy due to its effectiveness.

The use of naval mines and torpedos though I dont think a new inovation was something that was demonstrated to be quite effective in the Civil War. The marine screw also showed how more effective it was over the paddle on steam ships.

Like in most wars medicine also progressed alot. The use of Anesthesia was something practiced a bit more in the Civil War. Prostheses and early practices of plastic surgery also showed up. The reconition of needing to get the patient to the surgeon created the ambulance corp. General sanitation also improved from it. Alot more including alot of post war medicine practices that the Civil War helped as a testing ground.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Emperor Barbarossa Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26-Aug-2006 at 07:12
Originally posted by kilroy

Yes, thanks for the information. That is another one of the problems, the commanders knew how to use Napoleonic tactics, but they were not able to adjust to the new technology fast enough, and thus, the generals were using outdated tactics.
 
Yes, that was the point i was trying to make in my above post.  The weapon that really made many commanders in the army start to reconsider the way they went into battle was the Henry Repeating Rifle.  This weapon gave one man the firepower of a dozen muzzle loading riflemen.  It did not catch on in the mainstream army until around 1862 when many states such as Kentucky, Illinois and Indiana started to buy them for they're regiments going into combat.  Infact, an example of this would be at the Battle of Altoona Pass, "What saved us that day was the fact that we had a number of Henry Rifles." - Major William Ludlows. 
 
This rifle also mades its power be known in Shermans March when Union soldiers were armed with Henry's and would through back many Confederate attacks with minimum losses but inflicting horrible losses on the Confederates. 
 
 
Edited by Rider: Your Quote wasn't working. If you handtype it, make sure that the first brackets are like this: [quote ] and the final ones [/quote ]


Yes, but the problem with the large use of the rifle was that it took so much ammunition. They could fire over twenty shots per minute with the repeating rifle, compared to at most three with a regular rifle. The factories could not have possibly kept up with the large scale use of such a weapon.

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Post Options Post Options   Quote rider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Sep-2006 at 12:24
This thread has been reentitled, and formed into a military topic concentrating on the whole of the US until 1918, and also the original source of this thread: US Civil War and Military Innovation.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote rider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Oct-2006 at 13:41
Originally posted by Ponce de Leon

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Post Options Post Options   Quote Crusader3943 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-Mar-2007 at 09:09
Originally posted by Constantine XI


One thing which has played on my mind for a while now is how the US Civil War proved itself to be such a fruitful arena for the innovation and invention of military technology. It seemed that the war rechanneled the considerable American industrial and intellectual capabilities into refining the arts of war, perhaps more technologically than tactically.A clear example is that in the year 1862 alone, 240 military patents were issued for new technology. That is an incredible figure for a single year.One example which particularly impressed me with its scope of imagination, though not its effectiveness, was one in which two artillery pieces were set up on the battlefield. Each cannon was loaded with an iron ball, the two balls connected by a chain. The intention was for the two cannons to fire simultaneously at the enemy ranks, the two balls being sent flying. The chain inbetween them was then to cut a swathe through the enemy ranks. A pretty neat idea, though in practice I don't think they managed to refine getting both cannons to fire at exactly the same time. Just something I found rather imaginative. Please contribute any other aspects of US Civil War invention and innovation.





 

 

 

 

EDIT by Rider: I have decided to take this amongst the many upcoming military topics by nations, of which German Empire already exists. These will contain similiart information, so I hope you do not mind, all your previous posts shall be left here. Thanks,

 

On the 7th of September, 2006.


The first real machine gun was also invented and used during the Civil War.
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