Inventions during the Civil War came about due to a combination of necessity as well as the larger technological advances of the time. Though the battles were fierce and pitted brother against brother, at the same time, America was undergoing a transformative industrial revolution that led to innovations we still enjoy today.
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Civil War Inventions
The inventions Civil War participants and bystanders created and enjoyed would come in many different shapes and forms. There are multiple things that were invented during the Civil War that had to do with combat specifically, including new weapons. The war even saw the creation of the submarine.
Methods for creating products were changing. Just as the Industrial Revolution transformed the European economy before it, the American Industrial Revolution was taking production to the next level. It just so happens that the war that would divide America, determine states’ rights, and decide the fate of Blacks in America was also going on simultaneously.
The Civil War is a major point in American history dealing with complex issues and helping to end one of the darkest stains in our country’s history. So, it’s reasonable to see why the history of Civil War inventions can sometimes take a backseat. Get to know some of the coolest inventions that came up during this time and the legacy they left in their wake.
What New Technologies Were Used in the Civil War?
Aircraft development, telecommunications, transportation, and of course, new weapons technologies are just some of the highlights of all the inventions during the Civil War. The technological developments of the American Civil War led to new innovations and improvements for Americans across an array of industries.
1. Hot Air Balloons
Yes, hot air balloons were invented before the Civil War, but their use as military recon and aerial support sparked new tactics deployed by military forces. Both sides used hot air balloons to help gather information on the enemy’s location and direct troops as to where to fire.
While railroads had long been invented, it wasn’t until the Civil War that they began to massively expand their reach throughout North America. The expansion of the American railways helped Union forces better equip and position themselves, which ultimately led to the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse.
If the Vietnam War was the first televised war, the Civil War was the first photographed war for the American people. The invention of photography shortly before the outbreak of the Civil War changed the way that conflicts were reported and recorded, providing people throughout North America the ability to actually see images of the war through newspapers in the palms of their hands.
Communication is vital for any operation, and the invention of telegraphs allowed military forces to communicate information throughout the battlefield by means of Morse code. There were more than 15,000 miles of telegraph lines laid for specific use by military forces.
American Civil War inventions can be found in the big and the small. Both high above the ground and down beneath the sea. Ironclad watercraft were being used for military operations during the American Industrial Revolution as it continued to grow. This would lead to the Confederacy inventing and using submarines to help bolster its naval forces and take fighting into a new aquatic arena.
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6. Gatling Guns
Civil War-era inventions don’t get more bada$$ than the Gatling gun. Firearms at the time required timely reloading, and no weapon could reliability fire sustained rounds of ammunition. The Gatling gun fixed these issues and allowed for an innovative weapon for Union forces.
7. Hand Grenades
The Ketchum grenade was a dart-like grenade used by Union troops in multiple battles throughout the Civil War. Not the most effective, as they had to land on their nose to detonate, but they laid some of the foundations for a ubiquitous weapon still used in modern warfare.
Though invented long before, the principles behind modern ambulances begin to take shape during the Civil War. One of the greatest medical inventions during the Civil War, it was here that dedicated professionals would use a wagon to CASEVAC wounded troops from off the battlefield. In 1862, Jonathan Letterman instructed General George B. McClellan to issue General Order 147, which established the United States Army’s first full-time, dedicated ambulance corps.
How Did Industrialization Affect the Civil War?
The American Industrial Revolution had a massive impact on the Union’s ability to win the Civil War. Going beyond the ability to create inventions during the Civil War, as compared to the slave labor that the Confederacy relied upon, this also had a major economic impact on both sides.
The North was able to grow its economy through factories and production throughout its own nation and benefit from further output through international trade. Such economic prospects, or the lack thereof, hurt the South. The increase in transportation technology, such as railroads, that were more prevalent across Union lines also played a role and made it easier to transport troops and supplies.
Who Invented the Submarine During the Civil War?
Horace Lawson Hunley created the submarine that was used by Confederate forces during the Civil War. Named the HL Hunley after its inventor, it was an innovative component of the Confederate’s navy. It came about during an evolution in the design of maritime vehicles that also led to the creation of the ironclad warship.
Some Civil War Inventions Were Here To Stay
It’s hard to say if and when an invention will have a lasting impact, but it’s safe to say that many inventions during the Civil War did. The combination of the timing of the Industrial Revolution and the need for advancements in warfare helped lay the groundwork for a range of new gadgets. Some of these inventions are vital facets of history that reach far beyond the military and affect many aspects of our lives today.
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