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Technological advances in weaponry during the CW - Weapons of the Civil War - Civil War Talk - Civil War Interactive Discussion Board
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 Posted: Wed Feb 13th, 2008 04:39 am
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JoanieReb
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There's nothing like a war to spur the improvement of old weapons and the creation of new ones.

Weapons buffs:  What advances and inventions happened in the course of the CW?  All I can ever think of is "repeaters".  I see someone spoke of the Gattling Gun in a post from some time ago. 

Last edited on Wed Feb 13th, 2008 04:45 am by JoanieReb



 Posted: Wed Feb 13th, 2008 05:52 am
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Texas Defender
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Joanie-

  You could well spend  hours answering that question. You could start at the beginning of the alphabet with the ambulance service and go to the end with Count Zepplin (who flew in one of Professor Lowe's balloons).

  For the purpose of this exercise, I'll limit myself to some of the advances made in the area of Navy (a subject seldom discussed on this board).

1) Ironclad ships changed naval warfare forever. Some in the CW were formidable, if unwieldy. This new technology also led to advancements in the engines need to drive them.

2) "Torpedoes", which would now be called floating mines came into their own as a weapon to be reckoned with. If Confederate technology in this area had been a little better, then they could have done considerably more damage. There were even some experiments trying to develop "torpedoes" that would propel themselves. That technology would develop twenty years later.

3) Submersibles finally showed that they could do damage as well. The Confederates even developed a steam powered submersible, though the engine was removed and they went back to hand cranking. The problem was that they were limited by the lack of power and the need to surface every 30 minutes or so for air. Something like today's nuclear submarine only existed in the mind of Jules Verne in those days.

  There are other things that could be added, such as ship design. Some blockade runners could do up to 20 knots which was amazing for that time. That was about as fast as anyone could go for many years after the war, until the turbine engines were developed.

  But, anyway- I only promised to discuss some- and only in one area. Much more has been omitted than included. :D



 Posted: Wed Feb 13th, 2008 11:26 am
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PvtClewell
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Bet I can offer an example of at least one of those omissions, TD.

When we visited the Monitor exhibit at the Mariners' Museum in Newport News last year, we learned one of the bazillion patents the Monitor produced was the first flushible commode on an ocean-going vessel. It was an unwieldy device to be sure, using sea water and thus requiring the turning of a sequence of valves in the correct order to clear the head and avert disaster. Otherwise an occupant might be forced to bail, as it were.

Also learned why the 'head' is called the head, but this is a discussion board of mixed company. Anyway, I'm pretty sure it had nothing to do with the poop deck, if I'm not mistaken. :)

Last edited on Wed Feb 13th, 2008 12:02 pm by PvtClewell



 Posted: Wed Feb 13th, 2008 12:54 pm
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JoanieReb
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Hmmmm....commodes as weapons....rifled or smooth-bore?

(Sorry, Pvt. Clewell, couldn't resist.)

Actually, I see the wording of my question was nebulous, my mistake!  I meant, what technological advances in weaponry occurred during the CW.

Thanks for opening up my thinking, Guys; TD is right, the navy is too often left out of our discussions, and out of my thoughts, as well.

Last edited on Wed Feb 13th, 2008 12:58 pm by JoanieReb



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 Posted: Wed Feb 13th, 2008 03:43 pm
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Texas Defender
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  No one can say that PvtClewell couldn't make heads or tails of the question. ;)



 Posted: Wed Feb 13th, 2008 04:15 pm
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ole
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The proliferation of rifled guns played a part as well. A battery of rifled guns could stand out of the range of smooth-boars and take out the guns one-by-one (which was a tactic developed: concentration of fire on one opposing gun; moving on the next and the next).

The importance of the rifled musket has been, I think, a bit overblown. True, the massed charge was quickly )but not entirely) abandoned. But the great mass of soldiers did not use the extended range capability of the minie'. They usually still waited for the enemy to get within the "zone of confidence."

Joanie specified "during the war." Seems the Henry and Spencer and other repeating arms had been developed, as had rifled guns. What the war did do to these weapons was the rapid advancement in their manufacture. The telegraph existed, but the war forced its faster development.

Maybe the replacement of the paddle wheel with the screw propeller? How about left and right brogans?

ole



 Posted: Wed Feb 13th, 2008 04:33 pm
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Texas Defender
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Ole-

  You're correct that the war advanced technologies that already existed.

  You mentioned the telegraph. In 1843, Congress appropriated money to lay telegraph wires from Washington to Baltimore. Mr. Morse was off and running.

Samuel Morse - First Telegraph Line

  Coincidentally, in the same year, the USS PRINCETON was launched. It would be the first screw powered steam driven ship in the US Navy.

Screw Propellers

  War, being the ultimate emergency, drives the development of technologies, new and pre-existing. You can argue whether or not its worth the price.  :)

 



 Posted: Wed Feb 13th, 2008 09:14 pm
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Johan Steele
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There were a lot of firsts in the CW, a lot more than just weaponry. The first Self Propelled Gun (RR mounted Cannon) not to mention the strategic use of the Railroads for moving troops and supplies. First Aerial observation in warfare and consequently the first anti aircraft fire, first succesful use of a submarine in combat, first practical combat use of the internally primed cartridge. Ironically the 20th Centuries attraction to the 75mm Artillery & AT guns stemmed from the 3" (75mm) Ordnance Rifle which saw service (as a breechloading conversion) all the way into WW2. A majority of parts for the M1855 were still interchangeable w/ the last model Trapdoor Springfields.

The influence of the CW: tactically, strategically and industrial upon history cannot be denied. The campaigns of the CW were, and still are, studied, in depth, in war colleges across the world. Grants audacity in movement and manuever in the Vicksburg campaign and Lee's actions at 2nd Bull Run and Chanclorsville will be studied for generations to come to name only a couple relevant studies.

The ability of Johnny Reb to prevail in the face of overwhelming quantative and equipment superiority and of Billy Yank to keep going after so many defeats. Proof to any grand planner that a few costly or even seemingly catastrophic defeats did not mean the end.

So many changes and innovations; is it any wonder so many European Nations sent observers? Or that they were both suprised and frightened by what they saw. Within a decade most nations in Europe were feilding breech loading rifles... and shortly after that magazine fed ones almost exclusively designed and developed initially by Americans. Rolling Blocks, Peabody (predecessor to the Martini Henry), Linder, Berdan all names that would become synonomous w/ military firearms development in the last half of the 19th Century along with names like Remington, Henry (Winchester)Ballard, Sharps. By 1880 every Nation had adopted the ironclad warship w/ turrets and enormous rifled guns.



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 Posted: Wed Feb 13th, 2008 11:01 pm
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YoungMiss
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Land mines.



 Posted: Thu Feb 14th, 2008 01:48 am
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Dixie Girl
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whats everybodys favorite CW era gun? mine is the LeMatt Revolver.



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War Means Fighting And Fighting Means Killing - N. B. Forrest When war does come, my advice is to draw the sword and throw away the scabbard." Stonewall Jackson


 Posted: Thu Feb 14th, 2008 02:06 am
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JoanieReb
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Henry or Spencer repeaters.  This would make a great new thread, Dixie.  Let's start it as one!  I'm trying not ot hijack so much anymore.



 Posted: Thu Feb 14th, 2008 02:10 am
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Johan Steele
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M1841, M1861, P53, M1853 Lorenz, Spencer Rifle, M1859 Sharps Rifle, Ballard, Smith, Starr, 1858 Remington... Oops, you said favorite, too many to choose from and I enjoy live firing all of them given a choice. ;)

 

Too late Joanie!  The curse is set.  At least it's a harmless hijack.

Last edited on Thu Feb 14th, 2008 02:12 am by Johan Steele



 Posted: Thu Feb 14th, 2008 02:13 am
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JoanieReb
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Dixie - on the other hand, maybe not!  Nothing like a good hijack, I always say!



 Posted: Thu Feb 14th, 2008 02:20 am
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JoanieReb
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Johann - you're right! And, according to the rules, since I started the thread, I can sanction the hijackings! I'm all for this one.



 Posted: Thu Feb 14th, 2008 02:26 am
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CleburneFan
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If by"gun" you mean shoulder arms or even hand weapons such as pistols, I don't have a favorite. My favorite heavy artillery weapon of the war is the "Swamp Angel", the 16500-pound rifled Parrott cannon with an eight-inch bore and using a 17-pound powder charge.  It was used to shell the city of Charleston, but did not last very long as it broke free from its special platform in the swamp. It was also one of the first known uses of a compass to aim artillery fire. The shelling of a civilian occupied city evoked considerable outrage by Confederates.

I am also fascinated by"The Dictator", a huge mortar that had to moved on a railroad car. It was used by the Union during the seige of Petersburg and could fire a shell nearly two miles.

As far as I know, the Civil War was the first war that employed manned hot air balloons for intelligence gathering. That was an interesting innovation, but it didn't last long.

 

Last edited on Thu Feb 14th, 2008 02:28 am by CleburneFan



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 Posted: Thu Feb 14th, 2008 05:23 am
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ole
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I just can't buy your arguemnt that the advantages offered by the minnie were overblown. All shooters have a zone of confidence and it is rarely at the limits of the weapon, but consider if you are an average shot..your zone of confidence with a smoothbore and round ball may well be 50 yes or less.In some cases much less...try shooting one and tell me how you did.

OK. "Overblown" is overstated. But let's say I have confidence enough in my aim to take a shot at a target at 50 yards with a smoothbore. Is the more accurate rifled musket going to to extend that distance significantly? Not by much for me. I would have had little knowledge of groups and such, only in the bead I could acuire -- anything more is sharpshooter stuff.

"The bead I could acquire" might be at the heart of what I'm trying to say. The extended range of the rifled musket doesn't change at all the range at which I can feel confident of hitting anything I aimed at. Now, volley fire might be at a more extended range, but putting the effect of much-improved accuracy into the hands of the individual grunt was not all that dramatic.

There's a lot of fluff about country boys being familiar with firearms and therefore better marksmen. It's probably true that the country boy knew how to load and care for a longarm. And he likely could drop a bird or a rabbit with a scattergun; but none of that automatically makes him a sharpshooter.

So. How about "overstated"?

ole:)



 Posted: Thu Feb 14th, 2008 05:51 am
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ole
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Land mines.
At the time, they were also called torpedoes.

If I'm remembering correctly, they were first crudely used between Yorktown and Williamsburg. As you might expect, any "first" is universally denounced.

An officer by the name of Raines, I think. But he went on to set up powder manufacturing sites and was known, not for his torpedoes, but for his ability to make powder.

I'm not aware of any federal use of them, but I wouldn't be surprised.

ole



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