Civil War Technology Advancements

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Since the beginning of time, technology has been constantly advancing. People are constantly looking for way to improve things. For a country, self-sufficiency and wars can drive technology advancements. People have a competitive nature so countries also have a need for gaining the upper hand to advance in both economic and military points. There is always a need for military production and growth for national security for that competitive nature. Wars are responsible for some of the fastest advancements. For example, after World War II, the Soviet Union had incredible and fast innovations pertaining to nuclear warfare. The industrial revolution influenced lots of technologies for both everyday life and war during the Civil War. During this time industrial warfare was booming and the production of weapons. There were many advances in science that were applied to making new technology. Conditions of the people in the military were always changing due to the fast developments of war tools. There were productions being made to equip soldiers for the land, the sea, and in the air. These technologies not only aided and helped change the war, but also helped shape today’s warfare. In this essay, focusing on the Civil War which was around the time of the industrial revolution era, I will discuss some major technology advancements, their functions, and how they’ve been innovated and redesigned for modern warfare.

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The first technology that I will be discussing is the telegraph. During the war communication was crucial to improve war efforts. The telegraph was invented by Samuel Morse in 1844. It was a device used for sending and receiving messages from long distances. Messages were sent using electrical current pulses via a language system called the Morse Code, named after Samuel Morris. About 15,000 miles of telegraph wire was quickly installed all over the east coast strictly for war purposes. This invention was extremely beneficial because it was used for the first time in warfare to help commanders and generals give battle field instructions and operations from long distance. There was even a telegraph wagon located on the front lines in order for this to be done to receive direct orders and to send updates which directly helped the Union States win the war. President Abraham Lincoln was a prime example of how the telegraph was used. He primarily used it to gather information and understand what was going on within his military. About 6.5 million messages were sent and received during the civil war. Today the telegraph is not in use because there are more efficient and accurate ways of sending information now. Today there six different military communications used: the alert measurement systems, the signal corps, military radio systems, cryptography, nuclear command control, and network centric warfare.

Next, I would like to discuss the use of railroads. The first actual railroad track was developed in 1830 and it was 13 miles long. Later they were quickly developed once people saw that it could help with lots of things. Railroads became very important during the industrial revolution mainly at the time of the Civil war which is when they were used heavily for the first time. Railroads contributed to a lot of economic and political factors which had a lot to do with the war. One of the biggest advantages that the Union states had in the war was their use of the railroads. This eventually led them to victory. The Union states were very industrialized and constantly innovating and had a good economy while the Confederate states fell behind in industrialization. Their economy relied heavily on agriculture and slave labor and their railroads were in terrible shape. The Union states lad over 22,000 miles of railroad laid down while the Confederate states only had about 9,5000 miles of railroad. Today railroads have the same use and still contribute to political and economic needs. They are mainly used to transport troops, civilians, supplies, raw materials and sometimes even both.

Now I would like to discuss the Gatling gun. This is a hand driven machine gun that was used for rapid fire. It was the most successful rapid firing gun before the birth of more modernized guns. This gun was invented by Richard Gatling in 1861 during the Civil War. He created such a dangerous weapon to show the destruction that it can bring in hopes to end the fighting. He wanted to show people that all wars bring is death but it just proved that it was quite efficient in killing which only made war more gruesome, bloody, and deadly. This rapid firing gun was a lot more convenient to use. It works by turning the crank that will rotate the barrels inside the giant cylinder. Then each barrel passes under an ammunition hopper before it gets to the top of the cylinder. A new cartridge will fall in the breech then the barrel would be loaded. Each firing pin contains a small cam head that catches a groove that is slanted because when each barrel revolves around the cylinder, the groove would pull the pin backwards, then pushing.


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  • Editors. “Gatling Gun.”, A&E Television Networks, 4 Mar. 2010,
07 September 2020

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