Technological Advancements of the Civil War

Is war good for absolutely nothing? Yes, it is. However, it is impossible to overlook how quickly technology moves forward during/around wartime, for better or for worse.

    Most inadequate historians think that the only major technological advance of the Civil War was the introduction of “iron-clad” warships in North American. Oft overlooked by these amateurs is the advent of military reconnaissance balloons, railroad transport, submarines, military photography, naval mines, torpedoes, and the spread of telegraph wire.

     One of the most important driving forces in these advances was the Union’s naval blockade. The Union unknowingly bred a new form of maritime warfare, submarines armed with mines and torpedoes. Even though the U.S. Navy had built submarines for obstacle clearing purposes, the South added a whole new angle to the rather crude battles at sea. The destructive importance of submarines can later be seen in both of the World Wars, i.e. the sinking of Lusitania.

    In a similar vein, the use of balloons for military reconnaissance changed plan setting by providing commanders with information when obstacles, such as opposing troops or geography, were in the way. Military reconnaissance, along with the earlier invention of the Minie bullet in Europe, led to the Civil War being a war of trial and error, one of the reasons of it being so destructive on the American population.

    During the Civil War, both the North and South had rather expansive railroad systems (The North had 22,000 miles and the South had 9,000 miles). However, the South was the first of the belligerents to use the rail system to their advantage, they transported soldiers and supplies at a pace never before seen. Information also traveled much faster than it did in the past because of the introduction of 15,000 miles of telegraph lines. Both of these factors contributed to the change of tactics during the Civil War.

    Finally, all of this newfangled technology could be captured by complex cameras that were still unable to capture the action of the war. However, the cameras served as stepping stones for documenting the destruction that is warfare.



USS Cairo. 1862. U.S. Naval Historical Center, Mississippi. Web. 16 Dec. 2013.


“Civil War Technology.” The History Channel . History, n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2013.


“Civil War Innovations.” History Detectives. PBS, n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2013.



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