Amongst the most lasting of factors stemming from the Civil War are the weapons that were developed. Before the Civil War, the weapons used were highly unreliable, and were not advanced enough to provide the needed defense for a young nation such as our own. Innovative minds created many interesting ways to demolish their enemies without ever having to fire a shot or go into full combat through different types of bombs that were in disguise. Among the advancements in the Civil War were the torpedo, the carbine rifle, the minie` ball, several models of rifle-muskets, rocket launchers, rocket bombs, "Greek Fire," and a wide array of other secret weapons.
Torpedoes were quite possibly the most destructive weapons created in the Civil War times. There is a great number of models of torpedoes that come from the Civil War; ranging all the way from models that were anchored to the ocean floor to drifting torpedoes that hung beneath driftwood and moved with the current. The first torpedoes from the south were simple powder filled tin cans with trigger attachments. The torpedoes were later developed to have a thin brass cap with a beeswax solution. If pressure was placed on the cap, then the torpedo would explode. The same structure was used in the development of landmines, the "sub-terra booby traps" as they were so affectionately named by the Union officers. Though in the early stages of development, these primitive looking war machines could destroy a fleet.
The Carbine Rifle was a small, easy breechloading rifle. This abnormality made this rifle capable of firing much faster than its predecessors were able to. The Carbine was most effective when using the tactic of riding up, dismounting, and concentrating rapid carbine fire on the enemy. The Carbine rifles developed from single-shot "Burnside" models, named after Ambrose E. Burnside, into repeating rifles dubbed "Henry's".
Three French army officers would share the credit for the bullet that caused nearly ninety percent of the soldier casualties in the Civil War. Captain Henri-Gustave Delvigne, Colonel Louis-Etienne de Thouvenin, and Captain Claude-Etienne Minie` were the men which developed this masterpiece. This bullet was designed after discovering that when a standard bullet was put down the barrel of a rifle and was pounded with the ramrod, it would be grossly disfigured which greatly reduced the accuracy of the gun. Since the bullets needed to be pounded into the gun, Delvigne designed an elongated cylindrical bullet that had a flat base that would expand more evenly after being struck by the ramrod. A few years of development and a patent later, the minie` ball was ready for combat. In the 1850's, James H. Burton, a master of arms, made a few alterations such as slightly lengthening the bullet and thinning the walls of the hollow base. These alterations made the minie` ball much easier and cheaper to mass-produce; this is what was used by the blue and gray's out on the battlefields.
The Union soldiers were more likely to carry the U.S. Model 1861 Springfield Rifle-Musket than any other weapon. These guns were not the easiest or most convenient weapons even if they were the most common. The Model 1861 was a .58 caliber gun, was 58.5 inches long, and weighed in at a heavy 9.25 pounds. This rifle was nicknamed "The Widow Maker." This nickname was made with great thanks to the minie` bullet which was an integral part of this rifle-musket. The combination of the rifle-musket and the minie` bullet forever changed the face of warfare; thus because for the first time ever, men could aim at a distant target, and have a decent chance of hitting it. This luxury allowed the gun-bearers to hide in a safe place, yet still be able to knock down their target. Colonel George Hanger, an American Revolution officer, wrote in 1814:
A soldier's musket if not exceedingly ill-bored (as many are), will strike the figure of a man at 80 yards, perhaps even at 100; but a soldier must be very unfortunate indeed who shall be wounded by a common musket at 150 yards, providing his antagonist aims at him; and as for firing at a man at 200 yards with a common musket, you might just as well fire at the moon and have the same hope of hitting your object. I do maintain and will prove, whenever called on, that no man was ever killed at 200 yards by a common soldier's musket by the person that aimed at him.
It is clear, to say the least, that with this being said, muskets were not very reliable until the development of the Model 1861, and the minie` bullet. Without question, rifles swiftly took the place of these outdated muskets.
Rocket launchers and rocket bombs are essentially self-propelled artillery shells, which were fired from tubes such as the Hale Rocket Launcher. The Hale Rocket system superceded the Congreve rocket, which had been used against the Americans in the War of 1812. Hale rocket systems were noisy, inaccurate, and generally ineffective. The rockets, though, were used sporadically, making the possession of a rocket or rocket launcher a rarity.
Greek Fire was an effective and very threatening method of attack that can demolish entire towns in a very short amount of time. Levi Short created these rockets out of a special fluid, and some powder. Upon firing, the rocket would explode and the liquid would spread over anything in its path and flames would envelop any objects around it. The fluid that ignited burned for approximately seven minutes if water had not been applied. After a patent was drawn for the Greek Fire, Levi Short was able to use some connections that he had to arrange a meeting with President Lincoln. People such as General P.G.T. Beauregard were disgusted at the fact that the Union was willing to use such a catastrophic weapon on cities "filled with sleeping women and children".
Inventors constantly sought ways to get more results from every shot, or to deliver more shots with one effort. One of the weapons that was developed through this mentality was the Billinghurst-Requa Battery Gun. This gun consisted of twenty five .58 caliber rifle barrels which were loaded simultaneously with a clip of cartridges. With the pull of a string, a percussion cup fired; this lit powder in a track which fired all of the cartridges. This gun was dubbed the "covered bridge gun" because this gun could demolish an attack of the enemy across a bridge in an instant.
Many times, it wasn't the number of men fighting or their weapons that handed a battle to one side of the line or the other, but it was simple intelligence. Guns do not have to work to scare people, so "Quaker Guns" were created to look real to the enemy, but in fact, it was just a decoy. At Yorktown, Virginia, 1862, ten thousand bluffing Confederates used Quaker Guns to stall Yankees ten times their number for an entire month.
Hand Grenades were common and effective in the Civil War, for they allowed destruction to be a simple "throw" away. There was a great variety of hand grenades during the Civil War times; some had one plunger where once it hit something, the plunger would detonate an internal percussion cap. Others had as many as fourteen nipples of its inner powder chamber, so that it could be triggered no matter how it landed. If a steady hand was not in control of such weapons, the results were potentially catastrophic. These weapons contained explosive and highly flammable compounds, making them a threat to any person.
To beat your enemy from the inside takes true talent, but in the civil war, it happened, indeed. Gabriel James Rains took bombs to an entirely new level when he invented the coal-lump bomb. These bombs had the appearance of lump of coal, and when they were placed on their enemy's ships, the bomb would be tossed in with the normal coal. Shortly thereafter, the boat would be in many pieces, with lots of debris floating atop the water. To say the least, these bombs were a highly effective method of attack.
The Gatling gun was a gun far ahead of its time, for it is still used very effectively in combat today, and will continue its effective presence in combat well into the twenty-first century. The Gatling gun was a hand-crank operated weapon with six barrels revolving around a central shaft. A 'hopper' was placed on the top of the gun, and gravity served to load the ammunition into the chamber. Gatling used six chambers to allow a brief cooling period for the gun before firing again. Since the gun could fire six hundred rounds of ammunition per minute, each barrel fired one hundred rounds per minute.
Coehorn Mortars and Armstrong Rifles were used as projectile attack alternatives when a garrison needed a powerful blow to be delivered. The projectiles used in the Coehorn Mortars ranged form a weight of seventeen pounds, all the way up to 24 pounds. Named after Dutch engineer Baron van Coehorn, this mortar was a light seige weapon used mostly in trench warfare, and was carried by four men. The Armstrong Rifle, on the other hand was quite a large piece of equipment weighing over seven tons.
The Civil War did very much for our nation, one key aspect of which was the development and advancement of our nation's defense mechanisms. The United States advanced leaps and bounds in the development of new weapons, and improvements on weapons that previously existed. This is merely a small display of all of the improvements the United States made during the Civil War; a war of bloody conflict and spite. Without these weapons, the war may not have ended just as it did, and we would also not have the advanced weapons systems that we have today.