The First Modern War

Samuel Santiuste Ms. Engelken US History I Honors May 13, 2011 The First Modern War While reading history, we typically see that wars were typically fought with soldiers in close- order formations with a musket that would be fired in unison on command. Everything changed after the American Civil War, a conflict to determine the fate of slaves in the Union, erupted. Today many historians consider the Civil War as the first modern war because it depended on: heavy industry, fast communication and transportation.

But this time all of these new technologies were used to its full potential. As a result new weapon technology was mass produced which inflicted heavy losses on both the Union and the Confederate sides and resulted in improved battlefield medicine. Years before the Civil War, soldiers would normally carry muskets that had a fire range of about 250 yards. But although this weapon had an amazing range, the musket only held and fired one bullet at a time and it hit random targets.

The accuracy of the musket was from about 80 yards and this caused many of the battles to be fought at a close range. Then, in 1848 the French officer named Claude-Etienne Minie took the design of a bullet that expanded upon fired and “simplified and improved on earlier designs–including those developed by Britain’s Captain John Norton (1818) and William Greener (1836)” to make the bullet that bears its name: the Minie ball (Minie Ball). This new bullet combined with the rifle made a terrific duo because the range of the weapon was from 200-250 yards with a terrific accuracy.

To show the bullet’s power alone, during the Crimean War of 1853-56 “the bullet so improved the effectiveness of infantry troops that 150 soldiers using the Minie ball could equal the firing power of more than 500 with a traditional musket and ammunition” (Minie Ball). When this weapon was introduced to the Civil War, the old model of warfare became obsolete right away because the infantry along with the cavalry could not charge against the enemy as they used to.

Other weapons that came into action in the Civil War were not as deadly as the Minie ball but had a big impact on surviving. Despite the fact that the Minie ball was easy to load, soldiers still had to pause in the middle of the action to reload their guns, and this made them easy targets. By 1863, there was a new weapon that solved this problem called repeating rifle because it could fired more than one bullet before the needing of a reload. The most famous type was the Spencer carbine.

But like many other technology, this weapon was only available to the Northerners. Many Southerners thought that this weapon was unfair and one Union soldier once wrote: “they say we are not fair, that we have guns that we load up on Sunday and shoot all the rest of the week” (Civil War Technology). At the end of the war, the statistics showed that the Minie ball combined with the rifle did the most damage because “with more than 200,000 soldiers killed and more than 400,000 wounded, 90 percent of these causalities were caused by these weapons” (Minie Ball).

On the same year that the Civil War started, President Lincoln ordered a blockade on the Confederates to stop their cotton trade and split the confederacy. So to counter attack the Union, many advances in naval warfare were flourishing which led to the built of the H. L. Hunley, which was the first ever effective submarine developed by the Confederates. This Confederate submarine was created to destroy the Union blockade wooden ships with the use of torpedoes that were attached along a long steak that exploded upon contact or by a timer.

But before the submarine was ready to attack, it sank three times and on the fourth tried “it was sent out to attack the U. S. S. Housatonic, and detonated its torpedo, sinking the Housatonic and thereby becoming the first submarine to ever sink an enemy vessel” (Dutch). Despite the best efforts the submarine sank with the blast. Another incredible invention that changed the nature of warfare in the seas was when the ironclad warships came into action. This time both sides had their own version of the ironclad which was powered by a steam engine: Union had the U. S. S. Monitor and the Confederates the C.

S. S. Virginia or Merrimack. Once again the Confederates tried to destroy the Union ships using an ironclad “built upon the charred remains of a burnt wooden warship, clad completely in iron plating down to the waterline and bristling with cannons” (White). This warship just went straight for the blockade in Virginia, and although it was hit by explosives and other heavy artillery the damage was minimal. And this is just a brief view of what might the battle would have been like by Professor J Rickard with the Virginia: On 8 March 1862 she steamed out of Norfolk to attack the Union blockading fleet.

Her ten guns were opposed to 219 Union guns on five ships, but the Union ships didn’t stand a chance. First to go was the U. S. S. Cumberland (24 guns), rammed and sunk. The only serious damage inflicted to the Virginia was that her ram broke off and remained stuck in the Cumberland. All of this meant that the Union needed reinforcement, so they sent the Monitor to save the day. These ships battled for “several hours as their shells and shot bounced off each other’s thick armor plating” and the match might have ended in a tie as there were no records telling who won (White).

As the iron-clad demonstrated their power, the old wooden ships became obsolete. Even though there was fascinating technology being used in the Civil War, the only two “weapons” that President Lincoln that used the most were the train and the telegraph. Although the railroads were still a new concept because they were not used much for military purposes, they were still used to attack the enemy and replenish troops. The Union owned about 21,000 miles of railroad tracks while the Confederates only owned about 9,000 miles.

Since the beginning of the war both sides used trains to transport ammunition and soldiers to the front lines faster than ever before. Because the trains played a very important role in the war, the enemy used “rail twisters and devices to blow up railroad bridges and other infrastructure and even some troops specialized in destroying railroad equipment as their sole-role in the war” (AE Aeragon) . Most of the time trains were used for transportation, but on special occasions they were used as rams.

Sometimes troops would send trains at full speed to “damage an enemy train or railroad facilities, or to attack troops and even to destroy bridges” (Koenig). This experienced Confederates soldiers when they saw a train on flames aiming straight for them. Now, the telegraph was located along the railroad tracks and this meant that the North had the upper hand because they have the most railroad miles. The telegraph helped President Lincoln from the White House “to monitor battlefield reports, lead real-time strategy meetings and deliver orders to his men” (Civil War Technology).

This turn out to be a great advantage for the North because they still required the technology and industry to carry out communication tasks. And by 1862 the U. S. Military Telegraph Corps “trained 1,200 operators, strung 4,000 miles telegraph wire and had sent more than 1,000,000 messages back and for” (Koenig). This alone can tell that during this war that the president was actually involved more than in past wars. Throughout the entire Civil War, diseases were killing more people than weapons because people had little knowledge about the silent killers called germs.

Since the beginning of the Civil War in the spring of 1861 “medically, the United States was woefully prepared and scientists, meanwhile, had yet to come up with the theory that germs cause diseases” (Sohn). This meant that doctors did not know that they should always wash their instruments before operating and the hospital hygiene was very poor which led to disease breakouts. But problems led to many medical advances such as the protocol to treat the injuries.

This system was created by Jonathan Letterman, a Union surgeon, who “created a well-organized system of care that began with triage close to the source of harm and was followed by rapid transportation to a series of clinics, hospitals and specialists” (Sohn). This medical protocol is still essential today. While there medical advancements, many improvements on neurology came about. Physicians began “the study of phantom limbs, the perception of a missing arm or leg as present and painful” (White). The American physician S. Weir Mitchell discovered phenomenon such as the shell shock and posttraumatic stress syndrome.

One of the ways that physicians noticed these problems were when soldiers would freeze or started to shake wildly and many thought it was because that person was a coward. So Mitchell and his colleague, Jacob da Costa, “came into a conclusion which was that the soldiers were suffering from mental problems, stress and heart diseases” (White). To treat these problems, they said it was necessary the removal and rest from the source causing the stress. The Civil War, an event that could have or could have not being avoided, shaped the future of the entire world. The war had a great impact on anything that ranged from weapons to medicine.

It also leaded to the creation of new technology such as the telephone and the improvement on the medical field. Although the war brought many innovations to the United Sates, it is still the bloodiest one in the American history because people from the same nation were being killed and it is similar to what the British Novelists Agatha Christie said about war: One is left with the horrible feeling now that war settles nothing; that to win a war is as disastrous as to lose one. Works Cited “Civil War Technology. ” 2011. The History Channel website. Apr. 27 2011, 11:04 <http://www. history. com/topics/civil-war-technology>.

Dutch, Steven. “The First Modern War and the Last Ancient War. ” University of Wisconsin – Green Bay. N. p. , 02 Jun 2010. Web. 27 Apr 2011. <http://www. uwgb. edu/dutchs/westtech/x1stmodw. htm>. Koenig, Alan R. “Railroad’s Critical Role in the Civil War. ” America’s Civil War 1996: n. pag. Web. 27 Apr 2011. <http://www. historynet. com/railroads-critical-role-in-the-civil-war. htm>. “Minie Ball. ” 2011. The History Channel website. Apr. 27 2011, 11:03 <http://www. history. com/topics/minie-ball>. Rickard, J (1 May 2006), American Civil War: The Blockade and the War at Sea, <http://www. historyofwar. rg/articles/wars_american_civil_war09_waratsea. html>. Sohn, Emily. “How the Civil War Changed Modern Medicine. ” Discovery News. N. p. , 08 Apr. 2011. Web. 27 Apr 2011. <http://news. discovery. com/history/civil-war-modern-medicine-110331. html>. Stevens, Anthony. Roots of War and Terror. New York: Cromwell Press Ltd, 2044. 212. eBook. “The US Civil War, the First Modern War. ” AE Aeragon. N. p. , n. d. Web. 27 Apr 2011. <http://www. aeragon. com/03/index. html>. White, David. “Born in the USA: A New World of War. ” History Today 60. 6 (2010): 12. Points of View Reference Center. EBSCO. Web. 27 Apr. 2011.

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