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Technological Advances Room

The Civil War was a time period rich in innovation and experimentation.  In this area we highlight some of those activities.


Weaponry
Rifling of barrels in guns and cannon combined with the development of a new kind of bullet, the Minié ball, resulted in greater accuracy and longer range or distance of fire. Rifling is cutting spiral groves into a gun barrel to make the bullet spin, improving its stability, accuracy and range. The Minié ball was a conical-shaped round with three grooves in the base of the round which allowed the round to grip the rifling in the barrel. When the weapon was fired the gases from the burning powder forced the hollow back of the round to expand and further grip the rifling, giving the rifle increased accuracy.

Repeating rifles which could fire seven shots without reloading included Spencers, Henrys,and Sharps.
Rapid fire guns included the Gatling Gun which could fire more than 350 rounds per minute.

On the Sea
Mines and torpedoes were used to make the transport of men and supplies more difficult in the rivers which were so often used for these essential movements.

Ironclads: The use of iron to protect ships led to the famous Battle of the Ironclads between the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia (converted from the former USS Merrimack).  After that naval clash, which resulted in a draw, sailors no longer wanted to set out to fight in a wooden ship.

Submarines: Types included the Davids, the CS Hunley, and the USS Alligator.


Communications
Use of the new telegraph system allowed improved communications. The Signal Corps benefitted from the development of a method called the Wig Wag System.

Aerial surveillance and reconnaissance: Thaddeus Lowe and the U.S. Balloon Corps brought a whole new viewpoint to the field, sailing high above the fields and camps and reporting back current and crucial information on troop movements and strength.


Speed of Movement
The railway system in both the North and the South was used for the rapid movement of troops and supplies, and to carry the largest artillery guns.  Rail transportation became increasingly important as the war waged on and on.

Donations Wanted! Civil War Artifacts and Books

Do you have Civil War related artifacts or books that you would like to donate to the Drum Barracks? Contact Museum Director, Tara Fansler, at 310-548-7509.