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Military Technology in the American Civil War Essay

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Updated: Jul 20th, 2020

The United States Civil War of 1861 to 1865 an important war that defined the current nation that we currently have, but one that had so many casualties. It is the war that united the nation, but at a great cost in terms of loss of lives, life-changing injuries, and massive destruction of properties. The South wanted secession from the North and was keen on continuing the slavery and slave trade (Morris and Kearns).

The North wanted a united nation that respected every American and keen on fighting slavery and slave trade. These fundamental differences in policies, among a series of other issues, led to the war. According to Jucar, at the beginning of the war in 1861 the reported casualties were relatively low (82). However, things changed as the war progressed and the two warring parties started using sophisticated weapons. The improvement in the military technology made the weapons more lethal, increasing the rate of casualties. In this paper, the researcher will look at the role that improvement in military technology played in how the battle tactics shifted throughout the war.

According to Alexander, during the early period of the war, the weapons that were used were ineffective because some would fail in the middle of the battle while others were not precise (64). During this time, victory largely depended on the size of the army, the effectiveness of the generals to plan and execute ambush, and the morale of the military unit. However, the changes brought about by advancement in military technology transformed the approach and tactics that were used by the warring parties. Open field battles became a more common tactic among the forces that had the better weapons (Sears 112).

They took advantage of the precision of their weapons to engage their rivals in the open field battles where they could easily fire their highly accurate guns at the enemy and achieve the result desired. Hall rifle, Spencer repeat rifle, Henry rifle, and Burnside rifle are some of the improved guns that became very popular as the war progressed.

The North and the South both reduced their reliance on the size of their army and changed their tactic to securing strategic locations in the battlefields where they would have a better position to fire at their enemy while at the same time defending themselves. In what McPherson defines as defend and attack, the forces in both sides struggled to ensure that they reduced their vulnerability while at the same time trying to take advantage of the opponent’s weaknesses (23).

Since the number of warriors on the battlefield still mattered, both armies started relying more on planned attacks, especially when it became apparent that both had acquired the superior riffles (Priest 59). The ability to win the war was determined on the drawing boards where the generals planned on how and when to attack the enemies and the amount of force to use.

Eventually, the war was won by the North after a long struggle and massive destruction of property and loss of lives. The North won this war, not only because of the high number of soldiers they had but also because of the type of weapons they used. The Union army was able to access superior weapons that enabled them to use various tactics to defend it and attack the enemy.

Works Cited

Alexander, Ted. The Battle of Antietam: The Bloodiest Day. Charleston: History Press, 2011. Print.

Jucar, Jowati. Military Academy of Malaysia Compared with West Point: Learning Environments and New Technology. New York: Dissertation Com, 2013. Print.

McPherson, James. Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. Print.

Morris, James, and Patricia Kearns. Historical Dictionary of the United States Navy. Lanham: Scarecrow Press, 2011. Print.

Priest, John. Antietam: The Soldiers’ Battle. Shippensburg: White Mane Pub. Co, 2009. Print.

Sears, Stephen. Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam. New York: Cengage, 2011. Print.

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