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The Technology of Warfare in 1862 [Slide Show]

A Look Back in Scientific American's Archives
1 of 16

THE COMFY SOLDIER:

No aspect of the Civil War was left untouched by the inventor's ingenuity. A good soldier deserves a rest after a hard day's carnage, and why not repose in this thoughtfully designed—and patented—folding camp chair?....[ More ]

SPENCER RIFLE:

200,000 of these repeating rifles were made during the Civil War. The copper cartridges (“Fig. 4”) are loaded through the stock. The conical bullet (as opposed to spherical) and high rate of fire made such rifles much more lethal than their predecessors.....[ More ]

BURNSIDE CARBINE:

A moderately successful single-shot design often used by Union cavalry in the Civil War. The tapering cartridge (“Fig. 3”) was loaded base-first into the swiveling chamber.....[ More ]

WE'RE TENTING TONIGHT:

A patent tent for keeping cots and their sleeping soldiers off the damp ground. Unfortunately for this inventor, the Union army bought 44,000 tents covered by another patent (Sibley’s).....[ More ]

LOSS OF LIMBS:

War was dangerous, lack of medical progress was more dangerous. Many limbs were cut off by military surgeons to stem infection. Designs for artificial limbs were, sadly, plentiful during this era.....[ More ]

SUN SHADES:

During the Civil War, shades called Havelocks were attached to hats and caps. This patented version folds up and away, and would have been considered just as useless as the regular version. (They were found to keep the heat in rather than out.)....[ More ]

BREECH-LOADING GUN:

Civil War artillery increasingly used guns loaded at the breech, firing conical shells through rifled barrels. Yet even the best designs (this wasn’t one of them) had manufacturing, maintenance and safety problems.....[ More ]

DOUBLE GUN:

Charming illustration, useless design. It is, however, worth pointing out that the multi-barrel gatling-type cannons of today share the general idea that while one barrel fires, another loads.....[ More ]

UNDERWATER MINE:

A “torpedo” or “infernal machine.” The clawed arm on top is a trigger. Eight were planted by Confederate soldiers (or “secessionist desperadoes” as we called them back then) guarding Fort Henry on the Tennessee River, but all became waterlogged.....[ More ]

PRACTICE BAYONET:

The bayonet was much favored in military theory. Yet by the time of the Civil War it was rarely of any use in battle. (Although teaching soldiers to “close with the bayonet” was—and is—thought to inculcate a martial spirit.)....[ More ]

ARMOR-PIERCING:

The success of the naval ironclad spurred countermeasures to defeat armor. This patent from August 1862 for a projectile has some of the hallmarks of today’s armor-piercing, fin-stabilized, discarding-sabot, kinetic-energy, anti-tank rounds.....[ More ]

DOUBLE MONITOR:

A supposed improvement over the USS Monitor . Four guns were to be mounted in a rotating inner turret, firing through loopholes in an outer turret that was fixed in place, which negates the purpose of a rotating turret to begin with.....[ More ]

ARMORED WARSHIP:

The USS Monitor was small but powerful enough to battle the Merrimac (CSS Virginia ) to a draw during the first duel between iron warships, thereby conclusively proving the usefulness of armored naval ships.....[ More ]

"MERRIMAC PATENT":

Our editors back in 1862, rooting around in the U.S. Patent Office, found a patent from 1814 for a steam-driven armored ship that looks, by coincidence, like the Confederate ship Merrimac (CSS Virginia ).....[ More ]

IRONCLAD PIONEER:

The Merrimac (also called the CSS Virginia depending on who you ask) fought the USS Monitor in the first naval battle between armored warships in March 1862. The image was drawn from descriptions of the ship, so there are some inaccuracies.....[ More ]

ARMOR PLATE:

The success of the first armored ships instantly created a need for more of them. This machine at the Continental Iron Works in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, helped to shape thick armor plates.....[ More ]

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