Inventions of War in 1863: Images from Scientific American's Archives [Slide Show]

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Protecting Ports:

Perfect defense is not just one fort but a whole chain of them stretching across a vulnerable harbor or river mouth. These were never built. Resources used for such a huge project would have been taken away from ships and guns needed elsewhere in the war.....[ More ]

Armored Forts:

In the U.S. Civil War, forts armed with a few slow-firing guns were often bypassed by a determined enemy. One suggested improvement in fort design was this armored revolving fort, where many guns could be brought to bear on an invading ship as the fort turned.....[ More ]

Field Fortification:

An inventor in Bordeaux, France, proposed an easy-to-assemble fort based on wooden forms with dirt thrown over them. It was a timely idea: older brick forts such as Fort Pulaski became highly vulnerable to modern artillery, while sandbag forts, such as Fort Wagner in South Carolina, proved to be very secure.....[ More ]


A concerned citizen sent in this idea. The stretcher for the wounded soldier was supposed to provide secure support for his injured, bandaged limb and thereby reduce the need for amputations. Limbs were cut off, however, because of infection by gangrene, not because they lacked support while the patient was moved.....[ More ]

Gun Carriage:

Armored protection for artillery crews. The gun is breech-loading and the gun’s recoil is taken up by springs in the carriage itself. It’s an idea far ahead of its time: like a horse-drawn tank it would have been too heavy and slow for use on the battlefield.....[ More ]

Multibarrel Gun:

An attempt to design a machine gun for use with the new metallic cartridges. A much more successful design was invented by Richard Gatling.....[ More ]

Mobile Shield:

One inventor thought this contraption would provide safety for a soldier. The utterly impractical idea of dragging a heavy shield around on a battlefield was ridiculed a few days later by the Railway Times as “a wheelbarrow with a piece of boiler plate as big as a barn door.”....[ More ]

Lance Pistol:

It looks fierce and warlike, with its many gun barrels and long blade. But this clumsy contraption would have been quickly thrown away by the Civil War soldier, who was already weighed down with weapons and equipment he had to carry, and fought most battles at the range of a rifle.....[ More ]

Manufacturing Rifles:

The Providence Tool Company in Rhode Island was one of many factories in the North producing the .58 caliber Springfield pattern rifle. At the left, a drop press makes small metal parts. At the right, workmen check a gun barrel for straightness, using lines engraved on a window as a guide.....[ More ]

Torpedo Boat:

The David looks a lot like a submarine, but it was a Confederate steamboat that sat very low in the water. In October 1863, operated by a crew of four, it blew a small hole in the side of the USS New Ironsides with an explosive charge attached to a long pole.....[ More ]

Confederate Ironclad:

Because they were short of shipbuilding factories, the Confederacy sought to skirt the official neutrality of the United Kingdom and have warships built there in secret. Northern spies reported this ship being built in Clydebank, Scotland.....[ More ]

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