The Civil War generated a tremendous leap of progress in the area of
weaponry and medicine
In the brief but eventful 95 years between the forging of the United
States and the civil strife that temporarily wrenched it apart, there were
much advancement in the areas of both weaponry and medicine. One undid the
atrocities of the other and both contributed to the bloodiest war yet to be

War is a time for countries to show off their latest advancements in
technology in an all out deadly game. Weaponry and war go hand in hand for
without weaponry, there would obviously be no war. Weaponry can range
anywhere from a small knife that attaches to the end of a musket known as a
bayonet, to a 12 pound cannon mounted on the side of a gunship. Each
serves a purpose and is deadly in its own way. During the American
Revolution a standard infantrymen’s weapons consisted of “a musket and
bayonet of some sort, a tomahawk (usually hand crafted by the soldier
himself), and many different types of knifes ranging from a penknife to a
hunting knife.”(Wilbur, Keith C. The Revolutionary Soldier p.30) There
wasn’t just one type of musket, however, Infantrymen had the choice of 3
different types of muskets. A “Militiaman’s Fowler which was a musket owned
by all men who served in the state militia was better for hunting then
fighting and usually made from the scraps of other weapons, a Brown Bess
Musket was the standard British musket and was favored by the Continentals
early in the war and a French Musket which were the standard musket of the
French army.”(Wilbur p.20) All the muskets save the Militiaman’s Fowler
were able to be fitted with a bayonet, making it outdated and inefficient
very early in the war. There were two different types of bayonets as well,
the British Bayonet and the French Bayonet. “Early in the war
Revolutionaries patterned their bayonets after the British model but soon
changed to model the French (their new allies).”(Wilbur) The models had
very little differences and bayonets were used very often as a means of
attack. Tomahawks were a standard thing seen among infantrymen as well.

“Most of these were handcrafted by the user and used almost as much as the
musket for there was much close quarters combat in the war.”(Wilbur p.35)
A soldier carried many knives with him for a variety of different uses.

Among these was the “Rifle Knife used for cutting grease patches, the
dagger which was rarely seen and usually custom made, the hunting, fighting
or scalping knife which was a very long knife carried in a leather belt and
a trademark of frontiersman and lastly many forms of the pocket knife used
for carving and making pens.”(Wilbur p.39) Although rifles had been
invented, they were rarely used for a variety of reasons. “First the
cartridge hadn’t been invented yet so it took a very long time to reload
the rifle after it had been shot. Second there were no bayonet fittings so
while a sharpshooter was reloading he was completely vulnerable. Because
of these disadvantages sharpshooters were rare and had to be supported by
musket-bearing troops.”(Wilbur p.31)
The standard soldier during the Civil War was much better equipped
then that of the Revolution. Since the cartridge had been invented
reloading weapons was a relatively faster and easier process. This allowed
for the rifle to be used rather then the older and extremely inaccurate
musket. The difference between a musket and a rifle is the inside of the
barrel of a musket was completely smooth which meant the bullet never went
the same way, the inside of a rifle however had “many small grooves called
‘rifling’ (hence rifle) the made the ball spin as it came out of the barrel
making it highly accurate at a long range.”(Coggins p.25) The use of the
rifle during the war made bayonet charges a thing of the past because “with
a keen eye behind the sights, a target at 250 to 300 yards was in danger of
being perforated.”(Coggins, Jack Arms and Equipment of the Civil War p.30).

The cartridge was basically a shot. “It had the powder, ball and patch
packed together and all a soldier had to do was stick the whole thing down
the barrel. This eliminated the disadvantage of not having a bayonet
fitting because charges were a thing of the past since troops could begin
accurately firing when the enemy was 300 yards or more away rather then the
muskets 50 to 100.”(Coggins p.29) Most soldiers no longer carried the
bayonet because hardly any of them had a musket, so instead “they carried a
standard issue knife and occasionally a tomahawk (though those were fastly
becoming outdated as well)”(Coggins p.40). With the rifle the previous use
of flint, steel and powder was replaced with a brass cap. “The cap was
placed on the ‘nipple’ and the hammer would strike the cap causing a spark
inside the barrel which would ignite the shot.”(Coggins p. 30) This method
caused many less misfires and was relatively faster and easier to use.

Soldiers “no longer carried powder horns because of this, but rather a cap
pouch filled with caps, and instead of being given all the ingredients for
a shot, they were given a cartridge box which contained 40 shots.”(Coggins
p. 32)
The sidearm was greatly improved during the Civil War as well.

During the civil war the handgun was basically a smaller version of the
musket. It was “single shot and loaded in the same fashion as a
musket.”(Miller, Francis Trevelyan The Cavalry p.50) It was highly
inaccurate and “usually used when fighting close quarters” (Miller p.50)
During the Civil War however, handguns were revolutionized with the
invention of the revolver. The “Colt Model 1860 army was probably the
largest produced and most widely used of all handguns in the civil war by
both sides.”(Miller p.80) A standard Colt revolver held six shots and shot
every time one pulled the trigger until it ran out of bullets. This was
light years better then the previous single shot muzzle loader handguns of
the past. These guns “were only issued to officers but with the amount of
dead troops many standard soldiers picked them up and used them in
combat.”(Miller p. 90)
Artillery was another technology improved upon. During the
Revolution artillery was “huge and bulky and very hard to manage.”(Miller,
Francis Trevelyan Forts and Artillery p.60) There were four types of
cannon, the “Field Cannon which fired a solid ball in a flat trajectory to
destroy forts and enemy cannon, the Garrison Cannon which fired a solid
ball on fire to burn ships or chain shot to take down ship rigging, the
Howitzer which fired a solid ball with a high trajectory and the Mortar
which fired a hollow ball filled with gunpowder and fused along a high
trajectory that exploded once the fuse ran out (virtually it fired a
bomb).”(Miller2 p.90) These cannons were all “highly inaccurate and
subject to explosions.”(Miller2 p.91) In the Civil War these same types of
cannons were used but they were greatly improved. They were built “like a
horse drawn carriage so instead of a team of men moving the cannon with
ropes, the cannon could be attached to a team of horses and moved much
faster and more efficient”(Miller2 p.91). The barrels of the cannons were
engraved with rifling and made much longer and out of better material which
gave “it more velocity and accuracy and were less subject to explosions
inside the barrel.” (Miller2 p.93) A major change in artillery was the
change from a ball to a rifle. The new shot was “in the shape of modern
bullets with a pointed tip instead of a round ball.”(Miller2 p.97) This
change in shot gave the shells much more accuracy and they could “go much
much farther then before.”(Miller2 p.98)
The Gatling gun was invented during the Civil War as well. This was
a mounted cannon that had 8 barrels going around in a circle. It looked
much like a cannon but was much deadlier. The barrels would spin in a
circle and spray the enemy with bullets. It “rotated the barrels so that
they wouldn’t get too hot and melt.”(Miller2 p.155) It was capable of
“shooting 600 bullets in a minute and was devastating to
Infantrymen.”(Miller2 p.160) “Surprisingly this weapon saw very little
action in the War and wasn’t improved upon until much later.”(Miller2
Naval battles were greatly upgraded as well with the entrance of
ironclad warships. “Truthfully these weren’t the first Ironclads (the
first ironclad dating back to 1592 with Yi-sun’s ‘tortoise-ship’), but
these were the best that had ever been made with hulls thick enough for
cannon to bounce right off.”(Davis, William C. Duel Between The First
Ironclads p.4) “Called a ‘tin can on a shingle’ or a ‘half-submerged
crocodile’ these ships may not have been the first of their kind but they
were the first ‘modern armored warships’ and they changed the course of
naval warfare forever.”(Davis p. 10)
Medicine didn’t experience a leap of progress as big as the weaponry
but it was there all the same. “During the Revolution doctors didn’t have
to have a college degree or training of any kind. Most of them were self
trained and used old remedies everyone knew.”(Wilbur, Keith C.

Revolutionary Medicine p.16) Methods of amputation were “brutal and
unsanitary” and only crude forms of morphine existed. (Wilbur2 p. 10)
During the Civil War to be a surgeon or doctor one had to “complete at
least 3 semesters of 13 weeks of medical school.”(Wilbur2 p.5) They had a
decent knowledge of medicine and human anatomy and saved many lives that
otherwise would have been lost.Amputation methods weren’t much better
but they “did save many more lives then they killed.”(Wilbur2 p.12)
Doctors used chloroform and “somehow knew to periodically remove the rag”
which kept the soldier from dying from chloroform poisoning. (Wilbur2 p.

30) One naivety of the doctors was when they amputated and pus formed they
thought it was “good ‘laudable pus’ and did nothing for it when in reality
it was a huge bacterial infection that soon killed the soldier.”(Wilbur2
p.34) Embalming was a huge discovery as well. “Many families wanted their
dead family members body brought back for burial so the surgeons had it
embalmed. There was a whole new profession built around embalming during
the war. Families could hire an ’embalming surgeon’ to embalm the body of
the dead soldier and bring it back for burial.”(Wilbur2 p.60)
Weaponry and Medicine made huge advancements in many areas in the
short time interval between the American Revolution and the Civil War.

They go hand in hand and the war wouldn’t have been what it was without the
arduous efforts of the individuals responsible for these breakthroughs.