Civil War ironclad's technology unveiled as USS Monitor's steam engine is examined for the first time
On Dec. 31, 1862, the USS Monitor sank in treacherous waters 16 miles off North Carolina's Cape Hatteras. The wreck was discovered in 1973, upside down on the ocean floor in 235 feet of water. In 2001, the ship's steam engine - an innovative "vibrating side-lever" engine with pistons that worked horizontally - was salvaged. Until recently the engine lay in a 35,000-gallon tank at the Mariners' Museum in Newport News, Va., soaking in alkaline water to loosen the sediment.
Balloon corps gave Union upper hand during Civil War
On June 16, 1861, Thaddeas Lowe got a chance to demonstrate ballooning to President Abraham Lincoln on the White House grounds. Impressed, Lincoln sent a letter to Union commander General Winfield Scott telling him to take advantage of the idea. The balloon corps gave the North an advantage by allowing them to track Conferate troop movements - revealing even the best laid plans of Confederate officers. History buff Ray Wemple explained Lowe's heroics in a presentation to the Schenectady Amateur (Ham) Radio Association. "In May 1862, he helped save the day at Fair Oaks, Va. He got Union troops in the right position at the right time."
The industrial age brought with itself news weapons and horrors
The American Civil War was different from all the wars that predated it, primarily because it co-occurred with the industrial age. Mass production, the railroad and telegraph, aerial observation and the even more terrible weapons made the tactics of all previous wars obsolete. The generals were slow to understand this, and the soldiers paid the price. Technological advances in small-arms weaponry and artillery resulted in casualty figures disproportionately high for the numbers of troops involved. The Henry and Spencer repeating rifles reduced the classic infantry charge to a virtual suicide attack.
Civil War aeronauts: Up, up and away in their dutiful balloons
On an airfield just west of Midland, Texas, sits a collection of vintage military aircraft. A sign at the gate states "The Confederate Air Force." And while most visitors to the place are aware of the anachronistic nature of that sign, not many know that the Union Army actually did have an air force: Aeronautical Corps, aka the Balloon Corps. Organized at the outset of hostilities and serving only the first 2 years of warfare the Yankees` Balloon Corps introduced aerial reconnaissance. The Union aeronauts were successful in spying about enemy forces, and in directing artillery fire. Most of the credit for establishing the Aeronautical Corps is due Thaddeus Lowe.
Minie balls were battlefield revolution
When it comes to weaponry, the Civil War is best described as the first modern war. Unfortunately, for the troops, the conflict was fought with tactics dating back to Napoleon Bonaparte. The era`s fighting methods didn`t take into account the small arms evolution, which began with a twist imparted by spiral rifling grooves cut into the bore. For 200 years, the smoothbore musket - fast to load, but inaccurate - had been the standard weapon for soldiers. Their range was 100-200 yards, but in reality they were only reliable at 40 yards. "You might fire at a man all day from a distance of 125 yards without him ever finding it out,` Gen. U.S. Grant wrote.
How telegram technology helped win the Civil war
After his victory at Vicksburg Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's thoughts turned toward Mobile, Ala. But then he got a telegram from Lincoln. Tom Wheeler quotes from that telegram in his book, "Mr. Lincoln's T-Mails." - "I see by a dispatch of yours that you incline quite strongly towards an expedition against Mobile. ... This would appear tempting to me also, were it not that in view of recent events in Mexico..." Wheeler contrasts Lincoln's use of the telegraph with Jefferson Davis' "The Union leader had little military experience and was cursed with lesser military leaders... Lincoln grew into his relationship with his generals and the telegraph played a major part in that growth."
Breaking The Confederate Code (137 Years Too Late) (Article no longer available from the original source)
Dr. Kent D. Boklan: In the spring of 1999, I received a catalogue for a sale of Fine Books and Manuscripts, lot 79 was: "A letter of intelligence, partially written in confederate code. The first 11 lines of this document are in undeciphered code, but the last paragraph provides pertinent information regarding the Union army and its movements." I visited Sotheby's and expressed my desire to break the code. I realized that accurately transcribing the very deliberate penmanship of the cipher clerk was going to be a challenge. Not only had a few letters faded but there was a very unusual looking character that resembled a spermatozoon.
Gunpowder : Cave-dwellers had big impact on Civil War (Article no longer available from the original source)
Greenbrier County hole in the ground had something vital for the Confederate prosecution of the Civil War. Locals knew as far back as the American Revolution that Organ Cave had lots of nitrates in the soil. And nitrates in the soil mean saltpeter, and saltpeter means gunpowder. Owner of the 45-miles of underground passages that make up Organ Cave, said a clandestine saltpeter mining process went on inside the cave from 1861 until 1863, when pressure from Union forces shut the operation down. Legend holds that about 1,100 Confederate soldiers camped inside the massive cave system day and night, producing saltpeter for gunpowder that was shipped to Atlanta.
Henry rifle is currently the best-known Civil War-era rifle (Article no longer available from the original source)
Of the cartridge repeating rifles used in the American Civil War the best known is the colorful Henry with its yellow receiver. Total production of Henry rifles was tiny compared to quantity Spencer rifles and carbines. Total production of Henry rifles was only about 12,000. Some states purchased Henry Rifles for their militias. The Henry Rifle had another advantage that unlike a muzzle loader it could be rapidly loaded by a soldier crouched down behind something, or even lying down. To the Confederate Soldier the Spencer and Henry were both known as "the damn Yankee rifle you loaded on Sunday and shot all week."
Dog tags created during Civil War
When did the United States armed services start issuing "dog tags?" Dog tags were first created by Civil War soldiers when heavy casualties and grim battle conditions made making body identification difficult. Until then, soldiers often printed their name and address on a handkerchief or a piece of paper and pinned it on their uniform before going into battle.