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Historians often refer to the Civil War as the first “modern” war because it made use of the most advanced warfare and technology that was available during that time. The Civil War also lead to a couple of military innovations, including the Minie ball, rifling of gun barrels, mass production of weaponry and the invention of ironclad warships, the telegraph, repeating firearms, metallic cartridges and more.

Fire Arms

Rifled barrels were used widespread for the first time, with the Lorenz, the Colt revolving rifle and the Springfield rifle among the most popular. The earliest existing machine guns were however also used, with the infamous Gatling gun firing around 350 rounds during the Petersburg Campaign. Guns like the Bilinghurst Requa and Williams gun were often used to guard strategic locations such as bridges.



Cannons were major weapons that made all the difference to the outcome of many battles in the war. Favorites on both sides included the Ordnance rifle, 10 pound Parrot and 12 poun Howitzer.

Sabers and Swords

Despite the widespread use of guns, swords and sabers were still used widely. Popular models included the Light Artillery Saber, the Army Non-commissioned Officer’s Sword, the Foot Artillery Sword and Dragon Saber.

Other Weapons

Both the Union and especially the Confederates experimented with a wide range of other weapons. The Mine ball, a bullet that expands as it travels in the rifle barrel was used a lot because it was more accurate and could travel further than other bullets. Landmines and underwater mines were also used, as well as calcium floodlights that were used to illuminate artillery targets while blinding the enemy. Ketchum grenades were used by Union soldiers, while the Confederates used more handmade models and hot air balloons were used to give generals an aerial view of the terrain and the battlefield.

Inevitably, tactics also changed with the new weaponry, resulting in a whole new era for warfare.


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