The American Civil War has been described as the first "modern war." Assess.
The American Civil War is almost undoubtedly the most important event in the life of the nation. There are many reasons it is entitled to this account, mainly regarding to a better future for America, “a new birth of freedom”1. Through horrific measures, “It was the watershed of a new political and economic order, and the beginning of big industry, big business, big government… for Americans, the costliest, yielding the most American fatalities and the greatest domestic suffering, spiritually and physically. It was the most horrible, necessary, intimate, acrimonious, mean-spirited, and heroic conflict the nation has ever known.”2 However one of the several reasons that the war is so significant is that it was groundbreaking for all wars yet to come, globally. Many historians have regarded it as the world’s first modern war. A modern war it was with its widespread use of the most advanced mechanised and electrified devices of its time. Although on the contrary, a modern war it wasn’t with many uses of outdated, poorly planned and un-practiced tactics with modern equipment. Was the Civil War really the first modern war or could it be considered as experimental and a warning for military, universally, to employ and how to employ better tactics and training when using the worlds newest equipment?
The technological advancements of the steam age and the industrial revolution called for extensive changes in the logistics and tactics of the civil war battlefield. In the few years prior to and during the civil war there were advancements in all areas of technology. This influenced the civil war in numerous ways; although in the areas of
1 Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, (3 July 1863), http://ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=true&doc+36, 13 August 2011
2 The Civil War, A Film By Ken Burns, The Cross Roads Of Our Being, (2002), www.pbs.org/civilwar/war, 13 August 2011
sea warfare, transportation, hand-to-hand weaponry, and artillery, the impact of the industrial age was most strongly noticeable. Many of the weapons used in the Civil War are in essence the same as many weapons seen a somewhat fifty years later in World War I.3
The Civil War immensely contributed to the Worlds advancements in Naval Warfare. The world’s first combat submarine was introduced as a weapon of war, The CSS’ Hunley. With the use of a torpedo, they achieved a partially successful attack on a Union ship, the Housatonic. This effectively resulted the ship sinking but only a partially successful attack being that the submarine also went down itself, not to mention the submarine sank three times in antecedent trials.4 The submarine was modern warfare but because of disastrous results in this event, it could be regarded as experimental, not truly modern. Improvement of the torpedo took place, with self-propelled torpedoes eventually making its way to marketplace. This also enabled smaller ships to engage larger ships effectively and successfully. Furthermore, once the war was over submarine development resumed. 5
Ironclad ships became formidable adversaries to the traditional wooden ships being used at the time. After the CSS raised a USS sunken ship, Merrimac, and converted it into an ironclad ram and destroyed many Union ships, the union renovated their ships into ironclad.6 In 1862 the first battle of metal ships took place, Monitor versus Merrimac. The ironclad’s impact on naval warfare was immeasurable; wooden ships were basically helpless against their armor, and every marine power had to accelerate the retirement of their traditional ships with a complete revamp of their naval
3 B. Catton, The Army of the Potomac: Mr. Lincoln’s Army, (New York, 1962), p. 208 4 J.M. McPherson, Battle Cry Of Freedom, (New York,1988) p. 314 5 The US Civil War, The First Modern War, (1998), http://www.aeragon.com/03/, 12 August 2011 6 McPherson, p. 314
strategies, conversion into...
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