Technology overview

Contents of this page: Photography, Telegraph, Use of Railroads, Firearms, Newspapers

There were many technological developments during the Civil War.


All of the pictures were in black and white and there weren't any photographs while the soldiers were in battle. Some photographers arranged the dead soldiers to make their picters look more lively.One of the most popular Civil War photographer was Matthew Brady. Photography helped show people what was really happening in the war. Being a photographer was a very dangerous job because if you wanted to take a picture of the soldiers in battle you had a chance of being killed. But because there weren't photos of soldiers in battle it made war seem different then it really was. Photographers didn't only take pictures of the healthy or fighting soldiers but the ones wounded and hurt from battle. (thats what ties it together with medicine)


The telegraph was used to communicate with other troops that were far away. They used sound taps so that they could talk. For the first time in history, field forces were able to talk with their superiors, and fellow officers almost instantly. The telegraph was also designed for developing tactics, requesting reinforcements, coordinating attacks, and keeping everyone up to date with their progress. The telegraph system in the North was much more advanced than the telegraph system in the South. Many historians consider the Civil War the first modern war because of advances in communication. In 1844, Samual Morse, created the first realiable telegraph. He also invented a code using a series of dots and dashes, which we know as the morse code. The best way to learn morse code is to memorize the sounds each letter makes. Dots sound like "dit" and dashes sound like"dah." Usually they would use signs like "SOS.' The famous plea "to save our ship."

Another form of communication developed during the Civil War was the use of balloons. Balloons were used by the Union Army to observwe Confederate troop movements and strength. They used the telegraph from the balloon, which was the first air-to-ground communication system.

Use of Railroads

The Mason-Dixon Line is known today as the demarcation point between the North and the South states during the Civil War. The line runs along the northernmost border of Maryland and Pennsylvania, and also includes the northern border of Delaware. The line established a boundary between Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Railroads were used to move food, supplies, ammunition and soldiers from one place to another. In the Western, Gen. Grant depended on railroads to keep their troops fighting. Railroads changed the strategy of the war by allowing troops to be moved rapidly. At Manassas (Bull Run), railroads were used to bring additional troops to the battlefield quickly, which helped the Confederates to defeat the Union.

At the end of the war, Lee retreated along a railroad line, hoping to receive supplies that would keep the army alive but Gen. Sheridan cut the rail lines and Lee had to surrender.


The Minie ball was created by French Army Captain Claude E. Minie in 1848. It was much more effective than a regular lead ball and the Minie ball was not shaped like a ball. It was shaped like a modern day bullet. The Minie ball was easier for soldiers to load and offered greater accuracy at the desired targets. The Minie ball was a 1/2 inch lead rifle bullet, and was bullet shaped. The Minie ball was a smaller, hollow-based bullet that could easily and hastily be rammed into the bore of a gun. When the Minie ball was fired, the rifling action sent the bullet farther, up to a 1/2 mile. Minie balls were also less expensive than normal rifle ammunition. When the Minie ball entered the body, the lead flattened out to create more damage. The mini ball also would enter the skin and shatter so that it would cause more damage and be more severe.

Because of the accuracy of the rifled musket, bayonets become nearly obsolete. Military leaders with experience in the Mexican American War were unfamiliar with the new capabilities of rifled muskets. They did not realize that the capabilities of the new weapon required a different tactical use. Soldiers still used the mass frontal attack, even though the weapons were more accurate at a farther distance than the older smoothbore weapons. The increased firepower doomed the frontal assault and by the end of the war, ushered in the entrenched battlefield. The rifled musket was much more accurate than the smoothbore. It increased combat range and came with a sight for soldiers to use for aiming. The new percussion ignition was more reliable than the flintlock used on the smoothbore. It also accounted for 90% of the battlefield casualties because commanders did not realize It gave the infantryman a weapon with the same effective range as the largest and most powerful cannon.

Some rifles, usually used by the calvary, were breechloading carbines. They allowed for quicker reloading without standing and exposing oneself to enemy fire.

The machine gun, or Gatling gun, was developed during the Civil War but had limited use.

Other technological developments included torpedos, used by the navies, and minesweepers. A minesweeper, usually used by the Union Navy, was a ship spefically designed to detect and neutralize underwater mines.


Newspapers told people about very recent information on the war. It was one of the first wars to be covered in depth by the press. The newspapers told civilians how the battles were going. They covered the war in one of two ways: either in person or through editorials in the papers and magazines. Reporters risked their lives getting stories. C.C. Coffin and Samuel Wilkeson wrote the list of the dead and wounded. Wilkeson also wrote about his son's death at Gettysburg. Wilkeson was covering the battle for The New York Times and his son was a soldier fighting for the Union Army. They also interviewed prisoners of war and drew sketches, since newspapers did not have photographs. Alfred Waud was a well-known sketch artist. The sketch artists sketched the action as it happened. The sketches were redrawn on wood blocks and engraved. The engravings were printed in the newspapers. The Civil war had a huge impact on the publishing company and it changed the way people looked at newspapers. Newspapers were the best way to get caught up with the action. One of the most well-known newspapers was Harper's Weekly.


The electronic communications standard predating the internet by about 150 years.

Morse Code (American)
U.S.A. & Canada landline
1 .--.
2 ..-..
3 ...-. A .- B -... C .. . D -.. E .
4 ....- F .-. G --. H .... I .. J -.-.
5 --- K -.- L __ M -- N -. O . .
6 ...... P ..... Q ..-. R . .. S ... T -
7 --.. U ..- V ...- W .-- X .-..
8 -.... Y .. .. Z ... .
9 -..-
0 . . or - (optional)

A dash time is equal to three times the length of the dot,
exception is "L" which is a long dash that is equal to
one dot-one dash. Numeral "0" is optional,
one dot space dot as in "o", or short dash as in "t".

Question -.. -. "DN"
Comma .-.- "AA"
Period ..--.. "UD"
Colon -.- . . "KO"
SemiC ... .. "SI"
Apostrophe ..-. .-.. "QX"
Begin Bracket ..... -. "PN" (Parenthesis
End Bracket ..... .. .. "PY" Parenthesis)
Exclamation ---. "MN"
Begin Quotation ..-. -. "QN"
End Quotation ..-. -.-. "QJ"
Capital .. . .-..
Dollar ... .-.. "SX"
AND-& . ... "ES"
phe, HO, AC4GL 11/4/96

Continental (International)
Wireless and Undersea Cable, USA and Canada
All services rest of world
1 .

2 ..---
3 ...-- A .- B -... C -.-. D -.. E .
4 ....- F ..-. G --. H .... I .. J .---
5 ..... K -.- L .-.. M -- N -. O ---
6 -.... P .--. Q --.- R .-. S ... T -
7 --... U ..- V ...- W .-- X -..-
8 ---.. Y -.-- Z --..


A dash time is equal to three times the length of the dot

Question ..--..
Comma --..--
Period .-.-.-
Colon ---...
Semicolon -.-.-.
Apostrophe .

Begin Bracket -.--. (Parenthesis
End Bracket -.--.- Parenthesis)
Exclamation (none at present)
Begin Quotation .-..-.
End Quotation .-..-.
AND-& . ...