Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Book Review: Mr. Lincoln’s High-Tech War

Mr. Lincoln’s High-Tech War: How the North Used the Telegraph, railroads, Surveillance Balloons, Iron-Clads, High-Powered Weapons and More to Win the Civil War, by Thomas B. Allen and Roger MacBride Allen, National Geographic, Washington, D.C., 2009.
This book is more than just a talk of the weapons used in the war, although it does provide some of that information.  It is also a description of some of the action in the war.  For example, it has a very good description of the first armored naval battle, between the Monitor and the Merrimack or CSS Virginia.  The Virginia had her day against the Union wooden fleet the first day, but because she had a heavy draw, low-tide was her enemy and she had to withdraw.  The Captain and crew expected to return the next day and finish a job on the wood ships, after sinking one and damaging a couple more the previous day.  However, a new ship, a raft with a barrel on top, met them the next day, in defense of the wooden vessels.   This was the Monitor, with the first turreted gun in history.  The battle proved a draw, with both sides trying to ram the others, and causing some damage to the iron sheeting.  However, again the Virginia had to withdraw because of the tide, and nothing was resolved; except the Union fleet was now safe.  Neither of these vessels was very sea worthy, and their predecessors would be better vessels.  They did usher in a new age of sea warfare. 
Other chapters of interest; balloon reconnaissance should have been more successful than it was.  However, McClellan always but more faith in his detectives than the information from the balloons, and they soon fell out of favor. 
Advances in rifles gave the union a big advantage.  Breech loading weapons could shoot more rapidly with the same accuracy.  Rifling made traditional warfare obsolete, as generals discovered early in the war, with excessive casualties. 
Other technology includes advances in canon, use of rail and telegraph. 

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