The election of 1860 was among four candidates: John Breckenridge, a Democrat, John Bell, Constitutional Union Party, Stephen Douglas, a Democrat, and Abraham Lincoln, a Republican from the North. When election day came and all votes were in Douglas had twelve electoral votes, Bell had thirty-nine, Breckenridge with seventy-two, and in the lead, Lincoln had 180 electoral votes (Peters and Woolley). Lincoln had won the election, but he had not won everything yet. The South would succeed into a new country called the Confederates and start a war over slavery.
Lincoln would need some help to win the war, but what could give him the advantage? The solution were three new inventions. While many innovations were helpful to the Union victory in the Civil War, the three most crucial inventions were the telegraph, the hot air balloon, and the ironclad. During the war, the telegraph was vital to communication for the Union. “It [the telegraph] worked by transmitting electrical signals over a wire laid between stations” (“Morse Code and The Telegraph”).
Basically, the telegraph would send electrical impulses over a long wire laid between two points connected by telegraph stations, and once the electricity hit the other station it would pick up the impulses. These electrical impulses were received in a code of dots and dashes called Morse code made by Samuel Morse (Mountjoy 32). Samuel Morse was one of the top contributors to the telegraph along with William Sturgeon and Joseph Henry (Doss 40; Mountjoy 32). Shockingly, the messages sent by telegraph were delivered almost instantly no matter how far (Mountjoy 30).
Additionally, these messages were called telegrams, cablegrams, wires, and a cable because of the way they were sent (31). Before the war, the war department in the government did not have the telegraph. To communicate, they sent letters by a person on horseback (Wheeler). By the time the war started, there were about 50,000 miles of telegraph wires strung (Mountjoy 33). In 1857, the Confederates only had 107 telegraph stations compared to the 1,467 that the Union had (Allen and Allen 116). Because of the need to communicate during the war, the Union established a telegraph corps in 1661 with 1,200 operators.
To gain an advantage in battle, soldiers would carry telegraph lines into battle areas and other places needed to communicate with generals (31). On the other hand, there were disadvantages of the telegraph too though like that anyone could tap into the telegraph wire which is why the Union hired people to spy on the Confederate lines. Most of the time the Union was successful in decoding the messages and the Confederates tried but rarely cracked the codes (Allen and Allen 118). Because anyone could tap into wires, Abraham Lincoln and his generals started sending encrypted messages (Mountjoy 36).
The telegraph allowed generals and Abraham Lincoln to communicate in real time, and they would send battle plans and reports (Wheeler). All in all, the telegraph played a vital role in communication in the Civil War. In addition to the important role of the of the telegraphs in the victory of the Union, there was also hot air balloons. There were three different types of hot air balloons. One would fly by the heat of fire, another by a mixture of fire and hydrogen, and the last was powered by plain hydrogen (? Science of Hot Air Ballooning? ). Hot air balloons work because, ? hot air rises.
By heating the air inside the balloon with a burner, it becomes lighter than the cooler air on the outside… If the air is allowed to cool, the balloon begins to come slowly down” (? Science of Hot Air Ballooning? ). Although it seems like a bad idea, hot air balloons were made of cotton and coated with tar to prevent leaks (Mountjoy 112). Flying and making hot air balloons, Aeronauts called hot air balloons challenging and unreliable (Mountjoy 109; Allen and Allen 40). If a balloon was not attached to the ground especially on a windy or rainy day, the wind can take the balloon and give the Aeronaut little control.
Assuming the balloon is not attached to the ground, the only way to land a balloon was to crash land (Allen and Allen 43; Mountjoy 113). In battle, balloons were used to observe/estimate troops size, spot artillery, drop bombs, and communicate what they saw to the generals (Mountjoy 110; ? Civil War Ballooning? ). To communicate to generals, aeronauts would send signals, write and drop weighted messages, or use the telegraph (Mountjoy 111). Another advantage of balloons was that they distracted the enemies explained by a quote that a Union aeronaut named Thaddeus Lowe said, ?
A hawk hovering above a chicken yard could not have caused more commotion than did my balloons when they appeared before Yorktown? (Holmes). While some think that the soldiers could just shoot them down, that never happened. The balloons would draw attention from soldiers and artillery, but they never would hit the balloons because they fired straight at the balloons. What they did not know was that their bullets did not have the right trajectory to hit the balloons because they arced down before hitting the balloon and missing (Mountjoy 112; Allen and Allen 44.
After all the commotion and spying that balloons did they were a vital asset to winning the Civil War for the Union. Though there were telegraphs and hot air balloons, the most crucial invention to the Union victory was the ironclad. Originated in France in 1815, the ironclad was steam powered by burning coal (Bailey; Weaver). Before the war, the ships used in the U. S. were made of wood and used sails to catch the wind until a Swedish man named John Ericson made the first Union ironclad (Allen and Allen 53; Doss).
A mighty ship, the ironclads made wooden ships seem unusable because they could destroy one with minimal effort (Weaver). Ironclads had many innovations such as the use of steam power, plating of iron, exploding shells, and iron rams. Even though steam power required coal, it was much more useful than sails (Mountjoy 61). Steam power allowed faster travel, and it did not need favorable winds (63). The ironclad was also equipped with iron plating so when they were shot it would do minimal to no damage to the ship. Iron rams were also a significant threat.
If an ironclad rammed a ship, you could count on that ship to sink (Bailey). During the war, six hundred ironclads and other ships were used to set up a 3,000-mile long blockade along the southern coast with a purpose to stop ships called the Anaconda Plan (Bailey; Hill; Mountjoy 60-61). This plan would help to prevent trade in the South causing them to lose money. While there were ironclads involved in the blockade, a main series of battles were between ironclads called the Monitor and the Merrimack (? Battle of The Merrimack and Monitor? ). The Monitor was a Union ship.
It was 172 feet long with two 11 inch guns. It had 8 inches of iron plating on its sides and only had 1 foot of its ship showing above the water making it a hard target. It also had a devastating 360-degree pivot gun that fired 180-pound shells. In total, there were 48 ships built of this model out of the 52 Union ironclads (Allen and Allen 61; Doss 43). On the other hand, the Confederate ironclad, the Merrimack was also known as the CSS Virginia was scavenged from a junkyard and had an iron ram on its front. In total, there were 22 ironclads built on the Confederate side (Doss 44; ? Battle of The Monitor and Merrimack? ).
Between these two forces of ships there were a series of battles, and in the end was won by the Monitor at night on May 9, of 1862 (“Battle of The Monitor and Merrimack”). Overall, the ironclads made a significant impact on the war and the future. The Navy ships we use to today were sparked because of the invention of the ironclad (Allen and Allen 65). If we did not have the ironclads in the Navy in the Civil War, the Union might not have won the war. Along with the telegraph and hot air balloons, ironclads were critical innovations in the Civil War.
In conclusion, the inventions in the Civil War made victory for the Union possible. There were many inventions in the war that were extremely helpful, but the three most important were the telegraph, the hot air balloon, and the ironclad. If it was not for the communication advantages of the telegraph allowing generals to communicate, the espionage did by the hot air balloon or the strength and defense done by the ironclads, the war may have been different. These innovations utilized by the Union gave them the edge over their opponents in battle, and without them, America may not be what it is today.