What We Can Learn From the Civil War Technologies

For my timeline, I am researching about the Civil War belt buckle, which was unearthed during the construction of the MARTA rail lines. In this post I will be referring more to the Civil War than the belt buckle itself because during the Civil War, new material (i.e. technology)  highly affected the war. The Civil Wars was fought between the American North and the then Confederate South. Although many people believe that the Civil War was entirely a war about slavery, it actually was filled with many more aspects. For both sides, the soldiers fought for honor and their country; however, the wealthier class was “fighting” for different reasons. However, in accordance with this post that is not important. What I will be discussing in this post is how technology made this war different from the previous wars and how these “materials” separated this war from previous wars.

The article Civil War Technology on the History website discusses the various technologies that were introduced as a result of the war or during the same time of the war. Firstly, the rifle replaced the musket because it had a longer range and a better accuracy. Due to advances in technology, it was also much faster to reload than the musket. Eventually, these rifles would also be able to hold multiple bullets before they needed to be reloaded. This transition from musket to rifle revolutionized the way that soldiers fought because they were able to stand further away from their enemy and no longer have to stand in a line to fire. This minor change completely changed the game of war and the new “material” would later change the way war is fought. This weapon symbolized strength and power, which allowed the soldiers assurance. The look of the rifle looks very “American” because of the rustic wooden look and long metal barrel. Based on its appearance, it can be identified as American compared to a British rifle. Moreover, the look of the rifle can even tell us what war that it was used in.

Another major technological change was the telegraph, which was used during this time. The telegraph was used by the Union for people in far distances to communicate with each other. It allowed them to conduct strategies and monitor battlefield reports. The telegraph revolutionized the way was carried out the same way that a smartphone revolutionized the way we live–for better or worse. The appearance of the telegraph shows a sign that it is handmade using good-quality materials. It can symbolize efficiency and power because of how it was used. Moreover, It looks very prestigious because of its careful design.


In my last blog post on weapons, I talk about how certain tools become weapons and may have unintended consequences. These new technologies also had different consequences that can make them categorized as weapons. In relation to material studies, these two materials that I discussed above were designed with a purpose–the rifle being to kill and the telegraph to communicate–and in material studies we can begin to understand how these objects revolutionized not just the Civil War, but how they revolutionized how wars were being fought.


Through material studies, we can discover what these new objects meant to the soldiers and their officers. How did the replacement of the musket effect the pride of the soldier? Did the rifle bring more confidence in the soldiers? How does the look of the rifle symbolize the spirit of the war? What differences are there between the Union rifle and the Confederate?

In regards to the telegraph, we can discover a whole different set of ideas. The telegraph was only used by the Union for their benefit, so this material sparked fear in the Confederates. Since the Union won the war, do people look at the telegraph as a positive tool because it was only used by one side? How does the look of the telegraph symbolize American culture and tradition?

Posed Questions

As I discussed, the materials that came out of the Civil War highly effected the way we discuss and view the war. So when looking at other wars (or historical events) what objects do we associate with these wars? What can these objects tell us about the history of the war? How would effect the study of a war if there were no material studies?