The siege, and Battle of Knoxville, Tennessee

I don’t know too much about the Crimean War but the US Civil War is oftenly described as a war of “firsts”, like:

  • railroad artillery
  • a successful submarine
  • landmine fields
  • flamethrowers
  • naval torpedoes
  • field trenches on a grand scale
  • military telegraph
  • aerial reconnaisance
  • repeating rifles
  • anti aircraft fire
  • revolving gun turrets
  • organized medical and nursing corps
  • workable machine guns
  • hospital ships

(source: “The Civil War - Strange & fascinating facts” by Burke Davis)

Are sure about succesful submarine ? The only submarine I know of the period was the CSA Hunley…and it went to the bottom in its first sortie.

Right, but on that sortie the Hunley sank the “Housatonic” with her torpedo.

Oh…i didnt knew that, danke.

The Union also had a submarine, the Alligator, after trials, and redesigns it was approved for use, and was to have helped in capturing Charleston. Alligator was under tow when a storm in the Cape Hatteras area forced the towing ship to cut her loose, after which it was lost at sea without completing its mission. This is the same region in which USS Monitor was lost.


That went to the bottom without any sortie, I suppose it was “man powered” just as the Hunley.

Yes it was my friend, Originally, (and perhaps laughably) it was built with paired oars for propulsion. This was quickly discarded. It was converted to a handcrank system like the Hunley, then approved for service. Alligator was 30ft long, with a beam of 6 to 8 ft. It was of a better design in that it had separate compartments, one at least, an air lock to allow for divers to exit and place the explosives, then re-enter and withdraw from the area. it had a top speed of 7 knots.It was equipped with float snorkels that supplied air to an onboard pump which circulated it to the 12 man crew. It carried two Limpet type munitions.( I cant confirm that as fact though) It may have been a contributor to the war effort had it not been lost at sea.

I have only heard of one submarine used in the Civil War, the Hunley, and I believe that a submarine was also used in the American Revolutionary war. I also thought that torpedoes predated the Civil War and I know that the telegraph was around by the time of the U.S. war with Mexico.

Additionally, I thought aerial reconnaisance was first used during the French Revolutionary Wars.

The Hunley was the only one to accomplish its mission during the civil war,Though the Alligator had made a few lesser sorties before it sank. I’m not sure I get your point. Both the Hunley, and the Alligator were crew served systems, as are present day subs. The 18th Century Turtle was operated by a single man, and was barely functional even in the best conditions.Although it was deployed, it was unable to fasten its torpedo to the English ship.The term Torpedo was applied to any underwater charge delivered to its target.
Even though the American Civil War used some devices already extant, it was the first time these technologies were used in a purposely combined effort, as organic equipment. You might as well stand that argument on the fact that we used people, and guns.:slight_smile:

Fine, but allow me to trust on Burke Davis, a guy who published about two dozen books about this war.

Here Here!!

The way the US Civil War was defined to me in highschool was:
“It was the first war where death was dealt on a mechanised scale, and where medical facilities (primitive though they were) were almost able to keep up, and where the naval aspects introduced things not seen in previous centuries, such as submersibles, and torpedoes/ attached charges.”

Yes, one could pick fault with that definition, however, I regard it as the first “modern” war, whereas Napoleon versus Wellington circa 60 years earlier was but little removed from the mediaeval era that spawned it.
Similarly, the Crimean war carried more overtones of the Napoleonic era than ever it did of the modernised warfare seen in the American conflict.

TG, I have found this a most informative and interesting Thread, for which, My Thanks, my friend.

Kind Regards, Uyraell.

You are graciously welcome Uyraell, I’ll find some other tidbits to post as time goes by.

Knoxville in the 1860’s was located mostly on the North side of the Tennessee River The majority of the hill forts were located on the South bank, and given the lack of bridges there a pontoon bridge was constructed by the Union. This provided for the movement of troops, and supplies to and from the Hill forts. The location was between the mouth of First Creek, and Gay Street which now has a bridge. Presently the old bridge’s location is occupied by a tourist river boat. The image of the pontoon bridge is not that of the Knoxville site,(none are available to post) but illustrates the construction well enough.
During the futile attack on Ft. D i c kerson by Wheeler’s forces, troops from the smaller and less defensible forts were withdrawn into the City on this bridge.

Civil war pontoon bridge.jpg

TG, a question here. Were such pontoon bridges able to be withdrawn from the far bank, i.e. swung back to the defended bank, as in Roman times? Or, where they permanently anchored?

I’ve never quite understood which way they were employed or anchored during the Civil War era.

Kind Regards, Uyraell.

I’m wondering perhaps if it would make a fine thread to split the discussion of the technological advancements during the American Civil War out into a different topic?

Incidentally, it is my understanding that the U.S. Civil War not only spawned new tactics and technologies that would resonate for decades, but also advancements were made postwar with entire new medical fields created and techniques advanced such as plastic surgery and in the modernization of prosthetics…

Fine by me Nick,go ahead.

I looked for information regarding that question, but couldn’t find anything. So my guess would be that they may have foreseen the need of such a feature, or maybe they figured several sticks of dynamite would solve the problem were it to arise.
I agree Nick, I have seen info about that subject, as well as treatment for neurological disorders resulting from shell shock. In hindsight these advances would save many peoples lives during WW1, and would allow many to lead a better life after it was over.

It might be a slow thread but I think there is a useful line of development to be drawn from there. Although some of it might also be drawn from the Crimean War which some say was the first modern war, and which to some degree informed the participants in the American Civil War and which to some degree they failed to learn from.“-ridiculous-failure”-george-mcclellan-and-the-delafield-commission_119.htm

Also treatment of POWS. I remember as a kid being horrified by descriptions of Civil War POW camps, I think on both sides but from distant memory I think it might have been worse for Northern prisoners held by the South (or maybe that just reflects the victor’s version?). I had read about the way the way Allied prisoners were treated in WWI and WWII but, in my childish ignorance, I had assumed that the Americans would not have treated their own people quite badly, even allowing for an earlier time being less gentle.

I know little of the POW situation of that time, I know only about Andersonville prison in Georgia, a Confederate operation where many thousands died of Mal-nutrition & related diseases, as well as foul water due to poor sanitation practices, and sadly, through predation by other prisoners. Capt. Henry Wirz ran the place, and was executed for his role in that mess. It was said that he was not an American, but German, or Austrian, but I cant be certain of that at all. I am planning to visit Andersonville this year, I’ll post what I find there.
The Union had a notorious prison as well,( I personally think they were all notorious, but these are the worst of them) Camp Douglas in Chicago Ill. I have no details, but it was said to be at least as bad there as at Andersonville.