Article ID: CBB715470633

Deploying Technological Innovation in “Real Time”: Union and Confederate Ironclads (December 2019)


The Industrial Revolution provided the environment and opportunities for the large scale development and deployment of military technological innovation in “real time,” that is, in time to influence the conduct and outcomes of a major conflict while that conflict was in progress. The case of the Union and Confederate strategies and their implementations during the American Civil War is particularly exemplary because both sides looked to ironclad warships in opposing ways. For the first year of the war each side pursued real-time ironclad warship deployment efforts to influence three different strategic races on a continental scale. Confederate success could have had enormous impacts on the course and outcomes of the war, but by August 1862 the Union had won all three races. Each was won in a different way, each portended how the conduct of the war on water continued, and each provided lessons for both navies to learn. Both sides went forward with revised strategies and renewed vigor to try to build and deploy more than one hundred ironclad warships between them. Over the next three years, the extensive Confederate ironclad program failed in multiple and costly ways to deliver much to the Confederate war effort. The even more extensive Union ironclad program did better primarily by securing what had been won the first year and neutralizing the continuing Confederate ironclad threat, although it failed in other important ways.

Includes Series Articles

Article DeVries, Kelly R. (December 2019) Catapults Still Aren’t Atomic Bombs: Effectiveness and Determinism in Premodern Military Technology. Vulcan (pp. 34-44). unapi

Article Roland, Alex (December 2019) Is Military Technology Deterministic?. Vulcan (pp. 19-33). unapi

Article Walton, Steven A. (December 2019) Technological Determinism(s) and the Study of War. Vulcan (pp. 4-18). unapi

Article Zimmerman, David (December 2019) Neither Catapults nor Atomic Bombs: Technological Determinism and Military History from a Post-Industrial Revolution Perspective. Vulcan (pp. 45-61). unapi

Included in

Article Brown, Gates M. (December 2019) Technology’s Unrealistic Promise: The US Army in the 1950s and Technological Determinism. Vulcan (pp. 62-80). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Bergman, Yoel
Braun, Hans-Joachim
Collins, Steven G.
Crouch, Tom D.
Hacker, Barton C.
Polmar, Norman
American Heritage of Invention and Technology
Arms and Armour Society Journal
International Journal for the History of Engineering and Technology
Technology and Culture
IA. The Journal of the Society for Industrial Archeology
Louisiana State University Press
Florida State University
Johns Hopkins University Press
Naval Institute Press
Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press
University of Alabama Press
Military technology
Confederate States of America
Gorgas, Josiah
Lamarr, Hedy
Lincoln, Abraham
Maury, Matthew Fontaine
Alexander B. Dyer
Mallory, Stephen Russell
Time Periods
19th century
20th century
21st century
United States
Great Britain
South Carolina (U.S.)
Baltimore and Ohio Railroad
United States Navy
Harpers Ferry Armory
Macon Arsenal, Macon, GA
Great Britain. Admiralty
Springfield Armory, Springfiled, MA

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