The American Civil War (1861–1865) was a major conflict with a long string of battles. Has it led to any innovations in 19th-century warfare? It has been pointed out that it may have been the first war to include significant strings of multi-day battles. Did any actual significant inventions occur and if so, were those taken up in later conflicts e.g. on other continents?

For instance, were there any significant special circumstances arising from a long campaign season in the South, from the fact that the conflict split loyalties in some countries, that you had somebody with Lincoln's intellect often meddling with details of the war, or that generals on both sides had been trained in the same pre-war institutions: in terms of an analogy from biology esp. the latter situation — in combination with the contingencies or war and the size of the almost continent-scale conflict — would have provided ample breeding ground for tactical and strategic "cross-over", "mutations", and "progress".

And there was also recent technological change that may have had a special impact. The following pertinent quote is from Stephen Ambrose's Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West:

In Jefferson's day, it took six weeks to move information from the Mississippi River to Washington, D.C. In Lincoln's, information moved over the same route by telegraph all but instantaneously. Time and distance, mountains and rivers meant something entirely different to Thomas Jefferson from what they meant to Abraham Lincoln. Rivers dominated Jefferson's thinking about North America.

7 Answers 7


The American Civil war in fact had many innovations.

The most well-known was the first naval battle between iron warships. It was also the first war where the Gatling gun (forerunner of the modern machine gun) was used. By the end of the war many soldiers were using proper automatic personal weapons (Spencer and Henry repeating rifles).

Getting a bit more subjective here, due to improved rifling, the aforementioned automatic weaponry, and a few other marginal weaponry improvements, the American Civil War was the first major conflict to begin to exhibit the dominance of defence over offense that would become so important in World War I. Both sides found it took far more men (and incurred far more casualties) to successfully press an attack than they were expecting. Eventually good generals just had to learn to accept this. For example, Grant's successful "Appomattox campaign" to force Lee's surrender lost him about 2 soldiers for every Confederate soldier killed. The total butcher's bill was two thirds of a million dead, which is said to be more than in every other conflict the USA has engaged in combined. This from a country of only about 30 million (4 million of which were slaves).

Another innovation this situation created was the rise of trench warfare in the Siege of Petersburg. Despite the name, it wasn't a classic city siege, but rather several months of proto-WWI style trench warfare along a 30-mile front between the confederate capitol of Richmond and Petersburg.

  • can you please also address Nathan Cooper's view the war led to few innovations. This is for my decision about accepting either your answer or his. Thx.
    – Drux
    Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 13:39
  • @Drux - Well, I guess it depends on what you consider "few". IMHO the stuff I listed is rather a lot of important things, but I'm not entirely sure what would be a typical number and quality of innovations for a war of this size. We probably ought to just let the data speak for itself.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Apr 4, 2013 at 14:48
  • The Appomattox Campaign did not cost Grant high casualties. And since Lee surrendered virtually his entire army, his casualties in killed, wounded and captured were nearly 100%.
    – Oldcat
    Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 21:54
  • @Oldcat - Are you disputing the numbers in the link I provided (about 11K Union, 6.5K Confederate prior to surrender), or just the characterization of those numbers as "high"?
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Feb 3, 2014 at 14:45
  • Those numbers are casualties - killed and wounded - and not dead. You can't leave out the huge numbers of captured at every battle when discussing casualties. Lee lost about 60000 captured. Those Union losses 11,000 KIA, WIA and captured are losses of less than 10 percent of forces, well below average by CW standards. The numbers also leave out the battle of Ft Stedman on the 25th of March where Lee attacked and lost about 5-6000 men killed, wounded and captured for a trifling loss by the defenders.
    – Oldcat
    Commented Feb 3, 2014 at 21:47

Many of the technologies that first saw large-scale action (on the North American continent at least) in the American Civil War - rifled artillery, breech-loading repeating rifles, Gatling guns, iron-clads (both naval and rail) - were pre-existing and simply awaiting a war in which to participate. To my mind the true innovations are the changes in military and political tactics and strategy that those technologies enabled. It often takes significant time, and multiple wars, for the impact of new technology to be fully recognized by the military, and suitably incorporated into practice.

I thus see the most profound innovation in the ACW as the recognition by non-elite infantry that taking cover isn't cowardly; merely intelligent. Certainly elite units such as Butler's Rangers and all of Davout's III corps had long recognized the significance of effective skirmishing; however the recognition by the rookie conscripted infantryman that taking cover was an essential prerequisite to killing the enemy, or even having an opportunity to fire on him with effect, was a profound change from the established infantry practice of millennia. This recognitions is an essential prerequisite for effective trench warfare, and is succinctly captured by two quotes from Infantry Attacks by Erwin Rommel:

Even on the attack I found the spade the equal of the rifle.

and during the German attack on Verdun while a Captain (my emphasis):

Although the most extreme command measures were necessary, the entire unit was dug in [to deep foxholes] by nightfall.

Second, the relegation of cavalry to a supporting role as light dragoons (ie mounted skirmishers and scouts), and the abandonment of it's role as a shock troop, completes the slow decline in cavalry's effectiveness that began with the arrival of the pike and then the bayonet. Not since before the introduction of the stirrup had the role of cavalry been so diminished. This innovation stands out particularly because it was disdained to a large extent in Europe, which continued to witness attempts to employ cavalry as shock troops right into the early stages of World War 1, and even saw the wide-scale conversion of dragoon regiments into lancers and hussars through the second half of the 19th century. While useful in a Colonial role, cavalry as a shock troop was by the 1860's no longer effective on the modern battlefield.

The third significant innovation I see in the ACW is mass conscription; the beginning of the modern nation in arms. The entire case for a successful Confederate secession was based on the premise that it's elite professional army - better led top to bottom, better trained, and more fit - would overcome the Northern urban rabble. Although Confederate casualties were much less than Northern in virtually every battle of the War, the sheer scale of Northern industrial output and manpower overwhelmed the Confederacy.

The only major war between 1815 and 1860 is the Crimean, where none of these innovations is seen. The armies of the Texan War were barely brigade-sized units by European standards. Point 1 is a direct consequence of the breech-loading rifle and Gatling gun, which were not available for Crimea. Charge of the Light Brigade and the uiversal conversion of dragoons to Lancers until 1914 disproves point 2 being taken in Crimea. Point 3 was perfected by the Union and Prussia about the same time, 1860-1870, with dramatically positive effects for both.

  • +1 It seems to make sense that these changes took place in the early 19th century (between the Napoleonic Wars and the American Civil War, say), but are you sure they were not tried or perhaps (co)invented on another continent also or instead?
    – Drux
    Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 15:58
  • @Drux: The only major war between 1815 and 1860 is the Crimean, where none of these innovations is seen. The armies of the Texan War were barely brigade-sized units by European standards. Point 1 is a direct consequence of the breech-loading rifle and Gatling gun, which were not available for Crimea. Charge of the Light Brigade disproves point 2 being taken in Crimea, as well as the conversion of dragoons to Lancers until 1914. Point 3 was perfected by the Union and Prussia about the same time, 1860-1860, with dramatically positive effects for both. Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 17:41
  • You are probably right, but there were major European battles e.g. in 1866 and 1870. That's quite close in time, isn't it? And the Prussian army could potentially have fought similarly in say 1859 as it actually did a few years later ...
    – Drux
    Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 21:22
  • 2
    You seriously propose that the Prussian General Staff, carefully preparing a major war against Austria, did not closely observe the American Civil War to learn as much as possible from it. Such incompetence was endemic in the Hapsburg domains but absent from the Hohenzollern. Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 21:46
  • The view that cavalry in the Civil War never acted as shock troops is not quite true. Sheridan's Cavalry late in the war had evolved a very effective mix of shock, fire and movement that could have great effect in battle. NB Forrest's Cavalry also had some success in that area.
    – Oldcat
    Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 22:06

In many ways the American Civil War was the first war of the industrial age, and most of the major innovations spring from that. I will focus on the three most important innovations and the fallout from those, in order of least to most significant.

Steam powered warships and Ironclads

Both of these existed and were used in limited ways in warfare before the Civil War, but the Civil War saw the mist widespread use up to that point. Steam power allowed smaller, heavier ships to move with a kind of speed that would normally require a decent spread of sail, and it allowed them maneuver in any direction without the need of the wind. Armor plating allowed gunships to duke it out with coastal batteries on a much more even footing. Not to mention, the introduction of exploding shells made some kind of armor plating almost necessary on naval warships. All of these things changed the naval landscape considerably, making naval warfare more dynamic and giving it greater capabilities to support land forces. An example of the superiority of Ironclad vessels can be seen in the initial engagement with the CSS Virginia (emphasis mine):

Five Union ships mounting a total of 219 guns guarded the mouth of the James River at Hampton Roads: the Minnesota, Roanoke, St. Lawrence, Congress, and Cumberland. The last three were sailing ships— pride of the navy in the 1840s but already made obsolescent by steam. The first two were steam frigates (the Roanoke was disabled by a broken shaft ), pride of the navy in 1862. But the fighting this day would make them obsolescent as well.

she came, heading first for the twenty-four-gun Cumberland, sending several shells into her side before ramming and tearing a seven-foot hole in her hull that sent her to the bottom. While this was happening, the Cumberland and Congress fired numerous broadsides at the Virginia, which “struck and glanced off,” in the words of a northern observer, “having no more effect than peas from a pop-gun.” 3 This was not quite accurate; before the day was over two of the Virginia’s guns were knocked out, every fitting on deck and part of her smokestack were shot away, her ram was wrenched off by the collision with the Cumberland, two of her crew were killed and several were wounded. But none of the ninety -eight shots that struck her penetrated the armor or did any disabling damage.

After sinking the Cumberland, the Virginia went after the fifty-gun Congress, raking the helpless vessel with broadsides which started fires that eventually reached the powder magazine and blew her up. The Minnesota having run aground in an effort to help her sister ships, the Virginia turned her attention to this flagship of the fleet that had captured Hatteras Inlet the previous August. But the Virginia’s deep draft prevented her from closing with the Minnesota as night came on. The rebels left the Minnesota and the other ships for the morrow, and called it a day. And what a day— the worst in the eighty-six-year history of the U. S. navy. The Virginia sank two proud ships within a few hours— a feat no other enemy would accomplish until 1941. At least 240 bluejackets had been killed, including the captain of the Congress—more than the navy suffered on any other day of the war.

McPherson, James M. (1988-02-25). Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6) (pp. 375-376). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

Innovation on Ironclads continued throughout the Civil War and the Union deployed them in significant numbers. Things like turreted guns can be traced back to the original Monitor design. Ironclads were a revolution in naval affairs, even the all powerful Royal Navy recognized the change in the winds signaled by these new ships (emphasis mine):

When the news of the Monitor-Virginia duel reached England, the London Times commented: “Whereas we had available for immediate purposes one hundred and forty-nine first-class warships, we have now two, these two being the Warrior and her sister Ironside [ Britain’s experimental ironclads]. There is not now a ship in the English navy apart from these two that it would not be madness to trust to an engagement with that little Monitor.”

McPherson, James M. (1988-02-25). Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6) (p. 377). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

The widespread use of rifles

What many people don't realize is that the United States, at the outbreak of the Civil War, was perhaps the most industrialized nation on Earth. Owing to a lack of labor and an abundance of resources, it was imperative that American companies find ways to raise productivity to take advantage of them. American arms makers pioneered a process by which the individual pieces of a weapon would be made separately by machines constructed solely for that purpose. It was the beginning of what we would now consider 'interchangeable parts' (emphasis mine):

The French arms industry had pioneered interchangeable parts for muskets as early as the 1780s. But most of those parts had been fashioned by skilled craftsmen working with hand tools. Their interchangeability was at best approximate. What was new to European observers in 1851 was the American technique of making each part by a special-purpose machine, which could reproduce an endless number of similar parts within finer tolerances than the most skilled of craftsmen could achieve. The British named this process “the American system of manufactures ,” and so it has been known ever since.

McPherson, James M. (1988-02-25). Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6) (p. 15). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

The significance of this seemingly minor difference is hard to understate. Before this system all guns still had to be made by experienced gunsmiths, after this they could be made by factory workers with limited training. Not only that but armies in the field could more effectively make repairs, and in the long run it enabled more advanced weapons to be made. You would not engineer a mechanically complicated rifle if the average soldier had no hope of being able to fix it. An example:

a test of ten randomly selected muskets each made in a separate year from 1844 to 1853 at the Springfield (Massachusetts) armory convinced British skeptics. A workman disassembled the parts, jumbled them in a box, and reassembled ten muskets flawlessly.

McPherson, James M. (1988-02-25). Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6) (p. 16). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

Long range infantry rifles are the biggest contributor to the changes in warfare between Napoleon and WWI. These changes continued throughout the century, but the Civil War is one of the first large conflicts in which rifles were the standard issue weapon of nearly every infantryman. To understand why that hadn't happened earlier I'll refer again to McPherson's book (emphasis mine):

Given the rifle’s greater range and accuracy, why were not all infantrymen equipped with it? Because a bullet large enough to “take” the rifling was difficult to ram down the barrel . Riflemen sometimes had to pound the ramrod down with a mallet. After a rifle had been fired a few times a residue of powder built up in the grooves and had to be cleaned out before it could be fired again. Since rapid and reliable firing was essential in a battle, the rifle was not practicable for the mass of infantrymen. Until the 1850s, that is. Although several people contributed to the development of a practicable military rifle, the main credit belongs to French army Captain Claude E. Minié and to the American James H. Burton, an armorer at the Harper’s Ferry Armory. In 1848 Minié perfected a bullet small enough to be easily rammed down a rifled barrel, with a wooden plug in the base of the bullet to expand it upon firing to take the rifling. Such bullets were expensive; Burton developed a cheaper and better bullet with a deep cavity in the base that filled with gas and expanded the rim upon firing. This was the famous “minié ball” of Civil War rifles.

McPherson, James M. (1988-02-25). Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6) (p. 474). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

Minie balls were used in the Crimean War as well, meaning the lessons of these new weapons were already somewhat known. What distinguishes the usage in the Civil War is the scope, and the fact that they were given to lower quality soldiers. The amateurish nature of the early American armies was arguably a more ringing endorsement for the design since they still managed to maintain the weapons and were effective with them.

To understand why range is so significant, imagine standing on the end of a football field with an enemy soldier standing on the other. That's actually about 20 yards longer than the average engagement range during Napoleon's time. If the person was 50-100 yards further, you wouldn't even bother shooting at them, because your musket was that inaccurate. Cavalry charges, bayonet charges, lining up in big blocks, and direct-fire artillery were all possible and all effective because the actual range of a musket was so short. When you expand that range to around 400 yards, everything changes. Frontal cavalry charges are suicidal when every enemy soldier can get off several accurate shots instead of one wildly inaccurate one. Artillery needs to move farther back and shot longer, arcing shots. Massed formations and bayonet charges are similarly useless when the enemy can shoot 5-6 rounds at you while you advance instead of 1-2. Other answers have pointed out the change in tactics that occurred during the Civil War, which is all true. But tactics don't exist in a vacuum, they change because the battlefield itself has changed, and in the case of the Civil War, nearly all those changes were in response to the widespread use of long-range, highly accurate rifles.

The Civil War did not introduce rifles, but, as with many other things on this list, the war and the technology of the time combined to test and evolve the technology in a way that hasn't happened before. The American System of Manufactures ultimately made possible metal cartridges and the more reliable breech loading rifles introduced near the end of the war. By the time WWI rolls around, cavalry is nearly useless, standing in the open at any range is dangerous, massed infantry charges are incredibly costly, and almost all artillery has moved far behind the lines.


Railroads were far and away the most significant development in warfare since the invention of gunpowder. Since the beginning of recorded history, every general has faced two hard limits to what he and his army could do. First, 15 miles a day was the average distance an army could travel from the time of Alexander up to Napoleon. Second, 60,000-80,000 men was the largest army you could supply under average conditions; any larger than that and the supplies it consumed in one day would exceed the supplies it received. Also, keep in mind that armies were supplied by animals: mules, horses, oxen, etc. The more men you have at the front line, the more animals you need to supply them. The more animals you have going to the front, the more food you need to supply them. Food for animals at the front lines requires animals in the rear to bring it up, and the whole thing dominoes outward. It's easy to see how supply becomes incredibly difficult when all you have are wagons and mules to bring it up.

When you look at the most successful armies in history, most of them found a way to cheat one or both of those rules by a little bit. Napoleon typically managed 18 miles a day and through clever maneuvering could amass an army of 200,000+ on the day of battle. The Mongols moved at a staggering 40-50+ miles per day. The list goes on. Within the railroad lies the potential to go far beyond just stretching those rules, you can blow them completely out of the water.

For every ton of "fuel" a wagon of six mules could carry 500 tons of supplies, whereas a 15-car train could carry 5,250. The average train of the era moved at about 15mph, meaning it could travel the same distance in one hour that the average infantryman could move in an entire day on foot, and the soldiers on railcars wouldn't even be tired when they arrived. Railroads made some of the oldest rules of war almost meaningless. Huge armies could be supplied with minimal effort; armies over 100,000 now seemed trivial, armies in the millions now seemed feasible. Long "marches" over hundreds of miles could be done in days instead of weeks.

With railroads, war becomes less like a cat and mouse game between two opposing armies and more like a massive chess game between two opposing nations. The strength of your economy mattered as much as the strength of your army. There was no realistic upper limit to the number of soldiers you can recruit if you have the economy to supply them. The massive carrying capacity of railroads meant large battles can now stretch on for days, weeks, or even months without worrying about supplies. All of this began during the Civil War. To see what the use of railroads does when taken to the extreme, you need only look at WWI. Without railroads, it would have been impossible to supply millions of soldiers for years on end at the front lines of WWI. America in 1861 had far more miles of rail than any country on Earth, and the use of rail lines in the Civil War was a major impetus for European nations to expand their own rail networks. More than anything, I think the use of the railroad in the Civil War affected not only future wars, but the entire course of history along with it.


The underlying trend in everything I've said here is industrialization. America was certainly not the only industrialized nation in the world at the time, but the American economy was in a unique situation that catalyzed many of these developments in warfare.

The abundance of resources and the lack of labor led to a general need to find many different time-saving and productivity-boosting inventions to create the materiel of war. The American System of Manufacturing, for example, enabled production of rifles on the scale needed to supply the armies, and ultimately allowed for more complicated weapon designs to be produced in larger numbers while still being serviceable by the soldier in the field.

The need to rapidly equip an army that was enormously larger than the one that preceded it led to inventions like sizing for clothes and the first machine to automatically stitch soles onto shoes.

As the final step, when all of these things had been produced the railroads provided a way to resupply the front lines on a scale never seen before. This too would trigger strategic changes as the war went on as well as further down the line.

In the Civil War you have an example of a war in which the population, resources and industrial output of two countries was mobilized in a way that hadn't been seen before, and didn't regularly appear again until WWI. Most European warfare of the era was fast and decisive, economically and politically it was not usually a long haul proposition. The American Civil War gave a glimpse into the future of the highly industrialized, resource intensive, drawn out conflict that would become a hallmark of the 20th century.


  • This answer is full of ridiculous ameri-centric claims. While it's true that ACW was larger in its scope than most contemporary wars, and thus tested the existing technology and tactics more thoroughly, calling all of the things you mentioned american innovations resulting from the US being "the most industrialized nation on Earth" is laughable. Consider that in the same period, Royal Navy had already been in the process of rebuilding their entire fleet to ironclads, while Prussians already used trains to move troops as a matter of course and Austrians had a breech-loading main battle rifle.
    – Mike L.
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 10:23
  • Correction: Prussians had breech-loading main battle rifles, Austrians had breech-loading artillery.
    – Mike L.
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 10:33
  • 1
    You ought to heavily fact check your comment. Saying that the US was the most industrialized nation does not exclude other nations being industrialized. Obviously how you measure that is subjective but in terms of factories and railway density the US was at or near the top. The Prussians used breechloading rifles and railroads in a war AFTER the Civil War had ended. The Royal Navy had 2 ironclad ships during the period when the US was making dozens.
    – Odysseus
    Commented Mar 21, 2015 at 19:26
  • 1
    None of this is about American superiority as you seem to imply. I'm not saying that other countries were incapable of this, rather that the American Civil War occurred at a time where a lot of these innovations came into play. The bias here is yours. Please keep the commentary factually based and emotionally unmotivated. When you actually research the numbers you'll find that the US was highly industrialized beyond most European countries because of a lack of available labor and not because of some kind of American Exceptionalism. "The Battle Cry of Freedom" covers this extensively.
    – Odysseus
    Commented Mar 21, 2015 at 19:30
  • 2
    I may have been a bit harsh in my tone, because this is a bit of a pet peeve of mine, so for that I apologize. However, I stand by the content of my comment. In particular, by the time of the Battle of Hampton Roads, France and UK had at least two ocean-going ironclad frigates each, without being on a wartime footing. And Prussians have been re-arming to Needle-rifles since 1848, with their first major deployment in the concurrent Second Schleswig War in 1864. This has been going on without much fanfare, and indicates that the Prussians had to have been familiar with the concept of...
    – Mike L.
    Commented Mar 21, 2015 at 22:11

I would say innovations in 19th century warfare led to the Civil War being what it was, rather than the Civil War being a great innovative time.

Like Minie Ball, a new type of bullet design, which increased the lethality of engagements. It had been used already in the Crimea on a smaller scale, but like Ironclads or Gatling guns, saw it's first large outing in the Civil War .

But I suppose the other side of that coin is how militaries adapted to these changes, like with the use of trench warfare (as pointed out by T.E.D.) or even use of balloons. But I would say that the Civil War was marked by a failure to innovate, the tacticians failure to abandon close order formations in the face of the Minie Ball being a great example: link p89 details use of close order formations

  • 1
    I'm looking up logistics and use of railways and might just edit this a bit, we'll see.
    – Nathan
    Commented Apr 2, 2013 at 14:09
  • VG, BTW I wish Andrew Odlyzko's planned book about early railroads had come out already ...
    – Drux
    Commented Apr 2, 2013 at 14:55
  • can you please also address T.E.D.'s view the war led to many innovations. This is for my decision about accepting either your answer or his. Thx and pls also indicate if you are still working on a follow-up re railways.
    – Drux
    Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 13:40
  • May I suggest that if you add information about the use of railways, you look into the way Moltke used the experience of the US Civil War in the Franco-Prussian war? Commented Apr 4, 2013 at 9:18
  • 1
    P.S. This link has relevant information: historynet.com/railroads-critical-role-in-the-civil-war.htm Commented Apr 4, 2013 at 9:20

British military historian JFC Fuller argued that the American Civil War was largely ignored, and European military leaders failed to learn the lessons of the war. The European attitude toward the American armies was one of condescension: the armies were irregular, volunteer armies rather than professional ones. Fuller wrote that this European attitude contributed to the tragedy of the WW1 trenches. He felt that a new kind of maneuver warfare was demonstrated in Grant's Vicksburg and Overland campaigns, and Sherman's campaigns against Atlanta, Savannah and North Carolina; and that this kind of warfare should have informed the tactics of WW1.

BH Liddell Hart had a similar opinion of Sherman.

  • "Similar opinion" to whom exactly? Commented May 5, 2014 at 21:21
  • I'd imagine to JFC Fuller
    – Oldcat
    Commented May 6, 2014 at 0:22
  • Yes, an opinion of Sherman similar to Fuller's. Is it really that ambiguous? I'll re-read it more carefully.
    – JimZipCode
    Commented May 6, 2014 at 3:30

The major difference between the American Civil War and earlier is that it was the first war where the full industrial might of a major nation was applied to a large war - here split between the two sides. The application of these technologies allowed the US to sustain large armies over even larger areas to force the South to admit that their goals were not achievable and give up the fight.

For this, the details of if they did a good job in exploiting a particular technology don't matter a lot, nor do the details of tactics, except that ineffective tactics make the job harder. But without the ability to move the men and supply them across the land, none of the rest matter much.


The most notable ones:

  1. The Ironclads.

  2. Railways as in means to support the soldiers.

Regarding number 1, ironclads were invented BEFORE the CW but weren't extensively used. It was funny that Napoleon III promised to deliver a couple of Ironclads for the Confederates (the Southerners) but when they started losing battles, he quickly "forgot" his decision.

The railways weren't used extensively in warfare before the American Civil War either. They were valuable for transporting soldiers, ammunition and food. That's why when Sherman marched through the sea, he was targeting the railways.

During the Franco-Prussian war, both sides "imitated" the American way of using the railways to help with the war.

  • Railways is an important theme. Discussions of how long it took to destroy and repair track, different gauges of track among southern states come up often. I would suggest that hand-in-hand with railways was the telegraph -- Lincoln spending much time at the telegraph office following and directing the war comes up too. As for ironclads, also steam in general and in another post, prop-driven as opposed to paddle-wheel must be significant since perhaps even rifle shots could damage an above-water paddle wheel.
    – Jeff
    Commented Aug 12, 2017 at 7:05

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