IMPACT OF THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION ON 19TH CENTURY WARFARE:  MAJOR TRENDS
Importance of
Science
By the mid-19th century, the great advancements in the study of chemistry and physics being made began to be seriously applied to the battlefield
New philosophy
of warfare
Warfare becomes increasingly less a mental and physical contest and more a technical contest
Technology becomes the foundation of military thought
Tensions between rapid change and military conservatism
Social/psychological
acceptance
Many had trouble accepting the new weapons which went against traditional codes of military conduct and honor.  This was especially true of the submarine which was unpredictable and relied on skulking and deception to succeed.
Society clung to traditional concepts of warfare based on hand-to-hand combat and individual heroism long after new weapons made them obsolete
While new weapons of destruction, such as the machine gun and dumdum bullet, were received coolly by European nations at home, they were used to great effect in their colonies where they allowed small numbers of Europeans to defeat and control much larger native populations.
Role of technology Accelerated pace of technological innovation; progress becomes sustained rather than exceptional and accidental
Technological advancements outstrip corresponding need for new tactics
Around 1860 an arms race develops with each new generation of new weapons and weapons systems making the previous obsolete; military power depends on keeping up with developing technology
Engineers, scientists, and managers essential to development, maintenance, and operation of new military hardware; take on role of greater responsibility and power
Mobilization Technology turns war into a question of economic and industrial mobilization
Efficiency and speed of mobilization increased by railroads and telegraphs
Military technicians take over conduct of war
Increased scale of war, total mobilization
Gearing of entire societies and economies to war efforts
Industrial development made it possible to arm, clad, and feed mass armies
Railroads and steamships allow the transportation and supply of troops over greater and greater distances
Rail transport saves troops from the rigors of long marches and meant that virtual civilians could be shipped to the front lines, making armies in the millions possible
Rapid development
of new weapons
Increased volume of fire, range, and accuracy
Increased lethality of the battlefield
Much greater rates of sustained fire
The Industrial Revolution provided new materials for weapons as well as the energy, machine tools, and techniques for producing them
New inventions included the percussion cap, cylindro-conodial bullet, breech-loading, metal cartridges, magazine-fed small arms, machine guns, smokeless powder, TNT explosives with timers
New inventions often had to wait for means of production to catch up before a weapon could become feasible
Factory production and interchangeable parts meant that firearms might be changed dramatically and supplied in large quantities in only a few years, creating rapid changes in the balance of power between nations
Mass production contributes to the more consistent performance of weapons
The successful employment of new weapons depends on a balance between the newness of the weapons catching the enemy materially and psychologically unprepared, yet not being so new to prevent adequate experimentation, training, and development of tactics
Strategy and tactics Tactics and organization change much more slowly than technology and weapons
Major changes in weaponry occurring within the careers of officers (officers commanding troops using new weapons with which they are unfamiliar)
Armies take cover instead of standing in formation
Use of camouflage: the need for dispersion and concealment against improved weapons leads to the gradual adoption of utilitarian uniforms in khaki and olive drab
Calvary becomes restricted to reconnaissance and raiding, used as mounted infantry to enhance mobility

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Last update:  May 11, 2000