The Impact of the Machine Gunby Rit Nosotro
Change Over Time essay
Examine how the invention of the machine gun changed the tactics and effects of war.
The incredible rate of fire offered by the machine gun was the innovation what caused the alterations to the tactics of war.
Before the extensive adoption of machine guns, the styles of fighting were dramatically different. Soldiers used muskets that offered slow rates of fire. They lined up in the open and formed several rows to increase the rate of volleys shot into the enemy. The machine gun eliminated the rate of fire problem and forced soldiers to seek cover from the incredible amount of bullets. The machine gun ushered a major turning point of ground warfare tactics of combat.
It took several centuries for the gun to develop into a rapid fire machine gun. The machine gun was known by the American Civil War but during this period, it was fairly large, immobile, and had not reached its potential effectiveness. In the late 1800s, however, the machine gun was transformed into a portable and extremely effective weapon that a soldier could carry and fire. Because of this, the machine gun began to replace regular rifles and went into extensive use. The rate of fire provided by these weapons was the factor that ultimately changed the tactics of combat.
One of the most important things that determine the tactics on the battlefield is the weaponry employed. Before the machine gun came into extensive use, the musket was the primary weapon used in wars. This gun required a reloading process that could fire a maximum of about 3 rounds per minute. This weakness could be reduced by having different lines of men to increase the volley of rounds. Troops were often lined up in three different rows so that they could fire upon a section of the enemy lines three times as effectively. Thus the men were exposed on the battlefield but since the rate of fire opposing them was low, this was not such a problem. This also meant that charging attacks were more common. The bayonet was used quite a lot for extremely close range combat where the reloading capabilities of the musket wouldn't be effective.1
The machine gun was invented in the early nineteenth century but it took several decades for the technology to advance. During most of the 1800s the machine gun was simply a large and rather clumsy weapon transported on a cart or mounted on a wagon. The Gatling gun was used in the American Civil War. 2 If it would have worked reliably, this would have been a devastatingly effective weapon, but size, weight, and mechanics severely inhibited its usefulness. Thus the musket still remained more extensively used weapon in the American Civil War.3
A huge improvement to the machine gun came when Moses Browning invented his Browning automatic rifle. Weighing around 20 pounds it was no light gun but it could be shot from the shoulder like a rifle. Essentially this invention was a factor in the modification of warfare because it reduced the effectiveness of frontal infantry assaults. 4 The number of bullets wiring through the air was so dramatically increased that opposing infantry could no longer line up and shoot their guns. This would allow a single machine gunner to wipe out the entire line in a few short bursts of fire. Instead soldiers began to use cover much more extensively. In the in the American Civil War most soldiers stood on their feet out in the open while in the World Wars, soldiers spent most of their time in trenches or behind cover to stay out of the way of enemy fire.
This sudden improvement in weapon technology affected the colonization of Africa. The European powers that invented the technology used it against the Africans that had not yet acquired the latest weaponry. The technology of warfare improved dramatically during the carving up up Africa as the Europeans used weapons many times better than the Africans. The Europeans wielded their brand new machine guns against the outdated weapons of the African people and easily subdued the Africans.5Commentary:
If the machine gun had been used in the Civil War, undoubtedly the amount of bloodshed would have been much greater and the US would have been weakened even more. Perhaps it would have been weak enough for England to come in and reclaim it as an English colony. This is all hypothetical but it is clear that the Lord desired the US to eliminate slavery, but had mercy on it by not allowing greater bloodshed. The USA grew into the most powerful nation in the world. Partly due to the use of the machine gun, the USA helped end WWI, WWII, and American power displayed during the Cold War help bring about the collapse of Communism. A biblical interpretation of history acknowledges that these events, and their specific timing were not outside the will of God. Ephesians 1:11 says, "Also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will." 6. The machine gun became most effective after the US Civil War, yet before the wide colonization of Africa, and the spread of Christianity on that continent.
Bibliography and Endnotes
up1Moran, Donald N. "Why Did They Do That? 18th Century Military Tactics." World History. <http://www.revolutionarywararchives.org/tactics.html> Access Date: May 21, 2009
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