Military Impact of the Industrial Age

So far, I’ve covered the Industrial and Commercial effects that an Industrial Revolution would have on a Fantasy World. I’ve also discussed how Gunpowder Fantasy affects Communication, the Arms Race, and gone over the basics of weapons technology in Gunpowder Fantasy.

But weapons weren’t the only aspect of the military the gunpowder changed. Tactics saw a major change during the Industrial Revolution, and especially as a part of the American Civil War.

Often referred to as “Napoleonic” tactics, armies before the American Civil War used basic flintlock and percussion muskets, which were notoriously short-ranged and inaccurate. Soldiers would line up in tight ranks of thousands of soldiers and march at the enemy. Because of the short range and inaccuracy of their weapons, the soldiers could get within a couple of hundred yards before they were in any sort of danger. The soldiers would fix bayonets and charge across the final few yards to fight their enemies in hand-to-hand combat.

During the early civil war, these tactics were still largely used, despite the fact that much improved weapons had been developed. But as technology advanced, and generals began to see that the old tactics were inefficient, strategies and tactics began to change.

Skirmishers became a major part of armies, moving ahead of the main army in small groups stretched across a thin line. Skirmishers screened larger battle elements, harassed enemy skirmishers, and scouted the enemy force for weaknesses.

A major change was the “Strategy of Maneuver” which taught that outmanuevering an enemy was the better way to victory, rather than brute force. Armies began to seek out advantages in the form of natural defenses and position, rather than bringing as many men to the field as possible.

When you’re creating your world, I feel it’s extremely important to consider where in the development of military tactics and strategy you will be placing your conflict. A part of this is the exact technology level you choose (early flintlocks or advanced rifles?) but it’s also important to consider how recently a major war has been waged.

In the example of Napoleon and the American Civil War. There were fifty years between the two major events, and weapons technology had a major leap in that time. If you set your world in a time with new technologies that haven’t seen a major war, your generals and armies are going to be fighting under the paradigm and theory of the last major war, rather than under the realities of the current technology.

The world of the The Cerberus Rebellion, for example, is set in a world very similar to the American Civil War. The last major conflict is more than 100 years old and was fought with an entirely different set of weapons. The generals, therefore, are still using the mass-and-fire tactics of that war. But as the war evolves, will the tactics as well?

But weapons and tactics aren’t the only thing that will change when you put your world through its Industrial Revolution.

It is said that there are two things that drive a nation to war: fuel and food.  And that an army moves on its stomach.

Fuel is rather obvious: if your nation needs a fuel (say, Coal?) but it doesn’t have the necessary amount to sustain itself, it’s going to go elsewhere to find it.

Food, on the other hand, can have various aspects to it. I discussed in a previous post how the Industrial Revolution affected Agriculture and the production of food. In this post, I’ll discuss how changes brought about by the industrial revolution and these changes in agriculture brought about change on the military side of the board.

The biggest issue with marching an army across a nation has always been feeding the soldiers. People eat a lot, and soldiers who have to keep up their physical and mental toughness ate more. According to some reports, the average company from the North needed 125 pounds of pork or beef, 75 pounds of hard bread while in camp (more when on campaign), more than 6 pounds of compressed vegetables, 8 quarts of beans, 10 pounds of rice, 10 pounds of coffee beans, 10 pounds of sugar, and a gallon of vinegar¹.  Well over 250 pounds of food for 100 men per day. All of that in addition to the water that those soldiers needed.

Before the industrial revolution, this food would be hauled by wagons pulled by oxen or mules. But those animals required their own food supplies, cutting into the payload that could be devoted to the soldiers. With the advent and expansion of the railroad system, moving food became far easier. Campaigns could reach further and armies march harder if they didn’t need to carry their supplies on their backs.

But this also led to a dependence on the rail system. Railroad stations became major hubs of activity and the rail lines that criss-crossed the nation became targets for sabotage.

That’s something to keep in mind when you’re writing your world. Remember the importance of the rail system and logistics to your world’s army. Rail stations would need to be protected and would be likely targets for capture. Rail bridges would be strategically invaluable and a retreating army would likely consider burning any bridges they could in order to slow or halt the advance of their enemies.

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About Joshua K Johnson

Josh is the author of The Cerberus Rebellion and The Hydra Offensive, Gunpowder Fantasy novels set in the Griffins & Gunpowder universe. He is currently working on a new novel set in the same world as well as The Centaur Incursion, Book 3 in the existing series. He's married with a 5 yr old son and a 1 year old daughter, keeping him busy. He currently works and is a full-time student.

Posted on September 13, 2013, in writing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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