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Civil War Rockets-Did You Know…

The Hale Rocket Launcher, invented by British engineer William Hale in 1844, fired a 2.25-inch Hale rocket much like a rocket propelled artillery shell.  They were inherently inaccurate and the only Federal unit organized was Barry’s New York Rocket Battalion.  Union rockets were employed by Major Thomas W. Lion (father of Union rocketry) of Barry’s Rocket Battalion at Yorktown and Richmond in 1862 and by the 74th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry at the Battle of Charleston in April 1863.  A number of Union rockets were captured at Gaines’ Mill and used against their former owners.

 JEB Stuart employed a Congreve Rocket battery against McClellan’s army at Harrison’s Landing 3 July 1862.  This weapon was developed by English Sir William Congreve.  Rockets could be employed where the ground was too soft to support normal artillery.  The fat rockets flew straight enough but when they landed they leaped around and caused havoc but did little damage beyond burning some tents and scalding some mules.  Some even ricocheted back toward Stuart’s position.  Congreve Rockets were also used in a limited role by the US Navy in ship to shore bombardment.


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