• Post made for three hours last night (9pm-12am EST) have been deleted. This was necessary due to some problems with server maintenance. Anyone who had problems logging into their account during this time should be fine now.

Use of Chlorine Gas in American Civil War

Was reading this Wiki article the other day and came across this paragraph:

Later, during the American Civil War, New York school teacher John Doughty proposed the offensive use of chlorine gas, delivered by filling a 10-inch (254 millimeter) artillery shell with two to three quarts (two to three liters) of liquid chlorine, which could produce many cubic feet (a few cubic meters) of chlorine gas. Doughty’s plan was apparently never acted on, as it was probably presented to Brigadier General James Wolfe Ripley, Chief of Ordnance, who was described as being congenitally immune to new ideas.

What if the Union had taken up John Doughty's idea? How effective would these chlorine gas shells have been? How many could have been produced? Where and when would they have most likely been used? Could the Confederates have produced their own version of these weapons? And what effect would their use have had on this war and on subsequent 19th-century wars?
 
The disadvantage in WWI of using shells instead of aerosol to deliver gas was that it's hard to get the concentration of it you need to be really effective, so they needed large-scale saturation bombardments. I daresay that would be even more challenging earlier on, when you didn't have the same sized artillery parks available. Also unsure if the infrastructure to make enough gas existed at the time.
 
What range would these shells have? What is the likelihood of the wind changing direction and blowing the gas in an unfortunate direction?
 

Anaxagoras

Banned
The technology of the time was not advanced enough to effectively deploy gas. And even if it was, I think Lincoln would have recollected in horror from the idea. Moreover, the propaganda use that the Confederates would have made out of it ("How dastardly can these vile Yankees be?!?!") would have outweighed any battlefield use of it.
 
So the logistics are definitely not in favor of deploying these weapons.

It's interesting, right before that paragraph there's a discussion on a similar proposal by British Secretary of Science and Art Lyon Playfair for the use of gas shells in the Crimean War. When Lord Palmerston objected on moral/cruelty grounds, Playfair's response was:

There was no sense in this objection. It is considered a legitimate mode of warfare to fill shells with molten metal which scatters among the enemy, and produced the most frightful modes of death. Why a poisonous vapor which would kill men without suffering is to be considered illegitimate warfare is incomprehensible. War is destruction, and the more destructive it can be made with the least suffering the sooner will be ended that barbarous method of protecting national rights. No doubt in time chemistry will be used to lessen the suffering of combatants, and even of criminals condemned to death.

Let's say his argument persuaded the PM and permission was given to use chemical shells in the Crimea. Would this have facilitated their later use in the ACW? Or would the logistical and production problems have been evident in the Crimean usage, and so had the effect of completely nixing the idea for later? How would the timeline of chemical weapons development have been affected?
 
Since vulcanized rubber and active charcoal were known at the time of the CW a mask with rubberized canvas/fabric "bag" and a filter could be made, but not sure how effective it would be or how many could be made.
 
Top