Does anyone know of good sources for the use of rockets in battle and rocketry in general during the Civil War? I know they had been used in battles since the Chinese invented gun powder back in the middle ages (or a bit before). But in the depictions I've seen of the CW era, I have rarely seen them used as anything other than some kind of a signal, but nothing was ever explained about HOW they were used to signal, ie: what it meant to have three rockets whistling overhead.
I need to do a little research on this one. Off the top of my head I can only recall a singal mention of signal rockets but I am sure there are many more. This one comes from OR vol. 17 part 2 page 266. It is from Rosecrans directions to is subordinates during the pursuit of Van Dorn after the Battle of Corinth.
"Lieutenant-Colonel Lothrop will furnish chiefs of divisions with rockets for signals. Three rockets at intervals of one minute will indicate the head of the advance columns; two at intervals of one minute will indicate the head of the columns supporting the advance, and one will indicate the rear of the entire column on each line. Should the signals of one not be answered by the other they may be repeated every fifteen minutes until answered."
Typical confusing directions from Mr. Rosecrans. Some time ago I saw an episode of "Myth Busters" on the Discovery Channel and they were investigating a Confederate rocket using parafin wax as the fuel. I can't recall the exact particulars but apparently it worked.
In "Arms and Equipment of the Civil War" by Jack Scoggins there is a brief description and drawing of each on page 97.
From "War Years with Jeb Stuart" by Lt. Col. W.W. Blackford, C.S.A., Stuart opened on them with a Congrave rocket battery, the first and last time the latter ever appeared in action with us. It had been gotten up by some foreign chap who managed it on this occasion. They were huge rockets, fired from a sort of gun carriage, with a shell at the end which expolded in due time, scattering 'liquid damnation,' as the men called it. Their course was erratic; they went straight enough in their first flight, but after striking, the flight might be continued in any other course, even directly back towards where it came from. Great consternation was occasioned among the camps of the enemy, as these unearthly serpents went zigzagging about among them...A few tents were fired but the rockets proved to be of little practicle value.
In this excerpt a Confederate describes an incident from the fighting around Petersburg in 64/65, from Confederate Veteran magazine, Volume XXVIII (1920) page 419; The monotony of the long, cold nights out in the pits was very trying, and we devised many schemes to break it. One of these was firing rockets made of Minie balls into the enemy pickets. These were mad by scooping out the leaden ball so that it was only a shell. In the cavity we packed powder that had been dampened with saliva. A charge of dry powder was placed in the gun, and the ball containg the damp powder was inserted in the gun with the sharp end down. By giving the gun the right elevation the ball, with its long tail of fire following it, would fall into the Yankee pits and create great confusion among them for awhile. Friend and foe alike enjoyed the joke, and after awhile the enemy caught on to the trick. A brave but nervous picket on my right who was an expert at this thing was frightened out of the pit when one of these rockets fell on him.