Union Rockets

Rocket launchers were not a new idea, and the Congreve rocket had been used by the British during the Napoleonic Wars. They also used it against the Americans in the War of 1812, an action which is immortalized in the Star Spangled Banner's reference to "...the rockets' red glare." The weapon seem here is the Hale rocket launcher, which was invented by British civil engineer William Hale in 1844 as a much lighter and more mobile successor to the Congreve system. Following testing and approval by Union Naval Ordnance expert, Captain (later Admirall John A. Dahlgren, in 1847, the patent was purchased from Hale and production was undertaken at the Washington Navy Yard in time for some 2,000 rockets to be deployed for use in the Mexican War, According to the US Army's Ordnance manual of 1862, the 16-pound (7.3kg) rocket had a range of 1.25 miles (2.0km). Although inaccurate, Hale rockets were used throughout the Civil War in several calibers, but without achieving any particular successes.

The design of the launcher was exceptionally elegant, immensely simple and practical, and without a single unnecessary component. The rocket was placed in the open breech and. on the fuze igniting the propellant, it accelerated up the barrel, which was a simple, thin-walled tube, and into its trajectory. The spade was welded to the open end of the breech, thus closing it, and had two legs which were dug into the ground, while the forelegs (simple rods) were secured by locking screws, enabling the elevation to be adjusted quickly and without any fuss, while their junction above the barrel served as' a simple foresight. The only other item was a folding backsight.

The great advance in Hale's system was that he eliminated the

Hales Rocket Launcher

1 Hale patent rocket launcher, 2.25 inch (57mm) caliber

2 and 3 Two types of Hales's tailless rockets long wooden tail in the Congreve rocket which was required for stability in flight, but was otherwise just useless weight. In the Hale rocket there was no tail as the projectile was spin-stabilized, using three angled jets.

The whole concept was brilliant and far ahead of its time. Indeed, had one of the gunners thought to lift the tube on his shoulder and point it directly at the enemy the bazooka would have entered service in the 1860s instead of the 1940s. An excellent exhibit of this material is on view at the Gettysburg Museum of the Civil War.

1 Hale patent rocket launcher, 2.25 inch (57mm) caliber

2 and 3 Two types of Hales's tailless rockets

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