Middle Ages Technologies
Gunpowder
by Cody Ross

Gunpowder was supposed to be a potion for unlimited life and ended up being a potion for death that is still used today.

Ancient Chinese alchemists were trying to find a potion for immortality and they ended up making gunpowder. When the Chinese found out that it exploded they used it for fire works. After a few hundred years they started using it in war. They first used it at the beginning of a war to try to scare people off before they fought them. The Chinese finally realized that if you explode gunpowder near people they might die so they started using it in war as a kind of explosive.

When Chinese alchemists invented gunpowder it was a mistake. The alchemists were trying to find a potion for immortality and instead they wound up making an explosion. So the opposite effect came out of the original Idea.

Gunpowder consists of potassium nitrate, common charcoal, and sulfur. The potassium nitrate first came from decayed animal manure, and later it came from mines in India. The common charcoal is made from wood that has been cooked so all the gases are removed. When these ingredients are mixed they make gunpowder.

The invention of gunpowder evolved into many things. At first gunpowder was just used as fireworks, and it took a while for the Chinese to realize that gunpowder could be used in war. The first big weapon for warfare that evolved out of gunpowder was the cannon.
The cannon impacted warfare in many ways; it eliminated battering rams and catapults, because now you could take out a wall with a few cannon balls. You could take out groups of people with just one shot instead of fifty arrows or more. Another advantage of cannons is that they can be shot from far away and have the same damage. Arrows are limited in their range and are not as accurate. Cannons can shoot from longer distances and are a whole lot more accurate and make a bigger impact.

 

 

These inventions impacted war in many ways, and one of them was the ground. Before cannons, there weren’t any hole making weapons but when cannons came along the ground started getting big holes in it. When you fire a cannon ball and it hits the earth, it will explode, and when it explodes it will make a very big hole that will cause many things. For one, it will allow for hiding places, but if it’s smaller, it could cause people to trip and then get shot or have a cannon ball hit them.

This earth-moving aspect of gunpowder was used for traps and mines. You could hide barrels of gunpowder under something and have a fuse leading away from it, and when the enemies are over the barrel you light the fuse and they blow up. This caused people to be a lot more careful when traveling into war, and made structural defenses a whole lot less effective.

The second invention that gunpowder took part in was the gun. The gun could pierce a knight’s armor, which impacted how people fought. The bullet could pierce the armor and kill with one shot. There were no more battle charges on open ground because you wanted to have cover so you didn’t get shot. The gun evolved into a machine gun. This gun did not have to be loaded every shot, it could shoot thirty or forty bullets before reloading. People really wanted cover then, they didn’t go in the open when that machine gun was in use.

One big use that gunpowder evolved into that did not really relate to war was mining. You could mine a whole lot faster by blowing holes in the rock than chipping it with an ax.

The invention of gunpowder, and the weapons it is used in, forced war to be in different locations. Instead of having a war at a castle you would meet at a field or along the way. Instead of waiting for enemies to arrive, people would both charge and meet some where in between camps. With the invention of gunpowder, castles were less useful because now that they could be blown to bits there was no reason for making something that would just be blown up, so castles became less and less common.

So gunpowder was supposed to be a potion for unlimited life and ended up being a potion for death that is still used today. Gunpowder was one of the most important inventions in warfare. It has also evolved in to many different inventions, which have changed the way of warfare.