Mount Union Professor Miller Presents on Civil War

October 30, 2017

ALIANCE, Ohio – Dr. Keith Miller, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Mount union, presented on the Civil War at the final Continued Learning Program (CLP) for October.

Miller graduated from Mount Union with a Bachelor’s of Science in Chemistry. He furthered his education at the University of North Carolina where he received his doctorate. While he chose to be a professor of biochemistry, he has many interests and hobbies, including researching the Civil War.

“We’re glad to have one of our own best students back as a professor,” said Dave Putterbaugh, a CLP committee member.

Miller’s presentation titled “The American Civil War Battle Tactics in Perspective” centers around his hobby of learning about the Civil War. He addressed the reason why people consider the Civil War to be the first modern war while many of the strategies they used had been around since the 1600s.

In wars before 1600s, soldiers were taught to fight by clustering together, which wasn’t an effective tactic at times. By the 1680s, the Europeans had formed a new tactic called linear tactics. For this style, the soldiers would line up in five to six ranks, or lines, and march forward. This led to drilling becoming more important in order for the soldiers to march at the same pace. Eventually the linear tactics led to column tactics which allowed the soldiers to move easily, but allowed for fewer people to fire at once.

“These are what are being brought to America,” Miller explained.

The tactics kept evolving until the skirmish line came about. It was an irregular line of soldiers meant to distract and surprise the opposing side as they progressed forward.

“The skirmish line, which was heavily used in the Civil War, was not unique to the war,” Miller said.

The Civil War was also the first time trench warfare was used in battle, a tactic which was seen often during World War One. Along with the increase in tactics, there was an increase in technology. The rifled musket was made with a spiraled barrel allowing the bullets to exit the barrel and travel with more accuracy, although, soldiers had to be at further distances in order to aim it properly. Hand grenades and flamethrowers were also created and used during the war.

The first Air Force was formed allowing men to be sent up in hot air balloons to see what was happening from above. Telegraphs were used for communication over longer distances and the railway system led to faster traveling. Every major battle in the Civil War occurred within a hundred miles of the railroad, Miller explained the advancements to the audience.

While scholars believe the Civil War to be the first modern war, some believe it to be the last Napoleonic war. Many of the tactics used by both the Union and Confederate soldiers were the ones used during the Napoleonic wars.

A memorial to the fallen soldiers in the Civil stands in downtown Alliance at Freedom Square.

CLP concluded for October with Miller’s presentation. It will continue once again in February. The committee is always looking for recommendations for speakers and topics people in the community would be interested to learn about.

For more information about CLP, contact Abby Honaker Schroeder by phone at (330) 829-8168 or email at 

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