MSFC History Office NASA Insignia
Photo: Von Braun, Marshall, and Skylab Marshall Space Flight Center
Other History Links MSFC Home MSFC Art Collection NASA Home NASA Privacy Statement Contact Us
Skip Navigation
Home > Early Days > Timeline of Rocket History > Rockets for Warfare (18th through 19th Centuries)

Rockets for Warfare (18th through 19th Centuries)

Click on a thumbnail
to see a larger slide image.
In 1696, Robert Anderson, an Englishman, published a two-part treatise on how to make rocket molds, prepare the propellants, and perform the calculations.
During the early introduction of rockets to Europe, they were used only as weapons. Enemy troops in India repulsed the British with rockets. Later in Britain, Sir William Congreve developed a rocket that could fire to about 9,000 feet. The British fired Congreve rockets against the United States in the War of 1812.
The English confrontation with Indian rockets came in 1780 at the Battle of Guntur. The closely massed, normally unflinching British troops broke and ran when the Indian Army laid down a rocket barrage in their midst.
William Congreve's incendiary rocket used black powder, an iron case, and a 16-foot guide stick. The British used Congreve rockets in 1806 to attack Napoleon's headquarters in France. In 1807, Congreve directed a rocket attack against Copenhagen; approximately 25,000 rockets were fired.
Francis Scott Key coined the phrase the rocket's red glare after the British fired Congreve rockets against the United States in the War of 1812. Congreve had used a 16-foot guidestick to help stabilize his rocket. William Hale, another British inventor, invented the stickless rocket in 1846. The U.S. army used the Hale rocket more than 100 years ago in the war with Mexico. Rockets were also used to a limited extent in the Civil War.

Top of Page