Episode 40: Confederate Rocket

Air Date: October 26, 2005

During the American Civil War, the Confederacy built and launched a two stage rocket 120 miles from Richmond, Virginia to Washington D.C.


While the MythBusters were able to construct and launch a hybrid rocket in under two days using only properties available to Civil War-era engineers, the rocket was not two stage, as per the myth and only travelled an estimated 500 yards. Adam and Jamie agreed that the myth would be impossible with the technology available during the civil war.

(A spin-off of this myth was confirmed in episode 51 and again in episode 64: A hybrid rocket can be propelled with salami.)


  1. Ray says:

    The reason the salami didn’t get the distance is because of the dip in the jetstream, and the crackers that the fats give off, rather than a clean burn. To fix this next time, we need to have the salami, dip and crackers all together. Maybe with an olive or two.

  2. Terrance Litschel says:

    In the original episode of this myth, Adam and Jamie forgot to put some sort of stabalizers on their original confederate rocket. With that, the Rocket could have gone more than 500 yards. I probably have gone about 3-5 miles. I noticed that as their original rocket reached it’s peak, it’s tail end dipped, then the nose went down. after that, it was a steep dive to the earth. with the stabalizers, the dip would not have happened. I want to see them redo this myth, with the halley gyro stabalizers on thier large rocket, just to see how far it could actually go.

    • Andre says:

      Actually you don’t know what you are talking
      about there were fins weld on the tail end
      of the rocket sticking backward not out
      designed to spin the rocket much like a bullet from a rifle spins cause of the spiraling groves (called rifling). I believe it did not go further cause the propellant was not
      powerful compared to the solid rocket
      fuel used in modern missiles

  3. anthony says:

    I have to tell you that I am supper impressed with the civil war rocket it worked better then I would have ever thought I mean wow you achieved more in three days than north Korea has in many years thumbs up to you.

    PS: I think Kim Jong-il want to hire yawl to consultants to his weapons department

  4. Shaun says:

    I dont think halley stabalizers or infact any type of not complete trash stabilizer could have been fitted onto the rocket and still perserved the civil war era technology. Remember technology doesnt have to be electronic, it just has to involve deesign and the evolution there of.

  5. Richard says:

    MB is wong on this one, even nasa says that they did.

    The first recorded use of rockets in the Civil War came on July 3, 1862, when Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart’s Confederate cavalry fired rockets at Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan’s Union troops at Harrison’s Landing, Va.

  6. Ty and Susan says:

    So much for hybrid and salami rockets.Why don’t
    you try any rocket that can launch 120 miles.So
    the myth would be you can build a rocket that
    can fly for 120 miles.Remember to use modern
    technology for this rocket beacause this rocket
    is beyond the confederate.Good Luck!

  7. SgtMajor TwoBit says:

    As a student of the War between the States since the Centennial in the 1960’s, how is it, in all that time, with all the books I’ve read, that I have never heard of a TWO STAGE Confederate rocket that went 120 miles? Sure there WERE rockets (red glare etc), but a
    2 stager? 120 MILES? Who started this trash? Our air force consisted of a balloon made of Richmond ladies’ silk dresses and IT was captured by the yankees. Come ON! There wasn’t ever a 2 stager that went 120 miles…pure jive bullpuckey IMHO.
    Feasible? It was likely THOUGHT of, but put into practice? Naw…
    The whole idea’s someone’s 20th century pipe dream.Our people Were resourceful and intelligent, but They knew their limits. They were realists. There was a tabloid story not too long ago that caught my eye…Confederate Atomic bomb. I busted this one myself, when the author wrote the CSA-bomb was set off with dynamite (Invented in 1866 after the War ended.)
    If anyone knows the source of the rocket myth, please let us all know where the information came from. I’d love to investigate it further.

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