This is the legendary novel of technological speculation and social satire that launched an entire genre of adventure fiction: Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon and ‘Round the Moon is the first story of space exploration and remains a beloved work of daring exploits-and surprisingly accurate scientific conjecture. When the members of the Baltimore Gun Club-bored Civil War veterans-decide to fill their time by embarking on a project to shoot themselves to the moon, the race is on to raise money, overcome engineering challenges, and convince detractors that they’re anything but “Lunatics.” With this work, Verne inspired the first science fiction film, 1902’s Le Voyage dans la lune, and accurately predicted that that ideal location for a space base is in Florida.
During the War of the Rebellion, a new and influential club was established in the city of Baltimore in the State of Maryland. It is well known with what energy the taste for military matters became developed among that nation of ship–owners, shopkeepers, and mechanics. Simple tradesmen jumped their counters to become extemporized captains, colonels, and generals, without having ever passed the School of Instruction at West Point; nevertheless; they quickly rivaled their compeers of the old continent, and, like them, carried off victories by dint of lavish expenditure in ammunition, money, and men.
But the point in which the Americans singularly distanced the Europeans was in the science of gunnery. Not, indeed, that their weapons retained a higher degree of perfection than theirs, but that they exhibited unheard–of dimensions, and consequently attained hitherto unheard–of ranges. In point of grazing, plunging, oblique, or enfilading, or point–blank firing, the English, French, and Prussians have nothing to learn; but their cannon, howitzers, and mortars are mere pocket–pistols compared with the formidable engines of the American artillery.
This fact need surprise no one. The Yankees, the first mechanicians in the world, are engineers— just as the Italians are musicians and the Germans metaphysicians— by right of birth. Nothing is more natural, therefore, than to perceive them applying their audacious ingenuity to the science of gunnery. Witness the marvels of Parrott, Dahlgren, and Rodman. The Armstrong, Palliser, and Beaulieu guns were compelled to bow before their transatlantic rivals.