The Congreve Rocket was in 1801 developed from the Mysore rockets that the British had encountered in India during their war against the kingdom of Mysore. It was created by William Congreve the son of the Comptroller of the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich. The main improvement over the Mysore rockets was that he used an iron body which was able to withstand higher pressures, and therefore allow the rocket to go further from the same amount of fuel.
The rockets were wildly inaccurate, and had a tendency to veer off course. To try and give accuracy both the Indians and the British used a long stick attached to the back of the rocket, and in the case of the Indian rockets this was often sharpened or replaced with a sword blade so as to cause the maximum damage when tumbling through the ranks of British soldiers.
Congreve gave the first demonstration of his rockets in 1805. They quickly found themselves at the front lines and were used both in the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812. HMS Erebus fired rockets at Baltimore in 1814 giving rise to the line in the Star-Spangled Banner about the rockets red glare.