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Ben P.




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PostPosted: Wed 09 Sep, 2009 10:01 am    Post subject: To all experts: Justifying 18-19th century musket tactics         Reply with quote

To anyone who knows something about this subject (Please answer this question has been plaguing me for years): Okay is it just me? Have I see the Patriot to many times? Or what? But I would like to know why exactly they stood out in lines and blazed away at each with muskets I mean that just seems . . . Stupid. To put it mildly and even more so during the American Civil War where they had rifles. So is there a (Intelligent) reason for this? If so please tell and give me sources/incidents/citations, etc. For why they did that along with things like musket range, power, performance, etc.

-Thanks
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Joel Minturn





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PostPosted: Wed 09 Sep, 2009 12:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'll give a shot at explaining it as the best I understand it.
For the most part the armies of the time (pre-American Civil War) were armed with smooth bore muskets for speed and ease of use but it wouldn't surprise me if price played a factor as well. Dropping a round ball down a smooth barrel is faster than pushing a patched ball down a rifled barrel. That's why the musket stuck around. There were some earlier rifle divisions but I believe they were treated as black sheep and sort of faded out of existence.

Now back to the question at hand. Because the military musket was designed for speed and not precision and other factors like how much powder the musket could take and how efficiently it used the powder led to the musket having an impressive ballistic arc when shot -- muskets really have to lob there shots. That means the a slight miscalculation guessing the distance to the target means the shot will go over or drop short of the target. So a thin (1 - 2 people deep) but wide line is much more likely to be missed than a narrow but deep line. that's why they long thin line.

I believe the two lines would walk towards each other in a game of chicken daring the other to shoot first. The closer the line gets the enemy the more devastating the fire but the greater the chance of being shot apart or being charged.

Why did they keep the line for so long? well tactics change slowly generals tend to stick with what they know works.
During the American Civil War things did start to change and this came about because of the Minnie Ball (its a french word Pronounced Min-aye not mini) which meant a rifle could be loaded as fast as a musket.
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Darryl Aoki





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PostPosted: Wed 09 Sep, 2009 1:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Also, I believe the experiences of the British and French armies during the Napoleonic Wars illustrated the advantages of a firing line as opposed to a columnar formation, as the French used at Waterloo. A columnar formation would be able to hit harder in a bayonet charge, but the limited fire frontage of a column would be a weakness in ranged engagements.

Another reason for having massed formations would be to maintain unit cohesion and ease the task for commanding a unit. Skirmishers would be deployed in a more open manner, but would have been better-trained to operate under their own initiative.

Rather sadly, the infanty line of battle continued to be used well after technology had overtaken its usefulness; in the early days of WWI, I've read accounts from the Battle of Mons of German troops marching in line abreast toward the BEF and getting chopped down by accurate British musketry (the famous 15-aimed-rounds-per-minute British riflemen.) As Joel mentioned, tactics are often slow to respond to technology.
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Bryce Felperin




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PostPosted: Wed 09 Sep, 2009 4:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Simple reasons for mass formations of muskets: Concentration of firepower, ease of command, slow rate of fire and muzzle loading.

They needed a concentration of fire to offset the inaccuracies and low training of their troops. Remember that pre-industrial manufacturing of gun powder meant that there wasn't a lot available for firing live rounds in training all that often and the smoothbore musket wasn't the most accurate of arms.

There also was a need to keep close communications with the troops under you. Gun smoke obscured the battlefield, firing made it hard to hear commands and there was no radio to communicate. So you needed your men close by to communicate with them by shouting.

Muzzle loadering muskets also had a slow rate of fire (more than muzzle loading rifles but less than breech loaders), so you needed to concentrate your fire to be effective and you needed to drill to have everyone fire at once. That meant you needed to be close by to hear fire commands. In a fortified position you could pass forward loaded muskets for the front ranks only to fire through embrasures or over obstacles, but you couldn't do this in the field easily.

Up until the late nineteenth century this was the only way to fight. After they developed muzzle loading metallic cartledge weapons though, it very quickly became an obsolete way of fighting. That is when you have troops spread out and able to fire from a prone position.
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Tom L.




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PostPosted: Wed 09 Sep, 2009 6:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Okay...here goes. First off...The Patriot provides a horrible depiction of 18th century tactics when it comes to showing how the British actually fought in North America. During the French and Indian Wars, the British recognized the need for light infantry who acted as scouts and skirmishers. These guys had muskets and also took cover whenever they could.

By the time of the American Revolution, the British had light companies attached to their battalions and they also had regiments that were trained to fight as light infantry as a whole. This in fact carried on into the Napoleonic Wars.

Britsh tactics during the American Revolution generally consisted of a line of skirmishers/light infantry taking aimed shots at the enemy in open/extended order. Officers and NCOs were prime targets of course. Follwing this screen of skirmishers would be units formed up in a "traditional" line. The skirmishers would weaken the enemy while the line would provide the punch behind the attack. If the skirmish line is threatened, it can either fall back onto the line or the line can advance up to the skirmishers. Either way, the line now provides mass fire power. Also, if the enemy is weakened, the line can break into a bayonet charge and drive away the enemy with their mass. These tactics were used by the British during the Napoleonic Wars as well and at that point, there were light companies and regiments armed with smoothbore muskets and there were regiments armed with rifled muskets (the 60th and 95th regiments being the most famous).

The British also by this time did not favour long drawn out fire fights. Drawn out volley firing resulted in massive shot wastage, obscured vision due to clouds of gun smoke and also led to a breakdown in fire discipline with volleys getting more ragged as time progresses since each soldier starts firing as fast as they can. The prefered method was to come up close, blast the enemy with a massive volley and repeat if needed and then follow up with a morale shattering bayonet charge or general advance. This was what was pulled on Napoleon's guards at Waterloo by the British Foot guards.

Whilst movies tend to portray minutemen as being armed with accurate rifes, keep in mind that not every minuteman had a rifle and those who did owned long barrelled hunting pieces that were slow to load due to their length and rifling, were too delicate to take the abuse of military service and also could not take a bayonet. American citizen milita armed with private purchased smoothbore and rifled muskets often fled because they could not resist bayonet charges. Frederick the Great had a rifle armed unit cut to pieces because their rifled muskets were modelled after hunting peices and also did not come with bayonet attachements.

One of the advantages of there forming a line was that muskets were innacurate behind 100 yards and concentrating your firepower in a line meant you had a chance to hit something. At Culloden during the 1745 Scottish Jacobite Rebellion, the British beat back the Scottish Rebels who did make contact with their line by having the front rank engage the Scots with their bayonets whilst the rear ranks kept loading and firing. Don't forget, in times of war, regiments get flooded with new recruits or replacements and there is seldom time to teach these new soldiers how to be skilled marksmen. This problem is still happening today. Massed volley fire was a way around this.

Keep in mind that smoothbore muskets were also slow to load. The average British soldier could fire off 4 rounds a minute only. If you've got 1000 guys with slow loading and innaccurate weapons and there is cavalry lurking about, it would be advantageous to have them in a solid line to 1: mass your fire power in the form of a deadly volley and 2: enable you to adopt various formations to resist cavalry (e.g. forming a square). Having infantry scattered about would result in them being destroyed by horsemen. At the battle of Balaclava, the Seaforth Highlanders broke Russian cavalry while firing in line and during the battle of Alexandria in 1801, the British 28th foot faced French soldiers on their front and French cavalry attacking on their back as well whilst in line with the rear rank turned to face the French horse. At Waterloo, the British formed square and held off repeated French Cavalry attacks. On the otherhand, the 95th Rifles of Sharpe's fame got caught in extended order by French horse during the battle of the Coa and were badly mauled.

The general perception of fighting in lines is stupid therfore comes from how Hollywood depicts or does not depict the actual tactics that were used. It is also caused by us modern folk applying our modern expectations of what guns can do whilst not taking into account the quirks and defects of old firearms.

That's my two cents worth. In regards to fighting in line formation, as Shakespeare would say: "Though this be madness, there be method to it."

I have a cunning plan Mr. B.
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Ben Potter
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PostPosted: Wed 09 Sep, 2009 6:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I would guess that they lined up and shot at each other because that is how war had always been fought. I believe a lot of it was a hold over from the days of pikemen and spear men. Also, a hedge of bayonets is a lot harder to charge with cavalry then individual solders. Tactics are slow to change the concept of "firepower" was only recognized at the end of WWI, even though the technology for it had been around since the middle of the 1800's.
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Ben P.




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PostPosted: Wed 09 Sep, 2009 7:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yes but still you have a hundred guys on each side within 18 feet of each other they then open fire even with innacuracy (Am I correct in assuming that they turned their face away when they fired?) The smoke and the slowness with one volley the entire first rank falls.
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Tom L.




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PostPosted: Wed 09 Sep, 2009 7:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The turning of the face was probably something that was discouraged due to it causing innacuracy in firing. I actually wouldn't call it turning, but rather, I'd call it flinching. When the cock struck and knocked away the priming pan cover and ignited the powder in the pan, which then set off the charge in the barrel via the touch hole, it set off sparks. The sparks of course caused the soldiers to flinch and ruin their aim. The flinching was a side effect of the musket's mechanism.

The invention of the bayonet meant that pikemen were no longer needed to protect musket armed infantry from other pikemen or cavalry for that matter. The continued existence of cavalry and the slow rate of fire and genral innacuracy of the musket meant that fighting in line was the only sensible thing to do.

I have a cunning plan Mr. B.
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Tom L.




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PostPosted: Wed 09 Sep, 2009 8:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

When a musket fires, the ball tumbles all over the place so where you hit is not neccesarily where you aimed. Rifling existed for a long time (Henry VIII had some rifled pieces), but rifling was a laborious and epensive undertaking which many felt was too espensive to use on military weapons. Loading a muzzle loader rifle takes longer than a smoothbore because the grooves cause interference. This caused many of the experts of the day to either say that muskets made up for innaccuarcy by means of rate of fire, or that riflemen should carry short pikes to ward off cavalry.

No one fired at 18 yards. To do so would invite a bayonet charge before you could get your men to aim and fire. Being too close meant also that you would not have time to react to any units that might be behind the enemy's front line. The French were close to drving back Thomas Picton's men at Waterloo when from behind Picton's Scottish Regiments, the Union Brigade's cavalry units emerged behind them and started to hack down the French infantry who had no time to react due to the closeness of the range. 100 yards was the maximum effective range if you wanted a hope of hitting anything and 50 yards was the range if you wanted to unleash a punishing volley. And all the while, if possible, your skirmishers would still be picking off enemy officers, NCOs, artillery gunners or just enlisted men if nothing else was available.

The entire front rank would also not be completely destroyed. There would be shots going high or wide and there would also be multiple hits on unfortunate individuals. As I said, where you hit is not neccesarily where you aimed. A well aimed and timed volley from a practical distance could stop an enemy in it's tracks but would not destroy it entirely. This is shown in the Patriot when Mel Gibson and Heath Ledger are watching a battle from inside a house. The British are taking hits from long range, they close in and fire at the rebels from a closer range before the rebels can reload, and then charge them with bayonets while the rebels are standing in a stunned and chewed up line. If you can stand a long boring movie, Stanley Kubrick also depicts this in his film Barry Lyndon. The French are firing at the British at long range and the British are taking causalties as the march towards the French at a brisk walk. The holes are filled in by the rear ranks. You don't see the aftermath but from the background noise, it is implied that the British caught the French while they were in the midst of loading, gave them a short ranged volley, and then routed them with a bayonet charge.

Don't forget, for dramatic reasons and because it looks good, movies often shoot battle scenes with soldiers and vehicles bunched up closer than they would be in real life because it looks great on camera and on screen. No body in their right mind would fly in a tight attack formation like the helicopters in Apocolypse Now. In movies, You'll even see scenes where distant shots show soldiers firing at each other and the lines look far apart. All of a sudden the camera angle switches to a view from the rear rank and now it looks like they're only "18 feet" apart. Saving Private Ryan is a victim of this effect in a way. During the Normandy beach landing scene, the close up shots make the beach look crowded and busy with activity and the whole atmaosphere is that of chaos. The overhead shots from the German point of view all of a sudden feature a fairly empty beach with only a smattering of Amercan troops.

I would not take movies as being a source for accurate depictions of history. Ever seen The Messenger? The French knights are storming a English castle while lead by Joan of Arc and the castle has these murder holes set 20 feet apart at the base of the castle walls and they're rolling stones down these chutes. The French are shown to be dumb enough to not avoid these widely spaced holes and actually have guys listening for when the next rock is coming down with their heads inside the holes. The English also have a motorized morning star on top of a section of wall and one Frenchman is stupid enough to place his ladder underneath this windmill of death and get his head knocked off when he had oodles of space elsewhere to put his ladder up See what I mean about movies not being good depictors of history?

I can recommend three Osprey Books to cover all that I have said. They are British Redcoat (volumes 1 and 2), and British Light Infantryman of the Seven Year's War.

I have a cunning plan Mr. B.
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Tom L.




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PostPosted: Wed 09 Sep, 2009 8:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

One more thing: until the First World War, more soldiers died from disease than from bullets. You were more likely to be struck down by malaria, dysentry or yellow fever than you would by a bullet in your career as a soldier prior to WW1.
I have a cunning plan Mr. B.
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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Thu 10 Sep, 2009 4:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'd like to welcome Tom L to the forum and thank him for the excellent contribution of knowledge he has given us in the above posts.

M.

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Nat Lamb




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PostPosted: Thu 10 Sep, 2009 6:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Joel Minturn wrote:

Why did they keep the line for so long? well tactics change slowly generals tend to stick with what they know works.

That is true of good Generals. Bad Generals omit the last word in that phrase, and it makes a big difference sometimes in terms of casualties.
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William Knight




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PostPosted: Thu 10 Sep, 2009 7:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

1 word: Cavalry.

The only response to cavalry that does not involve dispersing/fleeing and thus risking a route is to form a tight formation based around something pointy. Like pikes, but eventually bayonettes. You need to have a formation that's in good order if you're to be able to bunch up in time. If you do, you're practically invincible. If you don't, you're perfect targets for some hussar's sabre.

That said, many of the other responses are also accurate.

-Wilhelm
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Mikael Ranelius




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PostPosted: Thu 10 Sep, 2009 1:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tom L. wrote:


No one fired at 18 yards. To do so would invite a bayonet charge before you could get your men to aim and fire.


The preferred tactic for the Swedish infantry during the Great Northern war (1700-1721) was to blast the enemy with a single volley at 30 paces or "when you could see the white in the enemies eye" - I'd assume that that is pretty close to 18 yds or so. Then of course this was a part of an offensive strategy, with the musket volley immediately followed up with a charge with sword and bayonet.
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Tom L.




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PostPosted: Thu 10 Sep, 2009 9:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you for the welcome.

The Swedes were aggresive fighters. I believe they tended to fire a close volley and then charge with drawn swords before the now ragged enemy could react. However, the Swedes soon lost to the Russians.

The Scots used similar tactics against the British during the 1745 Jacobite Uprising and it worked. Unfortunatley, the Scots were facing hastily levied British units and soon got cocky. At Culloden, they faced a regualr army and they got defeated. The Scottish right did crash into the English left and create a gap, but the British units on that flank more or less held and continued firing while their second line closed off the gap and the Scots ended up being fired on in three directions.

Keep in mind though that battles do not always consist of both sides attacking. Usually one side attacks whilst the other defends from favorable ground or prepared positions. Agincourt had the English defending whilst the French attacked, the same happened at Waterloo. Gettysburg had the North on the defensive and the South attacking. Khe Sanh and El Alamein had one side attacking and the other defending. The British attacked and won at El Alamein and the Communist Vientamese attacked and lost at Khe Sanh.

Closing in was the only way to drive the enemy off the field but if improperly timed or carried out, it can be disasterous. The Confederates got slaughtered during Picket's charge, and the French got chewed up at Waterloo when they were about to push aside Sir Thomas Picton's infantry only to have British cavalry emerge from the back of the British line to hack the French down. At Bunker Hill, the British got mauled as they tried to march uphill to drive away an entrenched enemy.

When done properly, the results of closing in could be tremendous. Braddock was routed by a smaller French army at Monongahela that ambushed the British at close range whilst Napoleon's guards were beaten back at Waterloo by a close volley followed by a bayonet charge. At Powick Bridge, Prince Rupert's Royalists cavalry caught the Parliamentarian horse off guard and routed them with a sudden chare from seemingly out of nowhere.

Not closing in resulted in inclonclusive action. A classic example being Fredericksburg where the Southern forces were behind a wall and the Northen Forces were caught in the open and could only fire at long range and not close in. The Southern line held and the attacking Northern forces got nowhere.

Throw in artillery and the game becomes more complex. Unitl the late 18th century, artillery was drawn by civillian drivers who of course did not want to be anywhre near the action. Artillery was therefore mostly stationary and could not often follow advances. Artillery therefore favored the defenders. Imagine trying to advance against a line of vollying muskets and that the muskets are being supplemented by cannon on the flanks and on the centre, each gun blazing grapeshot and cannister which cut huge swathes out of your ranks. That's what the British faced at Fontenoy against the French and they lost. At Waterloo, the attacking French tried to saturate the British line with artillery. The Duke of Wellington's response was to move his men behind a ridge and let the roundshot and shell bounce harmlessy overhead. When the Frech did attack, they had no such luxury and had chunks carved out of them by the British guns and muskets.

18th/19th Century warfare was not as crude as movies show. It wasn't just two opposing lines firing at each other: there was maneuver as well. At Rossbach, Frederick the Great's massed cavaly caught the French off guard while the French were attempting to outflank him, thinking that their move was unseen. At Oudenarde, Marlborough shuffled his units to gain local superiority when and where needed and also sent one unit to flank his enemy. At the battle of Cowpens, the Americans drew the British into a heavily wooded area and denied the British the use of their tactic of firing a close volley and charging with the bayonet. The British advance became ragged and was thrown back by a formed American line that they did not know existed. Meanwhile, Waterloo had Wellington pinning Napoleon down so that the Prussians could hem Napoleon in. One dirty trick was to force your enemy into square by menacing them wtih cavalry and to then blast the compact squares with artillery or infantry. Having the cavalry nearby meant the enemy had no choice but to hold formation and suffer casualties from gunfire due to fear of being cut to pieces by enemy horse.

Firing in line was carried out because the infantry were armed with a weapon that was inaccurate, slow to load and had a short range. Being in line multiplied your chance of hitting something and it meant you could easily change formation to deal with cavalry if spotted in time. Firing in line wasn't the only element of 18th/19th century warfare, but it was a necessary part of it. Maneuvers played a part and skirmishers who took cover and took accurate aim did as well. Having an entire army scatter in loose formation and taking individual cover seems like a good idea today, but given the limits of guns back then, you'd be inviting enemy cavaly to ride down your men and cut them down at their leisure. Closing in on the enemy was unavoidable, but being too close could result in a good thing or a bad thing. It was better to be close enough to do damage and carry out a charge but at the same time, be far enough to be able to react to any sudden surprises.

I have a cunning plan Mr. B.
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PostPosted: Thu 10 Sep, 2009 9:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

M. Eversberg II wrote:
I'd like to welcome Tom L to the forum and thank him for the excellent contribution of knowledge he has given us in the above posts.

M.


I agree and would second that. Big Grin Cool

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Mikael Ranelius




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PostPosted: Fri 11 Sep, 2009 3:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tom L. wrote:
Thank you for the welcome.

The Swedes were aggresive fighters. I believe they tended to fire a close volley and then charge with drawn swords before the now ragged enemy could react. However, the Swedes soon lost to the Russians.


True, however this had little to do with Swedish vs Russian tactics and more to do with the way too bold Swedish campaign strategy (e g pushing for Moscow during the harsh Russian winter) and the superior resources which the Russians possessed. At Poltava 1709 the Swedes faced Peter the Great’s Russian army entrenched behind intricate field fortifications. Heavily outnumbered and outgunned in terms of artillery and with king Charles wounded, they were forced to charge and overrun the Russian redoubts only to face a second line of Russian infantry. With a mere 4000 Swedish infantry remaining on the field, without cavalry support and pitted against the second Russian line of 20 000 freshly deployed troops supported by 28 guns, defeat was more or less inevitable. Still though the Swedish infantry gave a good fight and inflicted heavy casualties on the Russians before they were overwhelmed and hacked to pieces.

The point being is that the aggresive Swedish tactic focused on point-blank musket volleys and melée was a responce to the relative weak firepower and performance of the smooth-bore musket of the period.

Quote:
Throw in artillery and the game becomes more complex. Unitl the late 18th century, artillery was drawn by civillian drivers who of course did not want to be anywhre near the action. Artillery was therefore mostly stationary and could not often follow advances. Artillery therefore favored the defenders.


The Swedish artillery of the 17th and early 18th century was however a part of their overall offensive tactic, and the cannons were pulled into battle by their artillerymen along with the infantry. Thus in order to keep up with the infantry's pace the pieces remained small out of necessity, the 3-pounder bronze regimental cannon being the standard. Their opponents though used to favor heavier and more stationary artillery pieces (12- and 24-pounders)
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Tom L.




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PostPosted: Fri 11 Sep, 2009 7:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I stumbled upon an old Military Modeling article on a diorama on the Battle of Narva by master Swedish figure sculptor Mike Blank. In it, he put down the range that the Swedes fired at as being 30 yards. Likewise, a wikipedia article on the battle of Poltava put the range at 30 yards as well. Mike Blank has been sculpting numerous dioramas on the Great Northern War and has sculpted Charles XII numerous times so I trust his resarch since his subject is clearly his passion.

What we see here though, is that the Swedes did not stand and merely trade shots and nor did the British in real life, unlike what is depicted in Hollywood. The British and the Swedes favoured coming in close and firing and charging an enemy that was either stunned from the close range volley and had no time to regroup, or had been caught in the act of loading when the attack came. The idea behind such aggresive tactics was that you'd take casualties on the march to contact, but you'd actually be taking less than you would by standing there and trading shots.

I have to agree that at Poltava , the Swedes faced great odds and at times, seemed to have made headway. In the end, they were plagued by inferior subordinate officers who could not carry out Charles XII's plans, small numbers, bad judgement calls such as falling back every once in a while at the worse possible moments, a lack of food and disease.

Regarding artillery, an earlier Swedish King (Gustavus Adolphus), was innovative in that he standardized his artillery as opposed to having a hogdepodge of weapons of different calibres and he also introduced light artillery pieces to support his infantry. Small cannons such as this existed during the English Civil War as well. The creation of horse artillery in later years allowed for artillery to be used in a aggresive manner by now having purely military gun teams which could move and keep up with infantry, or even cut ahead and soften targets as the foot units marched up. Horse artillery could even cover retreats by firing and falling back. Gone was artillery that was too ponderous to move anywhere except at a slow pace, which could prove to be of not much use, and gone were teams of civillian drivers who could be uncooperative because they did not want to get shot at by the enemy. There was one Peninsular War battle where the French were retreating and the British brought up light guns which blasted at the French rear guard as the French fell back.

We can all agree that despite infantry being forced to fight in lines out of necessity, 18th and 19th century warfare was not as simplistic and stupid as Hollywood shows it. After all, did not phalanxes and pike blocks have exposed flanks? Are such tactics to be called stupid? The Scots got butchered at Falkirk by archers as they held their ground in their circular formations against the English and no one has questioned how the Scots fought. And in WWII, many Allied tankers died because US doctrine stated that tank destroyer units were to take out enemy tanks by means of using fast and lightly armoured tank destroyers while standard tanks were to act as armoured, mobile artillery support for infantry. The end result was that the Western Allies had tanks and tank destroyers that were inferior in terms of armour and fire power when compared to German tanks and it took an average of 6 US Shermans to have any success against a German Tiger tank and the experts were prepared to lose 4 Shermans to every 1 Tiger. That was from modern warfare and that to me sounds pretty insane.

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Barry C. Hutchins





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PostPosted: Sat 12 Sep, 2009 7:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ben P. wrote:
Yes but still you have a hundred guys on each side within 18 feet of each other they then open fire even with innacuracy (Am I correct in assuming that they turned their face away when they fired?) The smoke and the slowness with one volley the entire first rank falls.



Flash guards, originally for flintlocks and later for percussion, reduced the danger from the ignition of the firearm next to you.

It is also a bit of a myth to suppose that smooth bore Muskets, Fusils, Fowlers, etc are inherently inaccurate; if the ball/projectile is properly sized to the barrel, ball/projectile weights consistent from ball to mall, consistent powder charges, a smooth bore can often match a rifled muzzleloader for accuracy out to 50 yards and certainly makes the smoothbore capable of lethal accuracy in the 75-100 yard range.

Volley fire as pointed out by several other contributors here concentrates the fire, provides the ability to have almost continuous fire if enough ranks are present, and promoted better command and control for the officers.

The biggest detriment to accuracy is the fouling of the barrel by the blackpowder resulting in extreme accuracy degradation as subsequent shots were fired. In some cases this meant that smooth bores had an edge over rifles in longer engagements where many shots were exchanged as they were somewhat less susceptible to the fouling.



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PostPosted: Sat 12 Sep, 2009 7:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Darryl Aoki wrote:
Also, I believe the experiences of the British and French armies during the Napoleonic Wars illustrated the advantages of a firing line as opposed to a columnar formation, as the French used at Waterloo. A columnar formation would be able to hit harder in a bayonet charge, but the limited fire frontage of a column would be a weakness in ranged engagements.


Oman's ideas about this has been recently put into question:

http://www.napoleon-series.org/military/organ...maida.html

Paddy Griffith's books are also worth checking out in this regard--he wrote an even more comprehensive argument against the simplistic French column vs. British line arithmetic.
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