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Blaine Hall





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PostPosted: Sat 23 Apr, 2011 8:56 pm    Post subject: a question about 18th century warfare...         Reply with quote

Just how lethal were exchanges of musket fire in the 18th century? For example, if a unit of 50 professional soldiers fired upon another unit of 50 soldiers at 100 yards or less on open ground, how many casualties would be expected from said volley. How much difference would there be if the exchange took place at 150 yards or more? For the purpose of this question let's assume that the weapons used are smoothebore muskets and the soldiers are using "musket line" tactics
-- nobody hiding in the bushes with a Kentucky long rifle.

I apologize if this is posted to the wrong section of the forums but thank you all in advance for your imput.
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Neal Matheson




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PostPosted: Sun 24 Apr, 2011 12:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

here you go....
http://www.scotwars.com/equip_smoothbore_musketry.htm
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Lin Robinson




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PostPosted: Sun 24 Apr, 2011 1:31 pm    Post subject: Re: a question about 18th century warfare...         Reply with quote

Blaine Hall wrote:
Just how lethal were exchanges of musket fire in the 18th century? For example, if a unit of 50 professional soldiers fired upon another unit of 50 soldiers at 100 yards or less on open ground, how many casualties would be expected from said volley. How much difference would there be if the exchange took place at 150 yards or more? For the purpose of this question let's assume that the weapons used are smoothebore muskets and the soldiers are using "musket line" tactics
-- nobody hiding in the bushes with a Kentucky long rifle.

I apologize if this is posted to the wrong section of the forums but thank you all in advance for your imput.


There is no easy answer to your question. However, one answer I can give you is that the difference in casualties at 150 yards versus 50 years would be much lower. The smoothbore has limited accuracy at that range. In fact, any accuracy much beyond 80 yards was problematic. The ball fired in these muskets was undersized to facilitate loading as the powder fouling built up in the smoothbore barrel - and they do foul much worse than a rifle - and the ball was rammed down surrounded by the paper cartridge it came in, which is not very good patching. The bullet "wobbled" as it moved down the bore after firing and which side of the barrel it was on when it reached the muzzle determined where it flew upon leaving the barrel. In most armies there was little emphasis on aimed fire - I am sure to get some argument on that - and the idea was to get a lot of lead in the air at once in hopes that someone on the opposing side might be hit. The British army, as an example, trained its troops in the loading drill with blanks or sometimes no ammunition at all and the average Red Coat probably fired his musket with ball only a couple of times a year in practice. While the word "aim" appears in the drill manual it was not taken seriously. This attitude, as well as British successes in the field with a smoothbore equipped army, was one reason that Maj. Patrick Ferguson had such a hard time getting the British command to authorize his corps of riflemen in the revolutionary war. The economics of re-equipping and re-training for rifle use was another.

Lin Robinson

"The best thing in life is to crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women." Conan the Barbarian, 1982
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Elnathan Barnett




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PostPosted: Sun 24 Apr, 2011 4:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Off the top of my head, I believe they did worry about aiming, but mostly in terms of elevation, trying to make sure that bullets didn't fly over the enemies' heads. "Aim for the legs" was a fairly common command, I believe.

Neal's link cites the book Firepower by Hughs that I was going to recommend.

Therfor he seide to hem, But now he that hath a sachel, take also and a scrippe; and he that
hath noon, selle his coote, and bigge a swerd.
- Luke 22:36, John Wycliffe's translation AD 1384
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N Cioran




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PostPosted: Sun 24 Apr, 2011 6:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The scotwars website has some interesting information, but also mixes in some re-enactment related problems and some statistical problems.

Overall, if memory serves correctly, 19th century studies of volley fire tend to point to a low rate of fire (2-3 shots per minute) and low accuracy (less than five percent).

The combination of the quality of the soldiers, NCOs, officers, and how familiar they are with one another is very important.

That said, accounts from the 18th century have the best units able to fire six rounds a minute. I focussed on my drill for a summer a few years back, and with a good quality reproduction Long Land pattern "Brown Bess" musket with a wooden ramrod I was able to achieve this rate of fire and hit a pie plate a 50 yards six times, so a combination of accuracy and speed can be obtained.

But then I was firing on my own time even within that window. The challenge with volley fire in a unit is that you are not firing on your own time, but someone elses. A well trained unit working with a good NCO or officer that they have built up a rapport with can match rhythms, and perform very well.

I've seen the same well trained unit go to pieces with a less capable leader, or even one they just haven't established a sense of rhythm with. A great example of this is how the leader enunciates his commands. Saying "Fire" is quite different than saying, "fiRe," or most dreaded multi-syllablic, "fiiieerrre" some seem to be able to sqeeze out.

There are some re-enactorisms there as well. Most re-enactors fire dry blank paper cartridges, and the papers are not rammed home. When fired like this musket's barrels and touch-holes can foul pretty quickly, particularly in humid weather.

However, the real deal was a greased cartridge with ball. When firing the real thing, your barrel is scraped clean every shot and the foulling is minimal even at the touch hole, which is literally blasted clean by the back pressure in the barrel. I've fired two full Rawls pouch blocks (72 rounds) of waxed ball in an afternoon, and cleanup was a breeze. To paraphrase Liberi, I'd rather fire three blocks with ball than one with blanks Wink

The effect of the rain on muskets is also over-stated. A well cared for musket will fire quite well in the rain, even without Cuthbertson`s recommended painted canvas sock to protect the lock.

But all that said, morale is the key component. There are numerous accounts of warfare from the period where units would sidle up to a moderate range and blaze happily away into clouds of smoke at each other because that was the safest place on the battlefield.

In, "With Zeal and With Bayonets Only," Matthew Spring ressurects from primary source accounts a radically different style of warfare executed by the British in North America during the revolution. Against the green, shaky troops they faced they would charge in with the bayonet only, and often the rebels would run without even firing a shot. They did this up mountains against fortified positions taking fire, and driving their enemies from their positions.

I've personally gone up the mountain at Hubbardton the British attacked up three times. You'd have to be tough, strong, and brave as hell to pull off what they did there, and they only started firing when they got to the top.

In the end, the key thing to realize is that there is seldom and average matchup. There`s a great account somewhere of a Catholic and Protestant mercenary units meeting on the continent, and in the ensuing matchup one of them shot the other to pieces with hardly a casualty. The combination of factors which led to this are lost to us, but some of the details are probably to be found in morale, training, discipline, and leadership.

Have fun!
Cole
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Simon G.




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PostPosted: Sun 24 Apr, 2011 10:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
But all that said, morale is the key component. There are numerous accounts of warfare from the period where units would sidle up to a moderate range and blaze happily away into clouds of smoke at each other because that was the safest place on the battlefield.


Very true this. 16th century veteran soldier and commander Blaise de Monluc certainly agrees with you :

Quote:
to amuse oneself with these exchanges of fire is wasted time : one has to come to grips ; this is what the soldier doesn't want to do when he has a firearm, because he always want to fight from afar

("s'amuser à ces escopeteries c'est temps perdeu : il fault se joindre ; ce que le soldat ne veult fere lorsqu'il y a des armes à feu, car il veult tousjours porter de loing")

This thinking actually influenced many military leaders for a long time. In the 18th c. we speak about here, the french Marshal de Saxe (the commander at Fontenoy) expressed about the same opinion as Monluc, believing firearms weren't good for much else than making noise and smoke. Actually, some militaries, especially the French, remained convinced until the beginning of the 20th century that the only really good way of obtaining decisive victory was a good old bayonet charge. It took the First World War, the trenches and the machine-gun to finally dispel this impression.

I have often wondered at the discrepancy between the dismal opinion many military thinkers expressed about the firearm over time (suggesting it was good for about nothing), and the fact that it became the major and then the almost exclusive weapon of the infantry during the 17th c. (suggesting it was good for something).
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Kurt Scholz





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PostPosted: Mon 25 Apr, 2011 2:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This might interest you. It's from the Napoleonic Wars, but technology in infantry weapons isn't very different from the 18th century. http://www.napolun.com/mirror/napoleonistyka....tics_2.htm

Here's a nice article about the bayonet: http://regimentalrogue.com/papers/bayonet.htm

And here is a general overview about Napoleonic warfare including many things like psychology and the bayonet: http://www.napolun.com/mirror/napoleonistyka....tics_2.htm

There's perhaps a misconception about shooting. If you charge with a loaded weapon and shoot at a few meters away you are very likely to hit with deadly effect. For this purpose you can have some pikes or bayonets that help you to keep the enemy within a range that allows you to shoot him dead sure. The pike and the bayonet in my opinion aren't the killing part of the weaponry, they are rather the defensive part to enable close range fire.
Jacob Christoph von Grimmelshausen writes in the »Seltzamer Springsinsfeld« chapter 13 about pikemen in the 30 years war: (but I this also applies to bayonets)

A musketeer is really a poor plagued creature, but he lives in wonderful bliss compared to the wretched pikeman. It's sad to think about what adversity these poor fellows have to endure. No one would believe it, who didn't experience it himself and I'm of the opinion that he, who butchers a pikeman whom he could have spared, kills an innocent men and he could never ever justify such a manslaught; although these poor pushoxes (Schiebochsen in German) have been created to protect their brigades from the hews of the reiters in the open field, they themselves don't harm anybody and anyone who runs straight into their long spears is justly served. All in all, I've seen a lot of blood and thunder, but I rarely saw that a pikeman killed someone. (my own translation, German below)

Quote:
Ein Musketier ist zwar eine wohlgeplagte arme Kreatur, aber er lebt in herrlicher Glückseligkeit gegen einen elenden Pikenier. Es ist verdrießlich daran zu denken, was die guten Tröpfe für Ungemach ausstehen müssen; keiner kann's glauben, der's nicht selbst erfährt, und ich meine, wer einen Pikenier niedermacht, den er verschonen könnte, der ermordet einen Unschuldigen und kann solchen Totschlag nimmermehr verantworten; denn obgleich diese armen Schiebochsen« – mit diesem spöttischen Namen wurden sie genannt – »kreiert sind, ihre Brigaden vor dem Einhauen der Reiter im freien Felde zu schützen, so tun sie doch für sich selbst niemand ein Leid, und dem geschieht ganz recht, der ja einem von ihnen in seinen langen Spieß rennt. In Summa, ich habe mein Lebtag viele scharfe Okkasionen gesehen, aber selten wahrgenommen, daß ein Pikenier jemand umgebracht hätte.


Quote:
Happily blasting away
from a distance where both sides felt relatively save was more of a "trick" in my opinion. When the fire from one side was considered to become less (remember all the artillery firing and the enormous levels of stress) the other side charged home with bayonets. The sound of firing muskets allowed the soldiers of both sides to estimate the opponents strength in numbers still willing to carry on. Having a a faster reload time for example would give more sound and I guess a psychological advantage. There's this report (See link above about Napoleonic warfare) from the American Civil War about scattered and overloaded muskets, so the decreasing fire was perhaps not so much due to dead and wounded men, but plain fear and the resulting mismanagement of the weapon. The final attack with bayonets for a close range shot made it quite clear:"We want to kill you!" and the side that was already losing the psychological contest often ran away without engaging in a short range fire exchange, leading to the "myth of the deadly bayonet" linked above.
In my opinion, we are too much concerned with lethality because it's part of this Western Way of War culture, while in warfare fear causes more casualties than bullets.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Tue 26 Apr, 2011 9:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Morale certainly played a major part. From the various instances I've read about, the most dismal examples (close range, zero hits) tended to be cases where stationary infantry fired at enemies advancing steadily towards them. On the other hand, victorious units firing at the backs of fleeing enemies tended to score a fair number of casualties. Firefights between two stationary units got deadly mostly because of how long they lasted, which not only gave time for a great deal of lead to fly around but also made both units nice targets for the artillery.


Simon G. wrote:
Actually, some militaries, especially the French, remained convinced until the beginning of the 20th century that the only really good way of obtaining decisive victory was a good old bayonet charge. It took the First World War, the trenches and the machine-gun to finally dispel this impression.


It wasn't so much "dispelled" as modified. Against determined opposition, modern infantry still normally has to advance to very close range and drive the enemy away with grenades, point-blank fire, and even (occasionally) hand-to-hand combat. The most significant difference is simply that the attack is no longer executed as a massed charge in a solid line or column formation--now it's done done by a number of smaller groups creeping forwards under the cover of suppressive fire. If anything, units that don't have the courage and initiative to take the offensive are much more vulnerable nowadays than at any earlier time in history.
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Kurt Scholz





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PostPosted: Tue 26 Apr, 2011 10:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

So we agree that close range made and makes shooting deadly? In 18th century warfare hitting someone in combat wasn't very likely with a musket. The possibility of close quarter combat in units with cold steel still played a fairly important role in 18th century warfare (look at the swords and sabres).

The ability of infantry to shoot large formations wasn't considered very deadly, so these close quarter attacks were launched in large units giving more protection to its members. Pikes of the Swedes and Russians were replaced by bayonets early in the 18th century in order to keep the enemy far enough away to shoot him and not feel someone else's sword blade in the head.
The French introduced lots of skirmishers and attacks of columns late in the 18th century, replacing the long thin lines of Frederick the Great. Clausewitz has an interesting observation: A unit of 2/3 the length and size of the enemy takes the same amount of casualties as the longer line in a fire exchange over the usual distance. I think that exemplifies the difficulties of shooting fellow humans with muskets.

Chasseurs, rangers, jägers and other riflemen play in a different league of accuracy and they can be reasonably expected to have shot with firearms before going into battle (however, spears, long knives, crossbows and bows were still also used in hunting). Their problem is that they need to tightly fit the ball and so take more time to ram it down when loading. These valuable men were allowed to move behind cover on the battlefield and pick their prey, often reducing the chain of command. That's one of the reason why life expectancy on the battlefield declines with rank. Looking at the social fabric the hunters in Europe were the darlings of the nobility because they kept things ready for one of their most important entertainments: the hunt or better phrased killing wild animals. So light infantry were the loyal guys who were less suspect of deserting.

Artillery developed to a high peak of efficiency compared to other weapons in the ability of causing critical casualties on the battlefield. The end of the 18th century and the revolution in France saw an interesting development with fortifications losing lots of their power to stop enemy invasions. Also artillerists are the odd ones among the officers because they can calculate, but often lack a noble birth.
Pieces in use are cannons, howitzers and mortars. There's an iinterestingdiscovery in mortar firing: You didn't have to iignitethe fuse of the shell and the primer of the mortar as well. The fire of the propellant charge did it. So firing mortars became less of an art. Another significant step is the widespread use of cheap cast iron pieces.

Sappers were always few in numbers. They could be part of every unit where destruction was their task, but in their own units they were often grouped with the artillery and built things or defended fortifications. This was also a work noblemen allowed commoners to command. You needed math and ccraftmanship totally ignoble things.

In cavalry the caracole was more or less replaced by charges with cold steel, be it with the pallash, sabre or lance, shooting pistols afterwards. Some cavalry received long range firearms for dismounted use against targets far away that couldn't be charged. Later in American Civil war this employment of cavalry was further developed into some kind of ambushes (and this was one of the things the Germans used to build upon their Kesselschlachten in WWII).
And the horse artillery was introduced that concentrated on specific spots on the battlefield and made the enemy lines ripe for assault . They could fire from quite close if they were fast and so needed less math.

On an institutional level the standing army became the general tool for waging war instead of expensive mercenaries. The idea was to have cheap guys to do the fighting, but this didn't mean an end to the employment of foreigners. Prussia was especially dreaded for impressing people from other countries. Barry Lyndon is a nice story and film on this topic.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Tue 26 Apr, 2011 12:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Kurt Scholz wrote:
So we agree that close range made and makes shooting deadly?


Not automatically. Like I've said before, there were instances of close-range volleys that scored no hits at all, especially if the target was an attacking formation that kept going ahead and appeared to be unfazed by the fire. Of course, there were also instances of extremely effective close-range fire, especially in the case of a steady infantry line repelling a frontal cavalry attack with a point-blank volley.


Quote:
The possibility of close quarter combat in units with cold steel still played a fairly important role in 18th century warfare (look at the swords and sabres).


Actual hand-to-hand combat between opposing infantry didn't happen very often, though. In the face of a bayonet charge, most defenders either broke and fled before contact or managed to repulse the attack with a countercharge (again, usually without coming into actual hand-to-hand combat with the would-be attackers).


Quote:
In cavalry the caracole was more or less replaced by charges with cold steel, be it with the pallash, sabre or lance, shooting pistols afterwards.


Pah. The "caracole" as we understand it--and the evidence is beginning to show that this wasn't how the term was really used in period--never became the primary mode of employment for competent European heavy cavalry at any point in its history. Serious pistol-armed shock cavalry just charged, treating their pistols as unusually long swords or lances. The gradual change from this to later sword-armed heavy cavalry (the kind that's most relevant to 18th-century discussions) was by no means revolutionary at all.
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Kurt Scholz





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PostPosted: Tue 26 Apr, 2011 1:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
Kurt Scholz wrote:
So we agree that close range made and makes shooting deadly?


Not automatically. Like I've said before, there were instances of close-range volleys that scored no hits at all, especially if the target was an attacking formation that kept going ahead and appeared to be unfazed by the fire. Of course, there were also instances of extremely effective close-range fire, especially in the case of a steady infantry line repelling a frontal cavalry attack with a point-blank volley.


Yes, you cited a case and I know one guy who was able to pull that off with a gun. Seriously, there are distances when you can hardly miss, but there are exceptions to any rule.

Quote:
The possibility of close quarter combat in units with cold steel still played a fairly important role in 18th century warfare (look at the swords and sabres).


Actual hand-to-hand combat between opposing infantry didn't happen very often, though. In the face of a bayonet charge, most defenders either broke and fled before contact or managed to repulse the attack with a countercharge (again, usually without coming into actual hand-to-hand combat with the would-be attackers).[/quote]

I think you missed the finer point of using possibility. It doesn't equal it happened. I quoted earlier in this threat a text about pikemen. They guarded against possible attacks. That doesn't mean they actually had to do their trade very often.

Quote:
In cavalry the caracole was more or less replaced by charges with cold steel, be it with the pallash, sabre or lance, shooting pistols afterwards.


Pah. The "caracole" as we understand it--and the evidence is beginning to show that this wasn't how the term was really used in period--never became the primary mode of employment for competent European heavy cavalry at any point in its history. Serious pistol-armed shock cavalry just charged, treating their pistols as unusually long swords or lances. The gradual change from this to later sword-armed heavy cavalry (the kind that's most relevant to 18th-century discussions) was by no means revolutionary at all.[/quote]

I said nowhere there was a revolution. But I hope we can agree that the caracole was abolished. Probably because the inequality in firepower in favour of mounted men ceased.
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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Tue 26 Apr, 2011 8:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Kurt Scholz wrote:
I quoted earlier in this threat a text about pikemen. They guarded against possible attacks. That doesn't mean they actually had to do their trade very often.


I'm sure y'all already realize this, but I feel compelled to point out how that description of pikemen only applies to the late sixteenth century and on. Before the widespread use of decent guns, close combat with the pike, halberd, and sword decided battles. Pikemen charged rather than simply deterring horsemen from doing so. The development of firepower weapons as well as cultural changes prompted a profound shift in the employment of the pike.

Read my historically inspired fantasy fiction in here. I walk along a winding path set by Ludovico Ariosto, William Morris, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Ursula Le Guin.

Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising
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To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!
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Kurt Scholz





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PostPosted: Wed 27 Apr, 2011 1:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Benjamin H. Abbott wrote:
Kurt Scholz wrote:
I quoted earlier in this threat a text about pikemen. They guarded against possible attacks. That doesn't mean they actually had to do their trade very often.


I'm sure y'all already realize this, but I feel compelled to point out how that description of pikemen only applies to the late sixteenth century and on. Before the widespread use of decent guns, close combat with the pike, halberd, and sword decided battles. Pikemen charged rather than simply deterring horsemen from doing so. The development of firepower weapons as well as cultural changes prompted a profound shift in the employment of the pike.


I totally agree. My intention was highlighting 18th century warfare when pikes and bayonets served in a more defensive role.
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John Turner




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PostPosted: Thu 28 Apr, 2011 3:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Although a bit late for you (it's Napoleonic) the book "Battle Tactics of Napoleon and His Enemies" by Brent Nosworthy has some fantastic analysis of the use of muskets and bayonets in battle, and looks at the origin of the tactics used by the Napoleonic period (i.e 18th century, Frederick the great etc.).

Although practice was often carried out by the British army, it was recognised by many battle field commanders that the musket was not particularly effective except at very short range (50yds or less). The discipline of the british army of Wellington was particularly feared, as they were known to withhold fire until very close, then fire one volley, and followup immediately with the bayonet. French contemporary sources of the time describe the nervousness of troops having to advance against line of british soldiers, standing silent and still, waiting for the volley. This ofetn caused them to start firing early, or hesitate. Indeed, on more than one occasion, the very fact that the British withheld fire until the last possible moment has been cited as a factor in breaking up an attack before a shot was fired. (again I am at work, so not able to raid the bookshelf, but may well be in the Nosworthy book).

As for aiming, the order was often given, in british ranks at least to "level". That is all muskets should be levelled at the appropriate point for the shots to hit centre of mass of the opposing force. This took a degree of skill, and practice on the part of those controlling the fire to ensure that the level was correct for the range, and there are cases of militia units of the time often firing too high, or low, with the subsequent negligble effect on the opposition. levelling also enabled the fire to continue through the "fog of war" that the black powder volleys inevitably produced, without having to aim.

"Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it."

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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Wed 04 May, 2011 10:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Kurt Scholz wrote:
I said nowhere there was a revolution. But I hope we can agree that the caracole was abolished. Probably because the inequality in firepower in favour of mounted men ceased.


The caracole wasn't "abolished." It couldn't be "abolished" since it was never established as the primary mode of employment for heavy cavalry in the first place! Competent heavy cavalry just charged straight in throughout the Renaissance, and the change in weaponry from lance to pistol didn't make them reluctant to go hand-to-hand.


Kurt Scholz wrote:
Benjamin H. Abbott wrote:
Kurt Scholz wrote:
I quoted earlier in this threat a text about pikemen. They guarded against possible attacks. That doesn't mean they actually had to do their trade very often.


I'm sure y'all already realize this, but I feel compelled to point out how that description of pikemen only applies to the late sixteenth century and on. Before the widespread use of decent guns, close combat with the pike, halberd, and sword decided battles. Pikemen charged rather than simply deterring horsemen from doing so. The development of firepower weapons as well as cultural changes prompted a profound shift in the employment of the pike.


I totally agree. My intention was highlighting 18th century warfare when pikes and bayonets served in a more defensive role.


But the idea that the pike or bayonet "served in a more defensive role" is frankly laughable. Swedes in the Great Northern War--and that's in the 18th century--used pikes as offensively as ever before, and the bayonet-equipped musketeers often joined the charge rather than just waiting around. Earlier and later examples also bear this out. Throughout the Thirty Years' War and the English Civil War, the pike was seen as the core an infantry formation's offensive power, since they had to advance and come to grips with the enemy in order to justify the expense of training and equipping them. 18th-century bayonets were also much more successful when wielded in a bayonet charge rather than pointed towards the enemy in a static defence. The principle never changed: fire could decimate and demoralize the enemy so that they're close to the breaking point, but to tip them over that point into an all-out retreat required an aggressive advance to seek hand-to-hand contact even though this very advance usually forced the enemy to run away before contact. In the words of a White Russian officer (from the Russian Civil War), "shock didn't happen very often, but to achieve victory it is necessary to seek it."


Perhaps it'd be easier for me to summarize my opinion thus: close-quarters combat is more decisive, but not always deadly. Bayonet charges sometimes achieved decision with few or no losses to either side. Close-range firefights, on the other hand, had rather more mixed results and the victory tended to go to the side that had the willingness to break the stalemate by going ahead to seek hand-to-hand combat despite taking losses along the way.
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N Cioran




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PostPosted: Thu 05 May, 2011 3:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It's also quite clear that bayonet charges did not neccessarily result in close quarters combat.

In many cases in the American revolution the rebels didn't even get off a shot at the charging Brits, the broke and ran. One anecdote in, "With Zeal and Bayonet Only," sums this well. A rebel's journal described how their bayonets were ratting off each other as the men shook with fear at the British approach. When they stopped he looked to see why and it turned out the men on either side of him had run, so he did the same...

Remember, most casualties don't occur in the actual fighting, but when the enemy routs and is chased down...

Cole
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Kurt Scholz





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PostPosted: Thu 05 May, 2011 10:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
But the idea that the pike or bayonet "served in a more defensive role" is frankly laughable. Swedes in the Great Northern War--and that's in the 18th century--used pikes as offensively as ever before, and the bayonet-equipped musketeers often joined the charge rather than just waiting around. Earlier and later examples also bear this out. Throughout the Thirty Years' War and the English Civil War, the pike was seen as the core an infantry formation's offensive power, since they had to advance and come to grips with the enemy in order to justify the expense of training and equipping them. 18th-century bayonets were also much more successful when wielded in a bayonet charge rather than pointed towards the enemy in a static defence. The principle never changed: fire could decimate and demoralize the enemy so that they're close to the breaking point, but to tip them over that point into an all-out retreat required an aggressive advance to seek hand-to-hand contact even though this very advance usually forced the enemy to run away before contact. In the words of a White Russian officer (from the Russian Civil War), "shock didn't happen very often, but to achieve victory it is necessary to seek it."


Perhaps it'd be easier for me to summarize my opinion thus: close-quarters combat is more decisive, but not always deadly. Bayonet charges sometimes achieved decision with few or no losses to either side. Close-range firefights, on the other hand, had rather more mixed results and the victory tended to go to the side that had the willingness to break the stalemate by going ahead to seek hand-to-hand combat despite taking losses along the way.


I quoted a source from the 30 Years War written for people who experienced the war and its pikes. The author is always very dismissive of the infantry and especially of the pikemen. Honestly, we weren't in these battles and it's very hard for us to judge expect for the few sources we have. That a weapon was used during an offensive movement doesn't mean it was deadly nor that it killed anybody or that the weapon was suitable for offense or deciding the fighting.
It's best we take some long blunt sticks and see how capable we are of pushing each other. This sport is called water jousting and it's the closest you can get to pikemen without risk to life or limb.
The point about using these pikes and bayonets on the offensive was in my opinion more psychological, it simply meant there was going to be a decision and it was no good idea to use your horse against these guys on foot. If one side didn't have weapons of equal range they might feel at a serious disadvantage and turn away from the fight. That's exactly what muskets and pistols are about, more range compared to sticks with points. It holds true for men on foot or horse.
Coming back to the caracole, it's seriously misunderstood. It's about men using pistols instead of very long lances. They simply outrange the pikemen. Of course, they could also use powerful crossbows for that purpose. It's nothing different from making several charges with couched lances and just a few meters more range, well outside the pikemen's range, and you still kept your horse fresh. That says no way that heavy cavalry stopped charging, the caracole was just an adaption of the charge and seemingly not the best.
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Daniel Staberg




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PostPosted: Thu 05 May, 2011 3:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The caracole is not a method of firing/charging at all, it is the name of a manouver in which the horseman turns his horse on the spot either to the left or right. It could be use for a number of thing in battle, one of which was allowing a rank of horsemen who had just fired pistols or carbines to turn their horse and ride back to the rear of the formation. (Essentialy turning the rank into a file). The other method used was to wheel the entire rank of horsemen but this required more space and was hard to do in any kind of wide formation.

The Germans did not even use the word "caracole" for much of this period, instead the manuals speak of "wenden" or in the case of wheeling "Schwenken"

The supposed 30YW quote is from Grimmelshausen who is not exactly a eyewitness sources:
Quote:
"historian Robert Ergang, however, draws upon Gustav Könnecke's Quellen und Forschungen zur Lebensgeschichte Grimmelshausens to convey the assertion that "the events related in the novel Simplicissimus could hardly have been autobiographical since [Grimmelshausen] lived a peaceful existence in quiet towns and villages on the fringe of the Black Forest and that the material he incorporated in his work was not taken from actual experience, but was either borrowed from the past, collected from hearsay, or created by a vivid imagination"


Sufficent to say the actual soldiers & commanders who fought in the war tell a somewhat diffrent story (the sources can hardly be called few by the way). Battles were fought diffrently from the small actions and skirmishes of the "little war" which made up most of a soldiers experience of fighting. In those cavalry and musketeers came to play the dominant part. In battle pikemen were of much greater importance since they could take and hold ground in a way not other troops could. At the start of the war the decisive action often required the pikemen to got into push of pike and actually fight one another, in the late part of the war a lot of infantry would give away and rout when charged so there was little actual hand to hand fighting. (Oddly enough the infantry was till willing to stand fast against cavalry) "Old" experienced infantry would still defend themselves when charged as would infantry who held fortifications. The battle of Wolfenbüttel saw intense hand to hand fighting in and around the redoubt held by the Swedish "Blue" regiment which was attacked repeatedly bu Imperial and Bavarian infantry who in the end wrested controll of the earthwork from the Swedes after a very hard fight.

"There is nothing more hazardous than to venture a battle. One can lose it
by a thousand unforseen circumstances, even when one has thorougly taken all
precautions that the most perfect military skill allows for."
-Fieldmarshal Lennart Torstensson.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Wed 18 May, 2011 8:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Daniel Staberg wrote:
The caracole is not a method of firing/charging at all, it is the name of a manouver in which the horseman turns his horse on the spot either to the left or right. It could be use for a number of thing in battle, one of which was allowing a rank of horsemen who had just fired pistols or carbines to turn their horse and ride back to the rear of the formation. (Essentialy turning the rank into a file). The other method used was to wheel the entire rank of horsemen but this required more space and was hard to do in any kind of wide formation.


And of course there's that famous (or notorious) passage in Cruso where he mentions the "Caracoll" not as any sort of rotational manoeuvre but as a movement where a Cuirassier formation splits to the right and left when charged and then faces inwards to charge the opponents' flanks in turn. Either way, we don't see the term "caracole" used the way modern military writers use it, and just as well since it didn't appear to have ever been that important for real heavy cavalry anyway....


Going to the topic of the role of pikes, it's not that hard to find far better sources than a novel like Simplicissimus; for example, Robert Gwynne's (non-fictional) memoirs about his experiences in the English Civil War mentions this:

Quote:
The very first day that five comrades of us repaired from the Court at Richmond to the King's royal army, which we met accidentally that morning upon Hounslow Heath, we had no sooner put ourselves into rank and file, under the command of our worthy old acquaintance, Sir George Bunckley, (then Major to Sir Thomas Salsbury,) but we marched up to the enemy, engaged them by Sir Richard Winn's house, and the Thames side, beat them to retreat into Brainford,—beat them from the one Brainford to the other, and from thence to the open field, with a resolute and expeditious fighting, that after once firing suddenly to advance up to push of pikes and the butt-end of muskets, which proved so fatal to Holies his butchers and dyers that day, that abundance of them were killed and taken prisoners


and from Sir Henry Slingsby's reminiscences of the same war:

Quote:
Our first foot, after they had discharged their duty, being over-powered with the enemy, received some repulse, which they soon recovered; but my own regiment, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Goff, and my Major White, did come seasonably in; and, at the push of pike, did repel the stoutest regiment the enemy had there, meerly with the courage the Lord was pleased to give; which proved a great amazement to the residue of their foot.


Quote:
At last the Major-General came, and ordered Packer, major to the General's regiment, Cough's, and our two foot regiments, to march about Roxburgh house, towards the sea, and so to fall upon the enemy's flank, which was done with a great deal of resolution; and one of the Scots, brigades of foot would not yield, though at push of pike and butt end of the musket, until a troop of our horse charged from one end to another of them, and so left them at the mercy of the foot.


So, even in the 1640s, there was still a great deal of actual fighting with the pike (and musket-butt).


Quote:
Battles were fought diffrently from the small actions and skirmishes of the "little war" which made up most of a soldiers experience of fighting. In those cavalry and musketeers came to play the dominant part.


And even then these small encounters still frequently involved hand-to-hand fighting, as in another passage from Slingsby:

Quote:
At another part, Lieutenant-Collonell Norton enters with his dragoons, Captain Atkinson encounters him on horseback, the other being on foot; they meet, Atkinson misseth with his pistol; Norton pulls him off horseback by the sword-belt; being both on the ground, Atkinson's soldiers come in, fell Norton into the ditch, with the but-end of their musquets, to rescue their lieutenant. Norton's soldiers came in, and beat down Atkinson; and, with repeated blows, break his thigh, of which wound he died. After this, they retreated out of the town (a sore scuffle between two that had been neighbours, and intimate friends)


In fact, in the 18th and 19th centuries, these skirmishes became the scene of most actual hand-to-hand fighting between the infantry on opposing sides, as opposed to bayonet charges in open battle where the losing side usually broke and retreated before contact.
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Daniel Staberg




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PostPosted: Wed 18 May, 2011 12:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
And of course there's that famous (or notorious) passage in Cruso where he mentions the "Caracoll" not as any sort of rotational manoeuvre but as a movement where a Cuirassier formation splits to the right and left when charged and then faces inwards to charge the opponents' flanks in turn. Either way, we don't see the term "caracole" used the way modern military writers use it, and just as well since it didn't appear to have ever been that important for real heavy cavalry anyway....

Cruso has copied the manouver from Wallhausen but misunderstood the text, Wallhausen uses the caracole (or rather the wenden) as part of the movements needed to split the company in two parts and then face towards the enemy. Somehow Cruso misunderstood this as the entire manouver being called a Caracole.

"There is nothing more hazardous than to venture a battle. One can lose it
by a thousand unforseen circumstances, even when one has thorougly taken all
precautions that the most perfect military skill allows for."
-Fieldmarshal Lennart Torstensson.
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