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May 16th, 2005   #1
danthepirate
 

revolutionary war tactics info


I have latly been reading from a book about the revoluntionary war and it has been very interesting. What has always amazed me though about this era was the tactics used by most of the british generals and some of the contenintal generals who were formaly british officers. They would line up muzzle to muzzle about 25 yards away and just shoot at each other. Pretty fickin crazy. So many men died that didn't need to because they were just standing there out in the open. Also these lines would be about 2-3 men deep lined up shoulder to shoulder. A canon ball bouncing off the ground would take out like 5 guys because they were so close together. I wonder why these generals didn't take notice of this stuff and try to do something about it like spreading their men out so they wouldn't be such easy targets or trying something like trench war fare out or something! Actually the colonies did work something out sort of. Well mostly only the militia that weren't trained in the "art" of standing in line to be shot. They would hide behind trees and bushes and use guerilla tactics and it worked. There were some pretty effective bands of militia that did serious damage to the supply lins of the british and all that. The british prime minister at the time, Lord North, said"...It may be said of the Continental army that every private man will in action be his own general, who will turn every tree and bush into some kind of temorary fortress...."
Well I though that this type of warfare really was weird and didn't make any sense at all. What do all of you think? All opinions welcome on this one.



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May 16th, 2005   #2
chewie_nz
 
you're looking on it with modern eyes, gunpowder infantry (in the scale of things) was still a reletivly new idea...


go back and see that army formed up and hacked at each other before the use of fire arms,

the thin red line of british gun powder infantry was just an extension of this
 
May 16th, 2005   #3
melkor the first
 

Revolutionary War Tactics info


It's not really surprising because this was the standard form of war at the time. Wolfe defeated Montcalm at Quebec when Moncalm marched his troops out and they were routed by 2 volleys of fire. The British were really quite good at this. Best JWC
 
May 16th, 2005   #4
Desert_Eagle
 
Three reasons tatics did not change.

1.Gun powder was relativley new. Tatics were just carried over. This way new strategies never needed to be thought up and older tactical books were useful.

2.The most effective way to use a musket is in big numbers. A smooth-bore musket's effective range was less than 50 yards. You couldn't pick off anyone so this was the only effective way of combat.

3.The British did not consider it honorable. The tatics served their purpose. They also did not think it honorable for somone to pick off the officers,


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May 16th, 2005   #5
danthepirate
 
yeah, from what I heard the british were feared because of their accuracy and disipline. And I do understand that this was a new thing for people, they had just started using gunpowder and bullets and stuff. It just seems so odd. The first man to come up with the idea for trench warfare and all that stuff was quite a genius of his time i guess.
 
May 16th, 2005   #6
Desert_Eagle
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by danthepirate
yeah, from what I heard the british were feared because of their accuracy and disipline. And I do understand that this was a new thing for people, they had just started using gunpowder and bullets and stuff. It just seems so odd. The first man to come up with the idea for trench warfare and all that stuff was quite a genius of his time i guess.
Yeah, but that was during the Civil war and technology was changing.
 
May 17th, 2005   #7
Claymore
 
 
There actually was a decent reason for fighting in the long lines with muskets. During the American Revolution, the muskets were for the most part smoothbore and horribly inaccurate. The troops would line up shoulder to shoulder to mass their fire in the hope that all those musket balls flying would hit something. In reference to the Americans fighting behind the trees, generally they were not terribly effective. I can't remember the exact statistics right now, but during the retreat from Concord the British troops were harassed by the Colonials the entire way. But the actual number of wounded compared to the number of shots fired (approximated of course) was staggeringly low (something like only 1 in 9 shots hit anything - if that many). Admittedly these were not trained troops but it still serves to show the weakness of the musket when fired singly or in anything other than massed fire.
Riflemen (using rifled muskets) during the war did fight behind trees and were reasonably effective in battles like Kings Mountain and Saratoga (among others). Unfortunately the rifle was a slow loading weapon so was not well suited to pitched battle. The bayonet was actually more feared than the musket ball. I will gather together my source information and edit this post...
 
May 17th, 2005   #8
danthepirate
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Claymore
There actually was a decent reason for fighting in the long lines with muskets. During the American Revolution, the muskets were for the most part smoothbore and horribly inaccurate. The troops would line up shoulder to shoulder to mass their fire in the hope that all those musket balls flying would hit something. In reference to the Americans fighting behind the trees, generally they were not terribly effective. I can't remember the exact statistics right now, but during the retreat from Concord the British troops were harassed by the Colonials the entire way. But the actual number of wounded compared to the number of shots fired (approximated of course) was staggeringly low (something like only 1 in 9 shots hit anything - if that many). Admittedly these were not trained troops but it still serves to show the weakness of the musket when fired singly or in anything other than massed fire.
Riflemen (using rifled muskets) during the war did fight behind trees and were reasonably effective in battles like Kings Mountain and Saratoga (among others). Unfortunately the rifle was a slow loading weapon so was not well suited to pitched battle. The bayonet was actually more feared than the musket ball. I will gather together my source information and edit this post...
I see. They lined up in large numbers with hopes of being able to use their amunition wisly. Saves amunition costs and all that. But, at the battle of Saratoga the british got a good lesson in the advantages of guerilla warfare. Horatio Gates' soldiers hid behind trees and rocks so that the idea of standing in a straight line so that you would hit something didn't work. The colonials were trained in accuracy and found it pretty easy to have the british forces surrender. Of course the ever so strange Horatio Gates excepted all the terms of the british surrender and even let them keep thier cannons and other munitions. That made it quite a hollow victory. Well, I see what you mean. The men at Saratoga did have rifled guns though makin it so almost every one of their shots told.
 
May 17th, 2005   #9
danthepirate
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Desert_Eagle
Three reasons tatics did not change.

1.Gun powder was relativley new. Tatics were just carried over. This way new strategies never needed to be thought up and older tactical books were useful.

2.The most effective way to use a musket is in big numbers. A smooth-bore musket's effective range was less than 50 yards. You couldn't pick off anyone so this was the only effective way of combat.

3.The British did not consider it honorable. The tatics served their purpose. They also did not think it honorable for somone to pick off the officers,
oh and this insn't a question it is a statement.
 
May 17th, 2005   #10
Claymore
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by danthepirate
I see. They lined up in large numbers with hopes of being able to use their amunition wisly. Saves amunition costs and all that. But, at the battle of Saratoga the british got a good lesson in the advantages of guerilla warfare. Horatio Gates' soldiers hid behind trees and rocks so that the idea of standing in a straight line so that you would hit something didn't work. The colonials were trained in accuracy and found it pretty easy to have the british forces surrender. Of course the ever so strange Horatio Gates excepted all the terms of the british surrender and even let them keep thier cannons and other munitions. That made it quite a hollow victory. Well, I see what you mean. The men at Saratoga did have rifled guns though makin it so almost every one of their shots told.
Just to be clear, the Colonial army won the Battle of Saratoga fighting in the European style (in lines using mostly smoothbore muskets). While the Riflemen were effective they certainly did not win the battle themselves (The riflemen in this engagement belonged to Morgan's rifles) and did not make up the bulk of the army. The battle was by no means easy! Horatio Gates had very little to do with the actual outcome (he could have competed with Ambrose Burnside for the title of the Worst General in American history as would be seen at Camden in 1780), the real hero was Benedict Arnold. In regards to the British being allowed to keep their weapons, I think you need to check your sources. Some of the officers were eventually exchanged with captured Colonial officers but most of the regular soldiers were prisoners until the end of the war (Gates agreed to allow the British to keep their colors and all of the soldiers return home but the Continental Congress didn't honor the agreement). Many of the guns were transported to West Point in 1778.

Check out these links:
http://www.saratoga.org/battle1777
http://www.britishbattles.com/battle-saratoga.htm
(that second one is for a British perspective)

If you want to read a good series on the American Revolution check out Christopher Ward's 2 volume set "The War of the Revolution" published in 1952.
 



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