Why was small arms fire so ineffective in the 19th century? - Page 3




 
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July 29th, 2009  
03USMC
 
 
Early in the Civil War many unit's CS and US were armed with .69 caliber muskets of various manufacture. These were smoothbore bore weapons that fired a round known as buck and ball. The round consisted of one .69 ball and three buckshot. At close range these were devestating to the enemy. It effectively made the musket a shotgun and some sources claim effectiveness greater than the .58 caliber mini ball out to 200 yards.

In the Union Army the .69 was generally replaced by the Springfield 61 or 63 rifled musket by mid war although some units such as Meaghers Irish Brigade and some of the Iron Brigade chose to retain the .69's because of their effectiveness.
July 29th, 2009  
George
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by perseus
I wonder if shotguns with fewer but larger calibre shot would have been more effective at short range especially given the poor medical facilities of the day?
Yes & No, the traditional musket is really just a militarized shot gun. British Brown Bess was .75 cal & Charleville/Springfields were .69 with solid ball, buck-n-ball or buckshot. Effective range was very short. The Civil War rifles,Springfields were .58 & Enfields .577, had a much longer range, a good 100-200 yards in combat & much longer on the rifle range. The smoothbores just couldn't stand up to the rifles in a general engagement. A lot of smoothbores were used through the War. At Gettysburg the Union men holding the middle had time to gather & load 3 or 4 smoothbores per man & used them to good effect when "Pickett's Charge" got to short range. The men in a number of regts fired a musket & dropped it to fire the next, 3-4 rapid shots was devestating,but such senarios don't often happen.
As the War went on & rifles became more common, vs 1861 & early 62, the rtange of engagement increased, as did diging in, building breastworks & laying down & spreading out. The Heavy Artillery Regts commited as infantry in '64 suffered huge losses because they used tactics that hadn't been changed in the books to match the new firepower available by then.
When the Irish Brigade commander was replaced the unit turned in the pumpkin slingers for more effective rifles.
July 30th, 2009  
03USMC
 
 
I'd argue that their effective range in the hands of the average solider was about the same but their accuracy was lower than that of the Springfield or Enfield at about any range due to the .69's being a smooth bore. That would be the reason for the buck and ball load it gave a higher hit probability. Fullers book The Rifled Musket gave comparisons of the Mini vs a Buck and ball round that showed out to 200 yards buck and ball was more effective your only putting a .58 at that range as effective. .58 (.577) was effective at much longer ranges than 100 to 200 yards when in the hands of an accomplished rifle man, but most troops weren't accomplished riflemen, hence the multi-projo .69 caliber was more effective but less accurate at distance .

BTW: Thomas Meagher was not replaced as commander of the Irish Brigade, he resigned when the commanding general Army of the Potomac refused him leave to raise replacements in New York after Chancellorsville, by this time Meaghers brigade had been so mauled it was down to a few hundred combat effectives. At this point after Meaghers resignation the Irish Brigade Col Kelly took command.

Meagher later returned to service in the Army of the Cumberland commanding the Etowah and then commanded a Division in the Army of the Ohio.
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July 30th, 2009  
George
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by 03USMC
I'd argue that their effective range in the hands of the average solider was about the same but their accuracy was lower than that of the Springfield or Enfield at about any range due to the .69's being a smooth bore. That would be the reason for the buck and ball load it gave a higher hit probability. Fullers book The Rifled Musket gave comparisons of the Mini vs a Buck and ball round that showed out to 200 yards buck and ball was more effective your only putting a .58 at that range as effective. .58 (.577) was effective at much longer ranges than 100 to 200 yards when in the hands of an accomplished rifle man, but most troops weren't accomplished riflemen, hence the multi-projo .69 caliber was more effective but less accurate at distance .

BTW: Thomas Meagher was not replaced as commander of the Irish Brigade, he resigned when the commanding general Army of the Potomac refused him leave to raise replacements in New York after Chancellorsville, by this time Meaghers brigade had been so mauled it was down to a few hundred combat effectives. At this point after Meaghers resignation the Irish Brigade Col Kelly took command.

Meagher later returned to service in the Army of the Cumberland commanding the Etowah and then commanded a Division in the Army of the Ohio.
Meagher's insistance on retaining the pumpkin slingers is why the Brigade was so mauled. As a reaction to the rifles, engagment range opened up, vs early in the War, in actions were they were firing @ each other rather than an assault into the other sides lines.
July 30th, 2009  
03USMC
 
 
Meaghers retention of the .69's had little to do with the causalties incurred. The assault on the Stone Wall at Maryes Hieghts in Fredicksburg, that long walk across the field into the fire that 24th Georgia of Cobbs Brigade (also made up of a good portion of Irish) was pouring down from behind the wall. Bloody Lane at Antietam, the Wheatfield, Chancellorsville always with the mission to close on a position would have mauled any unit so assigned regardless of whether they were armed with.69's or .58's.

IMHO blaming retention of the.69 and in effect saying if they had adopted the Springfield 1861 that it would have reduced casualties is speculation at it's finest , in fact the argument could be made taht given they were often leading the advance the .69's would have been more of boon than bust once the range was closed.
July 31st, 2009  
George
 
Found some stats
groups @ 50 yards
Enfield 3.75"
'63 Springfield 5.25"
'42 Springfield 12"
groups @ 100 yards
Enfield 7.5"
'63 10.25
'42 36"
firing @ 72"X72" @ 400 yards(15 rounds)
Enfield 13 rds
'63 7 rds
'42 0 rds
July 31st, 2009  
03USMC
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by George
Found some stats
groups @ 50 yards
Enfield 3.75"
'63 Springfield 5.25"
'42 Springfield 12"
groups @ 100 yards
Enfield 7.5"
'63 10.25
'42 36"
firing @ 72"X72" @ 400 yards(15 rounds)
Enfield 13 rds
'63 7 rds
'42 0 rds
That's well and good, but your stats don't take into account alot of variables, hell I can shoot MOA with a scoped 10/22 if I have all day to make each shot.

Variables:

1. Training- Civil War troops were trained in volley fire with limited attention given to individual marksmanship.

2. Tactics- Tactics of the day for infantry were massed fire by rank with fire at will rarely given except when the stuff was really bad. That amounts to point in the general direction and bang one off.

3. Combat Conditions- After the first volley the enemy is most likely obscured by dense blackpowder smoke that only gets thicker. Thus picking a target is difficult. It is much harder to group rounds when your standing in a rank, mini balls flying past, people behind and beside you are dropping, sphereical, case and solid shot are bouncing thru the ranks. This is why the Civil War era soilders training was long on close order drill and forming files and ranks and loading, aimming, and firing by the numbers, it needed to be an automatic response to command.

That a rifled musket firing a mini ball is by nature more accurate than a smooth bore firing buck and ball is not in question. But a rifled musket firing one projo has a much greater miss ratio in the Civil War combat conditions than does the .69 firing a 4 projo buck and ball charge....by nature.
July 31st, 2009  
George
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by 03USMC
That's well and good, but your stats don't take into account alot of variables, hell I can shoot MOA with a scoped 10/22 if I have all day to make each shot.

Variables:

1. Training- Civil War troops were trained in volley fire with limited attention given to individual marksmanship.

2. Tactics- Tactics of the day for infantry were massed fire by rank with fire at will rarely given except when the stuff was really bad. That amounts to point in the general direction and bang one off.

3. Combat Conditions- After the first volley the enemy is most likely obscured by dense blackpowder smoke that only gets thicker. Thus picking a target is difficult. It is much harder to group rounds when your standing in a rank, mini balls flying past, people behind and beside you are dropping, sphereical, case and solid shot are bouncing thru the ranks. This is why the Civil War era soilders training was long on close order drill and forming files and ranks and loading, aimming, and firing by the numbers, it needed to be an automatic response to command.

That a rifled musket firing a mini ball is by nature more accurate than a smooth bore firing buck and ball is not in question. But a rifled musket firing one projo has a much greater miss ratio in the Civil War combat conditions than does the .69 firing a 4 projo buck and ball charge....by nature.
I'm rather well versed in all this, been Civil War reenacting since 1992. You are correct on a lot of what you've been saying, but as rifles replaced pumpkin slingers ranges opened up, & tactics changed to an extent, because of the increased lethality & range of the rifles.
July 31st, 2009  
03USMC
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by George
I'm rather well versed in all this, been Civil War reenacting since 1992. You are correct on a lot of what you've been saying, but as rifles replaced pumpkin slingers ranges opened up, & tactics changed to an extent, because of the increased lethality & range of the rifles.
Reeancting huh.....wow!!! And as tactics changed and distances opened up the shot to hit ratio went down. Because individual marksman ship was not stressed volley fire was, hence the reason the fire was inaccurate.
July 31st, 2009  
George
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by 03USMC
Reeancting huh.....wow!!! And as tactics changed and distances opened up the shot to hit ratio went down. Because individual marksman ship was not stressed volley fire was, hence the reason the fire was inaccurate.
Yeah, I know, playing Army, but it does make one quite familiar with period tactics. A lot more guys on the CS side knew what to do when the "aim" order was given, but there was a rerason the rifles were aquired as fast as possible. Officers @ the time noted attacks in late 61 & early 62 that should have been sucsessfull(or less costly) had the defenders still been equiped with '42s.
 


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