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Aiming cannon

Not in my field of knowledge so treat these comments as queries rather than answers...

If the troops were lying on a reverse slope or in dead ground, they'd be doubly protected. Firstly, they wouldn't be seen and therefore not identified as targets. Secondly, direct fire would pass over them.

Assuming that the FOO would be located in the vicinity of the guns for ease of communication, two limitations come to mind. Firstly, fall of shot beyond the crest of a hill or mound wouldn't be observed so adjustment for range would be hit or miss - with the emphasis on miss. Secondly, the FOO wouldn't be in a position to adjust fire if the troops moved. The guns would be firing at a vacated area.

The ability of the modern FOO to view obliquely and communicate from anywhere on the battlefield is a definite force multiplier.

Then add in the absence of maps with grid squares and you're left with the artillery firing in the general direction of their enemy rather than aiming at them.

I don't think that it's fair to compare land artillery with naval artillery. Aside from different tactics, the Navy didn't have to contend with dead ground and organising the supply train when they shifted location. I don't know whether the artillery had to move during their engagement but if they did, the move would have been rather more involved than just hitching the guns to horses (organise the supply train, select route, prepare ground, etc.) and would have taken them out of the OOB for several hours.
The only FOO is the gunner. He shoots at what he can see, and cannot shoot at what he cannot see.

During the ECW, the draught teams and ordnance train are civilians. They will deliver the guns to the battlefield, drop off the ammunition, then retire to the pub. If their side wins, they will pop back to collect the gun. This remained the case until the early 18th century. If the gunners want to move the gun, they will have to push it. Obviously not an option with anything other than the smallest pieces. Gustav Adolph (as he was always called until 1939 led to the Swedes suddenly preferring the posh Latin Gustavus Adolphus for some odd reason...) went for his so called leather guns, with lightweight barrels relying on leather wrappings for "integrity" (yeah, no thanks), which could be manhandled alongside the infantry - think Wombat... and yes, galloper guns came along. Problem was that all these, if they could be light enough to be mobile, rarely had enough punch to make a big difference. That only came along with the formation of proper horse artillery, with military teams able to move at high speed, deploy painfully close to the enemy, and ape the OTT dress of the posh blokes in the cavalry.
 
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Have you seen the "Time Team" experiment with civil war cannon @angular? The ball skips across the field like a skimming stone. Even a 2m hump would loft the ball I think.

Bad form etc.

I have been trying to google up some video of the experiment and failing. Phil Harding was the "cast member" involved.
 
Perforated Phil's Gabion nicely.
 
Bad form etc.

I'm sure someone will correct me, if I'm having a senior moment. I thought air rifles were a relatively new invention. I seem to remember reading in the past two/three years, that they were used in the English Civil (?) War. They could kill a man at over a mile(?) The reason they stopped using them was it was considered bad form, because there was no discharge/smoke to give the position away, and of course, silent. Someone tell me I've not gone completely doolally, and imagined this.
 

HE117

LE
I'm sure someone will correct me, if I'm having a senior moment. I thought air rifles were a relatively new invention. I seem to remember reading in the past two/three years, that they were used in the English Civil (?) War. They could kill a man at over a mile(?) The reason they stopped using them was it was considered bad form, because there was no discharge/smoke to give the position away, and of course, silent. Someone tell me I've not gone completely doolally, and imagined this.
Austria used the Girardoni air rifle as a military weapon in the 1780s!


Not sure if they were considered "bad form".. they were certainly expensive...
 
I'm sure someone will correct me, if I'm having a senior moment. I thought air rifles were a relatively new invention. I seem to remember reading in the past two/three years, that they were used in the English Civil (?) War. They could kill a man at over a mile(?) The reason they stopped using them was it was considered bad form, because there was no discharge/smoke to give the position away, and of course, silent. Someone tell me I've not gone completely doolally, and imagined this.

No, I saw it too. I think it was Napoleonic rather than ECW though. ISTR a Forgotten Weapons video posted about it as well.
 
Austria used the Girardoni air rifle as a military weapon in the 1780s!
Not sure if they were considered "bad form".. they were certainly expensive...

No, I saw it too. I think it was Napoleonic rather than ECW though. ISTR a Forgotten Weapons video posted about it as well.

Thanks lads, glad it was just the war I got wrong. Just remembered where I saw it. It was an article in an air rifle magazine.
 
Full power cannon could punch clean holes through a ship's timber and possibly do no more damage or cause injuries. They soon realised a large calibre slow moving ball would smash wood and the splinters would cause damage and injuries within the ship. A cannon was made at the Carron Ironworks known as a Carronade. It was lighter, threw a heavier ball and did much more damage close in. Ordinary cannon were still used at longer range and used bar shot and chain shot to damage rigging.

This chappieb did a YouTube vid on the development of naval guns in a two parter, this one the period leading up to the Napoleonic wars which includes the carronade.

 

Wordsmith

LE
Book Reviewer
I was under the impression that the aim of naval warfare was not prolonged broadside but to pass perpendicular to the opposition thus your entire row of guns could rake their ship from stem to stern.

It was indeed. The problem was that in the century leading up to Nelson, the RN was increasingly hamstring by its 'Fighting Instructions' - essentially a manual of tactics to be followed in battle. They stripped a lot of initiative away from admirals and captains, who simply did things by the numbers. Add into the mix a very limited signalling system, so admirals couldn't change their intentions after battle was joined and you had the recipe for a lot of inconclusive battles. It want only on the rare occasions that Admirals broke away for from fighting instructions that decisive victories were won - such as Rodney at the Saintes in 1782. And Rodney broke the enemy line in multiple places, enabling him to rake many French ships from stem to stern.

Nelson simply lobbed the fighting instructions out of the window. At St Vincent in 1797, while still a junior admiral, he took his ship out of line and delivered stunning victory to his C in C - Sir John Jervis. Someone suggested to Jervis that Nelson had disobeyed the fighting instructions. Jervis's crushing retort has come down to us: "It certainly was so, and if you ever commit a like breach of your orders, I will forgive you also".

At the Nile (1798 ) Nelson had spend weeks beforehand schooling his captains in what to do in every circumstance should they meet the French - the equivalent of a modern O-Group. He came on the French at anchor in a strong position in Aboukir Bay with night falling and with no charts of the area. Every other admiral would have hesitated. Nelson attacked, trusting to the initiative of his captains. The result was the most crushing defeat in French naval history.

At Copenhagen (1801), the Danish fleet was moored in line of battle to protect the city, so Nelson had time to issue detailed orders. They went astray as ships got stuck on unknown shoals, but again, Nelson's captains used their initiative and rescued the situation. Nelson was only second in command at that battle and his superior, Sir Hyde Parker signalled him to break off the action. Nelson famously put his telescope to his blind eye, observing he couldn't see the signal. The Danes were crushed.

At Trafalgar (1805), the tactics were Nelson's own, designed to bring about a close quarter melee in which the faster rate of British gunnery would be decisive. Those tactics were designed to take advantage of French/Spanish weakness in sailing and gunnery. Again, the British ships broke through the enemy line, firing into bow and stern as they did so. Nelson expected to capture 20 ships of the 33 opposing him - he took or destroyed 19.

Mahan, perhaps the biographer who understood Nelson best, wrote of him "rarely has a man been more favoured in the hour of his appearing; never one so fortunate in the moment of his death". Such was the moral ascendency that Nelson left as his legacy, that no navy challenged the RN in a full scale battle until Jutland in 1916.

Wordsmith
 

jrwlynch

LE
Book Reviewer
wasn’t there some research done during WWII? that found less than a few percent of soldiers were actively trying to kill the other chaps?

SLA Marshall, "Men Against Fire" IIRC. Hasn't exactly stood up to scrutiny - the bigger issue seems to have been that on a battlefield where "how not to be seen" was a key survival skill, you didn't often get a clear shot at anything.

Either you were guarding a flank against a counterattack that never came, or you were delivering suppressive fire to keep heads down, but how often did soldiers get clear, clean shots at the enemy to decide "no, poor chap, I'll fire over his head or not fire at all"?

In my own undistinguished TA time it was rare as hell (admittedly we were more often shouting 'Bang!" at a treeline where the forty rounds of 7.62mm blank for the weekend had long since run out) and - admittedly with blank rounds - I remember aiming and firing with some satisfaction to think "would have gotcha!" on the few occasions I actually saw OPFOR clearly.
 
I suspect the answer is more simple: they didn't want to kill their fellow Englishman.

There are stories of massed ranks of infantry firing muskets at each other at ranges which would near guarantee a hit, yet they still 'missed'.
I think that might be tricky to manage, when the musketeers had to stand in line and shoot. Maybe their corporals and sergeants didn't notice, but maybe they did. I think it was easy to miss with a matchlock musket, regardless of the wishes of the soldier pulling the trigger.

Interestingly the battle of Edgehill apparently affected the casualty rates in the later battles. The 'push of pike' was exceedingly deadly in that, the first battle of the civil wars. So much so that both sides retired to a distance of about 30 yards and started shooting at each other, and later battles didn't have anything like as much hand-to-hand fighting between infantry regiments. I guess I should be more forgiving to the Sealed Knot etc. with their ridiculous pushing and shoving from the pikemen, but I suppose it's hard to motivate re-enactors if all you want them to do is stand there and look tough.
 

feu_de_joie

War Hero
I was looking for something else and found this gem of an example of application of fire. Not Civil War but Wagram in 1809. The French Artillery fired a total of 96,000 shot. Austrian casualties, killed, wounded and missing were 31,000 to 42,000, obviously not all from artillery. Chef de Battalion Boulert of the Guard Artillery, who had the opportunity to walk the battlefield on the following day, observed that the damage done was not in proportion to the effort expended
 

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