19th Century warfare changes

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The_Enigma
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19th Century warfare changes

Post by The_Enigma » 21 Jan 2011 10:32

I have a query about how battles were conducted during the 19th Century and the evolution of warfare.

It would seem that while weapons changed, and their was an increase in the use of fortifications (trenches etc), armies for the most part still lined up on a field and shot the shit out of each other over the course of a day or so ala Waterloo (for later examples i.e. Gettysburg and various battles during the Crimean War (although I have read that the latter, using the ‘thin red line’ as an example highlighted how rifle/musket fire had increased so much that cavalry no longer posed a threat to well disciplined troops: the Russian cavalry breaking after several long range volleys before coming anywhere close to the British troops)) during the first half of the century.

When, and why, did armies stop lining up opposite one another in ranks of file to have it out? In addition is there any examples of an army adopting a more modern way of fighting and the other still lining up for battle in neat little formations?

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Re: 19th Century warfare changes

Post by Inselaffe » 21 Jan 2011 11:19

The_Enigma wrote:When, and why, did armies stop lining up opposite one another in ranks of file to have it out? In addition is there any examples of an army adopting a more modern way of fighting and the other still lining up for battle in neat little formations?
Hello TE. Yes, there are lots of examples from the mid-late C19th of 'modern' warfare clearly emerging and being faced by more archaic methods.

Have a look at http://www.britishbattles.com/first-boe ... a-hill.htm
Although a small battle, Majuba was a major disaster for Britain and the British Army. It highlighted many of the inadequacies of an army steeped in the methods of early 19th Century warfare and failing to grasp the implications and potential of modern long range breech loading firearms. In the two South African Wars the British Army learnt a great deal from the Boer Commandoes on the importance of field craft and individual handling of rifles; lessons put to good use in 1914 against the German Army.
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LWD
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Re: 19th Century warfare changes

Post by LWD » 21 Jan 2011 13:46

Indeed I think you can find examples of both in the ACW. In additoin much of the western front fighting in WWI could be considered similar. I think one of the problems in the more universal adoption of modern tactics was that the 19th century lacked some of the comms systems that made it practical for larger forces. Note we are starting to see some similar changes now as a result of advancements such as "blue force tracker" and its equivalants.

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The_Enigma
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Re: 19th Century warfare changes

Post by The_Enigma » 21 Jan 2011 17:27

Intresting article. Although i am a little confused as the article notes that the British were also equipped with rifled firearms? How was the army still "steeped" in outdated military thought?

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Re: 19th Century warfare changes

Post by Vaeltaja » 21 Jan 2011 18:06

Many reasons.

In colonial warfare against low tech enemies - which was the main task of British army at the time - mass formations were better than loose formations. Using massed ranks of bayonets was better way to keep spear armed natives at bay than to spread out for the slaughter.

Also not sure how long or far British military reforms had gone by that time but it should be kept in mind that until 1871 individuals merits or abilities had very little to do with his rank in the British army - instead the wealth was the key.

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Re: 19th Century warfare changes

Post by Takao » 23 Jan 2011 13:18

Just some points I'd Like to make.

RATE OF FIRE: Well, accuracy did improve with the advent of the rifled barrel, however the volume of fire was still very slow. As such, it was still viewed as necessary to line up groups of soldiers to bring the needed weight of fire to bear on the enemy. This idea would not really begin to change until magazine fed rifles, such as "bolt action" or "repeating" rifles, and machine guns, allowed for a lot less men to produce a much higher rate of fire.

AIMING: Also, while the rifles were more accurate at range, soldiers still needed to be experienced in aiming their weapons. Since the low muzzle velocity rifles tended to follow a more ballistic arc to their targets, as opposed to the higher velocity, but less accurate smoothbore muskets. The soldiers needed to be trained to "aim low", as, more often than not, the opposing soldiers would shoot over the heads of their opponents. Given that most of the soldiers in the ACW were inexperienced citizens, or at least farmers more experienced with smoothbores than rifles, it would take time for the to learn or increase their aiming skills.

HUMAN ELEMENT: This ties in with my previous points, since the ACW was fought mostly by "citizen soldiers" they often did not take the time to aim properly, especially when under fire. The battlefield is very different and more chaotic than what you would find at a typical target range. I have been to more than a few ACW battlefield museums, and some of the more curious artifacts are bent, twisted, or otherwise deformed ramrods. These are because the soldier firing the gun, in the chaos of the battlefield, forgot to remove the ramrod from the barrel when he finished using it, and fired both the ramrod and minie ball at the enemy. As such when trying to reload and aim, things will be forgotten, and the end result will suffer.

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LWD
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Re: 19th Century warfare changes

Post by LWD » 24 Jan 2011 14:23

Takao wrote:...AIMING: Also, while the rifles were more accurate at range, soldiers still needed to be experienced in aiming their weapons. Since the low muzzle velocity rifles tended to follow a more ballistic arc to their targets, as opposed to the higher velocity, but less accurate smoothbore muskets. ....
My impression was that rifles in general had higher muzzle velocities than smoothboars and as they often used bullets instead of balls they would have maintained that velocity better. Both of course follow "ballistic" arcs.
This reference:
http://www.whitemuzzleloading.com/long_ ... oading.htm
indicates that the two had aproximately the same muzzle velocity although the smooth bores may have had a bit of an edge. In any case it looks like once you get over a 100 yards or so the rifle has a flatter trajctory.

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Re: 19th Century warfare changes

Post by phylo_roadking » 24 Jan 2011 16:21

RATE OF FIRE: Well, accuracy did improve with the advent of the rifled barrel, however the volume of fire was still very slow.
My impression was that rifles in general had higher muzzle velocities than smoothboars and as they often used bullets instead of balls they would have maintained that velocity better.
....but in the case of rilfed muskets it did slow down reloading considerably; I used to know the reloading time of an 1815 period Brown Bess compared to a British rifled musket off the top of my head, but it was approaching twice as long for the rifled musket. Accuracy could make up for slower rates of fire...but only for open-order troops; as long as massed fire was deemed necessary... the rate of fire far outweighed the need for accuracy.
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LWD
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Re: 19th Century warfare changes

Post by LWD » 24 Jan 2011 16:45

I wouldn't be surprised at all if muzzle loading rifles had half the rate of fire of smoothbores. However in the ACW you also have breach loaders and percussion caps coming into use. They can bring the rate of fre back up significantly when compared to a muzzleloading flintlock.

Fire arms training is very important for accuracy with rifles though as you point out. I think I read somewhere that during the Napoleonic wars the British fired alomst twice as many practice rounds as the French ant that they were fireing about 20 rounds per man per year. It would be interesting to know what that rate was for ACW troops. Although most rural recuits would likely know how to shoot already.

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Re: 19th Century warfare changes

Post by phylo_roadking » 24 Jan 2011 17:15

. However in the ACW you also have breach loaders and percussion caps coming into use.
....which brings us to the REAL changes in 19th century warfare; logistics and supply! Amries had to be supplied on the move....not simply forage as they went (wellllll....not as much! :lol:) They had to be supplied with either longER-life foodstuffs OR provision (sic) had to be made to move supplies in greater quantity to them. Yes, by the ACW you could still sit round a campfire with a bullet mould and make your own ammunition - for some weapon types still in use! - but noone was going to sit down and make their own fulminate of mercury-filled percussion caps! :lol:

So - you had improvements in logistics - greater used of mass transit I.E. railways as they became available!....and a fast change in exactly what was being moved. The ability to properly preserve foodstuffs - as in tin them - greatly reduced the need to shift perishables and meat on the hoof.
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Re: 19th Century warfare changes

Post by Vaeltaja » 24 Jan 2011 20:06

....but in the case of rilfed muskets it did slow down reloading considerably; I used to know the reloading time of an 1815 period Brown Bess compared to a British rifled musket off the top of my head, but it was approaching twice as long for the rifled musket. Accuracy could make up for slower rates of fire...but only for open-order troops; as long as massed fire was deemed necessary... the rate of fire far outweighed the need for accuracy.
This was true until minie ball type rifled muskets. With self-expanding shots the minie rifles got the loading times of a smoothbore muskets and accuracy of rifled barrels. And AFAIK in ACW minie rifles were the main weapons - at least early on. Breechloaders become more common only by the end of the ACW .

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Re: 19th Century warfare changes

Post by phylo_roadking » 24 Jan 2011 23:07

Minie ball-firing rifled muskets used in the Crimean War-ACW period (a quite limited time period - only ten years in anything like widespread usage) are indeed a strange case; I've always wondered if the selfseating ability of both the plugged and unplugged Minie ball actually simply permitted a "sloppier" mass production of rifled muskets as opposed to the still-handcrafted rifled muskets of fifty years earlier? Arms manufacture had changed in that period just as much as munitions production :wink: I wonder how the range and accuracy of a Waterloo-period rifled musket actually compared to an ACW rifled musket?
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Takao
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Re: 19th Century warfare changes

Post by Takao » 25 Jan 2011 03:51

LWD,
I wouldn't be surprised at all if muzzle loading rifles had half the rate of fire of smoothbores. However in the ACW you also have breach loaders and percussion caps coming into use. They can bring the rate of fre back up significantly when compared to a muzzleloading flintlock.
Not at first, however, loading a rifled barrel with a round ball will become increasingly difficult as the barrel becomes more fouled with powder residue. I'm not certain that percussion caps help that much to increase the rate of fire, however, they greatly reduce the chance of a misfire.

Vaeltaja,
Early in the ACW, it there wasn't really a "common" rifle, early units were armed with whatever was on hand. There were 15 different types of "longarms" listed for Confederate use, and the Union listed 24 muzzle-loaders and 27 breech-loaders, with 25 different types of cartridges for those weapons. Even as late as the Battle of Gettysburg, July, 1863, several units used various types of rifles that fired incompatible rounds. Although, the vast majority of rifles during that battle were the .58 caliber Springfield models or the .577 Enfields. The benefit of these two rifles is that both could fire the .58 caliber minie ball. Breechloaders or "repeating rifles" never saw widespread use in the ACW, and they were used mostly by the cavalry troops.

Phylo,
I agree, early in the ACW, logistics was certainly a mess. With all the various types of longarms in use by both sides, many units required several different types of ammunition. As I pointed out to Vaeltaja, even at Gettysburg, this was still a problem for some units. An extreme example of this was the 1st Minnesota, which was equipped with .69 smoothbores, .69 & .58 rifles, as well as, the .54 Sharps breech-loader.

Offhand, as to the range and accuracy of a Waterloo era rifle and an ACW rifle of similar quality, I think they would be roughly similar(but can't say for certain). The benefits of an ACW rifle would be that it would allow for "sloppier" quality barrels(easing mass production), a minie ball rifle would retain it's standard rate of fire longer(since a loading a "fouled" rifle barrel with a normal ball would be a problem), and the percussion cap allowed for much greater firing reliability than the flintlock.

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Re: 19th Century warfare changes

Post by LWD » 25 Jan 2011 14:56

The minie ball should mean that accuarcy increases at longer ranges. I'm not sure about the "sloppier" part. I do remember reading somewhere that one of the big benefits of the "Brown Bess" was that they were all close enough to the same diamter that ammo was interchangeable. Before that a bullet mold was issued with each gun. I don't remember where I read that so it may be somewhat off the mark. However the advantages of interchangeable ammo are clear. I suspect manufacturing techniques also improved enough over the period that the ACW guns were significantly less "sloppy" than those of the Napoleonic wars but could be wrong there as well.

As for percussion caps increasing rate of fire. Yes they would because you only need to put the cap on the nipple you don't have to prime the flash pan and such.

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Re: 19th Century warfare changes

Post by Polar bear » 25 Jan 2011 19:15

hi,

very quick
(a) logistics (decisively: Railway in the US civil war and in the Prussian-Austrian 1866 and Franco-German war 1871)
(b) breech-loading guns and rifles
(c) steel guns (Krupp et al.)
(d) trenches (e.g. Petersburg)

greetings, the pb
Peace hath her victories no less renowned than War
(John Milton, the poet, in a letter to the Lord General Cromwell, May 1652)

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