Author Topic: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)  (Read 33647 times)

Offline Dphariss

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Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« on: September 11, 2009, 06:00:16 PM »
I was typing as a response to "sheet iron" on the builders forum. It was, rightly, pointed out that the discussion was veering wildly from "sheet iron" so I move it over here. Fits better here anyway.

In a SB gun a bare ball tends to "rattle" in the bore. Gas flow on one side will cause the ball to move to that side, then the gas escape on the other side moves it back.
A friend came up with this and it makes sense to me too (Bernoulli's principle etc). He also had some recovered balls that seemed to indicate this.
But its theory at this point.

Patch grease and powder quality "back in the day".
The only grease I ever used that would soften fouling was beeswax and sperm whale oil mixed as the old Sharps rifle formula or just a little softer. Loaded really nice and is very slick. But I doubt if it was used in the 18th century.

I suspect that a lot of rifle patches were lubed with hog lard/bacon drippings/coon lard/bear lard etc. Bear oil and sperm whale oil was a preferred lube by the 1880s according to Ned Roberts.
I have shot some good groups with SPG bullet lube but it requires wiping every shot.
An oil such as bear will soften fouling and allow several/many shots to be fired without wiping (with modern powders anyway). Greases often will not. But oiled patches require a metal box or some such to carry around to keep the oil from migrating. So we have to ask if this was done in the past. Probably not. So we are back to greases and more wiping in all probability.
My grandmother always called lard used in cooking "grease". Just a something to consider. Yeah she was not 18th century but things tend to hang on.
Mad Monk is the one to comment on the powder. But from my reading of material he has written/furnished to me the way the powder was generally made circa 1770 would have likely produced more fouling than most or all of todays powders. This may be one of the things that likely makes our shooting different than Morgan's riflemen's.
Powder making was a matter of national security for most powder making nations. While the military did not necessarily buy the best powder made they did drive the research for more stable and reliable powder. The ability to remain viable in damp environments, produce consistent ballistic performance were all important. Fouling in artillery at least was less critical since artillery wiped every shot anyway. I would also point out that for military purposes the fouling produced by a good powder is nearly equal to the "best" powder. A "musket" grade powder made of good materials, pure KN0³, charcoal from the right wood properly charred etc. will be a pretty good powder. It is not going to produce optimum ballistics or the least fouling, but it would be pretty good stuff. We need to remember that the average infantryman did not carry a lot of ammo so if the musket would shoot 5-30 rounds reliably there was no problem. The premium powders were used by "discriminating" shooters and really did not appear until well into the 19th century.
Shooters doing target work at extended ranges 200-1000 yards needed a powder than produced the higher and most consistent velocity.
A round ball rifle or musket is so range limited that variations that will cause 2-3 feet of dispersion with a bullet at 300 yards hardly matter at 100 with a RB.
But short of finding some 1750-1780 powder (pretty remote chance) or recreating 18th century stamp mill, hand granulated powder, a $#*! of a lot of work (making your own charcoal for example), its not possible to really know. But people HAVE made home made powder that worked pretty well. But they generally made it to modern specs with pressing and breaking etc.
But again this question is better answered by an expert.
We do know that they likely wiped with the same grease they used on patches. This eliminated wetting the next load and protected the bore to some extent. Remember on the frontier, even if just hunting squirrels, leaving the gun unloaded on the way home from a hunt could be a fatal error. So they wiped it quickly and reloaded since the shot just fired might bring unwanted attention.
BP fouling is essentially inert if cut off from moisture. Below 30% RH it is practically inert/non-corrosive. So wiping with grease would remove/soften the fouling so than another load could be put down and "grease" the bore at the same time. Or a loose fitting dry piece of tow could have been run down if the humidity is high. Its another thing that has been largely lost to time.
If shooting at a rifle match or in combat spit patches could be used I suppose and its possible they might have been. But then we are back to asking when did this practice first appeared. Greased patches seems to be the common lube mentioned.


Dan
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northmn

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2009, 10:28:11 PM »
A few comments.  The 1776 Sketchbook shows a cartridge box with 24 rounds, omne on the French marines 10 rounds.  These were for troops of the line.  When one considers the rate of fire back then a lot of rounds was not likely needed.  Both side would line up at a fairly close distance then march toward each other shooting, but my hisorical information of the times shows the bayonet to be a primary weapon.  A great deal of reference being made to hopw the militia units in the early days of the Revolution were intimidated by the British fixed bayonets.
I also agree that the use of grease, lard wahtever, was the most common.  Also there has been refences somewhere to a woodsman shooting and then cleaning his rifle before reloading.  I put to you that the greased patch may have been used as much to grease and protect the bore after being seated as it would do so when the ball was seated.  Maybe as much for that as for making the gun shoot. 
Weren't the long barrels of the American rifles supposed to exist in part to utilize the homemade powders?  The first English military rifle, the Baker,  only had a 30" barrel and its bayonet was a short sword.

DP

Offline Artificer

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #2 on: September 11, 2009, 11:15:38 PM »
Dan,

Really enjoyed reading your post on period powders and lubes.  Thank you for typing all that out and I appreciate your discussion.  Whilst I'm thinking of a couple other things, Northmn beat me to the punch on something else.

Yes, standard 18th century infantry cartridge boxes usually held about 24 rounds and sometimes around 30 - though the "belly boxes" used by cavalry, light infantry and some Scottish units went from 12 to around 18 rounds.   If one can say any battle can be "standard," then 18th century continental war fare decided the issue with a bayonet charge before most of the men ran out of ammo or when they did, the bayonet was used.  (By the time of the War Between the States, the average Infantry ammo load was 48 cartridges and that wasn't a huge amount more and was considered more than enough for even a full day of heavy combat - though that amount was exceeded in some battles.)  That was 18th century European continental warfare, though, where more civilized rules of war were generally maintained.   

There are original sources that state the professional British Soldiers learned not to be as terrified of American Riflemen as what many commonly imagine.  I'm paraphrasing, but it mentions in the early morning hours was an especially good time to hunt riflemen because the morning dew would cause many a lock to fail and the bayonet was a sure thing.  Rain or other adverse conditions would do the same thing.   Of course, the British were more "concerned" about riflemen when the weather was good.  Grin.

Still, bayonets would have been very, very uncommon in civilian usage, even by the militia's in more settled areas like the Tidewater in Virginia - unless they had been issued a bayonet along with an older musket.  To put it bluntly, an 18th century bayonet was really only good as a bayonet (except for being an impromptu candle holder or meat spit, perhaps, and use as a meat spit might soften the blade too much).  A bayonet cost too much to make and buy for such slight civilian use.   That's why the American Militia laws allowed the bayonet to be supplanted by hangers (short infantry swords), or belt axes and/or tomahawks and scalping or rifleman's knives.

 

Offline Artificer

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #3 on: September 11, 2009, 11:33:17 PM »
Back to the "shootin" part of the discussion.

I realize there is no way we can know how tight balls fit in many rifles or SB's in the 18th century.  We rarely find an original rifle, let alone the original mold for that rifle.  There are so few remaining rifles and original molds, I don't think we can do more than speculate and that sort of brings up the subject of mold cherries.

Which came first, the mold cherry or the bore size?  IOW, did American gunsmiths (especially towards the frontier) make the bore size to fit the mold cherries they purchased and had on hand or maybe made some of their own cherries when it was absolutely necessary?  I will admit I'm not sure, but I think the bore sizes were made to conform to the cherries they had on hand - at least until they could buy or make cherries for other bore sizes.   Personally, I doubt if many of the frontier gunsmiths made many cherries.  They might have made at least one during their apprenticeship, but making cherries was a very specialized area "of the trade" back then and they could order cherries from England.   




   





northmn

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #4 on: September 12, 2009, 03:44:24 AM »
A very common bayonet for American militia was one that had a handle small enough to fit in the bore I think they called them plug bayonets.  A belt knife that fit the bore.  As to the Bristish being impressed with the riflemen, Bailey in his book on British military arms mentioned that the adoption of the Baker rifle came along about 20 years after the Revolution and does not imply any influence from the American experience.   As to bore sizes, note that in the early days bore were not referred to as calibers but as gauges.  So many ball to a pound.  I am curious if cast ball were commonly also sold.  We picture the frontiersman buying lead and casting his own, which some records indicated happening.  After the shot towers came into existance a lot of ball were made in towers, probably in the early days more so than what we call shot.  St. Louis had a large tower to serve the fur trade. If you think about it, it is more efficient to buy precast ball (kind of like a box of cartridges today) to get the most per pound. Ball could have been sold per pound and counted out in that manner.  Casting causes waste.  there are stories of digging the ball out of the critters and recasting them.  Those little bag molds make a lot more sense if that was their purpose.

DP 

Offline Canute Rex

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #5 on: September 12, 2009, 06:20:22 AM »
One of the biggest differences between then and now that I think about is precision. (Oh no, not that discussion again!) Today we discuss whether to use a .490 or .495 ball with a .015 or .020 patch in a .500 bore with .012 deep rifling. We also discuss whether to use 75 or 85 grains of FFFG. This would seem like crazy talk to an 18th century rifle-toter.

"Well, the mold came with the rifle." "I found some scrap linen thick enough for patching." "This powder seems a little finer than the last barrel that came over the mountain on an oxcart." "Ma kept aside some bacon grease for me. Worked for the patches and the lock." For most people it was probably catch as catch can.

Pure speculation, but I can imagine a gunsmith making a few mold cherries and molds and testing to see which worked best with a barrel made with a particular barrel drill. The Swiss did a similar thing with watch and clock gears, making a bunch of them and sorting them with go-nogo calipers.

In military smoothbores windage around the ball was a good thing. The point was to get your regiment, about 500 men in two lines, loading and firing as fast as possible for a short period of time. As long as those 500 12-gauge balls went whistling out in a cloud in the general area of the enemy line, that was good enough. Hard ramming due to fouling was fatal. Some British regiments went as small as 69 caliber in their 75 caliber Brown Bess muskets so the ball would essentially drop freely down the barrel. An over sized load of powder made up for the windage loss. I have seen racks of original Besses with the bores worn oval at the muzzle from years of ramming. The ramrod buttons were almost worn away.

northmn

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #6 on: September 12, 2009, 01:13:34 PM »
You are not only talking about the precision in ball sizing but also in machining.  If you have ever dealt with milsurps you find that WWII rifles had a tendency to vary in bore size, some quite extremely.  I had a Russian carbine that miked at .317, many  will mike at .314 and some around the .310 they are supposed to, a 303 Brit at .314 and another at .312.  Military rifles of the Earlier days had to vary at least as much.  I have suspected that the use of smaller diameter ball also guranteed universal use as well as accomodating fouling.  A smaller diameter ball for a civilian rifle makes sense to a degree, because as stated patching was not miked to see if it made .020, .015, they likely used what they could find.  My depression era parents talked about using clothes up to cutting them into towels, then washrags etc.  They had "feed sack" clothing.  The farmers bought feed in sacks that the women could cut up to make clothing.  Rifle patching may have been scraps from a similar clothing use back then.

DP 

Offline Dphariss

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #7 on: September 12, 2009, 06:16:32 PM »
Dan,
<snip>  

There are original sources that state the professional British Soldiers learned not to be as terrified of American Riflemen as what many commonly imagine.  I'm paraphrasing, but it mentions in the early morning hours was an especially good time to hunt riflemen because the morning dew would cause many a lock to fail and the bayonet was a sure thing.  Rain or other adverse conditions would do the same thing.   Of course, the British were more "concerned" about riflemen when the weather was good.  Grin.


I would not expect the British to be frightened of the riflemen. But something was going on with all a the German riflemen they imported to counter the Americans.

Frankly I think the "hunting riflemen in the woods" $#@* is just that, $#@*. Are we to believe that the riflemen just stood around with their "wet guns" and waited to be bayoneted? Do you really think that someone who grew up in London and drilled in linear tactics and the bayonet in an open field will be able to go into the timber and hunt down someone who grew up hunting and being hunted by the local native population? Or that the riflemen were too dumb to keep their guns dry?
If this were true why did Burgoyne not send men out to hunt Morgan's riflemen? Instead he specifically ordered than NOBODY go outside the pickets because if they did go out the likely would not come back. The Saratoga battles teach lessons.
One the American backwoods rifleman was a pretty serious, perhaps unbeatable, foe in the woods fighting under HIS conditions.
Two that is properly combined with a musket regiment the riflemen greatly increased the effectiveness of both units (though the American high command for the most part seems to have been unable to realize this and use it properly).
Three that cutting off your enemies ability to do recon cripples a 1770s army just as it would a 2009 army.
Four that the British army could not adequately deal with a skilled company of riflemen in the woods.

If the British were not at least extremely irritated by the riflemen why did they consider them to be some sort of war criminal that should be given no quarter?
I think a lot of the $#@* you read in some to the British officers writings is wishful thinking. They thought that if they "drove the enemy from the field" they had won the day. They drove the patriots from the field at Breeds Hill, after they ran out of ammunition, but at horrendous cost. I would also point out that while everyone "knows" there were no rifles at Breeds Hill the heavy casualties among the British NCOs and Officers  (138 killed or wounded) were typical of fights having riflemen present.
Sure there were incidents where the riflemen were "driven off". But they were not stand alone linear combat troops and THEY knew it even if the field commanders did not.
If pressed too hard they left to fight another day. Morgan used this to good advantage at Cowpens where its likely the Militia was at least party rifle armed.

Dan
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Offline Randy Hedden

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #8 on: September 12, 2009, 07:51:49 PM »
A very common bayonet for American militia was one that had a handle small enough to fit in the bore I think they called them plug bayonets.  A belt knife that fit the bore. 

DP 

I don't know which time period you are referring to, but the plug bayonet, which was invented in the 17th century to replace the pike and the need for pike men, had gone the way of the dinosaur even before the F&I War.  The French replaced their plug bayonets with socket bayonets in the 1670's and other countries soon followed suit.  The militia requirements lists available to us today list a serviceable long gun, a belt knife and a hatchet or tomahawk, but no bayonet.

The plug bayonet was not an efficient bayonet or belt knife and were pretty much useless in battle.  When a soldier bayoneted an opponent and pulled his musket back, the bayonet remained stuck in the opponent and left the soldier with nothing but an empty gun to continue fighting.  If the plug bayonet was mounted to a loaded gun and the gun was subsequently fired likely as not the barrel was blown apart.  Plug bayonets were typically, but not all, of a dagger profile  and made for a poor substitute for a good belt knife. Even plug bayonets with a more knife like profile were large and unwieldy when used for any purpose other than a bayonet.

I suppose a few plug bayonets could have been used by colonial militia, but they certainly were not a common accoutrement.

Randy Hedden
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northmn

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #9 on: September 12, 2009, 07:56:41 PM »
Most people hold the mistaken belief that British regulars always marched in formation and walked toward the enemy.  After the French and Indian War, they devolped a unit of light infantry, based on what they learned from Rogers Rangers.  The individual that wrote that exerpt about "hunting" riflemen was likely a light infantry comander as he talked of drawing fire and then putting them to the bayonet.  They used cover in their advance.  They even had a special lighter weight musket of 69 bore.  It worked for him.  Generally speaking the British army won the majority of their battles but lost the war due to too long of a supply chain from over the ocean, being outnumbered, functioning in a hostile countryside,  and the French assistance.  We got our independence by one vote as it was too costly  to send another army.  In the War of 1812 they burned Washington.  Whether we won that war is debatable as the British merely wanted to give Johnny a good drubbing for declaring war on them while they were busy in Europe with people like Napoleon.  Wellington summed up fighting in America as a situation in which the forces can always retreat into the "wilderness" and regroup no matter how many times you beat them.

DP

northmn

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #10 on: September 12, 2009, 08:03:34 PM »
The pictures and information I had on plug bayonets was shown with early militia units around the French and Indian War.  Some claimed they whittled down knife handles to make them, but I had seen example from an article I think written in M Blasts of bayonets made for that purose.  As to their value, I would not argue that they were not the best.  The American regular units would not have had them, and sometimes some of the early articles one reads later get refutted.  Which is possible in this case.  It's like the early battles, you can read a few variations on them depending upon the source.

DP

Offline Randy Hedden

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #11 on: September 12, 2009, 08:54:33 PM »
DP,

I don't doubt that some plug bayonets were used during the F&I War by militiamen.  I was just saying that plug bayonets were not "common" accoutrements for militiamen. 

Randy Hedden

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Offline Artificer

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #12 on: September 13, 2009, 01:54:05 PM »
Dan,
<snip>  

There are original sources that state the professional British Soldiers learned not to be as terrified of American Riflemen as what many commonly imagine.  I'm paraphrasing, but it mentions in the early morning hours was an especially good time to hunt riflemen because the morning dew would cause many a lock to fail and the bayonet was a sure thing.  Rain or other adverse conditions would do the same thing.   Of course, the British were more "concerned" about riflemen when the weather was good.  Grin.


I would not expect the British to be frightened of the riflemen. But something was going on with all a the German riflemen they imported to counter the Americans.

Frankly I think the "hunting riflemen in the woods" $#@* is just that, $#@*. Are we to believe that the riflemen just stood around with their "wet guns" and waited to be bayoneted? Do you really think that someone who grew up in London and drilled in linear tactics and the bayonet in an open field will be able to go into the timber and hunt down someone who grew up hunting and being hunted by the local native population? Or that the riflemen were too dumb to keep their guns dry?
If this were true why did Burgoyne not send men out to hunt Morgan's riflemen? Instead he specifically ordered than NOBODY go outside the pickets because if they did go out the likely would not come back. The Saratoga battles teach lessons.
One the American backwoods rifleman was a pretty serious, perhaps unbeatable, foe in the woods fighting under HIS conditions.
Two that is properly combined with a musket regiment the riflemen greatly increased the effectiveness of both units (though the American high command for the most part seems to have been unable to realize this and use it properly).
Three that cutting off your enemies ability to do recon cripples a 1770s army just as it would a 2009 army.
Four that the British army could not adequately deal with a skilled company of riflemen in the woods.

If the British were not at least extremely irritated by the riflemen why did they consider them to be some sort of war criminal that should be given no quarter?
I think a lot of the $#@* you read in some to the British officers writings is wishful thinking. They thought that if they "drove the enemy from the field" they had won the day. They drove the patriots from the field at Breeds Hill, after they ran out of ammunition, but at horrendous cost. I would also point out that while everyone "knows" there were no rifles at Breeds Hill the heavy casualties among the British NCOs and Officers  (138 killed or wounded) were typical of fights having riflemen present.
Sure there were incidents where the riflemen were "driven off". But they were not stand alone linear combat troops and THEY knew it even if the field commanders did not.
If pressed too hard they left to fight another day. Morgan used this to good advantage at Cowpens where its likely the Militia was at least party rifle armed.

Dan

To be sure, we can not take any original account as "pure gospel."  I don't doubt that some of the intent of the above paraphrased quote was to instill more confidence in the British troops.

Were the American Riflemen too dumb to keep their rifles dry? No, I'm sure they weren't, but no matter how well they protected against it, the guns were going to get wet from the dew, rain and snow. Sure, they could have wiped the frizzens off, but there still would have been condensation in the barrel.   The early battle that saved the early American army was Trenton (during serious snow storms leading up to the battle) and it was won infinitely more with the musket and bayonet than the rifle.  

It can most certainly be said the American riflemen initially aided greatly in the Battles around Boston initially and MOSTLY due to the psychological warfare Washington created, BUT their lack of discipline and other problems made them such a nuisance that both George Washington and General Lee later wished they had not come.

"By the end of August the gunpowder crisis had eased. On August 24 Washington had 184 barrels of powder as well as thousands of flints and several tons of lead. Throughout the war supplies were never what were wanted but at least the men could have some in their cartridge boxes as well as powder stocks in store. The army and the public never knew there had been a crisis. With the end of the powder crisis the riflemen, after having played such a major part in containing the British, became a nuisance.

After making their triumphal march to join the army surrounding Boston, the riflemen became restless, bored and sullen. They participated in a couple of minor raids but other than sniping at the British they had little to do. As they were bivouacked in a special area and were exempted from routine duties, time hung heavy on their hands. Washington had put them on display and fostered the idea of their being an elite force. This fit in well with Washington's undisclosed plan to maximize the prestige and fame of the riflemen and thus keep the British occupied with their own worries within Boston. However, the riflemen's special status caused resentment among the other troops in the army. The independent minded backwoodsmen ignored military protocol and fought among themselves and others. Some deserted to the British taking their rifles with them.23 Military discipline was entirely a foreign concept to them. If a rifleman was confined in the guardhouse his comrades would break him out. On one occasion a rifleman, who had been broken out of the guardhouse by his friends, was recaptured and taken to Cambridge. Members of his unit, with loaded rifles, marched on the Cambridge guardhouse to get him out again. Washington added 500 armed men to the guard and put another regiment under arms in case they were needed. Washington, Nathanial Greene and Charles Lee then faced down the mutineers and had them marched back to camp where they were court-martial and convicted of disobedient and mutinous behavior.24

General Artemas Ward wrote that, "they don't boast so much of the riflemen as heretofore. General Washington has said he wished they had never come; General Lee has !@*%&@ them and wished them all in Boston..."25 The rifle companies were ordered to do the same fatigue duties as other troops and their special status was greatly diminished. Their usefulness at Boston was over but they, without knowing it, had served a vital function. Without the intimidation of the riflemen the British might have poured out of Boston and put an end to the fledgling Revolution."

http://www.americanrevolution.org/riflemen.html

The American Riflemen did not distinguish themselves greatly when Washington's Army got tore up all over Long Island and eventually driven out of New York.  I'm sure it was with some relief to Washington and other American Commanders that three companies of riflemen volunteered to go to fight in Quebec, where Dan Morgan and many of the riflemen got captured................ (due in large measure to them not being supported well enough, to be sure).

You make a good point that riflemen were not well used in some if not many battles.  The battle of Saratoga was certainly one of the few times riflemen were used truly effectively in the early battles of the war.   Of course, there was enough woods and trees to hide in there, that the Riflemen could act very effectively  (Not true in many other battles with the clear exceptions of King's Mountain and to a lesser extent, Cowpens and a couple others.)  That's the reason Burgoyne told his troops not to go outside his field fortifications after the riflemen, but since Burgoyne was so overconfident and he mishandled his forces so badly, we don't really know how effective the British would have been under a good commander.    

Dan Morgan proved his tactical brilliance at Cowpens.  As most people know, he told the militia he only expected them to fire a few shots and then withdraw.  Some riflemen worked effectively from the woods, BUT the battle was won by American regulars using muskets and bayonets - with some serious aid by the American Cavalry.  

King's Mountain is the clear battle where American Riflemen proved their effectiveness in a woods battle over rifle and musket armed Loyalist troops (NOT British Regulars).  BUT we must also not forget that the American Riflemen had some very special reason to fight so well there.  First, many of the Americans were Scots-Irish settlers (The Over Mountain Men) and they had had a long history with the British that they wished to settle many old scores.  FURTHER and much more important, Cornwallis had stupidly ordered the areas controlled by those Americans be "put to the fire and sword."  That clearly meant every living person was to be killed and their property burnt down.  The Over Mountain Men believed Cornwallis meant to murder their families, children and parents.   Talk about having the most serious reason in the world to take out Ferguson and the Loyalists!!!  The Over Mountain Men came their with fire in their eyes and souls because their families had been directly threatened.  The Loyalists had nowhere near that kind of motivation to fight.  Also, had Ferguson been commanding his own regulars armed with his own breech loading rifles, the battle may have come out very differently indeed.

Would American Riflemen have been more effective had they been properly disciplined and led by competent officers who knew and understood their abilities and limitations?  I'm sure they would have.  In the Napoleonic wars, the British actually learned how to use their riflemen better than we did up through that time and for some time afterwards.  This due to lessons learned in our 1st War for Independence.  



« Last Edit: September 13, 2009, 02:02:07 PM by Artificer »

Offline Dphariss

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #13 on: September 13, 2009, 05:59:45 PM »
According to Lacrosse in "The Frontier Rifeman"
Of the battles in which riflemen participated the Patriots won 100  (63%), lost 42 (27%) and 16% were inconclusive.

The battles in which most or all the Patriots were rifle armed  they won 49 (74%) and lost only 12 (18%) and 4% we inconclusive.
Yeah its statistics and statisitics often lie. But I bet the numbers are correct.

Would we have lost the Revolution had we been entirely rifle armed? I doubt it IF tactics were changed.
Could we have won without the rifle? NO. Why? Saratoga would have almost surely been lost without the rifle.
With this defeat we would have gotten little/no help from France. Losing Saratoga would have left us dead in the water.
Read what was said about Morgan's riflemen in the letters of the time. They were considered by everyone on BOTH sides to be the key unit in the entire campaign.
Were all rifle units this good? No. But some obviously were.

We have gone from pointing out that some victim of the press gang from Liverpool chasing down a frontier rifleman in the woods was silly to why American generals didn't like them. These are two entirely different discussions.
They didn't like them for the simple reason that the rifleman knew that standing out in the open to be shot down is terminally stupid.
The problem is the American generals wanted to fight a European war and had they done this totally (linear tactics, all musket armed troops as some wanted) we would still have British monarchs on our currency. Linear tactics was a stupid way to fight a war with firearms. But the worlds armies did not figure this out till the advent of the machinegun and then only at horrid cost. See battle of the Somme.
From Wikipedia "The battle is best remembered for its first day, 1 July 1916, on which the British suffered 57,470 casualties, including 19,240 dead—the bloodiest day in the history of the British Army."  Fix bayonets and charge just did not work anymore..... The Somme resulted in 1.5 million casualties.  While the tactics were not Rev-war linear the bayonet charge was.
So when the Amercian militia some of whom had aready had combat experience were told to stand in some field and let the lobsterbacks shoot 3-5 volleys at them they were likely to question the wisdom of the order. Especially if they could shoot the same number of shots hiding in a treeline.

Troops refusal to do stupid $#@* is one reason we no longer have the draft.
For those who think that people of the type in Morgan's rifleman can be hunted down by British infantry, light or other wise simply LOOK. The rifleman did just what Morgan's men did at Saratoga, they faded away and regrouped. They then went back to shooting the British. After Morgan was "routed"  they regrouped and carried on with their jobs. A significant part of this was shooting British officers and non-coms.

Dan
He who dares not offend cannot be honest. Thomas Paine

northmn

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #14 on: September 14, 2009, 05:18:04 PM »
Morgan only had 500 riflemen recruited out of 3 colonies.  One issue that I think gets overlooked is that there probably were not that many riflemen to be had.  Couple that with capable shots.  Just because someone owned a rifle does not mean he could hit anything with it, then as today.  Also, the American countryside by the time of the Revolution was getting more and more European in nature, ie cleared for farmland.  If I remember correctly, I saw a price range for firearms where rifles were priced at $15 and muskets as low as $5.  I do not remember the wages of the times but 25 cents a day rings a bell.  Rifles were pretty expensive, and as the American scene got settled, gun ownership may not have been as common as some believe.  Old Hickory, when heading to New Orleans was upset when some recruits showed up unarmed.  They may have used guns, but did they use a family gun owned by Dad?  Add that to the fact that rifles may have been more common by the War of 1812. 
Riflemen were considered criminals by the British due to the fact that they deliberately aimed at officers.  They were assassins.  This was the philosophy of warfare at the time.  While it was OK to send commoners to the gristmill, to shoot officers was "uncivilized" warfare.  As far as comparing Somme. in 1916 where they used repeating rifles, to the Revolutionary use of rifles.  That is ridiculous.

DP


Offline Artificer

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #15 on: September 14, 2009, 06:36:11 PM »
The figures quoted from "The Frontier Rifleman"  obviously include many small skirmishes and raids that can only be called a "battle," due to the terms of the day and the relatively small number of troops in many battles of the time.   Further, they have include many battles where few, if any number of British Regulars were involved.  King's Mountain, one of, if not THE best known such battle only included ONE British Regular - Major Ferguson.  The Battle of Vincennes' only had a very small number of British regulars there and in most of the campaign of George Rogers Clark.  Many of the battles in other areas of the frontier also included few, if any British Regulars. Further, if one takes those figures at face value, one would think we handily drubbed the British and in fact, we were lucky to have outlasted them and they decided it wasn't worth it to go on fighting.  The truth is that we only "won" the Revolutionary War because the British had bigger fish to fry elsewhere. 

You seem to have an obvious disdain for the British Regular that was not held by most American forces in the day.   As a matter of fact, the Americans were a lot more scared of "those who had been recruited from the press gangs of Liverpool" and other areas, than the British forces scared of the colonials.  Sure, if a British Regular was a brand new recruit, he would not have struck much fear into anyone.   However, those recruits that had been trained and disciplined - instilled great fear into most Americans of the day and THAT'S why so many of them (including riflemen) ran from the field in so many battles. 

In the major battles where the war was actually won, we lost most of the battles.  George Washington realized that he didn't have to beat the British, but he had to keep an Army intact and remain in the field. 

I have tried to get the point across the American riflemen did good duty when they were used properly.  However, they were not a major factor in most of the major battles of the war with some obvious exceptions, of course. 

Linear tactics were the mainstay of the order of battle for major battles of the time due to the state of technology of the day.  Sure, in skirmishes or raids, it didn't work, but it worked in true battles.   The demise of linear tactics actually dates to the War Between the States, not World War 1.  This because at least rifled muskets were used  that could be loaded much faster and were so much more accurate at greater distances.  (This leaving out the breech loading guns, of course.) 


Offline Artificer

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #16 on: September 14, 2009, 06:54:23 PM »
Oops, one thing I left out.

I do not mean to discount the smaller battles and skirmishes fought on the frontier during the Revolutionary War.  When it's your family that gets wiped out, it doesn't matter how small the battle was.  Also, those battles helped keep great tracts of land out of British hands.

But, and that's a huge BUT, you have to win or at least not lose the war in the settled areas back East or all the battles on the frontier would have been for naught, if we had lost the war in the East.


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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #17 on: September 14, 2009, 07:35:04 PM »
Morgan only had 500 riflemen recruited out of 3 colonies.  One issue that I think gets overlooked is that there probably were not that many riflemen to be had.  Couple that with capable shots.  Just because someone owned a rifle does not mean he could hit anything with it, then as today.  Also, the American countryside by the time of the Revolution was getting more and more European in nature, ie cleared for farmland.  If I remember correctly, I saw a price range for firearms where rifles were priced at $15 and muskets as low as $5.  I do not remember the wages of the times but 25 cents a day rings a bell.  Rifles were pretty expensive, and as the American scene got settled, gun ownership may not have been as common as some believe.  Old Hickory, when heading to New Orleans was upset when some recruits showed up unarmed.  They may have used guns, but did they use a family gun owned by Dad?  Add that to the fact that rifles may have been more common by the War of 1812. 
Riflemen were considered criminals by the British due to the fact that they deliberately aimed at officers.  They were assassins.  This was the philosophy of warfare at the time.  While it was OK to send commoners to the gristmill, to shoot officers was "uncivilized" warfare.  As far as comparing Somme. in 1916 where they used repeating rifles, to the Revolutionary use of rifles.  That is ridiculous.

DP



I was comparing the tactics. Stupid in 1916 is still stupid in 1775. But if you don't like the Somme how about  "Pickets charge"? A classic example of stupid tactics. The survivors should ave found Lee and strung him up.
Volley fire followed by a bayonet charge was "how it was done" in 1770 but that does not make it smart.
The rifle had a profound effect on the British. I have read that the officers and NCOs removed a lot of the regalia that identified them after Breeds Hill for example. We are told that there were no rifles at Breeds hill but I think the casualties in the officers indicate that this may have not been the case. But I have nothing to support this.

I was doing "online sweeps" in VN, a variation on the "fix bayonets and charge"  theme. Its "really fun". But its faster than trying to low crawl 2-300 yards.

How rare rifles were or were not is largely speculation. They were in military use in New York in the 1680s. They were apparently very well known in PA by the 1740s. They seemed to have plenty of them on the frontier by the 1750s. In "The Frontier Rifleman" By LaCrosse we find:
"A large part of the provincials are armed with grooved rifles, and have their molds.... Colonel Henry Bouquet, Carlisle, Pennsylvania 1758"

While out of print Colonial Riflemen in the American Revolution" by Huddleston is worth having if it can be found. Both Huddleston and LaCrosse give a very good account of the riflemen, pro and con.

"They have voted 10 companies of riflemen to be sent from Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virgina, to join the Army before Boston..."
Chapter 3 Huddleston.
The American Army had far more riflemen than they wanted early in the Revolution, and yes some were not good shots.
But many were good enough it seems.
Before Morgan arrived for the Saratoga battle riflemen snipers were harrassing Burgoyne along his line of march by slipping through the trees and shooting as the opportunity presented itself. Huddleston page 42:
"A Hessian officer had this to say: In the open fields the rebels are not much account, but in the woods that are redoubtable....In their skill as marksman they may be compared with our peasants in Sollinger: their riflemen are terrible."
The fact that the British and Hessian officers were being killed by rifle balls before Morgan was dispatched indicates that there WERE rifleman present in upstate New York. Where they came from we cannot tell. 

Morgan's men were the cream of the crop it would seem. Hand picked.
Their effectiveness is born out in Burgoynes order of the day for Sept 18, 1777 which states in part:
"...the first soldier caught beyond the advanced Centries of the Army will be instantly hanged".
Huddleston again.

Lamenting the desertions by the Indians and Canadians  after Morgan arrived British Lieutenant Anbury wrote: "...the Indians and Canadians would have been of great utility... but the few who remained of the former could not be brought within sound of a rifle shot: and the latter...were of little use." Huddleston pg 45

 The Saratoga battles show just how effective a really good "corps or riflemen" could be. There  is little doubt that Morgan's unit won Saratoga for the Patriot side.
That Washington was clamoring to get Morgan back to Philadelphia since his riflemen were needed there.

Got things to do.
Dan

He who dares not offend cannot be honest. Thomas Paine

Offline Artificer

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #18 on: September 15, 2009, 12:47:19 AM »
Some salient points from "Colonial Riflemen in the American Revolution" by Joe D. Huddleston.........

Page 12

"Drawing conclusions from the material contained in the following chapters must be done with care for one primary reason; only material dealing with the rifle is presented.  Thus, many of the major battles of the Revolution are IGNORED.  For example, no matter what the battle of King's Mountain contributed to the British entrapment in Yorktown, the siege of Yorktown still had to be won, and the rifle played LITTLE ROLE THERE.  Walter Millis's statement that "the Revolution was not, for the most part, a backwoods war" is true, and it is significant that the indices of the majority of works dealing the Revolution do not have entries under "rifle" or "rifleman."  

Page 12

"With the reputations of the riflemen already tarnished (due to their conduct after the siege of Boston) their sorry performance in the campaigns of New York and New Jersey certainly did not help their cause."

Page 13

"Daniel Morgan's corps at the battles of Saratoga played a key role.  This was done with a FIRM BACKING OF MUSKET'ARMED LIGHT INFANTRY WHICH MORGAN CONSIDERED INVALUABLE."

So even in the battle you quote most often, the ability to "melt back in the woods" was not as important as musket armed light infantry that kept the British Regulars in check so the riflemen could do their jobs.

Also Page 13

"Contrary to to the statement that King's Mountain was a hunting rifle victory, it was Patrick Ferguson's tactical failure that cost him the battle and his life  THERE IS NO INDICATION THAT THERE WAS A SUPERIORITY OF WEAPONS HELD BY EITHER SIDE."

Personally, I agree Ferguson managed to take up a bad position, but I suggest the author there discounts the fact that Ferguson's militia did have quite a few, if not mostly rifles.  This and the fact the battle was actually fought at rather close quarters in many cases leads to the conclusion there was no "superiority of weapons on either side."  

More page 13

"Credit for losing the battles and winning the war in the south must ultimately go to General Nathaniel Greene rather than the presence of riflemen in his forces."

"In summary, it must be concluded that the rifle and the rifleman were effective military tools ONLY when applied in a specialized manner.  Used in this way, the colonial rifleman may have affected the speed with which the war was concluded, but not the ultimate outcome of the conflict."

Now, for those who don't have a copy of the book, I want to state I deliberately left out the portions in these two pages where the author CORRECTLY praised the riflemen for what they accomplished.  I did this solely because I wasn't going to type two whole pages and these comments directly lead to the balancing of actual historic fact on the accomplishments and problems with the riflemen.

Thank you for including the comment on Pickett's charge as it goes to the point I made that linear tactics were outmoded during the War Between the States due to the range and faster loading speed of Minie' Ball rifle muskets in the hands of virtually all infantry on both sides.   However, it is a battle of a far different time period and technology rather than what was available in the 18th century.  

In the 18th century, linear tactics was the best use of large infantry forces in a major battle between large forces in a land battle that was not confined to woods warfare.  As a matter of fact, extremely well disciplined British forces in smaller and sometimes much smaller numbers than their enemies, used linear tactics to defeat much larger and less disciplined French forces (and sometimes highly disciplined forces like the failure of the charge of the French "Old Guard" at Waterloo) on the continent AND IN AMERICA in both the 18th and early 19th centuries.
« Last Edit: September 15, 2009, 01:04:27 AM by Artificer »

northmn

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #19 on: September 15, 2009, 05:06:41 PM »
When one starts talking about other tactics for the revolution, they forget that the British faced those tactics in the French and Indian wars.  Braddock's fiasco has been credited with demonstrating to the colonists ta ht the British could be defeated if those tactics were used.  However at (I think) Niagara Falls, Boutet used similar tactices to those used at Cowpens and had a portion of his command fake a retreat which the French and Indian forces followed up on.  The French forces got flanked and surrounded.  They very definitely proved that while the "Patriot" was an enjoyable movie, tomahawks were a very poor weapon against British regulars trained in the use of bayonets.  Canada became a British colony.
I think also that the perception is that they lined up and marched against each other, which was no more done than a quarterback always handing off to a running back in a football game.  Their maneuvering would be comparable to a football game.  They also learned from the F&I war.  Robert Rogers and his rangers also taught them a little about wilderness warfare.  Rogers is said to have lost a little favor in American history as he remained a loyalist and helped keep the American forces from getting Canada.
A good example of a special weapon use is the pump shotgun.  It was used in the Phillipines to stop Kriss wielding Moros, as a trench sweeper in WWI, probably WWII, on patrols in Viet Nam, and now in Iraq in urban warfare.  While a poor weapon to arm every trooper with, in its place it is very effective.

DP

Offline Artificer

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #20 on: September 15, 2009, 09:59:12 PM »
During the Seven Years war (known in North America as the French and Indian War) Montcalm foolishly decided to come out and fight at Quebec instead of holding his defensive positions, it was linear tactics that Wolfe and the British used to take Canada during the Battle of the Plains of Abraham.  

During that war and besides Roger's Rangers, the British also used the Scots as light infantry and shock troops.  During that war and the Revolutionary War, the use of "The Highland Drill" (which was really a kind of Light Infantry skirmishing procedure) was only allowed to the Highlanders.  All other main British Infantry (except Roger's Rangers and other fledgling Light Infantry of course) was forbidden to use such skirmishing tactics as the Scots knew how to do it and most of the rest of the British Line did not.  The Highland Drill was particularly forbidden to standard British line units, except Light Infantry, during the Revolution.

Though I'm just a bit tempted to say American Riflemen during the Revolutionary War were somewhat akin to the 1st US Sharpshooters during the War Between the States, I don't believe that is a good comparison as they fought as disciplined battle units in the line of battle as well as sharpshooting duty - more like Light Infantry.  I think a more accurate comparison would be to the individual sharpshooters (today we call them snipers) employed by both the North and the South who used special target and Whitworth rifles during the Civil War.

When Bolt Action Model 1903A4's with scopes were issued to the best marksmen in many companies during WWII, that is also a close comparison to how American Riflemen served during the Revolution.   In more recent times, we made the Designated Marksman's Rifles for the Corps, those  along with the M25 used by the Army and Navy Seals - are used much the same as American Riflemen were used during the Revolution.  
 
It can also be suggested that the British Snipers of WWI and our own snipers of WWII, Korea and Viet Nam through now, are a development of how riflemen were used during the Revolution - though there are some real differences.
« Last Edit: September 15, 2009, 10:01:00 PM by Artificer »

northmn

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #21 on: September 16, 2009, 06:58:02 PM »
To say that Morgan's riflemen "won" Saratoga might be a stretch.  In the book I Had on Revolutionary war battles, the battles we won were those where we outnumbered the British.  Burgoyne at Saratoga was outnumbered.  He was not trying to hold or take a position, as much as he was trying to get the heck out of there to rejoin other British forces.  According to Bailey in his book on British military arms, Burgoyne was exonerated of his defeat at Saratoga and given another command.  Also comparing a longrifle to either a civil war rifled musket or especially a German Mauser loaded with stripper clips merely shows technology changes.  Both rifles could be loaded far faster than a longrifle, they also had machine guns during WWI and Picket lost a lot to artillery.
Another consideration is that the Revolution also may have proved the longrifle unsatisfactory as a military rifle.  The allusion the British officer made to its unreliability under certain conditions is one.  Also consider that they are comparatively fragile compared to a military weapon.  The Germans had a version of a Jaeger that was a military arm, and the Baker rifle was used against Napoleon.  I had a Brown Bess replica, and the one thing that impressed me about it was that it would fire almost as reliably as a percussion and with very little fussing.  Any of us that have shot and hunted with longrifles know that it takes a certain amount of care.  Muskets and rifles like the Baker were designed for more sustained fire as likely the German rifles.  Wooden ramrods alone were long since dropped in military arms.

DP

northmn

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #22 on: September 18, 2009, 12:25:47 AM »
As a note.  Burgoyne surrended 5,700 men to a force of nearly 20,000.

DP

Offline Dphariss

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #23 on: September 20, 2009, 02:10:14 AM »
As a note.  Burgoyne surrended 5,700 men to a force of nearly 20,000.

DP

I don't think the fight was that lopsided at the onset.
The Patriot forces continued to increase until Burgoyne surrendered.
Nor does this minimize the effect Morgan had on the British.
Dan
He who dares not offend cannot be honest. Thomas Paine

northmn

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #24 on: September 20, 2009, 01:55:30 PM »
I reread parts of the book Decisive Battles of the Revolutionary War. Lt Colonel Joseph P Mitchell.  Saratoga started out with an estimated 11,000 patriots and about 6000 British.  The patriot side did grow.  Washington was plagued by incompetent generals about as bad a Lincoln was.  Gates was the top General at Saratoga and a complete waste and could have won the battle earlier had he reinforced Arnold.  Benedict Arnold saved the battle by ignoring Gates and taking responsibility for his own tactics.  Morgan turned out to be an excellent leader in his own right.  He had riflemen and he knew how to use them.  His riflemen did pursue a British unit they shot up at Saratoga and got themselves into a little trouble because their pursuit led them into the main army.  Some say the Grenadiers, but the riflemen were outnumbered.  Saratoga also was mentioned as having more forested areas where riflemen could function better.   One contribution A rifleman made was when Morgan directed Tim Murphy to shoot Fraser when he was rallying his troops.   Another book I had also described Burgoyne's situation as desperate and the fact that he was low on supplies, had horses die of starvation and that his men were pretty weary.  Nor did his expected support show.  As Artificer stated, riflemen needed the support of infantry.  Also when you state that Morgan had an effect on the British, he did, but as an able commander.  Had it not been for his competency and Arnold's, Burgoyne may have broken through and escaped.  Gates would not have been able to stop him.  Burgoyne had dug himself in by felling trees, digging trenches and building redoubts.  Had he not been so desperate he could have held off much longer.  How many picture the British as doing this? 

DP