Author Topic: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)  (Read 33219 times)

Daryl

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #50 on: September 26, 2009, 06:54:31 PM »
Further to what Dan was noting,  and according to "Firearms of the American West" - the paper ctg. for the French Designed .69 cal. muskets the US used, contained 165gr. of 'powder' and a .64" ball, prior to about 1820. Some time around then the ctg.'s powder charge was reduced to 135gr., which included prime. Also of note, is they thought they were getting 1,700fps and with the reduced charge, felt the improvment in powder gave them the same speed with the reduced amount.

As Dan's 16 bore 'uses' a normal hunting charge of 140-150gr., my own 14 bore does it's best at long range with 140 to 165gr.  140gr.2F gives me a zero at 200yards, while 165gr. 2Fgives a zero of 200 meters, about 220yards, using the second leaf, of course.

If these charges seem a mite 'high' to you, realize that for a given velocity, the pressure with same granulation is about the same, regardless of the calibre.  So- if you are getting 1,800fps in your .50 (and probably are with about 115gr. 2F) you are running considerably higher pressures than either Dan or I are producing with our much heavier charges. My velocity with 165gr. is only 1,550fps, equivalent to about a 85gr. or 90 charge in a .54.

Offline Artificer

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #51 on: September 26, 2009, 10:15:34 PM »
The service load for the Americans circa 1800 or so was 140-150 grains of powder IIRC. This was reduced to about 120 as the powder quality improved in the early 19th century.  Hanger speaks of shooting an American rifle with one-half ball weight of powder. 1/2 ball weight of any fairly well made powder will give sufficient velocity to kill or incapacitate a man at 300 yards and beyond. 1/2 ball weight is a practical max load today for calibers under 58 or so.
See
http://americanlongrifles.org/forum/index.php?topic=250.0

I used the 50 caliber for this test since its the caliber most likely to have been used *IMO*, others may disagree. But in any case if a 50 will do it a 54 etc would do it that much easier.

OK, I want to make sure I understand what you have written.  If we go by what Hanger said as to shooting 1/2 ball weight as to the amount of powder, then 1/2 of a 495 grain 50 caliber ball would be 247 grains of powder as the correct powder charge as written by Hanger?  Or do you mean 1/2 the volume of the ball?  I'm sorry, I'm not sure I understand.

It also seems we are back to talking about .50 to .56 caliber rifles used in the revolution as opposed to an average bore size of .45 cal., or am I missing something?

Offline T*O*F

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #52 on: September 26, 2009, 10:32:29 PM »
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OK, I want to make sure I understand what you have written.

What you don't understand is that a .50 cal roundball doesn't weigh 495 grains.
It's throwing your calculations off.
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Offline Larry Pletcher

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #53 on: September 26, 2009, 10:33:33 PM »
Depending on the diameter, a .50 cal ball would be closer to 178-180 grains in weight.  That would make the ratio 85- 90 grains of powder, if I have been following the discussion correctly.   BTW I have enjoyed this discussion.  

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Offline Artificer

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #54 on: September 26, 2009, 10:48:26 PM »
Quote
OK, I want to make sure I understand what you have written.

What you don't understand is that a .50 cal roundball doesn't weigh 495 grains.
It's throwing your calculations off.

Thank you.  I mistook what Dan wrote from the link:

"But anyway I fired 5 shots at 295 yards (laser) today and a "bad guy" target I buy at the local gunshop with 495 RB and 80 gr volume of FFFG Swiss."

A 495 RB wasn't the weight, but rather the "model" of the RB, eh?

Offline Artificer

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #55 on: September 26, 2009, 10:54:21 PM »
Depending on the diameter, a .50 cal ball would be closer to 178-180 grains in weight.  That would make the ratio 85- 90 grains of powder, if I have been following the discussion correctly.   BTW I have enjoyed this discussion.  

Regards,
Pletch

Thanks, for clearing that up Pletch.  

So it would seem that the amount of powder used by the riflemen was roughly half that used by the muskets in the Revolution, if I'm following correctly?

Modified after re-reading the posts above.  Dan wrote: "The service load for the Americans circa 1800 or so was 140-150 grains of powder IIRC"  That would mean about 120 Grains in the barrel for a musket vs 85 to 90 grains in the barrel for an American Rifle.  So the ratio of powder used by the musket vs the rifle would be roughly 4 to 3.  So it seems the powder requirements of rifles was notably, but not hugely different than the muskets.  That means the riflemen would have required a good bit of powder to fight a battle as well.

OK, I understand the 18th century riflemen used finer powder, but wasn't it still basically the same powder except that it was ground finer?  And if that's true and since the 18th century powder was of lower quality, wouldn't a charge of 85 to 90 grains be closer to a "target" load than a long range load?
« Last Edit: September 27, 2009, 12:01:27 AM by Artificer »

Offline Artificer

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #56 on: September 26, 2009, 11:51:58 PM »
I KNEW I had read somewhere that the British forces had developed an effective tactic against American Riflemen, but I just could not put my finger on it for quite a while.  I ran across an article that turned the light bulb on, though I still don't remember exactly where I had read it first (and it was years before this article was written).

The author "Chris Geist' is not just an interpreter at Colonial Williamsburg, he is Doctor Christopher Geist, a professor emeritus at Ohio's Bowling Green State University

"Even so, both sides used companies of riflemen as skirmishers sent forward to engage the enemy in advance of the bulk of the force. One or two such companies often were attached to each regiment. They proved effective as light infantry, companies with speed and mobility, carrying little equipment and used for scouting and rapid deployment over great distances. Virginiaís Daniel Morgan led such a rifle company to good effect at Saratoga. Early in the war, Morganís unit became known for traversing great distances quickly.

Still, such units (i.e. American rifle armed units acting as light infantry) played a small role in the development of the war. Opposing commanders hit upon an effective countermeasure when facing a rifle company. When Morganís riflemen approached Colonel Robert Abercrombyís British regulars on the field, Abercromby commanded his troops to charge the colonials with bayonets. Not a quarter of Morganís men had time to fire, and none of those to reload. Morganís unit fled in disarray."

http://history.org/Foundation/journal/Winter08/tactics.cfm

 

J.D.

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #57 on: September 27, 2009, 01:55:20 AM »

Still, such units (i.e. American rifle armed units acting as light infantry) played a small role in the development of the war. Opposing commanders hit upon an effective countermeasure when facing a rifle company. When Morganís riflemen approached Colonel Robert Abercrombyís British regulars on the field, Abercromby commanded his troops to charge the colonials with bayonets. Not a quarter of Morganís men had time to fire, and none of those to reload. Morganís unit fled in disarray."

http://history.org/Foundation/journal/Winter08/tactics.cfm

Braddock's troops used the same tactic of charging NDN "formations" in an attempt to drive them off. The NDN's melted away, to reform and press the attack, once the Brits returned to their original position. I would assume that Morgan's riflemen did the same.

God bless

Offline Dphariss

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #58 on: September 27, 2009, 03:02:04 AM »
Again it comes from higher command wanting the riflemen get out on the field and fight like they had muskets.
Or so it would appear from the description.
 
This never worked. I am sure Morgan knew it was a waste of time when he started the operation in question but we have nothing from Morgans point of view nor do we know what Morgans orders were at the time.

We have no real idea what really took place and how many times this was done and how effective it really was overall. Hanger gives the same account and states they chased Morgans men for miles which I think is wishful thinking on Hangers and the British in generals part. I can't see British regulars chasing people like Morgans for miles unless they were is VERY open country. Are we to believe there were not other Americans in the area? It seems that the British were far closer to the Americans than they should have been allowed.

So far as Dearborn and Morgan at Saratoga. Everyone just loves to point out that Morgan would have been less effective without Dearborn. I woudl point out this works both ways. Does it not occur to anyone that Dearborn might have been less effective WITHOUT MORGAN? Morgan and Dearborn worked very well together but it appears that American high command never bothered to adopt this strategy. They kept trying to use the riflemen like they had muskets. Yet the rifle gets blamed because it was not used to best effect.
This has been done REPEATEDLY though history. The way the P-38 was used in europe (for example) was different than in the Pacific. America's highest scoring ace was a p-38 pilot fighting the more maneuverable Japanese while in Europe the P-38 was considered a poor fighter. YOU figure it out.

There was a lot of propaganda on both sides concerning the rifle if you do some reading. The Americans and some British telling British officers to get their affairs in order before sailing to America implying they were not coming back. The same was done by the Americans. Then the British discounted the rifle scoffing at its effectiveness, even as their officers/senior NCOs had to remove their badges of rank and regalia to increase their life expectancy. Them darned ineffective, useless riflemen anyway.

The British LOVED to charge with the bayonet many times it worked no matter who was facing them.

Listening to the discourse here I wonder how in creation we managed to defeat them in the end.
In attempting to discredit the rifle some here are making excuses for the British for Pete's sake. (?)
They were hot, they were not rested, they were surprised ect ect. It is not the American's fault  the British officers were too !@*%&@ dumb to keep their troops fit. We were supposed to let them win since it would be unfair to fight a force that is partly disabled from the heat or surprised or asleep or could not shoot accurately to 200 yards?

Frankly this upsets me.  I KNOW the rifle had problems in certain tactical situations, any fool does.
But to start discounting their accomplishments by stating the fight they won was not big enough, the British were tired etc. etc. is grasping for straws. It don't matter how you win the battle so long as the other guy LOSES and your casualties are as low as possible. Don't matter if he is out numbered, out generalled, hungry, lost, tired or is at some tactical disadvantage. Winning is what matters. Considering who we were fighting ANY victory was significant since they were the premier army on the planet at the time.

[portions of this post have been edited/deleted to avoid "offending" anyone]

Dan
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Offline Artificer

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #59 on: September 27, 2009, 11:03:52 AM »
No one has to "attempt to discredit" the American Rifle or Rifleman.  Stating historical facts is not "attempting to discredit" anyone. 

Riflemen were used by both sides from the earliest battles of the Revolution as specialized supporting arms.  When they were used correctly with the proper light infantry or other support,  they added to the effective combat power of either side.   When they were used as scouts, they most likely were more valuable to most battles, though harassing fire also contributed.  But harassing fire and retreating, rarely wins battles and usually doesn't win wars.  It would not have won the Revolutionary War.

The physical condition of opposing forces always is a key element to any battles.  Heck, we Americans lost battles because our troops were tired, malnourished, under supplied, etc. 

There was a rifle that would have made an immeasurable impact on the Revolutionary War, but it was not in the hands of an American.  Major Ferguson had Washington dead in his sights and well within range, but CHOSE not to shoot him down.   Had Major Ferguson fired that shot, we well might have been a British Commonwealth for many more decades and perhaps up to present times much as was the history of Canada.

Had an American Rifleman taken out Cornwallis, it would have also had an immeasurable impact on the war.   But that didn't happen either.

I must admit I've never completely understood why American Riflemen were not used at Yorktown.  Accurate sniping may have led to Cornwallis' surrender sooner.  But that didn't happen, either.   Even so, Cornwallis would have to and did have to surrender because Cornwallis' superiors would not send a relief force and the French Admiral De Grasse cut him off from any hope of escape by sea.  One of the two final redoubts that were taken and actually brought Cornwallis' hopes dashing down to an end was when the French carried one redoubt and the Americans carried the other redoubt at night with muskets and bayonets with almost no shots fired.

However, if we don't learn from the lessons of history or romanticize it too much, we are doomed to repeat it.   We didn't learn the lessons of the riflemen nearly as well as the British did after the Revolutionary War.  They set up and used a very effective Rifle Corps in the battles against Napolean.  However, those were disciplined and well trained troops.  Our Rifle Corps of the same period made no where near the same impact and it wasn't just because "no one used them properly." 

One of the most important things we learned from 18th century warfare is from Roger's Rangers' Rules or Plan of Discipline.   21st century American Rangers and other forces STILL find much useful information in them. 

As to people fighting and then melting away to fight again winning wars in the 20th century.  I'm not sure what wars you have meant.  It surely wasn't Viet Nam.  Political leaders kept us from winning that war and we certainly didn't fight it like we meant to win it in a strategic sense.  Even as poorly as they allowed us to fight it, General Giap admitted before he passed away that he could not believe we gave up.  They could only have gone on for three months with some ability and 6 months at the very outset holding on with just their finger tips when they would have had to sue for peace and we would have had a similar situation as we did in North and South Korea.  There are some things about Viet Nam that are similar to the American Revolution, but there are so many different things about it that it is just not that similar of a war.  And the proof of that pudding was when General Schwartzkopf, who had done two tours in Viet Nam, REFUSED to fight that kind of politcal war and fought a REAL war in the first Gulf War.

northmn

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #60 on: September 27, 2009, 12:06:31 PM »
Saratoga is still being discussed as it seems that it is where the riflemen are considered as making the greatest difference.  Those looking at Morgan's riflemen at Saratoga is taking a snapshot and making it into a slideshow.  Saratoga was a campaign in which Gentleman Johnny went to England and seduced the powers that be into approving.  He went into Canada and took Fort Ticondoroga and was supposed to meet up with other British forces in Albany.  He ran into many of the usual problems the British ran into in the true Wilderness areas.  Primarily what defeated Burgoyne was his inability to attain adequate supplies.  He also had German, Tory and Native troops,.  At the battle of Bennington John Stark led a group of militia and defeated Baum, who was on a foraging mission.   No supplies and the loss of Tory and Native support.  The Americans had 2000 men the British forces 800.  It rained on one day so that neither side offered battle.   A young lady, Jane McCrea, engaged to a British officer was also killed and scalped by a band of marauding Indians which is said to have given the Patriot cause fuel for propoganda and had the effect of  vastly increasing the number of volunteers.  General Schuyler was also responsible for a scorched earth campaign in which the farmers in Burgoyne's path moved their livestock and burned crops to prevent him from getting supplies.
By the time he reached the Saratoga battle sites his troops were on half rations, some of his horses were dieing of starvation and he was outnumbered almost 2-1.
Gates replaced Schuyler as he was blamed for the loss of Ticondoroga.  Gates was an adept politician that got his postion through political manipulating but a horrible General.  Had Gates given Arnold the reinforcements he needed at the first battle of Freeman's Farm the battles could have been  over had Gates supported Arnold with requested reinforcements.  The defeat of Burgoyne is unanimously credited with Arnold's decision to do what needed to be done in the face of possible court martial.   This has been taken from the book by Mitchell.

DP

northmn

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #61 on: September 27, 2009, 12:22:39 PM »
As I have trouble with typing long winded posts due to site issues, I will continue.  Mitchell also mentioned that the Saratoga battle sites were ideal for riflemen as they were more wooded and that the roads were more like trails.  for the riflement to fire and retreat a certain amount of cover seemed to be needed which was likely not available in the more settled civilized regions.  The riflemen at Saratoga had a unique chance to distinguish themselves due to terrain and the fact that Burgoynes men were wore down, and the fact that he was then fighting a very defensive campaign.  Burgoyne's plan called for a three pronged attack by British forces.  The other Generals did not give him the support he was supposed to get (one can postulate that it may have been due to politics as Burgoyne went behind his superiors backs to get blessings for his plan in England)  The battles at Saratoga lasted for several days.  Had the Americans faced a well supplied British army, led by Burgoyne, of equal numbers, the odds would have been that the battles would have lasted a day or two with the British as victors.  Saratoga was a political victory in that the French joined our cause and the British were finally defeated in a battle.  But it was the result of many factors. 

DP

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #62 on: September 27, 2009, 12:32:40 PM »
Well said, Northmn

northmn

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #63 on: September 27, 2009, 12:43:22 PM »
Still having some technical problems. I mentioned the Zulu wars because the use of bayonets as a practical weapon were discussed.  I mentioned the Zulu because they demonstrated that stabbing weapons could be used to effect beyond the Revolution (also that the British could really screw up when they got too arrogant on their part and held the enemy in too much contempt).  As to keeping things on track, part of the reason for the tactics used in the Revolution was due to flintlock technology.  Battles would not be fought in the rain due to the rain causing misfires.  What we can do on the target range to keep flintlocks from misfiring and under battle conditions are also two different issues.  Military rifles developed in the early 1800's, Bakers for the English and the Harpers Ferry for the Americans, were made with single triggers, heavier short barrels and large locks.  They were not as accurate as longrifles but were designed to be more reliable and durable under battle conditions.  My repo Bess was a very reliable flintlock but still was no percussion.  That technology made the use of bayonets more practical as even when reloaded some of the flintlocks would not fire.  Longrifles were more tempermental.  The true woodsmen of the time, living in the wilderness had enough problems on the homefront with British native allies to be able to contribute in the larger battles.   Dan's tactics may not have been used as the riflemen and the talent to do so in sufficient numbers to make them practical did not exist.  Morgan recruited his riflemen from three colonies and only had 500.  Stark was able to get 2000 militia to face Braum from more local talent. 11000 rifles at Saratoga would likely have been very effective, but they only had 500.  A large number of recruits were Young men that did not own guns.  Rifles were expensive and muskets more affordable for an army to purchase and issue.

DP

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #64 on: September 27, 2009, 01:06:42 PM »
11000 rifles at Saratoga would likely have been very effective, but they only had 500.  DP

Good point.  Had the British had 6,000 Ferguson Rifles at Saratoga, the outcome of the battle might also have been very different or at least they may have been able to shoot their way out and get away.

northmn

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #65 on: September 27, 2009, 01:11:34 PM »
Final footnote.  Benedict Arnold's name is synomous with the word traiter.  His performance at Saratoga and in another aspect fo teh campaign showed that he was a very able officer.  His obvious compentency made him an enemy of Gates, a very able politican who was appointed by the Continental Congress. Gates became the "Hero of Saratoga" while Arnold was given little credit, some critisism, and received no rewards.  This had to rankle after time.  Arnold joined the British cause and defeated the Americans in a couple of battles.  Gates went on to show his talents by losing a major battle and getting booted out of command.

DP

Offline Dphariss

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #66 on: September 27, 2009, 06:17:03 PM »
No one has to "attempt to discredit" the American Rifle or Rifleman.  Stating historical facts is not "attempting to discredit" anyone. 
<snip>
I will try this one more time though its like beating a dead horse....

When the accomplishments of the units in the American army are denigrated and scoffed at so people can hang on to their personal opinions its "discrediting". Just because the enemy screws up is no reason to assume the Americans did not do their job or were not capable of winning otherwise and THAT is what I see when I hear apologists for the British here citing "facts". Morgan pulled off a masterful victory at Cowpens but apparently some here only see it as mismanagement by Tarleton "giving" the victory to Morgan. Bullsh*t. The King's Mountain victors were irrelevant since they went home afterwards. Bullsh*t. How else am I supposed to see this?
As I tried to point out previous. We have little in the way of writings of the various rifle commanders during the war. All we here is the British side and some American generals whining that they don't have bayonets and muskets. We have VERY little in regard to how THEY saw the war. How THEY conducted operations. What orders THEY were actually given and how THEY saw the use of their units as good or bad. So our view is distorted.
As a result we have very little, that I know of, from the rifleman's point of view or more importantly from commanders like Morgan (who at one point recommended that regulars be positioned behind the militia to shoot them if the ran BTW).  So we have only the British to tell us what occurred when Hanger reports that they chased Morgan's men for miles. Never mind Hanger was writing this 30 years later and was not there that I know of. Could it be he was just inflating the accomplishment of the light infantry?

When I point out that rifle units fighting as rifle units won 74% of their engagements and people scoff at it because the battles were not big enough in their opinion or did not matter etc etc. This denigrating. You can dance around it all you want but when you cut through all the $#@* thats what it is. I have actually participated in what is now called in the unit history  "battles". I did not see them that way at the time but thats what it says in what little got written down about my unit. Was it like "Private Ryan" on D-Day or Shiloh or even Cowpens? No, but in the incident I have in mind we "drove the enemy from the field" after a little see-sawing and they went back to North VN. The plan for a major assault on our little base on the hill a couple of clicks away was countered and fewer Americans died than might have otherwise. How did we find out they were there. IIRC P co, 75th Rangers got some intel by killing someone with papers on him, by doing basically what Morgan's men did at Saratoga. See how this works folks?
Does this make it less hazardous to the individual since 4000-10000 men did not get shot? No. Does this make people less brave or capable? No. Do the dead and wounded spring from the ground unharmed when the battle is over? No. Dead is dead no matter if one man is killed by friendly fire or 1000 are killed my enemy machineguns, still dead. It takes just as much guts for 10 men to stand in the face of enemy fire as 1000. But some here don't seem to see it that way. It has to be big and important to matter.
THIS is what burns my a** about this discussion.
War is a cumulative thing. The British, at least some of them it seems, thought the "small" battle at King's Mountain was a serious blow. It took an effective unit from the Crowns forces. We have no idea what might have transpired later had they not been taken out.


As to people fighting and then melting away to fight again winning wars in the 20th century.  I'm not sure what wars you have meant.  It surely wasn't Viet Nam.  Political leaders kept us from winning that war and we certainly didn't fight it like we meant to win it in a strategic sense.  Even as poorly as they allowed us to fight it, General Giap admitted before he passed away that he could not believe we gave up.  They could only have gone on for three months with some ability and 6 months at the very outset holding on with just their finger tips when they would have had to sue for peace and we would have had a similar situation as we did in North and South Korea.  There are some things about Viet Nam that are similar to the American Revolution, but there are so many different things about it that it is just not that similar of a war.  And the proof of that pudding was when General Schwartzkopf, who had done two tours in Viet Nam, REFUSED to fight that kind of political war and fought a REAL war in the first Gulf War.



Bush 1 and Powell pulled the reins tight on Stormin' Norman before he was done and he subsequently resigned. They thought that we were  killing too many of the enemy and it made us look bad... Much like VN.

I need little lecturing on the war in VN. We won the war during Tet 68 and Walter Chronkite who masses of  Americans trusted far more than they should have called it a major set back or some such on TV and people actually believed him. This reporting was a major morale builder for the Communists when they were really defeated. Nothing they expected from Tet 68 took place. They failed miserably and their forces were virtually wiped out over large parts of SVN then Chronkite tells them THEY won.

So when I read something written in a book 30 years later by a British officer that some British infantry unit chased Morgans Riflemen for miles over the countryside forgive me if I am somewhat skeptical. 

While Hanger is apparently a pretty good source in this case I frankly see it as bullsh*t. Since I just cannot see it happening for "miles".  Its not as though they were pursuing them down an interstate highway right of way after all.
If the British pursued them eventually it would be reduced to one on one or the British unit pursuing just a few riflemen as they filtered away as they did a Saratoga. My question would be "how did the British light infantry get back?" Its silly yet people like to point to this as a failing of the riflemen. In reality, from what I see from the BRITISH description, it was a failure to use the unit as it should have been used. They were attempting, once again, to use a formula one car as farm tractor.

I see no point is continuing this debate.

Dan
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Offline T*O*F

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #67 on: September 27, 2009, 06:38:34 PM »
Quote
Listening to the discourse here I wonder how in creation we managed to defeat them in the end.

I am not going to become embroiled in this thread, except to say that we did not "defeat" the British.  In the midst of their world domination, their resources were spread to thin and they chose to concentrate them elsewhere.  Fighting any indigenous force who uses guerilla tactics rather than conventional warfare of the time requires a much greater concentration of men and resources.  They already had Canada and chose not to actively pursue the US colonies.

Many of the battles we won were only as a result of our blind luck and poor judgment on the part of the British commanders.  We tend to overagrandize our capabilities in that war.
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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #68 on: September 27, 2009, 10:28:48 PM »
The romanticized myth that we "defeated" the British during that war continues on in many minds today.  That's a big part of the problem with any "lessons learned" or accurate historical accounting of the period.

When we accurately speak about what forces actually did, it's not denigration of what the individual Soldiers, Sailors and Marines did in the Revolutionary War.

Most of those who fought at Breed's Hill (AKA Bunker Hill) were absolute rank amateurs.  They knew that and still they faced and fought arguably the finest infantry in the world at that time.   What is amazing is that many of them didn't break and run until the British were in the midst of them slaughtering them with bayonets.   But the depth of their and other Amercan forces' courage and sacrifice in later battles did not stop there. 

Were the Americans any less courageous or self sacrificing when they lost battles and skirmishes?  Obviously not.  It actually takes more courage, self sacrifice and belief in the cause to willingly keep coming back after defeat after defeat.  Time and again the British handed large and small defeats to the Americans in later battles.  But STILL the Americans kept coming back and that includes all our forces. 

I would submit this is one of, if not the most important thing we take from the Revolutionary War.  The Americans Patriots did not give up until they wore down the British forces enough that is was no longer worth it to keep fighting here, when the British had bigger fish to fry elsewhere.

northmn

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #69 on: September 28, 2009, 01:20:50 AM »
I don't know who down played Cowpens.  Mitchell described it as genius on the part of Morgan.  There were about 1100 men on each side and Morgan won.  He was the better commander.  Tarleton did wake his men up too early and tired them out, but that in itself is a command error.  Morgan played him like a fine violin and sucked his forces into a nice little trap.  It was also Morgan's last battle as he suffered from "ague and rheumatism" and retired.  Cowpens was described as one of the few victories where the battle went exactly to plan.
It is said that we are measured by our enemies.  The British had the best army in the world and we stood up to them and won our independence.  Also the British were excellent teachers, as our commanders learned from their defeats.  We also had political problems which had to be resolved.  Generals like Gates and Charles Lee had to be removed, at the cost of losses.  Generals like Greene and Morgan started to appear to make things tougher for the British.  We won our independence by one vote in Parliament.  It just became too costly to keep us and would have required sending fresh forces across the Atlantic.  In the War of 1812 they decided to give us a drubbing for declaring war on them.  We really did not win that one either.  Maintaining a Colony costs.  You have to govern and maintain protection.  I kind of wonder if trade agreements weren't made by merchants before the ink on the papers of independence was dry.
We did not win our independence by hiding behind rocks and trees and shooting a stupid enemy with squirrel rifles like I used to be taught.

DP

Offline Artificer

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #70 on: September 28, 2009, 07:42:21 AM »
Found another reference where the British bayonets routed the American Riflemen.  I'm pretty sure this was the first time I read of it back in the early 1970's.

At the Battle of Princeton (3 January, 1777), which was another American victory shortly after Trenton and was the final battle that forced the British to retreat from New Jersey..............

The action in the battle where the American Riflemen fled from a British Bayonet Charge was when American General Mercer's men and British Lt. Col Mahwood's 40th Foot came into contact.  This action should go down in the record books as having more ways to describe how the battle was joined than most other actions of the war.  Some of this is normal with accounts of any action, but the plethora of differing reports probably were also as a result that American General Mercer was killed during this action and he was held in high esteem at the time.   His loss was a heavy blow to American morale.

Where the accounts agree, it is that both opposing elements were sent out as "forced reconnaissance" to find where the opposing forces were at and give battle.  Some accounts suggest the Americans surprised the British, some accounts suggest the Americans were already at the Orchard when the British started to come up, some accounts suggest it was a race between both forces to gain the orchard that was of tactical importance, British accounts admit Col. Mahwood at first thought the Americans were Hessian forces as his forces, the 40th Foot, were coming up. 

The following is a fairly accurate account of what happened next, though:

"Mawhood ordered his light troops to delay Mercer, while he brought up the other detachments.[21] Mercer was walking through William Clark's orchard when the British light troops appeared. The British light troops' volley went high which gave time for Mercer to wheel his troops around into battle line. (I.E., the British Light troops had fired a volley and when they jerked the triggers to fire a "neat" volley, shooting high and hitting no one was often the result when not shooting at large, linear formations.)  Mercer's troops advanced, pushing back the British light troops.[22] The Americans took up a position behind a fence at the upper end of the orchard. However, Mawhood had brought up his troops and his artillery.[22] The American gunners opened fire first and for about ten minutes, the outnumbered American infantry exchanged fire with the British. However, many of the Americans had rifles which took longer to load than muskets.[23] Mawhood ordered a bayonet charge and because many of the Americans had rifles, which could not be equipped with bayonets, they were overrun.[24] Both of the Americans cannon were captured, and the British turned them on the fleeing troops.[23] Mercer was surrounded by British soldiers and they shouted at him "Surrender you @!*% rebel!". The British, thinking they had caught Washington, bayoneted him, smashed his head with a musket, and then left him for dead.[23] Mercer's second in command, Colonel John Haslet, was shot through the head and killed.[25]"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Princeton

What is interesting about the accounts is that we get an even better picture of this action from the British reports.   They report this action was primarily at about 50 yards between forces and they mention that only about 20 of the Americans had muskets with bayonets. 

Now, 50 yards between forces was not how the American riflemen hoped to fight any battle as that was a distance where the musket and bayonet were more deadly.  What this does show, is that battles often happened at closer ranges when opposing forces "sort of bumped into each other" where the British could quickly close with the bayonet.   It was actions like this, where the British Infantry learned not to be any more scared of American Riflemen than other elements in a battle. 

What VERY few people know and even most Marines don't know is that a full Battalion of American Marines fought in this battle.  There were only two Battalions of Marines authorized by Congress to be raised on 10 November 1775, so this was a major portion of the Continental Marines' strength at this time.  The Battalion of Marines had been ordered to reinforce Washington too late to arrive and fight at Trenton, but they arrived in time to fight in this battle.   After this battle, Washington never "gave the Marines back to the Navy" and used them both as Infantry and especially in the Artillery.  They were never again mentioned as being "Marines," so we know almost nothing about what they did in the land battles afterwards.  This because we can't separate them from the forces they were attached to.  They never again fought as a separate combat unit known as "Continental Marines."   

northmn

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #71 on: September 28, 2009, 12:49:55 PM »
Another profile of Burgoyne.  When he took Ft. Ticonderoga the Americans occupied two high points, Mt. Hope and Mt. Independence.  Another high point sugar Loaf or MT Defiance was unoccupied as being considered inaccessable.  Burgoyne did not feel it was and made a statement that "anywhere a goat can go a man can go and if a man can go he can take a gun with him" (Artillery pieces) He sent his second, major General John Phillips out and Phillips proceeded to do just that.  American General Arthur St. Clair on seeing that accomplishment evacuated the area as it was now indefensible.  He had about 3000 men and Burgoyne over 7000 and no longer commanded the higest ground.  Burgoyne the "playwrite" general was bombastic, considered ahead of his time and well liked by his men as he did show more concern for them than the average general and wanted his officers better formally trained than other generals and proved very capable.
One other point I tried to make was that this was a time of flintlock/roundball technology.  Technology controls tactics, period. As stated rifles were slower to reload.  They were personal arms not military arms.  They were smaller caliber.  Where rifles of the flintlock round ball period seemed to shine is in barricaded situations such as behind the cotton bales at the Battle of New Orleans or like the Alamo.  I looked that up and the Americans had 182 -250 casualties depending on the source.  The Mexican Army 400-600. 

DP
« Last Edit: September 28, 2009, 03:52:51 PM by northmn »

Daryl

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #72 on: September 28, 2009, 05:33:02 PM »
Good points, TOF.

northmn

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #73 on: September 28, 2009, 06:36:37 PM »
One could really start a new thread about the military rifles.  The Harpers Ferry rifle was ordered developed because they felt that a shorter barrel fouled less.  It was similar to other military rifles of the day.  The Baker Rifle the English developed was essentially a spin off from the Jaeger.  The British employed the Baker predominately like Artificer stated, as a special purpose weapon.  An individual named Plunket is said to have made a couple of very long shots with the rifle in the Napoleaonic wars.  The Baker also was equipped with a device to lock in a 24 inch sword bayonet.   As near as I can determine the Harpers Ferry rifle was used in the West by military units.  Technology detertmines tactics.  The development of the minnie ball gave the rifle the same rate of fire as the musket, but as we found out in the Civil War, the tactics had to change as the rifled muskets also eliminated Euopeon linear musket tactics used in the Napoleonic wars and as indoctrinated into our American officers.  The rifle before this was a special purpose weapon, it now came into its own.  The Springfield 58 caliber infantry rifle looks suspiciously a lot like our flintlock 69 smoothbore. 

DP


J.D.

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #74 on: September 28, 2009, 07:06:17 PM »
I have noticed that several people keep repeating that slow loading of the rifle was a determent to its use in close combat. I seem to remember seeing documentation that certainly suggests that Morgans riflemen had cartridges available to them, but don't remember the source, or where my material might be.

There is also the use of "bare ball" in speed loading. While haven't seen any documentation on bare balling rifles during the AWI, I'm sure that riflemen were astute enough to recognize that a bare ball, in a rifle, was as fast to load and as accurate as musket fire, at normal musket ranges.

From my personal experience, bare balls loaded in a rifle will strike a man sized target, and smaller, at musket range, of 50-75 yards, as surely as any musket. 

God bless
J.D.