Author Topic: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)  (Read 32568 times)

Offline Artificer

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #75 on: September 28, 2009, 07:51:30 PM »
That's a fair point, JD.  I've also read in a couple of sources how the riflemen would put one ball each between their fingers at the base of the fingers from the first finger to their "pinky" finger.  That gave them three balls they could quickly reload. It was suggested some of the riflemen had permanent creases in their non shooting hand from carrying balls there so often.  I'm not sure how accurate or how widespread those accounts are, but again people back then weren't stupid and it is something that surely could work with balls of say .50 cal. or so, but if the balls got much larger it would have been difficult to hold them like that.  I think that would go along with using a bare ball at short range.

At very short range, I wonder if the riflemen wouldn't also just pour powder from their horns directly into the muzzle of the rifle and by guess and by golly a charge of powder.  There is the danger that the horn of powder could be set off, so if they did that, I think it would have been in more of an emergency situation at close range. I know it could have been done, but don't know how much it was done.

'Course the dstraction of the loading process caused by disciplined soldiers charging at you with bayonets while you try to reload is not to be discounted.  

« Last Edit: September 28, 2009, 09:28:00 PM by Artificer »

Offline Dr. Tim-Boone

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #76 on: September 29, 2009, 01:19:34 AM »
I think that many of the wins and losses had more to do with failures of leadership on one or the other side than with whether or not rifles were being used...without Benedict Arnold the battle of Saratoga may have had a very different outcome.....

As to Dan's comment about no longer having the draft; I had draftees and regular enlisted during to tours in SSE Asia and in a Basic Training company in 1972-73 several cycles of draftees and then several cycles of enlistees in the "Modern Volunteer Army"

Believe me I much preferred 20-23 year old college educated draftees than 17 year olds who were running away from the judge or their mamas........ I

I am sure the Militia had some well performing units and some not......But I sure don't see much evidence of a great deal of effective senior or junior troop leadership except in rare cases....... on either side.  God help the private in either army!!
De Oppresso Liber
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Liberty is the only thing you cannot have unless you are willing to give it to others. William Allen White

Learning is not compulsory...........neither is survival! - W. Edwards Deming

Offline Artificer

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #77 on: September 29, 2009, 07:45:38 AM »
DrBoone,

What the American forces did not have for the most part were good, professional Non Commissioned Officers at the early stages of the war.  Some grew into the job and many wound up to be exceptional,I'm sure, but not too many were around at the beginning who knew what they were doing.

The British did have an established corps of good NCO's who had the time and duty to properly train their people.  That training and discipline worked for them time and again not only in the Rev War, but all over the world and in many time periods.

You can have poor to bad Junior to Middle Grade officers, but if you have good NCO's, your armed forces can and usually do still do well.  But if you don't have good NCO's, some of the best led forces will often do poorly.

Not only that, but one of the most important duties of Senior Sergeants is to TRAIN junior and middle grade officers on how to be good officers.  When there are no professional NCO's to do that, the Officer Corps will never reach it's full potential. 

Sergeant Major Dan Daly, a true legend in the Marine Corps and one of only two Marines who ever won the Congressional Medal of Honor TWICE, had this to say about Officers and NCO's.

"Any officer can get by on his sergeants. To be a sergeant you have to know your stuff. Id rather be an outstanding sergeant than just another officer."

-Dan Daly

Offline Dr. Tim-Boone

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #78 on: September 29, 2009, 02:53:20 PM »
Dan,

No question about the need for great NCOs, I was lucky enough to serve with many.  The problem with Vietnam was that so many of our great trained NCOs were lost in the early years.  By 1968 I had a Rifle Company in the 82d Airborne with 52 Sergeants E-5....all with under 2 years service...one of which was in Vietnam...Some had learned something..others had just survived.

From reading the history, it seems that there were at least few great small unit leaders during the revolutionary period..... Mostly you read about them in the West.....they didn't seem to get much press in the East.....

It is great to be able to read what we can about the times.....it must have been a terrible time and I am grateful I didn't have to fight in the Revolution.....

De Oppresso Liber
Marietta, GA

Liberty is the only thing you cannot have unless you are willing to give it to others. William Allen White

Learning is not compulsory...........neither is survival! - W. Edwards Deming

Offline Dphariss

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #79 on: September 29, 2009, 05:22:24 PM »
52  E-5s in a Rifle Company?

In VN leadship was pretty non-existant in my unit and this started at the top and worked its way down. I never saw the Brigade commander or the BN commander.  We had a few good NCOs and some idiots.

The only "above company grade" person I even saw was the Bn Command Sgt Major.  I had a great deal of respect for for him though I only met him 2-3 times.
He was 45,  a WW-II Combat vet. Unfortunately he did not survive his last tour.
Yeah its not ALR related....

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His tour began on Jul 22, 1970
Casualty was on May 21, 1971
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Offline Artificer

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #80 on: September 29, 2009, 10:26:50 PM »
I must add that DrBoone has an excellent point that the Company to Field Grade Officers in the Revolution rarely had much, if any training as Officers, especially early in the war.  Coupled with no professional NCO corps to train them "as they went," that made it even worse. 

Northmn and others correctly pointed out that when junior and even some senior officers were elected, that often means the wrong men are chosen for the jobs.  Quite often, the men who would make the best officers and NCO's weren't popular enough to be elected. 

The miracle at Valley Forge wasn't that the American Army survived, but that a Half Pay Prussian Captain by the name of Von Steuben showed up to train and make a somewhat motley crew into an ARMY.  He taught the Officers and NCO's how to do their jobs.  When elected officers and NCO's didn't do their jobs, he got them up to speed or had them replaced.  He DEMANDED professionalism.  He made the Americans believe they could do the thngs he demanded and as they learned, they loved him for it.  His experience on the Prussian General Staff in Russia and an assignment with Frederick the Great's headquarters is not widely known, though that helped Washington immensely as well.  When the American Army marched OUT of Valley Forge, it was completely different than when it had straggled in some months earlier. 

What I personally believe is that Von Steuben rarely gets credit for understanding the Americans and adapting so many things to make up for their weak points.  He didn't try to make them into Prussian or even British style soldiers, he made them into a uniquely American Army.  He didn't speak English and would swear profusely at them in Prussian and French and then had Hamilton or others translate and swear at the troops in English (again).  At first this was comical to some of our troops and some made the mistake of laughing,  They learned that was a huge mistake.  However as they learned later on when they started improving, they found some of it was also humorous to the Baron himself.  The Baron dreamed up and taught them a much simplified loading drill that made our soldiers much faster to deliver musket fire and was still used decades after the Revolution.  He taught them how to move and maneuver on the battlefield and that was as LARGE units and the whole Army.  He also taught them the use of the bayonet.  IOW, he had the inspired leadership to teach them what they had to know and how to teach it best to them as Americans.  This so they would learn the lessons well and become soldiers and an Army that could more than hold its own against the British. 

Can you tell Baron Von Steuben is one of my personal hero's?  Grin. 


J.D.

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #81 on: September 29, 2009, 11:45:41 PM »
That's a fair point, JD.  I've also read in a couple of sources how the riflemen would put one ball each between their fingers at the base of the fingers from the first finger to their "pinky" finger.  That gave them three balls they could quickly reload. It was suggested some of the riflemen had permanent creases in their non shooting hand from carrying balls there so often.  I'm not sure how accurate or how widespread those accounts are, but again people back then weren't stupid and it is something that surely could work with balls of say .50 cal. or so, but if the balls got much larger it would have been difficult to hold them like that.  I think that would go along with using a bare ball at short range.

I learned to do the same thing, with 410 shotshells as a kid. I still do it with 54 cal rifle balls during the few survival walks we attend, each year. I can can barely carry three .530 balls between my fingers comfortably, but it does speed loading, even when using patched ball.

At very short range, I wonder if the riflemen wouldn't also just pour powder from their horns directly into the muzzle of the rifle and by guess and by golly a charge of powder.  There is the danger that the horn of powder could be set off, so if they did that, I think it would have been in more of an emergency situation at close range. I know it could have been done, but don't know how much it was done.

'Course the dstraction of the loading process caused by disciplined soldiers charging at you with bayonets while you try to reload is not to be discounted.  

Yes, agreed. I know several folks who can consistently load on the run, pouring powder directly from the horn and dropping a bare ball down the bore, then thumping the butt of the rifle on the ground to seat the ball.

One gentleman, who often demonstrates this style of loading at a number of venues, happened to break his rifle at the wrist during one especially colorful demonstration, so there is a down side to "speed loading".

While I have read of Simon Kenton loading on the run, I wonder how commonplace it would  have been, or if it was possible for riflemen to load on the run, while avoiding Brit bayonets, only to turn and fire on their pursuers once they reached relative safety of the trees or support troops?

Dunno, just wondering.
God bless

Offline Artificer

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #82 on: September 30, 2009, 11:33:17 AM »
J.D.,

Simon Kenton so often ran intro trouble that I'm sure he used and even came up some tricks few others had used to survive.  It's a shame he never got "the press" that other Americans of the time period got and is not mentioned nearly enough in general history.  What an amazing man he was. 

I happen to believe more American Riflemen knew of and even used "loading on the run" more commonly than what has been documented in emergency situations.  But what we don't know is how often they did it. 

I found it very interesting and was intrigued to hear about your friend who busted his stock wrist due to that.  This doesn't mean they didn't do "loading on the run" less often, but it was part of the calculated risk when they did it.  When ones life is on the line, one will accept risks that one wouldn't do in less dangerous times. 

I seriously broke the wrist on my repro Brown Bess "carbine" when I first started doing Civil War reenactments.  I didn't have a percussion gun, and it was actually pretty authentic to use a flintlock musket as a Confederate.  However, when we were doing a "tactical" (war game) I mistakenly reverted back to my early military training.  Those of us who went through boot camp with the M1or M14 were taught to throw the gun butt out ahead of us and use it to sort of lower our way down when we took up a hasty field prone position.  (We had to UN-learn that with the M16 because it would shatter the stock.)  The wrist on my Brown Bess stock did not just crack, it broke in a number of pieces.  I was heart sick, but I really wasn't sure how to fix it in 1980.   The trouble was how to clamp everything back together.  So I kept it for another 18 years before it was once again a "priority" to have a flint musket when I joined the Rev War reenactment unit, the Major's Coy, 42nd Royal Highland Regiment, The Black Watch. 

The buttstock was only held on by a really thin piece of wood at the bottom of the stock and a couple of large pieces of wood had broken out of  the wrist.  I had looked at it a number of times and knew I had to bust that off or I would never get all the pieces of the stock realigned.  I just could not get myself to bust the buttstock off for quite a while.  I also wasn't sure how I would get enough strength back in the wrist.  Finally I figured out a complicated method of using two 1/8" threaded brass rods that went into holes I drilled in the pieces of the stock ahead of and behind the shattered portion of the wrist.  I used the surgical tubing Brownell's sells in the method they show in their catalog to "clamp" everything back together and had the front and rear of the musket 'well padded and blocked" to hold it in line while the Accraglass set up.  I used dye to color the Accraglass to glue it back together.  Then I let it set up with only some small hope and a prayer.  God must have special pity for military armorers as once again, it worked far better than I thought.  After I filed the contour back on the wrist in a couple areas and sanded, stained and oiled the stock, it was extremely difficult to see where the glue lines were.  That gun served me very well at reenactments and I only replaced it because a full length musket is safer and more authentic for the kind of reenacting I was doing.

northmn

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #83 on: September 30, 2009, 06:04:29 PM »
The battel of Monmouth Courthouse was one in which Washington was itching to test his troops after VonSteuben's training.  He had to reform them after Charles Lee ordered a retreat.  Stories were that that was about the second time anyone had ever seen Washington that furious.  Lee was his second in command up to then, appointed by Congress, but was removed after that (I gather he was lucky Washington did not have him shot).  The battle was claimed as a victory for both sides.  If nothing else, for the Americans they got rid of Lee.  I at one time wondered whyLee was mentioned as an ancestor of R. E. Lee, but realized it was Lighthorse Harry Lee instead.  I will repeat what Lord Wellington stated about fighting in the Americas at the war of 1812.  To paraphrase, you cannot defeat the Americans as their are no borders to pin them down as in Europe.  They just melt away and reform and come back.  Considering that Wellington beat Napoleon, I would trust his observations. 
The flintlock/roundball technology also limited range as the roundball is not a longrange projectile.  We were impressed by the shot that took out a horse at 400 yards.  With a good civil war rifle the shooter would have been more likely to hit one of the men.  Even though a rifle or for that matter a musket, can be loaded very fast without a patch you still have the hope that it will go off.  Relate to your own experiences and then add the pressures of combat.  Flints can fall out of the cock, what looks like a good flint can break after a shot, etc.  Also the terrain favors one type of weapon over another in some cases.  As stated, he more forested area of the Saratoga battles helped to favor the riflemen. In the Spanish American war those troops using BP 45-70 Springfields gave Spanish shooters a target just from the smoke when they fired.
The biggest irony was when I read about the Baker rifle. The British used them to pick off French officer. (kind of hypocritical)  I Had heard a comment that when the British adopted the rifle they used it more effectively than the Americans.  The rifle units were used as Ranger units for a variety of delaying tactics as well. 

DP

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Re: Shooting then and now (was sheet iron)
« Reply #84 on: September 30, 2009, 10:50:25 PM »
Northmn,

I would suggest that even if the battle of Monmouth could only be called a draw, it really demonstrated just how much the Americans had learned at Valley Forge. 

Got a REAL kick out of your comment Lee was lucky that Washington did not have him shot.  Grin.  I think that came very close to happening.

After watching "The War of 1812" series on the history channel, the first thing I think about nowadays is the Lady Historian talking about the U.S. deciding to invade Canada.  Her comment of, "WHAT were we thinking??!!"  Still gives me a chuckle.  The Brits not only handed us our butts during our Invasion, but they gained even more territory chasing us back.  I think I can explain a part of that.  General Hull had no U.S. Marines with him on the Invasion of Canada, while General Jackson did have some Marines with him at New Orleans.  Grin.  Yes, I'm jesting, but Jackson did have Marines with him. 

I don't believe the good British commanders really believed they could have "won" the War of 1812, but it was more because of the number of forces that would have been required to do it.   Still the Brits did send two of their most experienced and best commanders over here, Generals Ross and Pakenham. 

The burning of Washington was more of retaliation for us burning the Parliament buildings after the Battle of York.  I think General Ross would have keeled over from sheer disbelief if we had surrendered to him, though.  I also believe the actions the Brits did against Baltimore was to "teach us Americans our place and not be so Uppity" on the world stage.  This was more than likely a punitive expedition to also teach us not to invade Canada again.

Now, if one is looking for a battle where American Riflemen REALLY contributed greatly to the War effort against British forces,  there is no greater example of when they took out General Ross at the battle of North Point.  They also did extremely good work at New Orleans.

I think we can also look to the reasons of the British war strategy when British General Pakenham was given so many troops and sent to secure the Mississippi River in the latter stage of the war.  Had they controlled the Mississippi and Canada, they would have effectively squeezed us into remaining East of the Mississippi.  Then whether we "came back in the British Empire or not," didn't matter to them.