Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.
 

Artillery at Yorktown

Expand Messages
  • Mike Cecere
    Dear List, One of the things I have always wanted to experience / witness is the bombardment that occurred at Yorktown. What was it like for the troops in
    Message 1 of 5 , Oct 8, 2013
      Dear List,'

      One of the things I have always wanted to experience / witness is the bombardment that occurred at Yorktown.  What was it like for the troops in both trenches to endure the steady bombardment of the Yorktown siege and might we be able to replicate an aspect of it at the Hook next week?

       I was surprised to read in Jerome Greene's book on Yorktown that it was standard practice for the artillery to fire only once every ten minutes.  Greene contended that this was a precaution to preserve the guns, which were apparently cast in questionable material.  I'm not sure he was talking primarily about the large siege guns or all the cannon, but it seemed like one shot every ten minutes was a ridiculously long pause between shots.  I'd be interested to know what the artillerists out there think.

      If Greene is right though, it would seem at first that there wasn't a constant roar at Yorktown like I always assumed, but instead, either a steady, regular fire or an intense fire followed by long pauses.

      The allies had nearly a 100 artillery pieces in action by the end of the siege and had 50 going at the beginning, so theoretically, if they fired 50 guns over a ten minute span one at a time and then repeated it, they would average a shot every 12 seconds (spread across the battlefield).  Once the allies got up to a 100 guns, it would be a shot every 6 seconds.  Add to that the British return fire and I guess there might have been a pretty steady roar at Yorktown.  ( Of course, Greene mentions that the allied fire was so effective that the British were unable to fire much in return during the allied bombardments.

      But perhaps the allies fired their cannon in more concentrated bursts stretched over a few minutes, then paused for a few more minutes, and started the bombardment again.

      I'm not sure which way would be more "authentic" to the actual bombardments that occurred at Yorktown.  Again, perhaps some of the artillerists on the list can offer their views.

      Whatever is concluded, it would be nice if we could turn the artillery demonstrations at the Hook into a more authentic, yet entertaining, experience for everyone.   In my limited experience, a typical artillery demo involves a lot of explanation to the public (and mock loading) followed by a couple of shots.  

      But what if instead of the walk through demo we usually do,  the artillery demo at the Hook was more an artillery duel to reenact the bombardment at Yorktown.   I hear we'll have as many as 14 guns signed up and that five embrasures are planned for the British earthworks so we should have a great opportunity to create an atmosphere of a siege / bombardment.  Even if only 10 guns show up  we could arrange to have each one fire every 12 seconds ( to replicate the bombardment aspect of the siege )  That would equate to a shot every 2 minutes per gun, which would equal about 8 shots per gun in a 15 minute artillery demo.  

      I for one would enjoy listening and watching this kind of demo.

      Just a thought.

      Mike Cecere   7th VA
    • robertaselig@juno.com
      Salut - From 28 September to 17 October, a minimum of 399 pieces of artillery of all calibers, makes and models faced each other at
      Message 2 of 5 , Oct 9, 2013

        Salut -

             From 28 September to 17 October, a minimum of 399 pieces of artillery of all calibers, makes and models faced each other at Yorktown .

         

             During the course of the siege, American and French batteries fired almost 15,500 shells of all calibers into Yorktown , and many of them had not exploded. Private John Hudson, who had served as a 13-year-old (he was born in 1768) boy-soldier at Yorktown in Colonel Goose Van Schaick's First New York Regiment, remembered in his old age how "We found hundreds of shells which had not exploded, from the circumstance of the fuse falling undermost, in which case they do not go off. Those we gathered up in wagons, and put them on board vessels to take to General Greene, who was still carrying on the war in South Carolina . There was a party of French prisoners who had gathered up a four horse wagon load of those shells. By some mismanagement, not easily explained, an explosion took place, which tore the wagon to fragments; killed the horses and twelve of the Frenchmen employed in the service. I saw those twelve men neatly laid out in a marquee all in a row with white linen burial clothes. This would not have been done for them, or anyone else, during the progress of the siege."[1]



        [1] A number of French (and American) soldiers had deserted to the British during the siege and were now employed in this dangerous task. Cist's Weekly Advertiser , vol. 3 n o. 7, 25 February 1846 .


        From: Richard Patterson <barracks@...>
        To: BrigadeAmRev <BrigadeAmRev@yahoogroups.com>
        Sent: Wed, Oct 9, 2013 12:22 am
        Subject: RE: [BrigadeAmRev] Artillery at Yorktown

        Mike,

        I see what you’re saying now. You’re NOT implying each gun is firing at that rate, but that the American batteries as a whole were firing at a rate of one gun every 12 seconds or so.

        That makes more sense (although it’s fun exhausting list folks with my prolixity).

         

        I would then go back to my description of how a siege id conducted. You might hear periods (a few hours?) of fairly steady fire, then a lull as the guns were re-directed, then another period of fairly steady fire – still, nothing that would sound like a popcorn popper as the gunners would be taking some notice of the fall of the previous gun’s shot in case they needed to adjust their own aim – but pretty steady.

         

        Rich Patterson

         

        From: BrigadeAmRev@yahoogroups.com [mailto:BrigadeAmRev@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Mike Cecere
        Sent: Wednesday, October 09, 2013 12:03 AM
        To: BrigadeAmRev@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: Re: [BrigadeAmRev] Artillery at Yorktown

         

         

        Hey Rich,

         

        I think I have misled you.  I didn't mean to imply that the cannons were firing every 12 seconds.  According to Greene, they were fired once every 10 minutes.

         

        What I said is if you had 50 cannon and fired one each every 12 seconds, it would take you 10 minutes to fire all 50 and work your way around to the second shot of the first cannon fired.

         

        The only reason I'm interested in this is I'm trying to understand what Yorktown would have sounded like and been like.

         

        Mike Cecere

        -----Original Message-----
        From: Richard Patterson <barracks@...>
        To: BrigadeAmRev <BrigadeAmRev@yahoogroups.com>
        Sent: Tue, Oct 8, 2013 11:57 pm
        Subject: RE: [BrigadeAmRev] Artillery at Yorktown

         

        Mike,

        I’m not sure if I read in your post an actual citation of how many rounds were indeed fired, a necessity in order to determine the rates of fire you suggest which are incredibly fast.

         

        It IS known that a good gun crew on a typical 6 pounder fieldpiece during the Revolution could get off as many as a dozen rounds per minute, but that was with bronze guns (which are  not prone to bursting), of an easily manageable size, not firing aimed shots and not sustained for more than a minute (the much cited “mad minuteâ€� contest in Canada prior to the Burgoyne Campaign between Geog Pausch’s Hesse Han au crew and a Royal Artillery crew). The only point of such a contest would be to simulate what such a crew could do for a very brief period in a desperate situation, presumably firing canister at close range.

         

        The metallurgy of the period was such that one couldn’t simply increase the weight of shot and size of charge arithmetically with the size and weight of the gun. The stresses increased almost geometrically (engineers and physicists please correct me, but if I’m not exact in my estimation, I know I’m on the right track here). Therefore it was the larger siege guns, especially those of iron, that were much more prone to bursting – so much so that in some manuals of the period expected numbers of rounds were estimated before the gun was expected to burst during sieges.< /span>

         

        Also the size of the shot and loads made such rapid fire much more difficult, there was always a very finite amount of powder and shot available during any siege, and carefully aimed fire was an absolute necessity so care was essential. Gunner had to get the range, then concentrate their fire at specific points of the enemy’s works for concentrated periods of time in order to cause a breach. Blazing away, rapidly even at a fraction of that rate of fire, was wasteful and counterproductive. Remember, the object was to breach the enemy’s works at very specific, strategic spots, not only to cause a breach, but one in a place where it could be exploited. Everyone knew that such bombardment alone would cause relatively few casualties (mortar and howitzer fire excepted).

         

        All accounts that I’ve ever read of rates of fire of siege guns, throughout the muzzle-loading, black powder propellant era,  was rarely even one shot every minute or two from any one gun, and that rate for only a very short duration. Such speed really served no purpose. The shifting of fire concentration from one part of the enemy’s works to another would likely have caused ebbs and flows of bombardment intensity. Imagine that the engineers and master gunners had determined that a breach in one strategic spot had nearly been accomplished – at that point they would shift fire to another promising point of aim elsewhere along the works until a breach were almost achieved there, etc.

         

        When it was determined that the time was right for an assault on the potential breach that seemed most promising, the besieger would have the forlorn hop in place, along with the follow-on troops, any fascines (for filling ditches), scaling ladders, etc. ready – and then a final concentrated , short bombardment would open the breach just in time for the assault to break through.

         

        By the very early 18th century, engineers such as Vauban were so familiar with not only building fortifications, but also conducting the siege ritual, that fairly precise durations of sieges (once the first batteries were erected) could be predicted almost to the day. If an attacker were able to completely invest a set of fortifications, only another force breaking the si ege could change the inevitable timetable. That’s why once the first breach was made, with no relief force anywhere within reach, it was considered honorable for an invested force to surrender in order to prohibit unnecessary effusion of blood.

         

        Rich Patterson

         

        From: BrigadeAmRev@yahoogroups.com [mailto:BrigadeAmRev@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Mike Cecere
        Sent: Tuesday, October 08, 2013 10:49 PM
        To: Revlist@yahoogroups.com; RWProgressive@yahoogroups.com; BrigadeAmRev@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: [BrigadeAmRev] Ar tillery at Yorktown

         

         

        Dear List,'

         

        One of the things I have always wanted to experience / witness is the bombardment that occurred at Yorktown.  What was it like for the troops in both trenches to endure the steady bombardment of the Yorktown siege and might we be able to replicate an aspect of it at the Hook next week?

         

         I was surprised to read in Jerome Greene's book on Yorktown that it was standard practice for the artillery to fire only once every ten minutes.  Greene contended that this was a precaution to preserve the guns, which were apparently cast in questionable material.  I'm not sure he was talking primarily about the large siege guns or all the cannon, but it seemed like one shot every ten minutes was a ridiculously long pause between shots.  I'd be interested to know what the artillerists out there think.

         

        If Greene is right though, it would seem at first that there wasn't a constant roar at Yorktown like I always assumed, but instead, either a steady, regular fire or an intense fire followed by long pauses.

         

        The allies had nearly a 100 artillery pieces in action by the end of the siege and had 50 going at the beginning, so theoretically, if they fired 50 guns over a ten minute span one at a time and then repeated it, they would average a shot every 12 seconds (spread across the battlefield).  Once the allies got up to a 100 guns, it would be a shot every 6 seconds.  Add to that the British return fire and I guess there might have been a pretty steady roar at Yorktown.  ( Of course, Greene mentions that the allied fire was so effective that the British were unable to fire much in return during the allied bombardments.

         

        But perhaps the allies fired their cannon in more concentrated bursts stretched over a few minutes, then paused for a few more minutes, and started the bombardment again.

         

        I'm not sure which way would be more "authentic" to the actual bombardments that occurred at Yorktown.  Again, perhaps some of the artillerists on the list can offer their views.

         

        Whatever is concluded, it would be nice if we could turn the artillery demonstrations at the Hook into a more authentic, yet entertaining, experience for everyone.   In my limited experience, a typical artillery demo involves a lot of explanation to the public (and mock loading) followed by a couple of shots.  

         

        But what if instead of the walk through demo we usually do,  the artillery demo at the Hook was more an artillery duel to reenact the bombardment at Yorktown.   I hear we'll have as many as 14 guns signed up and that five embrasures are planned for the British earthworks so we should have a great opportunity to create an atmosphere of a siege / bombardment.  Even if only 10 guns show up  we could arrange to have each one fire every 12 seconds ( to replicate the bombardment aspect of the siege )  That would equate to a shot every 2 minutes per gun, which would equal about 8 shots per gun in a 15 minute artillery demo.  

         

        I for one would enjoy listening and watching this kind of demo.

         

        Just a thought.

         

        Mike Cecere   7th VA

      • John White
        Mike It is a little known fact that the artillery units at Yorktown were privy to a VERY early set of safety rules later used by the NPS. John White
        Message 3 of 5 , Oct 9, 2013
          Mike

          It is a little known fact that the artillery units at Yorktown were privy to a VERY early set of safety rules later used by the NPS. <VBG>
          John White
          Avalon Forge
          Baltimore
          www.avalonforge.com
          "Recreating Colonial America"
          On 10/8/2013 10:48 PM, Mike Cecere wrote:
           

          Dear List,'


          One of the things I have always wanted to experience / witness is the bombardment that occurred at Yorktown.  What was it like for the troops in both trenches to endure the steady bombardment of the Yorktown siege and might we be able to replicate an aspect of it at the Hook next week?

           I was surprised to read in Jerome Greene's book on Yorktown that it was standard practice for the artillery to fire only once every ten minutes.  Greene contended that this was a precaution to preserve the guns, which were apparently cast in questionable material.  I'm not sure he was talking primarily about the large siege guns or all the cannon, but it seemed like one shot every ten minutes was a ridiculously long pause between shots.  I'd be interested to know what the artillerists out there think.

          If Greene is right though, it would seem at first that there wasn't a constant roar at Yorktown like I always assumed, but instead, either a steady, regular fire or an intense fire followed by long pauses.

          The allies had nearly a 100 artillery pieces in action by the end of the siege and had 50 going at the beginning, so theoretically, if they fired 50 guns over a ten minute span one at a time and then repeated it, they would average a shot every 12 seconds (spread across the battlefield).  Once the allies got up to a 100 guns, it would be a shot every 6 seconds.  Add to that the British return fire and I guess there might have been a pretty steady roar at Yorktown.  ( Of course, Greene mentions that the allied fire was so effective that the British were unable to fire much in return during the allied bombardments.

          But perhaps the allies fired their cannon in more concentrated bursts stretched over a few minutes, then paused for a few more minutes, and started the bombardment again.

          I'm not sure which way would be more "authentic" to the actual bombardments that occurred at Yorktown.  Again, perhaps some of the artillerists on the list can offer their views.

          Whatever is concluded, it would be nice if we could turn the artillery demonstrations at the Hook into a more authentic, yet entertaining, experience for everyone.   In my limited experience, a typical artillery demo involves a lot of explanation to the public (and mock loading) followed by a couple of shots.  

          But what if instead of the walk through demo we usually do,  the artillery demo at the Hook was more an artillery duel to reenact the bombardment at Yorktown.   I hear we'll have as many as 14 guns signed up and that five embrasures are planned for the British earthworks so we should have a great opportunity to create an atmosphere of a siege / bombardment.  Even if only 10 guns show up  we could arrange to have each one fire every 12 seconds ( to replicate the bombardment aspect of the siege )  That would equate to a shot every 2 minutes per gun, which would equal about 8 shots per gun in a 15 minute artillery demo.  

          I for one would enjoy listening and watching this kind of demo.

          Just a thought.

          Mike Cecere   7th VA

        • britmarinecapt
          That was a good one John. :-) Mike: Given the large size of the guns firing, and that they would have to be pulled back from the embrasures, loaded, and pulled
          Message 4 of 5 , Oct 9, 2013

            That was a good one John. :-)

             

            Mike:

             

            Given the large size of the guns firing, and that they would have to be pulled back from the embrasures, loaded, and pulled back up again, perhaps this rate of fire is not unreaonsable.  Also, given the proclivity for large guns to burst during such operations, this reduced rate of fire might extend their life - as well as their ammunition.  I'm not a metallurgist, but I suspect the guns bursting would be a function of the heat and stress of repeated use, put against the poor metallurgy/casting of some of the tubes.

             

            In regards to how the guns will be used at the Hook, there will be a couple of instances of prolonged firing during the battles both days, and during the night assault.

             

            The gun and other demos, done at the battlefield area, will have to share the area with some troops on the field at the time.

             

            There will also be cannon play during the boat landings each day.

             

            No doubt the neighbors will just love having us there. :-)

             

            Jim McG

            HM Marines



            ---In Revlist@yahoogroups.com, <revlist@yahoogroups.com> wrote:

            Mike

            It is a little known fact that the artillery units at Yorktown were privy to a VERY early set of safety rules later used by the NPS. <VBG>
            John White
            Avalon Forge
            Baltimore
            www.avalonforge.com
            "Recreating Colonial America"
            On 10/8/2013 10:48 PM, Mike Cecere wrote:
             

            Dear List,'


            One of the things I have always wanted to experience / witness is the bombardment that occurred at Yorktown.  What was it like for the troops in both trenches to endure the steady bombardment of the Yorktown siege and might we be able to replicate an aspect of it at the Hook next week?

             I was surprised to read in Jerome Greene's book on Yorktown that it was standard practice for the artillery to fire only once every ten minutes.  Greene contended that this was a precaution to preserve the guns, which were apparently cast in questionable material.  I'm not sure he was talking primarily about the large siege guns or all the cannon, but it seemed like one shot every ten minutes was a ridiculously long pause between shots.  I'd be interested to know what the artillerists out there think.

            If Greene is right though, it would seem at first that there wasn't a constant roar at Yorktown like I always assumed, but instead, either a steady, regular fire or an intense fire followed by long pauses.

            The allies had nearly a 100 artillery pieces in action by the end of the siege and had 50 going at the beginning, so theoretically, if they fired 50 guns over a ten minute span one at a time and then repeated it, they would average a shot every 12 seconds (spread across the battlefield).  Once the allies got up to a 100 guns, it would be a shot every 6 seconds.  Add to that the British return fire and I guess there might have been a pretty steady roar at Yorktown.  ( Of course, Greene mentions that the allied fire was so effective that the British were unable to fire much in return during the allied bombardments.

            But perhaps the allies fired their cannon in more concentrated bursts stretched over a few minutes, then paused for a few more minutes, and started the bombardment again.

            I'm not sure which way would be more "authentic" to the actual bombardments that occurred at Yorktown.  Again, perhaps some of the artillerists on the list can offer their views.

            Whatever is concluded, it would be nice if we could turn the artillery demonstrations at the Hook into a more authentic, yet entertaining, experience for everyone.   In my limited experience, a typical artillery demo involves a lot of explanation to the public (and mock loading) followed by a couple of shots.  

            But what if instead of the walk through demo we usually do,  the artillery demo at the Hook was more an artillery duel to reenact the bombardment at Yorktown.   I hear we'll have as many as 14 guns signed up and that five embrasures are planned for the British earthworks so we should have a great opportunity to create an atmosphere of a siege / bombardment.  Even if only 10 guns show up  we could arrange to have each one fire every 12 seconds ( to replicate the bombardment aspect of the siege )  That would equate to a shot every 2 minutes per gun, which would equal about 8 shots per gun in a 15 minute artillery demo.  

            I for one would enjoy listening and watching this kind of demo.

            Just a thought.

            Mike Cecere   7th VA

          Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.