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Three Times a Minute - five minutes vs. five hours

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  • yawors1@uwindsor.ca
    How fast troop formations could fire was largely a function of training. I think the truly important part of the equation in terms of battlefield tactics is,
    Message 1 of 22 , Oct 5, 2004
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      How fast troop formations could fire was largely a function of training.

      I think the truly important part of the equation in terms of
      battlefield tactics is, how *long* could they fire three or four or
      even five rounds a minute.

      As described in most accounts, the ultimate confrontations between
      mass formations as they clash at the "moment of crisis" in a battle
      usually lasted a very short time. For that short time, it was
      possible to put up a high volume of fire, but with each succeeding
      volley fired by a large formation, "problems" in some of the
      formation's muskets would develop, they would become more fouled and
      a little harder to load, and in short, after the first few volleys
      the firepower of the formation would start to significantly degrade.

      Hence the importance of having your own skirmishers deployed to
      protect your main line, so it wouldn't have to waste its firepower
      trying to swat away a swarm of enemy skirmishers. Hence the
      importance of putting the line in dead ground to the last possible
      moment so it wouldn't get shot up (a specialty of Wellington).

      Which is why 36 rounds in the main cartridge box (British) was more
      than enough for most battles for a line infantryman. The main line
      might only fire a few times.

      If a gap in the action occurred, then it offered a chance to unplug
      touchholes, scrape powder residue off frizzen & pan, urinate down the
      barrel, etc., and try and get everybody's guns working again. Even
      so, a formation that had been in a serious firefight would have a
      tougher time putting up the same volume of fire that they did in the
      first clash, so would have a tougher job beating a formation of
      "fresh" enemy troops i.e. troops whose guns were still clean...

      The battles that turned in to a prolonged firefight actually usually
      produced greater overall casualties, although the volume of fire and
      casualty rate being suffered/inflicted at any given time was much
      less than in a main "clash".
      But if the main clash lasts 5 minutes and the firefight lasts 5
      hours...

      Jim Yaworsky
      41st

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Larry Lozon
      From: How fast troop formations could fire was largely a function of training. I think the truly important part of the equation in terms
      Message 2 of 22 , Oct 5, 2004
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        From: <yawors1@...>

        How fast troop formations could fire was largely a function of training.

        I think the truly important part of the equation in terms of
        battlefield tactics is, how *long* could they fire three or four or
        even five rounds a minute.
        .............

        Very interesting.

        I was informed over the weekend that a re-enactor from
        Fort Erie, Ontario actually reached a rate of "SIX" shots a minute !!!!


        Yrs.,

        L2
      • Peter Monahan
        Our own Dave Brunelle has done 6 a minute on several occasions, but not for long and with a couple shortcuts
        Message 3 of 22 , Oct 5, 2004
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          Our own Dave Brunelle has done 6 a minute on several occasions, but not for long and with a couple "shortcuts"
          ============================================================
          From: "Larry Lozon" <lalozon@...>
          Date: 2004/10/05 Tue PM 01:45:28 EST
          To: <WarOf1812@yahoogroups.com>
          Subject: [WarOf1812] Three Times a Minute - five minutes vs. five hours


          From: <yawors1@...>

          How fast troop formations could fire was largely a function of training.

          I think the truly important part of the equation in terms of
          battlefield tactics is, how *long* could they fire three or four or
          even five rounds a minute.
          .............

          Very interesting.

          I was informed over the weekend that a re-enactor from
          Fort Erie, Ontario actually reached a rate of "SIX" shots a minute !!!!


          Yrs.,

          L2













          The War of 1812: In Europe, thousands fought over the fate of hundreds of square miles: in North America, hundreds determined the fate of THOUSANDS of square miles...

          Unit Contact information for North America:
          ---------------------------------
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          ============================================================


          Peter Monahan
        • Mark Dickerson
          I hear the surgeon may some newer medications for those short cuts for those 6 per minute occasions! opps ....was that outloud? ... From: Peter Monahan
          Message 4 of 22 , Oct 5, 2004
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            I hear the surgeon may some newer medications for those short cuts for those
            "6 per minute" occasions! opps ....was that outloud?
            :)



            ----- Original Message -----
            From: "Peter Monahan" <petemonahan@...>
            To: <WarOf1812@yahoogroups.com>
            Sent: Tuesday, October 05, 2004 2:43 PM
            Subject: Re: [WarOf1812] Three Times a Minute - five minutes vs. five hours


            >
            > Our own Dave Brunelle has done 6 a minute on several occasions, but not
            for long and with a couple "shortcuts"
            > ============================================================
          • hm95thfoot
            ... training. ... four or ... minute !!!! ... With a rammer, and ball cartridge, as they would have done it back then? That would be quite an accomplishment.
            Message 5 of 22 , Oct 5, 2004
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              --- In WarOf1812@yahoogroups.com, "Larry Lozon" <lalozon@n...> wrote:
              > From: <yawors1@u...>
              >
              > How fast troop formations could fire was largely a function of
              training.
              >
              > I think the truly important part of the equation in terms of
              > battlefield tactics is, how *long* could they fire three or
              four or
              > even five rounds a minute.
              > .............
              >
              > Very interesting.
              >
              > I was informed over the weekend that a re-enactor from
              > Fort Erie, Ontario actually reached a rate of "SIX" shots a
              minute !!!!
              >
              >
              > Yrs.,
              >
              > L2

              With a rammer, and ball cartridge, as they would have done it back
              then? That would be quite an accomplishment.

              RWF
            • Larry Lozon
              From: hm95thfoot ... = = = = = = Rog Apparently some Napoleonic Re-enactors made a line of musketmen and had cavalry 80 yards
              Message 6 of 22 , Oct 5, 2004
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                From: "hm95thfoot" <fullerfamily@...>

                > With a rammer, and ball cartridge, as they would have done it back
                > then? That would be quite an accomplishment.

                = = = = = =

                Rog

                Apparently some Napoleonic Re-enactors made a line of musketmen
                and had cavalry 80 yards in front of them

                the experiment was:

                the line fired ...

                the horses then attacked.....

                the muskets could not get loaded and fired
                by the time the Hussars were on them

                So at three or four shots a minute, with a rammer, and ball cartridge
                they could not load fast enough to keep the horses away .......



                L2
              • Kevin Windsor
                yeah one of the short cuts is loading while on full cock! Not too safe! ... From: Peter Monahan
                Message 7 of 22 , Oct 5, 2004
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                  yeah one of the short cuts is loading while on full cock! Not too safe!


                  ----- Original Message -----
                  From: "Peter Monahan"


                  >
                  > Our own Dave Brunelle has done 6 a minute on several occasions, but not
                  > for long and with a couple "shortcuts"
                  >
                • hm95thfoot
                  ... back ... musketmen ... cartridge ... Then fix swords/bayonets, and form square, my good man! :^) RWF
                  Message 8 of 22 , Oct 5, 2004
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                    --- In WarOf1812@yahoogroups.com, "Larry Lozon" <lalozon@n...> wrote:
                    > From: "hm95thfoot" <fullerfamily@s...>
                    >
                    > > With a rammer, and ball cartridge, as they would have done it
                    back
                    > > then? That would be quite an accomplishment.
                    >
                    > = = = = = =
                    >
                    > Rog
                    >
                    > Apparently some Napoleonic Re-enactors made a line of
                    musketmen
                    > and had cavalry 80 yards in front of them
                    >
                    > the experiment was:
                    >
                    > the line fired ...
                    >
                    > the horses then attacked.....
                    >
                    > the muskets could not get loaded and fired
                    > by the time the Hussars were on them
                    >
                    > So at three or four shots a minute, with a rammer, and ball
                    cartridge
                    > they could not load fast enough to keep the horses away .......
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    > L2

                    Then fix swords/bayonets, and form square, my good man! :^)

                    RWF
                  • hm95thfoot
                    ... safe! Hold my beer, watch this! Darwin Awards candidate.... RWF
                    Message 9 of 22 , Oct 5, 2004
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                      --- In WarOf1812@yahoogroups.com, "Kevin Windsor"
                      <kevin.windsor@s...> wrote:
                      > yeah one of the short cuts is loading while on full cock! Not too
                      safe!


                      "Hold my beer, watch this!"

                      Darwin Awards candidate....

                      RWF
                    • Larry Lozon
                      From: hm95thfoot Then fix swords/bayonets, and form square, my good man! :^) ========= At 80 yards they apparently could
                      Message 10 of 22 , Oct 5, 2004
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                        From: "hm95thfoot" <fullerfamily@...>

                        Then fix swords/bayonets, and form square, my good man! :^)


                        =========

                        At 80 yards they apparently could neither load fast enough
                        nor form square by the time the horses were upon them.





                        L2
                      • Larry Lozon
                        Kevin Windsor wrote yeah one of the short cuts is loading while on full cock! From: hm95thfoot RWFuller Hold my beer, watch this! Darwin Awards
                        Message 11 of 22 , Oct 5, 2004
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                          "Kevin Windsor" wrote
                          yeah one of the short cuts is loading while on full cock!

                          From: "hm95thfoot" RWFuller

                          "Hold my beer, watch this!"
                          Darwin Awards candidate....
                          ------------------------




                          ...but does he spit the balls down the barrel while loading on full
                          cock? :-)
                        • BritcomHMP@aol.com
                          In a message dated 05/10/2004 17:19:13 Central Standard Time, lalozon@netrover.com writes: Then fix swords/bayonets, and form square, my good man! :^)
                          Message 12 of 22 , Oct 5, 2004
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                            In a message dated 05/10/2004 17:19:13 Central Standard Time,
                            lalozon@... writes:

                            Then fix swords/bayonets, and form square, my good man! :^)


                            =========

                            At 80 yards they apparently could neither load fast enough
                            nor form square by the time the horses were upon them.




                            --------------------
                            -------------------

                            Quite, which is why the officer will have them in that formation (or some
                            other defensice position) before the cavalry gets that close!
                            The other point of course is that the volleyagainst cavalry would usualy be
                            held until they were closer in order to be more efective and the fact that the
                            infantry were loaded could put off the cavalry. This is why judging the
                            timing of the cavalry charge was such a delicare thing.

                            Of course if one let charging cavalry get too close one could risk what
                            happened to the KGL at Busaco where a dead horse became a projectile and broke
                            the square.

                            Cheers

                            Tim


                            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                          • Peter Monahan
                            ============================================================ From: Kevin Windsor Date: 2004/10/05 Tue PM 06:05:11 EST To:
                            Message 13 of 22 , Oct 5, 2004
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                              ============================================================
                              From: "Kevin Windsor" <kevin.windsor@...>
                              Date: 2004/10/05 Tue PM 06:05:11 EST
                              To: <WarOf1812@yahoogroups.com>
                              Subject: Re: [WarOf1812] Three Times a Minute - five minutes vs. five hours


                              yeah one of the short cuts is loading while on full cock! Not too safe!

                              I couldn't agree more!

                              PM
                              ----- Original Message -----
                              From: "Peter Monahan"


                              >
                              > Our own Dave Brunelle has done 6 a minute on several occasions, but not
                              > for long and with a couple "shortcuts"
                              >




                              The War of 1812: In Europe, thousands fought over the fate of hundreds of square miles: in North America, hundreds determined the fate of THOUSANDS of square miles...

                              Unit Contact information for North America:
                              ---------------------------------
                              Crown Forces Unit Listing:
                              http://1812crownforces.tripod.com

                              American Forces Unit Lisiting
                              http://usforces1812.tripod.com
                              Yahoo! Groups Links







                              ============================================================


                              Peter Monahan
                            • hm95thfoot
                              ... Lar, then do what the 5th Foot and 77th Foot did at El Bodon in 1811 in just such a close situation- Charge Bayonets! They drove the French cavalry off the
                              Message 14 of 22 , Oct 5, 2004
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                                --- In WarOf1812@yahoogroups.com, "Larry Lozon" <lalozon@n...> wrote:
                                > From: "hm95thfoot" <fullerfamily@s...>
                                >
                                > Then fix swords/bayonets, and form square, my good man! :^)
                                >
                                >
                                > =========
                                >
                                > At 80 yards they apparently could neither load fast enough
                                > nor form square by the time the horses were upon them.
                                >
                                >
                                >
                                >
                                >
                                > L2

                                Lar,

                                then do what the 5th Foot and 77th Foot did at El Bodon in 1811 in
                                just such a close situation- Charge Bayonets! They drove the French
                                cavalry off the field by relying on the attack instead of defense.

                                RWF
                              • craig w
                                Some thoughts on Jim s thoughts, and the question at hand, I am trying to find the original reference for three rounds a minute and will post it as soon as I
                                Message 15 of 22 , Oct 6, 2004
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                                  Some thoughts on Jim's thoughts, and the question at hand,

                                  I am trying to find the original reference for three rounds a minute
                                  and will post it as soon as I do. In the meanwhile, in response to the
                                  rest of the dialogue.

                                  In large battles it takes time for troops to come within effective
                                  firing distances so manuevering took awhile, while actual exchanges of
                                  fire could be quite short and sharp, (unless the battle has one side
                                  "entrenched" {eg,Hougamont}). A cartridge box can go quite a long time
                                  before it needs refilling.
                                  Having said that I'd like to point out that the issue cartridge box for
                                  the british army at this time was designed to hold 60 rounds of
                                  ammunition.One box full could last quite some time.

                                  Having fired a musket with live rounds, I'd like to point out that
                                  whereas yes the lock does get more and more fouled the barrel reaches a
                                  peek fouling point and then each successive round tends to scour or
                                  clear the barrel to a certain degree.
                                  The 3rd round doesn't go down as fast as the first but the 10th goes
                                  down as easily as the 3rd.
                                  Malfunctions on the field are usually related to ignition, dull flint,
                                  fouled touch-hole, fouled frizzen etc.
                                  I have yet to read an account of anyone pissing down the barrel, I'm
                                  not saying it didn't happen, I'm saying show me a primary source
                                  reference.

                                  The importance of "three rounds a minute" is that the line can only
                                  fire efficiently or with the most impact in volleys.
                                  The slowest loader in the company would therefore control the rate of
                                  fire. Three rounds was a great rate of fire when you think that your
                                  counting on 40 to 60* men to deliver them at company level and of
                                  course 600 to 1000* at battalion level.
                                  This becomes very important when faced with an attacking column. The
                                  column, impressive though it is, has a small frontage and is densely
                                  packed. It can only deliver small amounts of fire. A line can deliver
                                  an almost constant rain of lead when the regiment is given the order to
                                  fire by company from the left/right/centre (you pick). A Grand
                                  Battalion of 1500 to 1600 men are launching in the neighborhood of 100
                                  pounds of soft lead every volley.
                                  With training, an individual can load and fire five rounds a minute,
                                  but those people are the exception. Three is an acceptable norm.

                                  As to the comment about individuals firing 6 times a minute by
                                  "editing" the process. I feel that if your not using the drill, you're
                                  not functioning correctly and therefore records set without the full
                                  and proper drill are curiosities nothing more.
                                  Three or four rounds rammed and fired using the prescribed drill are
                                  impressive. Doing six by cutting corners in my opinion proves nothing
                                  if not that the person is flirting with serous injury.

                                  Tuppence,

                                  Craig W

                                  *the actual strength of units is almost always a fraction of what they
                                  warranted to have
                                • HQ93rd@aol.com
                                  ... We ve got one of those in the 93rd....even hunts deer with his Brown Bess.... B 93rd SHRoFLHU www.93rdhighlanders.com THE Thin Red Line [Non-text portions
                                  Message 16 of 22 , Oct 7, 2004
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                                    In a message dated 6/10/2004 6:35:25 PM, sgtwarner@... writes:


                                    > With training, an individual can load and fire five rounds a minute,
                                    > but those people are the exception.
                                    >

                                    We've got one of those in the 93rd....even hunts deer with his Brown Bess....


                                    B
                                    93rd SHRoFLHU
                                    www.93rdhighlanders.com
                                    THE Thin Red Line


                                    [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                                  • HQ93rd@aol.com
                                    All right already. All this talk about slicing melons at 20 yards and firing in square... So what melons were set up on the ridge at Waterloo in 1815, eh? The
                                    Message 17 of 22 , Oct 7, 2004
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                                      All right already. All this talk about slicing melons at 20 yards and firing
                                      in square...
                                      So what melons were set up on the ridge at Waterloo in 1815, eh? The French
                                      cav got blasted by the artillery and the infantry in square. Fact. No melons to
                                      be seen.
                                      Previously, at Quatre Bras, the 42nd lost almost an entire company and a
                                      colonel when French lancers jumped them. The "however" to the story (of course you
                                      knew it was coming!) was these same lancers then attempted to pounce upon the
                                      rest of the 42nd as they were still trying to form and close up their square.
                                      A number of them galloped into the forming ranks obviously thinking, "Aha! We
                                      have these saucy Eccosais types!", only to find themselves trapped inside
                                      when the 42nd continued to close square, and themselves Cav types subsequently
                                      extinguished.

                                      Personal revelation from the 1995 Waterloo event -- The Highland Brigade had
                                      our pipers take turns recreating the 79th's Piper. Kenneth McKay's feat of
                                      marching about and playing his pipes outside his square at Waterloo. Whilst our
                                      pipers did so, not one French horse could even be coerced to get anywhere near
                                      our square.
                                      So bring on the melons.
                                      We've got bagpipes.


                                      B
                                      93rd SHRoFLHU
                                      www.93rdhighlanders.com
                                      THE Thin Red Line


                                      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                                    • HQ93rd@aol.com
                                      ... Which is why they would fire by files or by sections. B 93rd SHRoFLHU www.93rdhighlanders.com THE Thin Red Line [Non-text portions of this message have
                                      Message 18 of 22 , Oct 7, 2004
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                                        In a message dated 5/10/2004 3:19:17 PM, lalozon@... writes:


                                        >
                                        > From: "hm95thfoot" <fullerfamily@...>
                                        >
                                        > Then fix swords/bayonets, and form square, my good man! :^)
                                        >
                                        >
                                        > =========
                                        >
                                        >    At 80 yards they apparently could neither load fast enough
                                        > nor form square by the time the horses were upon them.
                                        >
                                        > L2
                                        >


                                        Which is why they would fire by files or by sections.

                                        B
                                        93rd SHRoFLHU
                                        www.93rdhighlanders.com
                                        THE Thin Red Line


                                        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                                      • ray.hobbs@sympatico.ca
                                        Some additional thoughts on the rate of fire of a musket and other stuff. Just to get one thing out of the way - I brought the six shots a minute thing up,
                                        Message 19 of 22 , Oct 7, 2004
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                                          Some additional thoughts on the rate of fire of a musket and other stuff.

                                          Just to get one thing out of the way - I brought the "six shots a minute" thing up, and am surprised that
                                          the immediate reaction of some was that it must have been done by cheating. I have no indication that
                                          this was the case, and in fact, my sources tell me that it was in a controlled competition.

                                          As a comment on an ordered battle line, firing volleys by company etc. according to the best period drill
                                          manual I offer the following eye-witness account:

                                          “What precision of fire can be expected from soldiers when firing in line? One man is priming; another
                                          coming to the present; taking, what is called aim; a fourth ramming down his cartridge. After a few shots
                                          the whole body is closely enveloped in smoke, and the enemy is totally inviisble; some of the soldiers
                                          step out a pace or two, in order to get a better shot; others kneel down; and some have no objection to
                                          retire a step or two. the doomed begin to fall, dreadfully mutilated perhaps, and even bold men shrink
                                          from the sight; others are wounded, and assisted to the rear by their comrades, so that the whole
                                          becomes a line of utter confusion, in which the mass only think of getting heir shots fired, they hardly
                                          care how, or in what direction”.
                                          Maj. Gen. John Mitchell, cited in R. Muir, Tactics and the Experience of Battle in the Age of Napoleon,
                                          p. 85.

                                          Now, of course, this was not necessarily typical, but it did happen to a well-drilled line on occasion.
                                          This particular chapter in Muir's book (Ch. 5 Infantry Combat) contains many similar observations by
                                          eye-witnesses, and is a realistic counter to the notion of a rigidly inflexible line of redcoats keeping up
                                          sustained rates of fire. The fog of battle often dictates otherwise.

                                          On the suggestion of pissing down the barrel to clean it - just think, who would want to place his
                                          member anywhere near a metal tube that is difficult to hold because of its raised temperature? Seems
                                          like a most foolhardy thing, to threaten with danger the one appendage the soldier prized most ;->)

                                          My thoughts for the moment
                                          Ray Hobbs
                                          41st Regt.



                                          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                                        • glifencible
                                          ... There is a reference in Red Coat and Brown Bess by Anthony Darling: On parade he was expected to deliver by word of command one shot every fifteen
                                          Message 20 of 22 , Oct 9, 2004
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                                            > I am trying to find the original reference for three rounds a minute

                                            There is a reference in "Red Coat and Brown Bess" by Anthony Darling:

                                            "On parade he was expected to deliver by word of command one shot
                                            every fifteen seconds."

                                            There is a footnote:

                                            Simes, Thomas The Military Medly,p.23 London 1768. Cited in Peterson,
                                            Op. Cit. P 160. On the battlefield, three shots a minute would
                                            probably be average for a well-trained and disciplined body of men
                                            while advancing.

                                            Regards
                                            Bill
                                          • dancingbobd@webtv.net
                                            Symes The Military Medley is available from Kings Arms Press. Bob Dorian
                                            Message 21 of 22 , Oct 11, 2004
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                                              Symes' The Military Medley is available from Kings Arms Press.

                                              Bob Dorian
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