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Rifles in New Orleans

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  • Sean
    There are so many misconceptions about rifles and their effectiveness that one can t even begin to count and New Orleans is a paticular culprit when it comes
    Message 1 of 9 , Nov 3, 1998
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      There are so many misconceptions about rifles and their effectiveness that
      one can't even begin to count and New Orleans is a paticular culprit when
      it comes to this.

      One of the most obnoxious is indeed the belief that the American rifleman
      was that incredibly accurate. This myth that they were super accurate comes
      from the rumour that most British had head or upper body wounds, thus the
      accurate fire. Even if this rumour were true has anybody ever stopped to
      think about where most shots truly are going to hit if fired from an
      elevated position... If anybody has ever fired a musket live then they
      should know that these weapons tended to fire high.

      If I remember correctly, there weren't really enough riflemen (on the
      American side) to be overly effective. The most damaging arm of the Yank
      forces was the artillery.

      Also what is this fascination with riflemen in the first place? Yes, they
      were effective troops in specialized situations but give me a musket
      anyday. A rifle is slower to load than a musket and has an effective range
      of about 200 metres. Even with a modern rifle you have to be a reasonable
      shot to hit something at that distance so what suggests that these men of
      old did it on a regular basis. I can hit a man sized target faily easily
      with my musket at 100 metres and can close range with a fire partner fairly
      fast; much faster than a rifle can be reloaded.

      Don't count out the regular light company soldier in the skirmishers war.
      The rifleman and light bob complimented each other fantastically. The one
      for great accuracy and range the other for speed of firing and maximum
      mobility.

      Don't take offence all you Riflemen out there, after all I am a light bob
      myself o I'm bound to be a bit partial.
    • Roger Fuller
      Sean, good points! ... From: Sean To: WarOf1812@onelist.com Date: Tuesday, November 03, 1998 12:29 PM Subject:
      Message 2 of 9 , Nov 3, 1998
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        Sean, good points!

        -----Original Message-----
        From: Sean <shirst@...>
        To: WarOf1812@onelist.com <WarOf1812@onelist.com>
        Date: Tuesday, November 03, 1998 12:29 PM
        Subject: [WarOf1812] Rifles in New Orleans


        >From: Sean <shirst@...>
        >
        >There are so many misconceptions about rifles and their effectiveness that
        >one can't even begin to count and New Orleans is a paticular culprit when
        >it comes to this.
        >
        >One of the most obnoxious is indeed the belief that the American rifleman
        >was that incredibly accurate. This myth that they were super accurate comes
        >from the rumour that most British had head or upper body wounds, thus the
        >accurate fire. Even if this rumour were true has anybody ever stopped to
        >think about where most shots truly are going to hit if fired from an
        >elevated position... If anybody has ever fired a musket live then they
        >should know that these weapons tended to fire high.

        I agree. In getting members of the public to come and join the 3/95th,
        eventually New Orleans comes up, and I have to dispel the notion of some
        coonskin-cap wearing yahoo standing atop the cotton bales with Jean Lafitte
        and Andy Jackson shoulder to shoulder, knocking down the kilt-clad,
        bearskin-toting redcoats like so many ninepins....forgive me, but I'd like
        to throttle Johnny Horton....so, when I tell them that the only people
        "running through the brambles" that day were the Amer. troops who got caught
        in the 3/95th's murderous fire (which was sadly not followed up, adding yet
        another terrible waste to a battle that never should have happened in the
        first place) most people are quite amazed, and frankly, don't believe it, at
        least here in the US of A.
        >
        >If I remember correctly, there weren't really enough riflemen (on the
        >American side) to be overly effective. The most damaging arm of the Yank
        >forces was the artillery.

        And a damned fine job they did. Like shooting fish in a barrel, exc. when
        the 95th were in suff. strength and positioned to snipe at the gunners.
        >
        >Also what is this fascination with riflemen in the first place?

        Well, for me, when it was time to start an 1812 unit, I saw lots of Redcoat
        units, but no rifle units. And, I've been told by Tim Pickles that the NA
        wnats Redcoated officers to be able to ride horses, and I've no desire to
        get on one of those accursedly stupid things (When I'm forced to get on a
        horse, I can't find the clutch...) So, as many Rifle Corps officers in Amer.
        as well as Europe did not ride in the field, in reenacting, the choice was
        clear. Black and green!

        Yes, they
        >were effective troops in specialized situations but give me a musket
        >anyday. A rifle is slower to load than a musket

        Lucky if I can load it from a paper cartridge in 45-50 seconds- thank God
        for the sword!<GG>

        and has an effective range
        >of about 200 metres. Even with a modern rifle you have to be a reasonable
        >shot to hit something at that distance so what suggests that these men of
        >old did it on a regular basis. I can hit a man sized target faily easily
        >with my musket at 100 metres

        Do you mean feet or meters? Maybe it's just me, but I can hit something at
        three hundred feet with my Bess, but only if it says "Titanic" on the side
        <VBG>.

        and can close range with a fire partner fairly
        >fast; much faster than a rifle can be reloaded.

        Excellent point! In my AWI unit, the 40th Foot Lt Coy, we use the same 1799
        Regs as the Rifle Corps and Nap/1812 Lt Inf. did, and the effectiveness of
        the musket in close quarters is undeniable. The more lead, the better!
        (The 1799 Regs were a codification of common LI practice since the AWI)
        >
        >Don't count out the regular light company soldier in the skirmishers war.
        >The rifleman and light bob complimented each other fantastically. The one
        >for great accuracy and range the other for speed of firing and maximum
        >mobility.

        Right on- I think someone should do the 43rd Foot or even the Bloody 52nd,
        if they don't do it already. These units operated hand in hand with the
        Rifle Corps, and the effectiveness of the teamwork was astounding. BUT- the
        Rifleman had to not only be a long-range skirmisher, but also function in
        formation in the enemy's face as a light infantryman if needs be, AND to
        fall in line with the battalion, use his rifle like a musket, fix swords
        (about the only time they ever did, usually. Even "Present Arms" was always
        done w/o Ye Sword) and form square like everybody else if there was a
        desperate situation.
        >
        >Don't take offence all you Riflemen out there, after all I am a light bob
        >myself o I'm bound to be a bit partial.

        Me too- just in two different eras! :^)

        Roger
        3/95th (1812)
        2nd LI, 40th Foot (AWI)
        >
      • NINETY3RD@aol.com
        ... rifles ... before ... was ... Ok, that is indeed the story. And unfortunately that is what the majority of people hear or know. What we have to see about
        Message 3 of 9 , Nov 3, 1998
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          In a message dated 03/11/1998 4:56:58 PM, john.weiss@... wrote:

          >The story I have heard is that Jackson recruited backwoodsmen with "long
          rifles"
          >who could shoot accurately at 300 yards. The British were accustomed to a 100
          >yards' range, and would have halted their orderly (and probably intimidating)
          >march short of this expected firing range, but were caught unawares long
          before
          >they reached the halting point. The story also acknowledges the loading time,
          >and says that Jackson had them lined up in three ranks, and that each line
          was
          >to fire in turn, stepping back to make way for the next line, and re-loading
          >while the other two lines fired. In my opinion it was the difference in range
          >that is the vital point fo the story.


          Ok, that is indeed the story. And unfortunately that is what the majority of
          people hear or know. What we have to see about what really happened at New
          Orleans is that, first - the British knew all about rifles... there were 500
          of the 95th there for one thing. Next - the British did not line up and march
          across the field in full view. They moved forward under cover of darkness and
          thick fog in two columns - one along the river and the other following the
          edge of the cypress swamp on the other side of the cane field. This swamp
          undulated - it was not a straight line, and protruded at points out into the
          field, the largest of these bulges was closest to Jackson's line, thereby
          giving yet more cover to the British right column (the main attack column)
          until they were about 100 yards out.
          Except for the artillery, almost all if not all of the US center never fired a
          shot: 1. They had no target in front to shoot at. 2. They were out of range
          (especially the muskets, and the 44th US Infantry, armed with US Army issue
          .69 calibre smooth bores, was one of those in the center. As I mentioned
          before - any rifleman stupid enough to climb up on the parapet to get off a
          shot to either flank would have exposed himself to: 1. The 95th rifles. 2.
          British artillery fire.
          The US Artillery in the center was engaged in a duel with the British
          artillery, except for one brief moment - when the 93rd crossed the field on
          the diagonal. At that point each piece could probably (if loaded at that
          moment) have gotten off one shot before the 93rd had moved past the field of
          fire limited by the embrasure.
          All British accounts of the battle I have seen always state that those out in
          the field they "never saw the faces of the US enemy" - which means no one was
          even exposing their heads over the parapet. Hard to aim when firing
          haphazardly over the parapet like that.
          (I used the term "out in the field" as the Brit light companies in front of
          the riverside column attacked and overran the US advance redoubt by the river
          immediately in front of the parapet there. In the main attack column by the
          swamp, officers of at least the 21st Reg't were up on and inside the parapet -
          one lieutenant was captured inside as he looked forward and saw "Americans
          running away" and turning to call his men, saw he was alone. Two US officers
          came forward finally to take him prisoner.)

          Then there were a whole lot (hundreds) of those fellows from Kentucky, who
          showed up in rags, without a firearm at all. (Yes, that is quite true.)

          Theeennnnn,.....there is the "other half" of the battle on the 8th, on the
          west bank of the river, where line Jackson was defended by nothing but good
          ol' militia boys, who had their position overrun and captured, losing
          artillery and Colours to the enemy - while running up river for about 2 miles.
          Obviously rifle range had nothing to do with that affair. The west bank
          assault is exactly what should have happened in the main assault across the
          river. If not for a pile up of plain stupid mistakes by a couple of idiot
          officers (note - NOT by the commanding generals), plus the failure of the
          British artillery to firmly platform their guns and thus take out the US guns,
          the Brits would have been pouring over Jackson's parapet. Arguable? Not if
          one goes and reads about Badajoz or Ciudad Rodrigo or other sieges conducted
          by the British in Spain against thousands of enemy professional troops with
          artillery within fortified cities behind 40 foot high stone walls. Which walls
          of course, were breached, overrun and the cities taken. Jackson's parapet was
          nothing compared to these.

          Ok....like I said earlier - don't get me started! ;-)
          Easier than all this is to visit our website! We have lots of info on N.O.
          there and we're adding more all the time!
          http://hometown.aol.com/ninety3rd

          Cheers!
          BJ
        • John Weiss
          BJ has given me a very useful insight into what really happened - except that it makes the British failure even more surprising. Could I have some references
          Message 4 of 9 , Nov 3, 1998
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            BJ has given me a very useful insight into what really happened - except
            that it makes the British failure even more surprising. Could I have some
            references to original sources, please, as I could not find them easily
            on the website?


            John Weiss <john.weiss@...>
            ----------------------------------------------------------------------
            Researching the four thousand Black Americans
            who took their freedom in the War of 1812
          • NINETY3RD@aol.com
            ... Surprising is quite right! If one is a fatalist, it is easy to decry this battle as one that had to be lost by the British. However, I see it as a good
            Message 5 of 9 , Nov 4, 1998
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              In a message dated 04/11/1998 12:52:35 AM, you wrote:

              >BJ has given me a very useful insight into what really happened - except
              >that it makes the British failure even more surprising. Could I have some
              >references to original sources, please, as I could not find them easily
              >on the website?

              Surprising is quite right! If one is a fatalist, it is easy to decry this
              battle as one that "had" to be lost by the British. However, I see it as a
              good example that even the old maxim "close only counts in horseshoes and hand
              grenades" is not always true - there are always exceptions. Ever play the
              game "Risk"? Let's say one holds most of the major continents, has piles of
              armies, has 3 sets of cards to turn in, is an experienced player --- and the
              dice just will not role in your favour. You lose. A rather simple, yet
              telling analogy to New Orleans.

              Let's see - I listed Paddy Griffith's book, "Forward into Battle", Presidio
              Press. "British at the Gates" by Robin Rilley (out of print I think, but
              libraries should carry it).
              "The Defence of New Orleans" by G.R. Gleig - a British eyewitness/participant.
              (also look in libraries)
              "New Orleans 1815 - Andrew Jackson Crushes the British" by Tim Pickles.
              "The Naval War of 1812" by Theodore Roosevelt.

              Those should be a good starting point.
              Cheers!
              -------------------------------------------------------------------------
              "Gentlemen! You can't fight in here, this is the War Room!" - Peter Sellers
              as US President Merkin Muffley in "Dr. Strangelove".
            • NINETY3RD@aol.com
              Oops! In my list of sources to look up for more accounts of what REALLY happened at New Orleans, I left off one great eyewitness account - Twenty Five Years
              Message 6 of 9 , Nov 4, 1998
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                Oops! In my list of sources to look up for more accounts of what REALLY
                happened at New Orleans, I left off one great eyewitness account - "Twenty
                Five Years in the Rifle Brigade" by W. Surtees. (hmmm...at least I THINK it's
                Surtees' ...and not Kincaid's book! - "Adventures in the Rifle Brigade"!)
                At any rate the author makes some wonderful observations on the campaign, and
                a most telling section deals with the 95th officers "walking the ground" the
                eve before the 8th to see what would be what come the battle - as they had
                learned to do in the Peninsula, and pointing out that Mullins of the 44th (the
                single person who can actually be blamed for the whole debacle) did not do
                likewise.
                Cheerio
                Benton
              • Mark Lewis
                I ve been shooting flintlock rifles for over 30 years. They are highly accurate in the hands of a person who knows how to use them. Those Tennessee boys knew
                Message 7 of 9 , May 25, 2007
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                  I've been shooting flintlock rifles for over 30 years. They are highly
                  accurate in the hands of a person who knows how to use them. Those
                  Tennessee boys knew how to use them, and still do.

                  http://www.snipercountry.com/Articles/LoneMarksmanRevisited.asp
                • Dale Kidd
                  The attached article is indeed interesting, but relies entirely on the account of the battle which purportedly comes from a British officer. This officer s
                  Message 8 of 9 , May 25, 2007
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                    The attached article is indeed interesting, but relies entirely on
                    the account of the battle which purportedly comes from a British
                    officer. This officer's anonymity makes the account particularly
                    suspect, as most documents containing such a detailed account can
                    usually be clearly attributed to their authors. One is forced to
                    wonder whether this legend is simply something made up as American
                    propaganda after the fact.

                    ~Dale

                    --- In WarOf1812@yahoogroups.com, "Mark Lewis" <mlewis@...> wrote:
                    >
                    > I've been shooting flintlock rifles for over 30 years. They are
                    highly
                    > accurate in the hands of a person who knows how to use them.
                    Those
                    > Tennessee boys knew how to use them, and still do.
                    >
                    > http://www.snipercountry.com/Articles/LoneMarksmanRevisited.asp
                    >
                  • Mark
                    Ok .. I have a curious question that came to mind while reading the article. Aside from the accuracy of the article, and the article itself, the statement is
                    Message 9 of 9 , May 25, 2007
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                      Ok .. I have a curious question that came to mind while reading the
                      article. Aside from the accuracy of the article, and the article
                      itself, the statement is made about firing one shot per minute. How
                      many shots in a minute, could a well trained Regular rifleman get off ?
                      Whether being fact or fiction, I recall an episode of Sharpe where he
                      is training riflemen, and states that they should be able to get off 3
                      shots per minute. Is this even possible?
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