Rifles in New Orleans
- 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
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.
- Sean, good points!
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@...>I agree. In getting members of the public to come and join the 3/95th,
>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.
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.
>And a damned fine job they did. Like shooting fish in a barrel, exc. when
>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.
the 95th were in suff. strength and positioned to snipe at the gunners.
>Well, for me, when it was time to start an 1812 unit, I saw lots of Redcoat
>Also what is this fascination with riflemen in the first place?
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!
>were effective troops in specialized situations but give me a musketLucky if I can load it from a paper cartridge in 45-50 seconds- thank God
>anyday. A rifle is slower to load than a musket
for the sword!<GG>
and has an effective range
>of about 200 metres. Even with a modern rifle you have to be a reasonableDo you mean feet or meters? Maybe it's just me, but I can hit something at
>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
three hundred feet with my Bess, but only if it says "Titanic" on the side
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)
>Right on- I think someone should do the 43rd Foot or even the Bloody 52nd,
>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
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
>Me too- just in two different eras! :^)
>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.
2nd LI, 40th Foot (AWI)
- 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 "longrifles"
>who could shoot accurately at 300 yards. The British were accustomed to a 100before
>yards' range, and would have halted their orderly (and probably intimidating)
>march short of this expected firing range, but were caught unawares long
>they reached the halting point. The story also acknowledges the loading time,was
>and says that Jackson had them lined up in three ranks, and that each line
>to fire in turn, stepping back to make way for the next line, and re-loadingOk, that is indeed the story. And unfortunately that is what the majority of
>while the other two lines fired. In my opinion it was the difference in range
>that is the vital point fo the story.
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!
- 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
- 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 - exceptSurprising is quite right! If one is a fatalist, it is easy to decry this
>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?
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.
"Gentlemen! You can't fight in here, this is the War Room!" - Peter Sellers
as US President Merkin Muffley in "Dr. Strangelove".
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
--- In WarOf1812@yahoogroups.com, "Mark Lewis" <mlewis@...> wrote:
> I've been shooting flintlock rifles for over 30 years. They are
> accurate in the hands of a person who knows how to use them.
> Tennessee boys knew how to use them, and still do.
- 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?