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Re: Rifles in New Orleans

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  • Roger Fuller
    Sean, good points! ... From: Sean To: WarOf1812@onelist.com Date: Tuesday, November 03, 1998 12:29 PM Subject:
    Message 1 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 2 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 3 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 4 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 5 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 6 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 7 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 8 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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