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Login Name Post: Early War Marksmanship and Effective Range of Infantry Weapons        (Topic#306093)
Artificer 
Cannon
Posts: 6557
12-31-17 11:34 PM - Post#1660329    


Part 1

The idea for this thread came from earlier discussions on Accuracy, Range and Effectiveness of WBTS Infantry Arms and some recent information on the use of M1842 Percussion Smoothbore Muskets that were still in use by some Federal Regiments as late as 1863 in both the Eastern and Western Theatres of the War.

Earlier discussions have often centered on even though Rifle Muskets were available at the outbreak of the War and could effectively hit Man Size Targets at 300 yards, at least in Battle Line Formations at that range by most troops, many Commanders stuck to having their men fire at 100 yards or even closer for much of the War. I wonder if perhaps we have been a little too disdainful by blaming Commanders and not thinking about what other conditions may have been involved?

By the opening of the WBTS, most Commanders from Generals down to Captains commanding Infantry Companies and who had actual Combat Experience, had gained that experience with their Soldiers having been armed with either M1842 Percussion Smoothbore Muskets (Maximum effective range 60 to 100 yards at most) or much less often M1841 Rifles (Maximum effective range perhaps 200 yards). Even though these Arms were more reliable with the Percussion Cap System, the effective range of these Arms 82 years after the AWI, was no further than Muskets and Rifles of the Revolutionary War.

However, there were a VERY small number of Commanders who had some Combat Experience with their Soldiers armed with M 1855 Rifle Musket.

The advent of rifled firearms [M1855 Rifle Muskets] prompted an interest in marksmanship training, something that had rarely been accomplished previously. Brig. Gen. William S. Harney, commander of the 1856 expedition against the Sioux, ordered daily target practice to ensure his soldiers would be familiar with their new weapons. Sergeant Bandel of the 6th Infantry, part of Harney’s command for the campaign, recalled using “seventy-five cartridges in one day alone” soon after he received his rifled musket. In March 1856, the 10th Infantry also instituted marksmanship practice. Targets ranged from two hundred to seven hundred yards. According to the regimental history, “All shots were recorded and the men classified according to ability.” The 3d Artillery regimental history noted that “the superiority of the rifle was at once strikingly manifest.” In 1858 the Army codified these efforts by introducing a new target practice manual. Nevertheless, by the time the Civil War erupted, marksmanship training was still in its infancy, and in the rush to raise mass armies at the outbreak of the war, such training often fell by the wayside.

By December 1860, the Army’s authorized strength totaled about 18,000 officers and men, but only 16,367 were on the rolls. Of these, 1,108 were commissioned officers, four were general officers (one major general who served as the commanding general and three brigadier generals), and the rest were either line officers assigned to the regiments or staff officers serving in the War Department. There were 361 staff officers assigned to the nine bureaus and departments, all of which were headed by colonels, although several held staff brevets of brigadier general. The bureau chiefs were men of long service, averaging sixty-four years of age, with six over seventy. The 743 line officers served in the regiments: 351 in the infantry, 210 in the artillery, and 182 in the mounted units. As with the bureau chiefs in the War Department, the nineteen regimental colonels were mostly old men set in their ways. They ranged in age from forty-two to eighty, the average being sixty-three.

With ten infantry and five mounted regiments of ten companies each (the 8th Infantry had only nine) and four artillery regiments of twelve companies each, there were a total of 197 line, or combat, companies in the United States Army on the eve of the Civil War. Of these, only eighteen, all artillery, were stationed east of the Mississippi River.

The Army of 1860, although woefully undermanned, was a much more effective force than the one that had marched into Mexico just fifteen years earlier. It had better weapons and a more professional officer corps. But like the Army of 1845, it would soon face a conflict for which it was unprepared. After the Mexican War, during a decade and a half of conducting small, independent operations on the frontier, junior officers had gained considerable experience in leading men in combat, but virtually none of the Army’s senior leadership had ever fought a major battle. Men who had commanded companies of one hundred or fewer soldiers soon found themselves leading brigades, divisions, and corps. Even more so than in the Mexican War, the Army was about to undergo a stunning transformation as the nation rushed pell-mell toward mobilizing what would eventually become a million-man force of citizen soldiers who would fight to preserve the Union.”

The above information from “The Regular Army Before the Civil War 1845 – 1860” by Clayton R. Newell, Center of Military History United States Army Washington, D.C., 2014

“The Model 1855 was the best arm available at the beginning of the conflict as it took some time for the Model 1861s to be manufactured and actually reach the field. However, less than 80,000 Model 1855s had been manufactured by the start of the war. Some of them were destroyed when the Confederates captured the Harper's Ferry Arsenal in April 1861, and several thousand more were in Southern hands. Approximately 10,000 rifles had also been shipped to California, and therefore were useless for the Union war effort.”
From “Arms and Equipment of the Civil War" by Jack Coggins, Published 2004

OK, so the Pre War and Early War Federal Regular Army Infantry Regiments were armed with the M1855 Rifle Musket. Some had both training in marksmanship and had fought with these Rifled Arms, though some may not have had even much marksmanship training. With most Rifled Muskets issued to Regular Army Regiments or stored in Arsenals throughout the United States at the outbreak of the WBTS, how were the exceedingly larger number of Militia Units armed?

As noted in another thread, there had been a total of about 250,000 M1842 Smoothbore Percussion Muskets made between 1844 and 1855. (That is a LOT of those muskets even by today’s standards.) Since the Regular Army had been upgraded to the M1855 Rifled Arms, that meant the majority of these arms were in the hands of State Arsenals and their Militia Units. Though some had been or were being rifled at either Government Armories or by Civilian Contractors, most of the arms remained Smooth Bore. So even if some Militia Units would have taken time for Long Range Shooting Experience, most Militia did not have Rifled Arms to practice shooting with beyond 100 yards.

So no wonder early War battles were often fought with “Napoleonic Tactics” of Battle Lines facing each other at 100 yards or less, because many of the Units did not even have Rifled Arms. If the troops did not have rifled arms, their Commanders could not be blamed for sticking with “older tactics” that were designed for the Smooth Bore Arms their troops used.

Gus


 
tenngun 
Cannon
Posts: 6831
tenngun
01-01-18 10:23 AM - Post#1660358    

    In response to Artificer

I would point out that military command is hard pressed to develop new tactics. In Vietnam we tried at the start to fight like WW2. The command of the First World War were fighting the Franco Prussian war.
It took two centuries after the first gun was put aboard a ship to build an effective broadside ship. Then another century to figure out how to use it.
I would also point out that few had corrected vision in 1850s and probibly one third of the men couldn’t see three hundred yards.
Then I would point out the lay of the land. Many of the battlefield had few places where land was open enough to expose troops at more then a hundred yards.
Even with rifles battles were won only when you planted your flag where the enemy line had been. One man per yard was enough to hold off the army of the Potomac in that last winter. Grant didn’t win until he busted through. Then move fast enough to deny Lee a place to reform and defend.

 
Artificer 
Cannon
Posts: 6557
01-01-18 02:05 PM - Post#1660396    

    In response to tenngun

Hi Tenngun,

It wasn't so much they were stuck with old tactics in the early war years, it was they were stuck with the old weapons. Not sure of something they could have done differently that was as effective as the old tactics with the old weapons?

Well, you don't have to see individual people at 300 yards because there were still lines of troops to aim at, exactly because many people did not have corrected vision. IOW it would not matter the targets were blurry as long as one could see their sights fairly well.

Not sure what Grant's Army in the latter stages of the war has to do with the discussion of Early War Marksmanship and Effectiveness? By the time Grant became Commanding General of all Federal Forces; he had many more men, more new weapons and especially more rations than Lee.

Gus

 
tenngun 
Cannon
Posts: 6831
tenngun
01-01-18 05:17 PM - Post#1660430    

    In response to Artificer

That’s a trueism,they for sure were hampered by the lack of up to date weapons. Both the north and the south had this problem. Though the south would suffer worse. I threw in Grant just for making the point that still battles were not won until you drove the enemy from their position.
But,I am put in mind if Longstreet who advocated not defending positions as much as creating killing fields and falling back. Advice that was mostly ignored.
I often wonder how generals could have altered tactics at that time with what they had.

 
Artificer 
Cannon
Posts: 6557
01-02-18 12:54 AM - Post#1660468    

    In response to tenngun

  • tenngun Said:
That’s a trueism,they for sure were hampered by the lack of up to date weapons. Both the north and the south had this problem. Though the south would suffer worse.


Hi Tenngun,
This is part of the reason I began this thread. Until recently, I thought the North had more of the New Rifled Musket Arms earlier than they actually did.

I also knew of the Pre War U.S. Manual on Marksmanship, but did not have much actual documentation on the use of that Manual and Marksmanship Training in general. I could not help but believe at least some of the Officers in the Pre War Army were smart enough to train their men at longer distances and now I finally got some documentation on that. So I was tickled to find and share that documentation.

  • tenngun Said:
I threw in Grant just for making the point that still battles were not won until you drove the enemy from their position.



I’m not taking anything away from Grant when I mention he was not the only General by far to realize you won battles by driving the enemy away, but there were/are also times it is better to maneuver against the enemy and cause him to withdraw or thwart his intentions, especially when the enemy has more troops and supplies than you do.

Grant got into trouble early in the War when he aggressively moved forward and won some minor battles, but put himself in such an exposed position, that he was counter attacked and lost a lot of men for no good purpose, then had to retreat. Some of his superiors used this against him and came close to getting rid of him because they were jealous of him, but good thing for the North there were some who recognized they needed more aggressive Generals if they were to win the War.

  • tenngun Said:
But,I am put in mind if Longstreet who advocated not defending positions as much as creating killing fields and falling back. Advice that was mostly ignored.



OK, please understand as one who commanded a reenactment unit of an original unit that was assigned to Longstreet later in the War; I have sincere respect for Longstreet, but he was not the military genius or even superb commander he thought himself to be. Longstreet was absolutely correct the Army should have pulled out of Gettysburg at least a day, if not earlier than it did and set up a defensive battle and thanks to that I think we may think a bit more than what he was capable.

I knew when Longstreet got Independent Command later on in the War, he did not display the tactical genius he thought he had, rather it was only a passable performance, especially with the experience he had by then. What I have recently learned about was when he was given Independent Command earlier in the War after the Seven Days Battles and did not do nearly as well as he believed himself to have been able. As it turned out Longstreet was a very capable General Grade Officer, who did best when he was under the command of someone better at tactics and strategy.
http://www.the-civil-war.net/longstreets-debut-in-independen...

  • tenngun Said:
I often wonder how generals could have altered tactics at that time with what they had.



It seems some of the Company and Regimental Commanders came up with the tactics of either kneeling or even lying down in formation, rather than to remain standing and make an easy target of themselves while they were reloading. Original Medical Reports showed an unusually percentage of casualties to their heads and right shoulders and arms, but not on their lower bodies. That’s how some Federal Commanders actually found out the troops were kneeling or laying down to fire and reload. Of course, that was why they were keen on getting breech loaders where they could lay down to fire and reload.

More coming later.

Gus



 
crockett 
Cannon
Posts: 6234
01-02-18 10:29 AM - Post#1660530    

    In response to Artificer

There might have been some other factors. Today the logistics is such that infantry can fire at will and there is a steady stream of ammunition coming up to the front line. I don't know how that played in the WBTS but if ammunition was limited, might explain why the officers waited until the range was closer.

 
Artificer 
Cannon
Posts: 6557
01-02-18 02:23 PM - Post#1660585    

    In response to crockett

  • crockett Said:
There might have been some other factors. Today the logistics is such that infantry can fire at will and there is a steady stream of ammunition coming up to the front line. I don't know how that played in the WBTS but if ammunition was limited, might explain why the officers waited until the range was closer.



More than once I have read that General Jackson stated early in the war that "any soldier who fired more than 28 cartridges a day" was criminally negligent and would face court martial. However, I have never read or even heard of a case where any soldier was so court martialed.

In Warfare "Amateurs talk tactics and strategy, while professionals talk logistics." Though I don't think that quote was earlier than WWI, it did indeed cause some problems for the North every now and then in "the West," but not so much in the East. There were by far more logistics resupply problems in the South and particularly in Virginia.

In the winter of 1862-3 General Lee wrote often to President Davis that arms and rations were in critical short supply, especially after the Battle of Fredericksburg in Dec. 1862 where a lot of ammunition was expended. Rations were reduced to 1/4 pound of salt pork a day for some time.

In January 1863 Lee identified Samuel Ruth, who was the Superintendent of the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad as the weak point in "the great delays of running the freight trains." Lee also commented Ruth did not have "enough zeal in the performance of his duties." Lee suggested an able Captain with prior experience running railroads to President Davis to replace Ruth, but Davis did not act on it.

What Lee did not know was that Samuel Ruth was a Traitor to the Confederacy who deliberately did not hire enough workers, did not fix bridges and the rail lines when needed (and of course when they had the materials to do so) and most importantly gave civilian trains priority to the Army re-supply freight trains - to really slow down supplies. Ruth was smart enough to just barely get things back in line when the heat came down, but then went right back to doing these things once the heat died down.

Unfortunately for the South, President Davis believed the senior Officials of the R,F and P Railroad who continued to speak for the Traitor Samuel Ruth. In the last two years of the war, Ruth added espionage to his treason and was finally brought up on charges in 1865. However, the Railroad Officials still stood up for him, because they did not know what Ruth had been doing for so long. So Ruth was not found guilty and actually petitioned the U.S. Government for the damage he had done to the South during the War.

Gus



 
tenngun 
Cannon
Posts: 6831
tenngun
01-02-18 02:36 PM - Post#1660587    

    In response to Artificer

Napoleon said he wanted the lucky generals. I love to play The Who was a better general game as in Forrest vs Patton thing. After the fact it’s easy to see where the plan went off the tracks.
I think every general has to have an inflated view of their ability, or they wouldn’t be generals.
Still warfare of this time was bad weather, tired hungry and often poorly trained men with a mishmash of arms, limited intell, poor maps, host of lt. commanders that wanted your job, presidents breathing down your throat, and to top it off everything know about tactics didn’t fit the new battlefields.
Wilson’s creek is in walking distance for me and pea ridge just a few hours away. Several times a year a walk those trails and am humbled and in awe at what those men did.

 
Artificer 
Cannon
Posts: 6557
01-02-18 02:48 PM - Post#1660592    

    In response to crockett

One other Early War factor that impeded marksmanship training on both sides, for those who actually were issued Rifled Muskets instead of smoothbores, was the fact they had so little time to turn civilians into soldiers.

While some Pre War Militia Units in both the North and South actually did some training with firing, it was mostly done with smoothbore muskets and according to manuals for that arm, as they did not have rifled muskets.

Other Pre War Militia Units were just glorified Social Clubs where some had resoundingly resplendent uniforms to attract the eyes of the Ladies, but a lot of their gear was not up to a week's hard campaign. Many of those Militia's barely knew the Manual of Arms and any "troop movements" outside parading for the Ladies.

So what both the North and South had to contend with mostly in the early part of the War was turning civilians into soldiers, when there was not much time to do so. So while military marksmanship was still in its infancy, they did not have much time to train in more advanced marksmanship techniques.

Now, what surprises me is that there is not much evidence, in the lulls between Battles, of marksmanship training by the North and they had plenty of ammunition to do it.

I do think you have a point the South did not have as much ammunition to spare for marksmanship training, though, after they began receiving their Enfields and other Rifle Muskets kindly donated by Federal Armies.

Gus



 
tenngun 
Cannon
Posts: 6831
tenngun
01-02-18 04:05 PM - Post#1660608    

    In response to Artificer

Yup , as a dyed in the wool southerner I would like to say the avarage Johnny was a better shot then Billy at the start of the war. After all he had all them southren virtues. I would like to say...
But,
Causulties comparisons show Billy and Johnny shot about the same. You had to shoot off a mans weight in lead to kill him.

 
Artificer 
Cannon
Posts: 6557
01-02-18 04:48 PM - Post#1660619    

    In response to tenngun

  • tenngun Said:

Causulties comparisons show Billy and Johnny shot about the same. You had to shoot off a mans weight in lead to kill him.



Though I know the number of dead and wounded were tallied up after most battles and reported; I have not been able to find accurate numbers of how many casualties came from small arms of each type, bayonets, artillery, or even cavalry sabres. As far as I know, they almost never or never recorded what killed each of the dead on the battlefield. So I'm not so sure just comparing casualties tells us much about small arms marksmanship?

However, if you have original documentation on what caused casualties of each type, I would be very interested in examining it.

Gus

 
tenngun 
Cannon
Posts: 6831
tenngun
01-02-18 05:33 PM - Post#1660629    

    In response to Artificer

I don’t , just looking at battle field casualties. Some cought steel, some iron and some lead. Not to mention the butt end of a gun, rocks or pieces of broken fence post as a club, or even strangling.

 
Artificer 
Cannon
Posts: 6557
01-02-18 05:37 PM - Post#1660631    

    In response to Artificer

P.S. Something that is repeated over and over, ad nauseum on battlefield deaths is there were supposedly very few casualties from bayonets. Well, not so accurate after all because the casualty counts of what types of wounds were taken from the Field Hospitals, not the dead on the battlefield.

Though they did not call it "Battlefield Triage" during the period, they did bring back soldiers first from the battlefield they were most likely to save. If someone had a bayonet wound in the the guts or in the heart and lungs, they realized there was nothing they could do for those casualties, so they were often taken last. Of course similar wounds from small arms or grape shot or shell meant they also could do nothing. So the wounds of the dead normally or never got recorded.

So at least some "of what we know" about what caused each of the battlefield deaths, is only speculation or taken from Field Hospitals.

Gus

 
crockett 
Cannon
Posts: 6234
01-04-18 10:01 AM - Post#1660965    

    In response to Artificer

Let's not forget artillery fire. Canister took out a lot. As stated, hard to break down what arms killed how many.
A couple of years ago I was driving by Biloxi, MS and noticed the summer home of J. Davis so I stopped by and while there bought a book of his writing and papers. Interesting. One thing he said was the actual numbers of soldiers, arms, etc. was over inflated to deter the Federals and only a few knew this, a lot of Confederate generals kept asking for more troops and couldn't figure out what was the hold up. It could have been the same with ammunition- hence no longer range shooting and training shots. Federals from rural areas likely could shoot as well as the confederates but the federal army also had a huge amount of men from cities-probably never fired a weapon before the war.

 
Artificer 
Cannon
Posts: 6557
01-04-18 06:45 PM - Post#1661075    

    In response to crockett

I mentioned "grape shot" in my last post, but you are right it is correctly called canister. It was EXTREMELY deadly particularly when they "double shotted" the guns with canister and if they could fire at an angle or even on the flanks, rather than dead on.

Some of the hold up for replacement Confederate Troops was due to the fact the South had barely enough to fight the much larger population of the North, but also because some Governors kept back too many troops to guard their home states.

There was also a problem with the varying economies of the Southron States. Some States were too poor to do much more than supply troops while other states that could have supplied more in clothing, rations and arms to the National Government - did not want to at first.

One of the problems when fighting for States' Rights was they did not get all together as much as they should have for the National War Effort. So they had to set up Confederate (National) Laboratories to make percussion caps, cannon fuses, black powder and all the other munitions of war.

Gus

 
tenngun 
Cannon
Posts: 6831
tenngun
01-04-18 09:24 PM - Post#1661115    

    In response to Artificer

And we can’t forget that this was a rebellion. It was not universally supported. Much of Tennessee and North Carolina along with what would become West Virgina was slow to provide troops, Texas also kept kept a lot of boys at home. North had that problem too. Many just didn’t want to take up arms. In terms of numbers that hurt the south more. As it was the south enlisted about 12% of its population.

 
Artificer 
Cannon
Posts: 6557
01-05-18 09:41 AM - Post#1661206    

    In response to tenngun

Somewhere I have/had an original reference where the M1861 Rifle Musket was considered accurate enough to reliably hit a man size target at 300 yards and had enough power to stop a charging horse at 500 yards, but I don't remember in what book it is. It also talked about being able to hit lines of men at 500 yards.

However, I don't think that accuracy, especially at 500 yards, was obtained from men standing and firing in volley firing.

For quite some time, I have been searching for documentation on them doing any kind of practice firing with Rifled Muskets from 200 yards and beyond. I have some thoughts on how it might have been done, but for a long time, I had no documentation it was done. That's why I was so tickled to find documentation of practice between 200 and 700 yards, even if it was done in the immediate Pre WBTS time period.

Now that I know there was a period Marksmanship Manual the US printed in the late 1850's, I guess I will have to see if anyone has a reproduction copy of it.

Gus

 
Artificer 
Cannon
Posts: 6557
01-05-18 10:04 AM - Post#1661215    

    In response to Artificer

Well, DUH, I just remembered a site that has period manuals on line. OK, they did not have the earliest manual but they did have the "1862 A System of Target Practice" Manual, under the "Infantry" column.

http://www.storymindmedia.com/angryalien/military_manuals.ht...

I have only gotten about half way through it at this point, but it is very interesting indeed for anyone who would like to know more about period marksmanship/accuracy training.

Gus

 
crockett 
Cannon
Posts: 6234
01-06-18 10:33 AM - Post#1661472    

    In response to Artificer

I am told by someone who volunteered at the beginning of WWII and was in heavy infantry that they were taught how to sight in a 30 cal water cooled machine gun and then did 2 "bursts" at a 600 yard target and that was it- on their way. It seems like a shortage of practice is just part of the drill in any war.
Shooting canister at an angle- that's how machine guns were set up in WWII, the charging enemy actually ran into a line of fire- so I am told.
There were crack sharp shooter outfits in the Civil War and perhaps they were given the job of long range shooting.
Not to sideline the topic but since mention has been made on the politics. That has long been an issue for me. Did the political framework of the Confederate States impede their ability to conduct a war? There is very little that has been written on this. As I understand it, the Southern States simply took a copy of the Constitution and substituted "Confederate States" for the "United States". If that is true, then they were not technically a Confederacy (I think) as opposed to the Articles of Confederation. In any event I have wondered how the political framework of the Confederacy helped or hindered the war effort.

 
Artificer 
Cannon
Posts: 6557
01-08-18 07:45 AM - Post#1661964    

    In response to crockett

It has been so long since I went over the Confederate Constitution, I had to look it up. Though in many ways it is a carbon copy, there are also numerous points that are not in the U.S. Constitution.

http://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/csa_csa.asp

I have not read where the Confederate Constitution caused problems for the South, but as mentioned before, since each C.S. State was very keen on state's rights, that did not make for a very effective "National" Government.

It took quite a while for every state to fully support the National War Effort as opposed to some of the individual states held back some of the following: troops, supplies, equipment, rations, etc.

There were also problems that stemmed from the Confederate Draft Law and it was as unpopular as the Draft Law in the North. More info here:
http://www.wtv-zone.com/civilwar/condraft.html

Gus



 
tenngun 
Cannon
Posts: 6831
tenngun
01-08-18 03:02 PM - Post#1662103    

    In response to Artificer

Problem with government for last 5000 years. How do you balance the needs of the people against the needs of the state. Democracy creates the tyranny of the majority. Federalism have to stomp out the needs of the smallest members, but the smallest members have to band together to stomp out the needs of the central authority. I don’t know how well the south could have functioned as an independent country.

 
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