Early War Marksmanship and Effective Range of Infantry Weapons

Discussion in 'Civil War' started by Artificer, Jan 1, 2018.

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  1. May 14, 2018 #41

    lyman54

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    Thank you for the link. All of that has been of great interest to me since I was a kid and that was a long time ago.
     
  2. May 20, 2018 #42

    Redstick Lee

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    to all:

    in my section of the South, the best shots were sent to the County Seat to muster in, while the main body were mustered in at local Churches, Court-Houses, Taverns, etc.

    My local regiment was the Jacksonville (Al.) Sharp-Shooters.........4 miles away were the White Plains Rangers, and most others from the county were simply the 11th Alabama.
     
  3. May 24, 2018 #43

    Artificer

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    Had never heard of enlisting recruits straight into sharpshooter units. That was very interesting. Thank you.

    Gus
     
  4. May 25, 2018 #44

    Artificer

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    Well, let me correct myself. Of course units like Berdan's Sharpshooters recruited men straight into their units, as did others. What I should have written was I was not aware of it being done in Alabama. That was very interesting as early in my WBTS reenacting period, we Confederate Marines were "attached" to the 5th Alabama Bn, Archer's Brigade. So that brought back some very fond memories. Thank you.

    OK, a little more on Skirmish Lines.

    I can't remember if it was Hardee's or Gilham's Drill Manuals that wrote about using "Companions in Battle" for the Skirmish line. This meant a Skirmish line was made up of groups of 4 Soldiers, not unlike the modern Fire Team in a Rifle Squad. The idea was that while one Soldier took careful aim and fired, two others would be reloading and the fourth would be finished or nearly finished reloading and ready to shoot next. This meant they could keep up a fairly constant rate of fire and never be caught completely with unloaded muskets, even if they were ordered to move forward or backward.

    The problem is I have never been able to find any accounts of how they did that in actual battles. Once we learned of it, we used it in "Tacticals" (our name for War Games, not usually done in front of the public) and it was very effective.

    One thing the second and maybe third Soldier could have done while reloading was act as a "Spotter" or mark where the firing Soldier's ball landed. If they did that, they could have more effectively noted rounds that hit in front of the enemy and corrected their sights or the way they held off for elevation and windage. I imagine they did that, but I have no documentation to prove it.

    Gus
     
  5. Jun 5, 2018 #45

    Loyalist Dave

    Loyalist Dave

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    I think we should remember, for example, Robert E. Lee had seen some large unit actions in the Mexican War, but..., smoothbores and Napoleonic tactics were used. In fact, I believe Lee favored the "Napoleon" style field artillery pieces..., and his junior officers would have had no other recent reference to large, pitched battles, other than the Napoleonic Wars, no?


    Even though you're correct, and this is more from WWI, the diversity of ammo did keep things lively for the logistics side of the war. I think perhaps it's better to understand that, "After professionals talk logistics, they speak of tactics and strategy, not in place of tactics and strategy." Having the best gear and the most of it means nothing if you're not going to go out and use it in an aggressive and proper manner.



    While this may account for skewing the records of how the soldiers died..., I think the time delay in reaching the wounded also skewed casualty records..., so a soldier who might have "made it" had his wound been promptly bound...but bled-out instead.... skews any records as well. That, coupled with no actual desire to record how those who were found dead, had been made so. Even IF they had desired to know..., how does one tell the impact from a .69 caliber musket ball from the impact of a ball fired by artillery canister,... by just rolling the dead guy over and glancing at the wound? I do, however, think the low level of documented bayonet charges helps to support the idea that the bayonet was not the deciding factor, nor even a major contributor, that it had been a century prior to the ACW.



    I'm not sure any of that would've mattered even if the officers could've done all of that, except in a nearly perfect action.

    Consider Gus, our own experience..., what type of target did we fire at, when shooting from the 500 yard line in The Corps? A silhouette of a fellow standing upright, and on top of a slight rise..., right? Realistic??? How many of the enemy in the real world would've been so sporting as to do that for us? :haha: And we were using modern rifles and modern ammunition, on a known distance rifle range...and nobody was shooting back at us. :wink: Now it is true, the soldiers stood upright in lines, but not 5 perfect football fields apart, eh?

    Consider too, then and now, battle-zero for iron sights is what..., 200 yards? I think that's because of the user's abilities, not the performance of the rifle.

    Add to that it's very difficult to judge distances in the field, and that's assuming your officers and men have 20/20 vision. (I wonder what effect diet, and poor artificial lighting, played on the eyesight of the average ACW soldier...was it the same on both sides?)

    An old adage holds, "When looking at a target over uneven ground, and the ground is in full view, the observer tends to over estimate range; when looking over the ground, and the ground to the target is hidden, the observer tends to under estimate range." So I think about the only way the officers back then knew they'd have most of their men within range (especially as you pointed out, jerking the trigger in volley firing) was to get them to about 100 yards, and start banging away. :wink:

    LD
     
  6. Jun 6, 2018 #46

    Artificer

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    Hi Dave,

    Battle Sight Zero has been 300 yards since the introduction of the use of the M1 Garand, not 200 yards. It was something like 220 yards with the 1903, as that was the range of the rear sight when it was down.

    During WWI, Marines opened up and started killing standing/advancing Germans in open order charges at 800 yards in large enough numbers and over very broken ground, the Germans believed they were advancing into massed machine gun fire. Of course back then, the Marines had actually trained at firing at 800 yards during their qualification and annual requalifications. They also got PAID 2 Dollars a month more for shooting Marksman, 4 Dollars more for Sharpshooter and 6 dollars more for shooting Expert. That was a serious incentive when Privates were making $16.00 a month in 1916. It was often said they were "shooting for their beer money on liberty."

    BTW, the type of eyeglasses available to most troops during WWI were no better than the ones available in the WBTS, because there were not many Optometrists and most people bought a frame and then individual lenses that fit their eyes as best as possible, from a display rack in the general store. That is, if they could afford it or even bothered with it until they were into middle age.

    But we have to remember, what a soldier or shooter needs to see well when shooting, is his front sight and relationship to his rear sight. The target is always blurry when aiming properly.

    Now of course the 1903 Springfields shot flatter at 800 yards than a WBTS Rifled Musket, but Enfield Rifle Muskets also had "ladder type" rear sights adjustable to 900 yards, though the tallest leaf on the Springfield sights were for 500 yards. However as noted before, Pre War use of the M1855 Rifle Musket had seen the U.S. Soldiers trained out to 700 yards for their use against period battle lines. So it was not the deficiency of the Rifle Musket, or ammo or rear sights that kept them from being used at ranges much further than 100 yards, it was because most had not been trained beyond that range - neither the Officers giving the commands nor the troops firing at longer ranges.

    As to estimating range, by the WBTS they had a chart that gave estimated ranges by what parts of the body of an enemy soldier could be determined by the average soldier. The shortest range was 50 yards where they "could see the whites of the eyes of the enemy," the same in the AWI. Though I haven't seen the chart since the early 1980's, I think the next range given was when the enemy soldiers fingers could be distinguished. Then further out what distance the enemy soldier's arms could be distinguished. Then further out what distance their heads could be distinguished and finally their legs for the furthest range. I don't know if that was listed in the Pre War Manuals, but the information was available before the war when they trained out to 700 yards and almost certainly from the prone position at that range. As I mentioned earlier, I tested the information on rifle ranges and gave that info to the Scout Snipers, who also found it very accurate for estimating range - though of course not as accurate as using Mil Dots in their scopes.

    Of course poor diet and the stress of combat meant even the best trained soldiers would not hit as accurately at their extreme range. Even so, well trained Soldiers during the WBTS could have hit pretty certain at 200 yards and even gotten a majority of hits at 300 yards - had they been trained and experienced at shooting at those ranges and did not have clouds of smoke to shoot through.

    Gus
     
  7. Jan 12, 2019 at 4:44 AM #47

    Stantheman86

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    There is always a "lag" in the Army Infantry when it comes to tactics.

    In 2008 , fully involved in a two front War on Terror against insurgents using guerilla tactics we were still training with the same Infantry movements my Dad did in the 70's, learning how to take out bunkers, etc. The training was just beginning to evolve into a "counter insurgency" type training.

    As far as the Civil War , marksmanship among Union conscripts was probably mediocre at best and in the book "Men in War" the author states that many young soldiers who hadn't seen "the Elephant" didn't even aim and in fact fired high over the enemy because they didn't want to hit anyone , hoping "someone else" would do the job of killing.

    It took an engagement or two to realize they had to kill the other guys who were shooting at them in order to maybe survive. We're also talking about kids , 15, 16, 18, maybe as young as 14 ......European immigrants , people who weren't "rifleman". Marksmanship training was lacking , and I don't think marksmanship was even beginning to be a real thought in the regular Army until the 1890's. I feel Musket Drill was more prevalent, with more emphasis on the movements of using the paper cartridges and achieving the 3-4 rounds per minute. For the average Infantryman hitting point targets was not stressed.

    The fact that ramrods can be found growing out of trees at some battlefields further shows the inexperience of many soldiers. Also rifles found with 7, 8, 10 minies down the pipe....poor kids were too rattled to know their rifle wasn't firing.

    When I use my rifle-muskets at the range I often think , I can't even imagine doing this in combat let alone being expected to actually hit anything......just load the thing, point at the enemy , fire, repeat until it's over and you're still hopefully alive......that's probably all you'd get out of most. Things slow down in your head in combat and it feels like you have 10 thumbs. Getting 3-4 rounds a minute out, with accuracy, under fire, would be a very seasoned soldier.
     
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  8. Jan 12, 2019 at 5:32 PM #48

    franky4me

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    Remember, the British drill for firing in the 18th was "level your firelock" and then "fire" ... nobody expected accurate fire but rather fire power ! The first one during the cival war to insist on accuracy was General Bragg who published an instruction book on the subject
     
  9. Jan 14, 2019 at 5:34 PM #49

    Artificer

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    Please don't take this as personal criticism, but that is an old myth that refuses to die. The British Army began deliberate aimed fire in the FIW and even offered small cash rewards or something like a pouch of tobacco to the best shooters at Company and Regimental level competitions.

    Gus
     
  10. Jan 14, 2019 at 6:03 PM #50

    Pete G

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    Let`s not forget that most commanders were trained at West Point, which was teaching, among others, Napoleantic tactics.
     
  11. Jan 15, 2019 at 1:27 PM #51

    Jock Ellis

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    I once asked my FBI agent uncle the distance of accurate shooting in a fire fight. “If you can reach out and touch ‘em, you can probably hit ‘em,” he replied.
    I imagine incoming bullets had/has a great effect on accuracy.
    I have long wondered why those heavy with ducats want to buy .50 calibers and expensive scopes to shoot at targets thousands of yards/meters away when the 800-900 yard kills the Devil Dog Marines made at Belleau Wood are the gold standard for long distance shooting. I certainly would not be embarrassed by being compared to these men.
     
  12. Jan 15, 2019 at 1:51 PM #52

    azmntman

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    I often have heard in a gun fight you need to be accurate accurate accurate, knowing that your opponent will be missing you take your time and make # 1 shot count. Imagine its hard to do. In other "activities" I participated in as a youth I was told more than once "I wouldn't want to be near you in a hysterical situation" I believe that means I would be missing so if ya take yer time I'd be out? Maybe the other way around as I am very good with a pistol? I hope I never find out..........
     
  13. Jan 16, 2019 at 4:26 PM #53

    franky4me

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    I remember reading that the 1804 "Lewis and Clark" flint rifle had to be "in the hands of a good marksman shooting prone capable of hitting a human target at 600 paces " True ????? not true????
     

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