Hand grenades ca. 1790-1820?

Discussion in 'War of 1812' started by hyuzu, May 6, 2019.

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  1. May 6, 2019 #1

    hyuzu

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    Could anyone provide me with some info on hand grenades used in the period ca. 1790-1820? I have seen a couple mentions of grenades in use during the Napoleonic era (primarily in naval warfare), but I don't know anything serious about them.

    I'd be especially interested to know details on the materials and variations used. For example, were all grenades in this period made of iron, or is there any evidence of other materials (e.g. pottery, glass, etc.) used to construct them? What about different variations on grenades (e.g. smoke bombs, incendiary devices, etc.)?

    Also, if there's been any literature written on hand grenades during the 18th and early 19th century, I'm up for recommendations!
     
    Last edited: May 6, 2019
  2. May 6, 2019 #2

    FishDFly

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    "hand grenades during the 18th and early 19th century"

    I did a quick search in the internet and found a lot of information on your request. You will be amazed at what is there and it will answer your questions.
     
  3. May 6, 2019 #3

    hyuzu

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    I've always wondered what the point of "just google it" posts are...
    Trust me fella, if I'd found the literature I was looking for on google, I wouldn't be posting here.
     
  4. May 6, 2019 #4

    tenngun

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    CFB00E8F-6ADD-4DFC-80F1-27F62F818AC8.jpeg 72065B84-D81D-4525-83A3-ACCF920C1556.jpeg
     
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  5. May 6, 2019 #5

    FishDFly

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    "I've always wondered what the point of "just google it" posts are...
    Trust me fella, if I'd found the literature I was looking for on google, I wouldn't be posting here."

    There is no reason to be RUDE.

    I did not use Google, I did a search on MSN.

    I doubt your are going to find a wealth of information from folks on hand grenades, there does not seem much interest here since this is a muzzle loading forum.

    Have a nice day.
     
  6. May 6, 2019 #6

    hyuzu

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  7. May 6, 2019 #7

    tenngun

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    Pirates and patriots of the revolution by Dr Keith Wilbur MD
     
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  8. May 14, 2019 #8

    Artificer

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    The oldest "Gun Control" Ordinance I ever ran across was in 1760, the City of Boston forbade storage of Gun (Artillery) barrels and hand grenades in peoples' private homes and required them to be stored in warehouses and buildings near or at the wharves. Can you imagine the wife asking, "Is that you, Honey?' and you reply, "I'll be up in a few minutes dear, just have to put some cannon barrels and hand grenades away...…" ;) :D

    I already knew of hollow cast Iron grenades, but found out most of the grenades they were talking about were made of glass and had flammable liquids in them. The idea was they were to be used against Pirate ships by setting the enemy ship on fire, a much more fearful thing in the period than an exploding Iron Grenade, because the sailing ships were a tinder box waiting to go off. Of course you also had to be very careful storing them aboard ship, because even an unlighted grenade like that when dropped accidentally, spilled flammable liquid where you didn't want it.

    Having thrown some live modern "Pineapple Grenades" on the practice range and a few more in combat, I have a VERY HEALTHY RESPECT for their lethality and wounding capability. Period Grenades would not have been quite as lethal as modern ones, but they still would have been fragmentation grenades and I would not want to be near one when they went off.

    Though I have done a lot of military research into the 18th and 19th centuries up through the UnCivil War, there is not a lot of recorded information on using the Cast Iron Grenades, other than rare mentions when assaulting heavy entrenchments or fixed fortifications. I imagine they were mainly used to clear enemy soldiers away so your troops could get a foot hold in such places.

    Gus
     
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  9. May 18, 2019 #9

    hyuzu

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    Interesting post @Artificer, especially what you say about glass grenades with flammable liquid. I do know those types of grenades existed in East Asia (such as examples made from pottery), but the only grenades I was aware of from western countries were the cast iron examples. China in particular was fairly ingenious in the variety of grenades produced, ranging from standard spheres filled with gunpowder to "bee swarm bombs" made from bamboo and paper, filled with powder, iron caltrops and firecrackers. These came with a rope handle for the user to swing the bomb over his head for throwing.

    I think you're right as far as use of grenades goes. By the period I mentioned in this thread, grenades seem to have been primarily naval anti-personnel weapons, as well as used in sieges to clear out an enemy that was well stuck in to a particular location.
     
  10. May 18, 2019 #10

    TFoley

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    Do a bit of googling on the British Army and the Grenadier Guards.
     
  11. May 18, 2019 #11

    hyuzu

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    Well, as I told the last guy with a "just google it" suggestion, unfortunately I wasn't able to turn up much through that avenue on the design and construction of grenades in this period. Stuff I found through google on groups like the Grenadier Guards was basically to the effect of "they were big blokes that threw cast iron grenades", without a lot of technical info on the weapons themselves.

    If I did miss something though, I'd appreciate any pointers in the right direction :)
     
  12. May 18, 2019 #12

    Artificer

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    Actually I was a bit surprised just how common were the grenades made of glass and containing flammable liquids and how available they were in port cities in the 18th century. While there were some made of pottery like the Chinese examples, it seems glass was the overwhelming favorite here. Probably a little more sure to break on something when thrown, perhaps? One or two of them thrown into a ship's boat full of pirates attempting to board a ship they wanted to prey on and one would not have to worry about them anymore.

    The "problem" with the period cast iron grenades was there had to be enough kinds of specialized industry to make them and of course the fuses may not have been all that good or may not have stood up well against the elements.

    Then of course by the time period you mentioned, Congress would have had to have been convinced they were worth the cost of making/storing them and compared to money spent on other arms. We know that even with two Public Armories in Springfield and Harpers Ferry, they could not begin to keep up with the demand for arms for the Militia. That's why Virginia decided to pay for their own State owned Virginia Manufactory of Arms beginning operations in 1802-3. Both the Federal Government and other States enquired about purchasing Arms from them, but they could just keep up with what was needed here in Virginia. So in the long run during the time period you mentioned, the lack or small numbers of cast iron hand grenades may have come from the fact that other Arms took a much higher priority.

    Gus
     
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  13. May 18, 2019 #13

    hyuzu

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    @Artificer, what you're saying makes sense. By the turn of the 19th century, grenades do seem to have become a lower-priority weapon, or at least confined to very specialist situations...

    Have you come across any info on what the flammable liquid in those glass grenades was? From my reading on the Chinese incendiary bombs, they seem to have used a form of naphtha made from crude oil.
     
  14. May 18, 2019 #14

    DaveC

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    As far as French hand grenades went, there really isn't much to it... We're talking a cast iron sphere filled with 110g (grams not grains...) of black powder with a wooden fuse plug. This type of grenade was reduced in size to make it somewhat easier to throw, but certainly it remained something for brawny farm lads in uniform to hurl at the enemy, usually in a naval boarding party or siege situation. The French hand grenade became somewhat standardized in 1847 just before the Crimean War, and remained relatively unchanged until superseded in World War I by a plethora of extemporized "racket grenades"--i.e. pipe bombs wired to a wooden handle for throwing, and more modern types with a bewildering array of fuse initiators. A WWI addition was a leather "bracelet" quite like a dog leash that went around the thrower's wrist. The grenadier would throw the bomb and as it flew out if his grasp, a lanyard on the wrist strap would pull on a friction igniter to start the 5-second fuse. But the grenade was essentially unchanged:

    Almost as old as the invention of the black powder, the grenade was stantardized in France by Gribeauval in 1777 under the shape of a 9.5 cm diameter pig iron hollow sphere drilled with a smooth hole for the insertion of a wood plug with a wick inside ('fuze').

    In 1847 the size of the sphere was reduced in order to reduce the weapon weight (1kg200 instead of 1kg900). In 1876 a slightly less rudimentary fuze was introduced, with a traction igniter to replace the direct firing of the wick, and finally in 1886 came a new version, a little bit more waterproofed.

    The assembly of this sphere designed centuries ago and modernized for the last time 67 years ago, with a antique fuze whose last improvement had been made about 30 years ago, formed the only official grenade at the disposal of the French soldiers in 1914 : the grenade modèle 1847.
     
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  15. May 18, 2019 #15

    hyuzu

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    Thanks for that info, @DaveC. Those technical details you supplied on French grenades are much appreciated. Can I ask if you found any of it in English-language sources?
    It's interesting that you mention grenades were part of Gribeauval's artillery reforms. I was just recently reading a bit on his work in relation to cannons, but hadn't considered that he might have been involved in standardising hand grenades too. I guess it makes sense though, considering that (in the period) grenades seem to have been basically considered as a form of thrown artillery...
     
  16. May 18, 2019 #16

    DaveC

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    http://www.passioncompassion1418.com/decouvertes/english_grenades_fr.html

    The Spanish and royalists in the Americas used the Gribeauval artillery carriages and whatnot, painted a distinctive blue-gray. The Mexicans in the Texas revolution and internal civil wars largely kept these as hand-me-downs.

    Some of the artillery used at the siege and battle of the Alamo was fully a century old!

    The insignia is the guide here, I'd guess: flaming bombs for both grenadiers and for artillerists. I'm sure there are descriptions of the British grenade and so on too. I seem to recall some of those had a little lip around the fuze aperture making them look, well, a bit like the ceramic/pottery "last ditch" grenades made by Japan at the end of WWII.

    This one from Fort Ticonderoga is supposed to be 2-1/2in. in diameter:
    https://bennington.pastperfectonline.com/webobject/361D8688-9B55-4E01-AF05-086666995943
     
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  17. May 18, 2019 #17

    DaveC

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    Actually, now that I've been looking into it, I guess a good many were glass with a green or yellow/brown tint. Pretty thick walled and small in size. My sense is a good glass blower might be able to contrive some fairly soon if you know any.

    Over at Ethnic Arms and Armor there is a citation in German language:
    Franz Felberbauer, "Die Handgranaten der Grenadiere der Fürsten Esterházy aus Gusseisen und Ton im Zeughaus der Burg Forchtenstein" (the cast-iron and clay hand grenades for the grenadiers of the Princes Esterházy, at the Armory of Forchtenstein Castle), in: Waffen und Kostümkunde, 2012, vol. 2, pp. 181-220, and 2014, vol. 1, pp. 1-52.

    Don't know if there is an academic research library near you.

    If you want to see how staff slings and so on were used in Medieval era siege and naval warfare, there is this old book digitized by Penn Libraries:

    Permanent Link: http://hdl.library.upenn.edu/1017/d/medren/9915804513503681
     
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  18. May 19, 2019 #18

    Artificer

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    Well, sad to say the links/sites I knew of from a decade or more ago no longer are operating, so I can't be sure what the flammable liquid was. Sorry.

    Gus
     
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  19. May 19, 2019 #19

    Felix the Cat

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    In British Service, grenades would have been supplied as hollow castings and made up as required. The standard system of ammunition supply up to the 1850s was for bulk gunpowder to be distributed, usually by sea, to regional magazines. The powder would have been supplied in a limited number of grades (pistol, musket and cannon) in casks from government arsenals such as Woolwich and Portsmouth.

    All the regional magazines would have been equipped with ammunition laboratories where cartridge and shell would have been made up to meet local requirements. Most of the permanent fort defences were similarly equipped and were supplied with empty components as required.

    The issue with grenades is fuzing.. It is difficult to pick up definitive evidence however before the invention of safety fuze by William Bickford in 1830, reliable and safe fuzing of grenades would be a problem. The main types of fuze available were basically Slow Match - hemp cord soaked in nitrate, Black Match - string coated in meal powder and Quick Match - black match in a loose paper or cloth tube.

    I suspect that it was Black match that was mainly used, but it is unreliable and delicate. I did read of a grenade which used a weighted length of slow match which was lit and then initiated when it hit when the weight pulled the burning match into the body of the grenade. This actually works as the length of fuze acts as a drag tail and orients the grenade to fly with the fuze to the rear..

    The best reference for this would be the UK War Office List of Changes, but these are difficult to find and only a few complete(ish) sets are known to exist...

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Changes
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2019
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  20. May 20, 2019 #20

    Loyalist Dave

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    I was thinking easier to verify that the liquid was still within the sphere in a proper amount and hadn't evaporated or been spilled out.

    LD
     
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