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 Civil War - General    
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1stvermont
Vermont, VT, USA
top 50
E-4 Specialist


Posts: 80

The Rifled Musket in Civil war Combat- Evolution or Revolution
Posted on: 9/1/2017 9:00:30 PM
Primitive weapons used in the civil war

During the civil war not everyone had a fully functional rifled musket. Many primitive and sub standard weapons were used. For a extreme example Pikes and Bowie knives were used early in the war, rocks were thrown when men ran out of ammo. As late as March 1862 lee approved 1,000 pikes be sent to Jackson in the valley, they were never used. Confederate forces in Missouri were forced to surrender after a skirmish with the more numerous Indians inflicting causalities with bow and arrows. A Texas regiment charged union lines in New Mexico armed only with spears. Arrows, war clubs and lances were used in fighting with Indians. The sword and bayonet still played a role in civil war casualties. Saber charges were made until the end of the war. Successful Calvary charges with swords even on entrenched, rifle pits positions, were successful even as late as march 1865 when the 17th Indiana did so with great success.

Neither side could equip its army fully with the new refiled musket. The CSA started with only 10% equipped with the rifled muskets. In July 1861 Tennessee troops were armed 69% flintlock 20% smothbore 11% rifle. At Shiloh Alexander Stewards brigade had 53% smothbore and 103 flintlocks. The CSA army of Tennessee in august 1863 was equipped with 36% smotthbore and 12% substandard rifle musket. The same army in June 64 12% still had smothbore.

The armies at times struggled to even arm their men. Many of John Bell Hoods men were still unarmed in 64. Jan 1864 Thomas Duckends Arkansas brigade “wholly unarmed.”. At Fredricksburg confederates captured union flintlocks after the battle. At Gettysburg the most advanced army in war, the north had over 10% of its regiments equipped with smothhbore, and many had sub par refiles as a solider of the 100th Indian stated his regiments imported Belgian rifle “I don't believe one could hit the broad side of a barn with them.” Soldiers would fire in two lines and union solider James Tinkham said “Our front rank who, were more afraid of them [second rank] than of the rebels.”

Rifle musket vs smothbore

“It might be more reasonable to talk of some minor improvements over Napoleonic performance”
-Paddy Griffith Battle tactics of the civil war Yale university press new haven and London 1989

The rifle musket had better specs than that of the smothbore especially in regards to range. Theoretically it was a Superior weapon, though in combat during the civil war, its advantages were often negated. The smothbore buck n shot within 100 yards was considered equal or better than mini ball within that range. The rifle was “Claimed not proven to be better aim” within the range of the smothbore. Some generals north and south reused to “upgrade” to the rifle musket from the smothbore. Individuals, entire regiments, and generals kept the smothbore over the rifle believing it to be a better weapon. It was not a universal opinion that the riffled musket performed better.

Combat ranges

"It is difficult to find any evidence at all to support the suggestion that Civil War musketry was delivered at ranges much longer than those of Napoleonic times...Civil War musketry did not ... possess the power to kill large numbers of men, even in very dense formations, at long range."
-Paddy Griffith Battle tactics of the civil war

The average combat range in Napoleonic wars using the smothbore was around 70-100. It was thought by many because the rifle has much greater range, the combat of the civil war must have been at far greater distances. However even in modern wars such as ww2, Korean and Vietnam [Slight less] all averaged small arms fire around 100 yards. The rifled muskets performance in battle, was not significant changed from the smothbore, neither were its ranges “Although the theoretical range of the rifled musket was several times that of a smothbore, much of the fighting nevertheless occurred at ranges equal to or only slightly more than that found during previous wars.” It was hard to see a man 200-500 yards off, even more so in the chaos, confusion and smoke filled civil war battles, plus a solider would have to work in the trajectory of the new rifled musket longer than 100 yards.

Various combat effects reduced the performance of the musket in civil war combat. Terrain ,smoke, visibility and stress reduce performance. The smoke alone on battlefield could hide large formations. A major reduction was lack of practice by the average solider and understanding of the muskets trajectory [see training]. So that what a solider could do in combat vs the specs of the musket, were far apart from each other. Most all casualties happened within 100 yards or less, some long range firing happened 200 yards plus, but often with little effect. Causalities were caused from 30-75 yards from musket fire in prolonged battles. Even than the loses were not always great, In a battle that lasted 4-5 hours at less than 100 yards, a union units total loses were just 50 wounded/killed.

Most commanders avoided indecisive long range firefights, they did not want to waste ammo and would only allow their soldiers to shoot at 150 yards or less, some would wait for 50-70 yards to first open fire, and on some occasions 30 paces. Only experts and trained shot would attempt over 150 yards such as snipers. The French following the Crimean war removed long range sights from their rifle musket seeing it largely as a waste of ammo. Only specialized, trained skirmish and sniping soldiers took advantage of the rifles increased range. As the war progressed after years of high causalities and drop in motivation made longer ranges more often, and soldiers less likely to assault.

Civil War battle ranges Initial contact

-[ Keep in mind This is were the first shots were fired, often the combat would end up 30-70 yards as one side advanced or charged].

Mark Grimsley calculated a average range for the entire war of 116 yards, he said smothbore was 80-100.
Brent Nosworthy said “critical engagement” 80-120 yards.
Earl Hess calculated for the entire war only 94 yards

Griffith calculated

At seven pines avg 68 yards only one reference to 200 yds [ that closed to 30 yards]
61-62 a average of 104 yards
63 a average of 127 yards
64-65 average 141 yards [ only half above 100 yards]
Overall for the war In the east 136 yards
Overall for the west 100 yards [ Griffith said the heavy Forrest terrain reduced western ranges]
“Decisive moment” was only 33 yards

Rate of fire /Fire effectiveness/ Civil war tactics

Fire effectiveness

The rifle performed very similar to the smothbore in its effectiveness in battle. Americans were viewed as generally good shooters at the time compared to Europeans. Napoleonic rates of shots fired to casualty was around .5 to .6%. Americans using the same weapons [smothbore] in mexican war caused a causality at a rate of .8%. The civil war ratio of small arms shots fired to causality was .68 to 1.5%, about 1 causality for every 100 shots fired. At Gettysburg an average of 200 rounds were fired for one casualty, that is equal to Napoleonic times. Historians such as Allen C Guelzo calculated even lower numbers of 1 casualty for every 250-300 shots fired.

Rate of fire

The civil war musket could be loaded in practice in about 30 seconds by most well drilled soldiers. But just as with accuracy and range, in combat was not as impressive. There were 17 movements needed in the manual to load a musket properly to fire. Doing this with the noise, confusion, fear and other distractions of battle was no easy thing. In the heat of battle soldiers loaded their musket multiple times yet without firing a single shot. One gun was found loaded 23 times at Gettysburg. Other mishaps such as unopened cartage, ball behind powder etc were common and lead to misfires. Of the 24,000 muskets at Gettysburg retrieved by the north, half had 2 rounds and 20% 3 or more rounds loaded one had 20. 10% of muskets became unsuitable in combat. Misfires could be as high as 25%.

Commanders would conserve ammo in case of a charge from the enemy and fear of losing their ground. Units only brought enough ammo to last 30 min if they were to reload every 30 seconds. So while waiting for ammo, they would conserve it and slow the rate of fire.The rate of fire for entire units averaged 1 round per 2.1 min [included some breach loaders]. The slowest rate recorded was 1 shot fired every 4.6 min, the fastest recorded was 1 shot every 30 sec. Breach loaders averaged 1 shot every 12 seconds. Often faulty weapons, and lack of ammo had much to do with this.

Civil war Tactics

Many believe that the weapons of the civil war [The rifled musket] was a great improvement over the smothbore and this led the older Napoleonic linear tactics outdated and the reason for high causalities and the eventual entrenchments of late 64 and 65. That the generals of the civil war were slow to change the old ways and used outdated tactics. This is rejected now by many historians. The only aspect were the rifled musket changed civil war tactics was in sniping and skirmishing, the only places that the new musket was able to realize its full advantages. These changes happened early in the war on both sides, both sides were fast to change tactics when the rifled musket changed warfare. The generals who were in the battles, trained with the weapons and saw the results, also were in the best position to determine the correct tactics. They chose Linear Napoleonic tactics.

Many now believe the rifled musket was not a vast improvement in combat over the smothbore and that is the reason the Napoleonic tactics were still used, still effective, and the best tactics to win the engagement. Historian Allen C Guelzo argues The gunpowder of the time produced a great deal of smoke when fired. battles began with artillery firing for some time, and skirmishers had been firing at each other for some time. By the time the main lines of infantry began approaching each other, visibility was significantly obscured. Once the infantry began the main engagement, visibility quickly was reduced to almost nil. One solider from the 1st Minnesota wrote home the smoke “did not permit us to see anything clearly... we directed our fire at red flashes through the smoke.” Another solider said “The atmosphere was black with the smoke of battle...there was scarcely telling friend from foes.” Lack of viability due to terrain and smoke often causes friendly fire.

With the lack of visibility, only massed infantry fire was effective, and this reality is reflected in the tactics of the time. Guelzo argues that rifling only truly benefited the sharpshooters on the skirmish line, who fought before their visibility was obscured, but the main line of infantry could not take advantage of the benefits of rifling. Under the stress of battle, virtually every infantryman asked about aiming on the battlefield replied that in practice, the best one could do was "simply raise his rifle to the horizontal, and fire without aiming." Eyewitnesses report entire companies aiming their rifles at a 45 degree angle facing the sky and discharging their rifles at Bull Run. Such untrained soldiers could not be expected to engage an enemy much further than point blank range with any level of accuracy. Thus Guelzo doubts that contemporary military leaders blatantly ignored technological advances. Rather, generals did not alter their tactics not due to ignorance, but because the battlefield had not changed substantially from the Napoleonic era.

“Spreading soldiers out took away their main tactical advantage, their ability to concentrate their firepower. A single individual with a musket was irrelevant....close tactical formations were the only way that officers could control and move men around a battlefield”
-S.C Gwynne Rebel Yell The Violence, Passion and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson Simon and Schuster 2014

What other tactics could be used? Snipers and skirmishers were “brushed off” the battle once the main lines came into play. Any unit alone would be overwhelmed by firepower and if not connected in a line or had its flanks unprotected would than be flanked by devastating fire. Skirmishers could not be counted on to take and capture and hold strategic sites. Sending multiple small units in various directions would just lead to defender getting first volley and causing high causalities and a retreat. You had to mass men in large numbers in a attack to withstand volleys from the defender and counter with high concentrated fire. Or to keep up the pressure until the enemy gave way or out of ammo. Even when in a solid formation Individual fire was ineffective against solid lines of advancing enemy it was also more inaccurate. “Volley fire was always more accurate than individual fire because it was supervised” Individual fire just pecked at the enemy formation but volleys had the power to cause panic and crush the morale of the enemy, causing a retreat.

Rifled musket or Artillery won Fredricksburg

Maybe the battle most used to say that frontal assaults were less successful and the rifle musket changed combat is Fredricksburg. However that battle took place over long open terrain tacking up hill at entrenched dug in positions in the winter, the confederates also had a stonewall. The question should be should this attack have been made in the first place? Lieutenant Colonel Hawkings said if the union attacks “it will be the greatest slaughter of the war” Lieutenant Colonel Joesph Taylor said it would be“Murder not warfare.”

At this battle somewhat early in the war smoothbores were not all the uncommon on both sides. The confederates had the high ground and a stonewall to shoot behind. They also had all there best shots shooting while passing back muskets to men lying down undercover behind the wall, who than reloaded and handed back loaded weapons. This tactic enabled the south to keep up a rapid fire of their best shots in each regiment for the entire engagement. Despite all this, the union actually did make a breakthroughs in the line, but General franklin with his 50,000 troops, failed to send in his men when he should have, and confederate general Jackson counterattacked and pushed the north back. Bad leadership also doomed the attack from the start as the attack was generally carried out by one brigade at a time and union troops often received friendly fire in the back.

The Confederate Artillery at Fredricksburg

“A chicken could not live on that field when we open on it”
-Confederate Artillery specialist Alexander porter

All the confederate artillery were placed where they could fire across the entire field at all advancing soldiers. So when advancing the union men were hit from every angel. That battle had the largest % of causalities for either side in a major engagement from artillery fire. A large number of union losses were from artillery. Artillery normally made up around 6-12% of causalities. Artillery, not the rifled musket caused much of the devastating causalities of the north.

When artillery fire was not dominate such as when the union attacked Prospect Hill. Losses were 3,000 CSA and 3,100 USA despite the advantage of the hill and woods for the defenders. The confederate line was temporarily broke but Burnside sent no more reinforcements focusing his attack elsewhere.

But the losses for the north were around 12,500 For the south around 5,000. Given that half of the causalities reported were from artillery fire, that would bring northern causalities from the rifle musket and smothbore musket, to a total of 6,000-6,250 against the confederates on the high ground behind a stonewall with only best men firing a rapid fire. Hardley a example of a vast advantage of the musket in defensive combat.

“If the same battle were to be fought over agin, every day, through a week of days, with the same relative results, the army under Lee would be wiped out to the last man, the army of the poromac would still be a mighty host, the war would be over, the confederacy gone”
-Abraham Lincoln

Than compare with Chancellorsville a few months later. The south were more outnumbered in manpower than at Fredircksburg. Yet they won the battle by a maneuvering flanking attack. The losses for the north were around 17,000. For the south around 13,000. So being attacked the north lost 4,000 more men at Chancellorsville, at fredricksburg they lost 7,500 more. Not a drastic difference given the circumstances of the attack and artillery fire at fredricksburg. Frericksburg would later be taken by frontal assault during the Chancellorsville campaign.

Training

“Men fired in battle their first shots with the army rifle, the value of the rifle as to accuracy was in a greater degree lost for want of proper training”
-Stephen Benet ordinance dept USA

Generals and military training manuals of the day, had units spend a great deal of time drilling and cleaning their weapons, yet target shooting was almost non existent in the civil war, target practice was“all but ignored.” There was no course in the entire united states to train men with the new rifle musket before the war. Even at the end of war 1865, there was only 50,000 federal soldiers in the federal army, the rest were state volunteers.

Typical officers were citizens soldiers with no more training than the average soldiers. They spent time drilling and working on maneuvers and soldier life. Often men were involved in multiple battles before ever shooting their weapon for practice. During The 24th Michigan's only target practice, 3 men were wounded and 1 was killed. The commander's reason for not practicing was “Live fire was almost as dangerous to the men who were delivering it as the enemy.” The 35th mass never held target practice for fear of other soldiers in the army reaction to live fire in the camp.

However it was usually lack of ammunition that made target practice rare or non existent. Because of this, live firing long range target practice was almost non existent in either army. The 13th mass formed in august 61, had there first target practice in the spring of 64 after fighting in 6 battles. Even as late as 64 a large portion of the union army was not familiar with their weapons. General Meade ordered 10 rounds target practice for all units in the spring of 1864 “To familiarize men with their weapon, It is believed numerous men have been in combat without firing their guns, guns filled to muzzle with cartilages.” In General Bragg's army of Tennessee not until the summer of 63 was the army given basics in loading and firing.

Target practice vs in Battle

Accuracy took a big hit from target practice while in battle. Crack shots while hunting or target practice as one solider put it “when in battle could not hit a barn.” Major Sykes commanded some regulars [well trained, drilled army units not volunteers] at Bull Run. Even his men who had been trained shooting when in batten “They were excited, and some of the recruits fired at the stars” and “It does disconcert one's aim to be under the direct fire of canon and musketry.” Others had “Guns raised at 45 degrees , I was fully assured that their bullets wouldn't hit the Yankees, unless they were nearer to heaven.”

The rifled musket bullet took trajectory upward passing above human level and needed special training to account for the trajectory, the smothbore did not. Yet Training schools did not start until the after the war. Men were simply told to “aim low” or at the knee to offset upward kick back of their weapon. This led to many soldiers unable to shoot with accuracy. As a example Around Vicksburg 25-26 June 1863 at a distance of 15 steps volley after volley were fired, with no causalities on either side. In open terrain a full volley given at 75 yards caused not one single hit. Some battles that lasted half a hour at 100 yards and less yet caused no causalities.

Attack success

As calculated by Paddy Griffith the tactical success achieved by the attacker, of the major 25 battles of the Napoleonic wars vs civil war.

Tactical victories 48% 36%
Strategic victories 60% 56%
Pyrrhic victories 24% 44%
Decisive victories 27% 20%

Lack of success in attack had more to due with lack of ammo, bad commands, lost orders, slowness of commands to carry out orders, men unable to push forward due to exhaustion, generals not following orders, unclear orders, smoke and lack of vision, noise confusion, defensive works, and most important, the defenders interior lines all effected major attacks rather than the impact of the rifle musket. It was much easier to coordinate defensively over miles on the larger civil war battlefield's than coordinate a successful attack. When breakthroughs were made, the defender had reserves quickly ready fro a counter attack or to plug the needed whole.

Communication problems were often the cause of failed major attacks. For example in 1865 five orders were received by one unit, all contradictory. Small scale attacks often were more successful as many issues related to communications were of less trouble. Lack of viability and confused when pushing into enemy territory alone caused many attacks to slow or fail. Local attacks that were successful were than often countered by fresh troops attacking and retaking the ground, thus the “Attack” failed.

As the war progressed after years of high causalities drop in motivation made longer ranges more often, and soldiers less likely to commit fully to a assault. Veteran soldiers were less willing to die, more careful, and less enthusiastic after years of fighting. Men forced into service in drafts were also less willing to die for the cause. However the success rate of the attacking army in the civil war compared to the attack % success was close to Napoleonic times[slight lower]. In Europe 1859-71 multiple attacks won major victories using the same tech as the civil war. Even frontal assault's on highly fortified positions could and were successful till the end of the war.

Some battles that were declared won by the defender, were actually won by the attacker. For example Shiloh day one the south attacked and won a great victory. Day two the north was reinforced and attacked the south, they won a great victory. Both days the attacker won, yet the “defender” [ the union] won the battle. Cedar Creek and many other battles also were determined this way. Multiple battles were won by large counter attacks by the defender such as second manasas.

Defensive terrain also effected the outcome. Most battles were fought either in the dense Forrest of Tennessee or near Virginia's forests and many rivers. The terrain of the south offered numerous positions easy to defend giving the defender the natural advantage. If we are to accept the assumptions that General Lee was the greatest defensive general of the war. That the army of northern Virginia had the best soldiers and equipment the south had. Maybe even that Virginians defending their home state fought the hardest. Than all of these could play a factor in defensive success in the civil war. Most of the major battles won by the defender, were when Lee was defending Virginia.

Reserves of fresh troops were kept to block advancing enemy and allow the defeated army to retreat safety, thus reducing lopsided victories. Unlike in many wars such as the mexican/american war when a line was broken, the whole army would retreat. In the civil war reinforcements would simply be sent to plug the whole. The massive size of civil war armies made it near impossible to defeat an entire army. The few that were such as at Nashville and Appomattox, were smaller sized civil war armies.

Entrenchments

Constant close combat, not the rifle musket caused late war entrenchments. When general Grant took command he set out to be in constant fighting to drain the south of manpower. The close contact the armies from mid 64-65 led to entrenchments and fortification just as would happen in a smothbore war. During smothbore wars massive entrenchments would occur when armies were in prolonged contact such as sieges. The constant sniping and skirmishing that took place forces men into cover. Combined with the south's losses in the first years of the war and their need to defend key locations such as Richmond, also led to entrenchments. When Atlanta and Richmond were taken, maneuvering warfare started back up. While Grant and Lee were at petersburg entrenching, maneuver warfare was going on in the Jubal early and Sheridan s valley campaign of 64.

Early in the civil war entrenchments were also used before the rifled musket became widely used. In the Franco-Prussian war 1870-1871 that involved higher weapon tech [repeaters carbines etc] maneuvering warfare dominated with only light fortifications on a few occasions.

“He who remains behind his entrenchments is beaten, exsperance and theory are one on this point”
-Napoleon Bonaparte

Entrenchments were frowned upon by many generals at the time because soldiers behind entrenchments could not form up fast for counter attacks and are less likely to leave their protection. At Chancellorsville part of what led to the 11th corps destruction was the men could not form up in time to react to Jackson flank attack. On at least a few occasion smaller attacking forces won in attack against larger forces defending entrenchments such as at Chancellorsville, and Brewers bluff. In the book Great Campaigns The Petersburg Campaign John Horn Combined Books PA you will find near a dozen times when the attacker beat an entrenched defender in battle, inflicting twice its number or more in causalities, often because of large numbers of prisoners. Often when a breach was made it would carry many prisoners trapped in trenches. It was when the entrenchments were well supported by artillery and flanking fire, that they became almost impossible to take by direct assault. Entrenchments helped the defensive power, but if the line was broken, the losses were far greater than without them lowering the % attack success, but yielding greater rewards.

Carbines/ Repeater

Carbines ran out of ammo fast, were expensive and needed more supply wagons. The early repeaters were unreliable with many unable to shoot, cost effective muzzle loader was better to produce over breach loaders. The south could not produce them in any large number and the north, because of the cost and use of ammo, did not give them to standard infantry. Generals believed [and it happened] that soldiers would waste ammo with carbines and not take careful aim. Instead they wanted the relabel cheep musket for the infantry solider. With the musket time was taken to aim and reload. However some soldiers were allowed to pay for their own if they wanted one. Shermans army had more breach loaders than any other army. But they were a small minority still. However they were not always relabel. On may 1864 1st Pennsylvanian fired only 12-18 rounds per man per hour. In combat “Repeaters caused similar causalities to musket.” They were also less effective at long range and because of use of ammo they could not hold a position long.

High Causalities of the civil war

It is said because the rifled musket was more deadly, that led to higher causalities during the civil war. However smothbore battles led at times to even higher % loss of man in battles. The average loss in a major battle in the civil war was 9.8% Federal, and 14% confederate. The highest on either side for one battle was confederate loses at Gettysburg 30%. Compared with some Napoleonic smothbore wars and battles that is not massive. The civil war was likely a slight decline over the french revolution. The French Prussian wars losses were greater than the civil wars equaling 27% and 28%. Here are some major European smothbore battle loses.

Zorndorf in 1758 37.5% losses for the Prussians and 50% Russian.
Kunersdorf 1759 Russian 43% Austro-Russian 20%
Mellwitz 1741 22.4% Prussian 23% Austrian
Austerltz 1805 Allies lost 30%
Leipzig 1812 Borodino 32.5% 1813 Leipzig 28%
1745 A english force lost 50% in one attack
Salmanca 30% english loss
Waterloo 61% and 32%
Albueru 1811 44% both sides
Bunker hill Colonials 36% British 48%
Eutaw springs 1781 23% and 34%
Lundys lane 1814 30% and 24%
---------------
“The CSA congress can have no such power over states officers. The state governments are an essential part of the political system, upon the separate and independent sovereignty of the states the foundation of the confederacy”
-1864 Virginia supremeCourt

Phil andrade
London, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Moderator
Posts: 2543

Re: The Rifled Musket in Civil war Combat- Evolution or Revolution
Posted on: 9/3/2017 8:45:06 AM
Thanks for this survey, 1stvermont.

It has troubled me for a long time that the historiography has produced an orthodoxy : the generals failed to understand the impact of rifling on the battlefield, and persisted in using outdated tactics that effectively exposed the soldiers to terrific slaughter.

I have not been comfortable with this depiction.

The arguments outlined in that post win my agreement, by and large....I would disagree about the supposed fifty per cent of union casualties at Fredericksburg being caused by artillery. I would ask for source attribution on that one .

Here's what Longstreet wrote of the experience of that battle, alluding solely to the Marye's Heights sector :

Our musketry alone killed and wounded at least 5000 ; and these, with the slaughter by the artillery, left over 7000 killed and wounded before the foot of Marye's Hill.

The implication is that, in that open killing field, the artillery accounted for thirty- not fifty - per cent of the casualties inflicted .

American - and, indeed, British - commentators have often insisted that the battles of the American Civil War were transcendentally bloody, with casualty rates that exceeded those of earlier wars. This does not stand up to scrutiny, as the rendition in the opening post testifies.

What I have noticed, however , is that individual regimental casualties were more extreme....the corollary being that the overall army casualty rates were lower. At Gettysburg, for example, neither Meade's nor Lee's armies suffered percentage losses in killed and wounded as high as those suffered by the commands of Wellington or Napoleon at Waterloo. Of the British contingent at Waterloo, in one day of combat, one fourth were killed or wounded : at Gettysburg , in three days, one fifth of Meade's force were killed or wounded ( note that prisoners are excluded from this analysis ). Yet no individual British regiment at Waterloo suffered a casualty rate as high as those men from Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota regiments that took the worst punishment at Gettysburg.
This makes me wonder if the weapons might have effected the casualty rates, in so far as there was a much more inequitable distribution of bloodshed in the Civil War.

Much to discuss here.

Regards , Phil

---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

1stvermont
Vermont, VT, USA
top 50
E-4 Specialist


Posts: 80

Re: The Rifled Musket in Civil war Combat- Evolution or Revolution
Posted on: 9/3/2017 9:58:09 AM

Quote:
I would disagree about the supposed fifty per cent of union casualties at Fredericksburg being caused by artillery. I would ask for source attribution on that one .

Here's what Longstreet wrote of the experience of that battle, alluding solely to the Marye's Heights sector :

Our musketry alone killed and wounded at least 5000 ; and these, with the slaughter by the artillery, left over 7000 killed and wounded before the foot of Marye's Hill.

The implication is that, in that open killing field, the artillery accounted for thirty- not fifty - per cent of the casualties inflicted .



Thanks phil. The reference for union causalities at fredricksburg comes from Battle tactics of the civil war – Paddy Grifith Yale university press new haven and London 1989 p 170. He gives 3 references i can dig them out if you wish. he does say another puts it at around 20%. Malvern hill is also reported at 50% losses for the south from artillery. But you qoute Longstreet in saying

Our musketry alone killed and wounded at least 5000 ; and these, with the slaughter by the artillery, left over 7000 killed and wounded before the foot of Marye's Hill.

if true, that still says only before the foot of marye's height I am sure the longer distances causalities were near 100% from artillery.



---------------
“The CSA congress can have no such power over states officers. The state governments are an essential part of the political system, upon the separate and independent sovereignty of the states the foundation of the confederacy”
-1864 Virginia supremeCourt

john hayward
Allenstown, NH, USA
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E-4 Corporal
Posts: 133

Re: The Rifled Musket in Civil war Combat- Evolution or Revolution
Posted on: 9/3/2017 10:23:09 AM
My great-great grandfather's unit 7th NJ carried 1842 .69 cal smoothbores up through Gettysburg. Only Co A was armed with rifles. Only positive thing I ever found, in letters and diaries, was that the smoothbore didn't foul as quickly or misfire as often

BWilson

top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major


Posts: 3449

Re: The Rifled Musket in Civil war Combat- Evolution or Revolution
Posted on: 9/3/2017 12:29:37 PM
Author of original graphic: Trevor N. Dupuy



Cheers

BW
---------------
With occasional, fatigued glances at life's rear-view mirror from the other side of time.

Phil andrade
London, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Moderator
Posts: 2543

Re: The Rifled Musket in Civil war Combat- Evolution or Revolution
Posted on: 9/3/2017 1:15:54 PM

Quote:

Quote:
I would disagree about the supposed fifty per cent of union casualties at Fredericksburg being caused by artillery. I would ask for source attribution on that one .

Here's what Longstreet wrote of the experience of that battle, alluding solely to the Marye's Heights sector :

Our musketry alone killed and wounded at least 5000 ; and these, with the slaughter by the artillery, left over 7000 killed and wounded before the foot of Marye's Hill.

The implication is that, in that open killing field, the artillery accounted for thirty- not fifty - per cent of the casualties inflicted .



Thanks phil. The reference for union causalities at fredricksburg comes from Battle tactics of the civil war – Paddy Grifith Yale university press new haven and London 1989 p 170. He gives 3 references i can dig them out if you wish. he does say another puts it at around 20%. Malvern hill is also reported at 50% losses for the south from artillery. But you qoute Longstreet in saying

Our musketry alone killed and wounded at least 5000 ; and these, with the slaughter by the artillery, left over 7000 killed and wounded before the foot of Marye's Hill.

if true, that still says only before the foot of marye's height I am sure the longer distances causalities were near 100% from artillery.




--1stvermont


Artillery inflicted very severe wounds. Dismemberment , disembowelment, decapitation and - occasionally - virtual obliteration were hallmarks of artillery casualties. Bullets were obviously lethal, but the probability of being killed outright by a bullet was somewhat less than that of being killed on the spot by an artillery projectile .

Reflect on the Union casualty list at Fredericksburg : 1,284 killed, 9,600 wounded and 1,769 missing. I would contend that - if fifty per cent of those casualties had been attributable to artillery fire - the number posted as killed would have been far higher. I have no doubt that the casualty list is misleading, in so far as many of those 1,769 missing were dead, or left to die in front of the rebel lines. But the number of wounded is almost identical to that of Antietam, where 9,549 yankees were reported as such : in that battle, the number of killed was returned as 2,108. The Union held that field, so very few - if any - of their 753 missing were dead....but I hope that I make a convincing case that the alleged preponderance of artillery as a causal factor in Fredericksburg's casualties is not borne out by the ratio of killed to wounded.

Regards, Phil
---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

Phil andrade
London, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Moderator
Posts: 2543

Re: The Rifled Musket in Civil war Combat- Evolution or Revolution
Posted on: 9/4/2017 3:15:25 AM
Diverging a bit from the technological aspect of the weaponry as a factor in the intensity, prolongation and bloodiness of the Civil War, I feel more convinced that the societal and demographic themes offer a better explanation .

Large citizen armies, consisting mainly of volunteers from a liberal democratic tradition are not so easily marshalled as those who are made up from regular professional recruits .

The opening post alludes to the reluctance of soldiers in the Civil War to press home attacks in the same manner as, say, the French troops at Solferino, where the centre was broken by a direct frontal assault against defenders in position armed with rifled muskets. Casualties were heavy then, too : but a successful outcome served as some kind of vindication .

Guelzo touches on this in his recent Gettysburg study.

Is it arguable that the professional military caste of 1861 was struggling to reconcile the military science and technology of the later mid nineteenth century to the new kinds of armies that were being levied ?

Perhaps it was not the weapons, but the nature of the soldiers, that made that war so difficult to manage on the battlefield.

Regards, Phil
---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

1stvermont
Vermont, VT, USA
top 50
E-4 Specialist


Posts: 80

Re: The Rifled Musket in Civil war Combat- Evolution or Revolution
Posted on: 9/4/2017 9:33:29 PM

Quote:
Diverging a bit from the technological aspect of the weaponry as a factor in the intensity, prolongation and bloodiness of the Civil War, I feel more convinced that the societal and demographic themes offer a better explanation .

Large citizen armies, consisting mainly of volunteers from a liberal democratic tradition are not so easily marshalled as those who are made up from regular professional recruits .

The opening post alludes to the reluctance of soldiers in the Civil War to press home attacks in the same manner as, say, the French troops at Solferino, where the centre was broken by a direct frontal assault against defenders in position armed with rifled muskets. Casualties were heavy then, too : but a successful outcome served as some kind of vindication .

Guelzo touches on this in his recent Gettysburg study.

Is it arguable that the professional military caste of 1861 was struggling to reconcile the military science and technology of the later mid nineteenth century to the new kinds of armies that were being levied ?

Perhaps it was not the weapons, but the nature of the soldiers, that made that war so difficult to manage on the battlefield.

Regards, Phil
--Phil andrade



I had similar thought with why the battles were not as decisive. I think the size of the battles was the main cause, but reading some on the mexican-american war it seemed once a line was severed by the us, the entire Mexican army seemed to dissolve and go into a rout often and usually not reform. When in the civil war a gap is achieved, and men rallied and counter attack unwilling to as easily give into defeat. Reinforcements would poor in instead of run.


I dont know if it is culture, pride, what they believed they fought for but it does seem something was their. Same thing with reading on the native american battles against the union during the war. They would go to "war" but it was really one or two battles or raids, and than they would die down and no longer be aggressive like the war was over. While the union just reinforced and came back and wiped them out.
---------------
“The CSA congress can have no such power over states officers. The state governments are an essential part of the political system, upon the separate and independent sovereignty of the states the foundation of the confederacy”
-1864 Virginia supremeCourt

1stvermont
Vermont, VT, USA
top 50
E-4 Specialist


Posts: 80

Re: The Rifled Musket in Civil war Combat- Evolution or Revolution
Posted on: 9/4/2017 9:35:39 PM

Quote:

Quote:

Quote:
I would disagree about the supposed fifty per cent of union casualties at Fredericksburg being caused by artillery. I would ask for source attribution on that one .

Here's what Longstreet wrote of the experience of that battle, alluding solely to the Marye's Heights sector :

Our musketry alone killed and wounded at least 5000 ; and these, with the slaughter by the artillery, left over 7000 killed and wounded before the foot of Marye's Hill.

The implication is that, in that open killing field, the artillery accounted for thirty- not fifty - per cent of the casualties inflicted .



Thanks phil. The reference for union causalities at fredricksburg comes from Battle tactics of the civil war – Paddy Grifith Yale university press new haven and London 1989 p 170. He gives 3 references i can dig them out if you wish. he does say another puts it at around 20%. Malvern hill is also reported at 50% losses for the south from artillery. But you qoute Longstreet in saying

Our musketry alone killed and wounded at least 5000 ; and these, with the slaughter by the artillery, left over 7000 killed and wounded before the foot of Marye's Hill.

if true, that still says only before the foot of marye's height I am sure the longer distances causalities were near 100% from artillery.




--1stvermont


Artillery inflicted very severe wounds. Dismemberment , disembowelment, decapitation and - occasionally - virtual obliteration were hallmarks of artillery casualties. Bullets were obviously lethal, but the probability of being killed outright by a bullet was somewhat less than that of being killed on the spot by an artillery projectile .

Reflect on the Union casualty list at Fredericksburg : 1,284 killed, 9,600 wounded and 1,769 missing. I would contend that - if fifty per cent of those casualties had been attributable to artillery fire - the number posted as killed would have been far higher. I have no doubt that the casualty list is misleading, in so far as many of those 1,769 missing were dead, or left to die in front of the rebel lines. But the number of wounded is almost identical to that of Antietam, where 9,549 yankees were reported as such : in that battle, the number of killed was returned as 2,108. The Union held that field, so very few - if any - of their 753 missing were dead....but I hope that I make a convincing case that the alleged preponderance of artillery as a causal factor in Fredericksburg's casualties is not borne out by the ratio of killed to wounded.

Regards, Phil

--Phil andrade



Great thought you have put into it. I think it goes off assumptions but is a great indicator. Should I edit op and if so, what would you suggest?


Maybe something like according to 2 sources up to 50% were causalities thoe other disagree.

---------------
“The CSA congress can have no such power over states officers. The state governments are an essential part of the political system, upon the separate and independent sovereignty of the states the foundation of the confederacy”
-1864 Virginia supremeCourt

Phil andrade
London, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Moderator
Posts: 2543

Re: The Rifled Musket in Civil war Combat- Evolution or Revolution
Posted on: 9/5/2017 4:52:07 AM
You're right, 1stvermont, a lot of what I contend is suppositional.....the casualty list from Fredericksburg is not conclusive proof of , but is highly suggestive of, the preponderance of bullet wounds rather than those of artillery projectiles.

A return of 7.5 wounded to every one posted as killed indicates long range musketry....certainly the open ground in front of Marye's Heights afforded the rebels behind the stone wall there the chance to develop their fusillade at long range.

But, OTOH, that battlefield was largely commanded by artillery, too. I've no doubt that the incidence of artillery casualties was much higher than the norm in civil war battles. At least double that norm, I would have guessed : and Longstreet's testimony speaks for itself.

And, I must reiterate that important fact that many - perhaps most - of the yankees posted as missing in that battle were killed, or left to die on the field.

So the casualty list is misleading .

I can cite sources from high ranking soldiers in that conflict who observed that, wherever and whenever artillery was prominently effective in battle, the wounds tended to be more severe : the evidence of casualty figures bears that out.

At Chickamauga, where the battlefield was heavily timbered, the union artillery fired relatively few rounds, whereas the infantry expenditure of bullets was enormous. In that battle , the rebels counted 6.3 wounded for every one killed outright : at Getttysburg, where yankee gunners had so many chances to ply their trade, the figure was just over 4.5 to one.

You can , I hope, appreciate that my principal contribution to your thread is predicated on the casualty figures, because that is my area of knowledge. But I must not presume too much on this basis ; I certainly wanted to question that assertion about the toll taken by Fredericksburg artillery.....but that's in the nature of a quibble, and I would heartily endorse the op and wouldn't wish to see it changed.

Edit : This is an important afterthought : your op does allude to the increased effectiveness of the rifle in terms of sharpshooting, or " sniping"....this is certainly born out by the evidence of casualty figures. In a big battle, the wooded terrain and the generally enormous volume of firepower poured out by the distracted and frightened infantrymen tended to reduce the incidence of fatalities among the men who were hit : sometimes only one man being killed for every six or seven wounded. But when the rifle was in the hands of the skilled sharpshooter, then it was much more a question of, literally, " shooting to kill ". This was very apparent in periods of trench warfare between major attacks, when a steady drain of casualties resulted from sniping. The three white divisions of Burnside's Ninth Corps were heavily engaged at Petersburg in the attacks of 17th and 18th of June 1864. In that fighting they reported more than five wounded for every one killed. In the trenches between the 20th June and the day before the big assault at the end of July, they returned one man killed for every 3.7 wounded ; the difference in the ratios attesting the lethal effects of rifling on the activities of sharpshooters.

Another edit : would you Adam and Eve it ? I've just discovered from one of the volumes on my shelves that the Chief Medical Director of the Army of the Potomac filed a report immediately after the battle of Fredericksburg and reported that, of just over nine thousand wounds treated, only 1,650 were severe....!

This is completely counter intuitive for a battle associated with a large proportion of artillery casualties. What were the rebel gunners firing...peppercorns ?

Again, though, the report did stipulate that the official number posted as killed was too low, with the obvious inference that many of the missing were dead.


Regards, Phil
---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

Phil andrade
London, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Moderator
Posts: 2543

Re: The Rifled Musket in Civil war Combat- Evolution or Revolution
Posted on: 9/5/2017 8:41:48 AM

Quote:

Quote:
Diverging a bit from the technological aspect of the weaponry as a factor in the intensity, prolongation and bloodiness of the Civil War, I feel more convinced that the societal and demographic themes offer a better explanation .

Large citizen armies, consisting mainly of volunteers from a liberal democratic tradition are not so easily marshalled as those who are made up from regular professional recruits .

The opening post alludes to the reluctance of soldiers in the Civil War to press home attacks in the same manner as, say, the French troops at Solferino, where the centre was broken by a direct frontal assault against defenders in position armed with rifled muskets. Casualties were heavy then, too : but a successful outcome served as some kind of vindication .

Guelzo touches on this in his recent Gettysburg study.

Is it arguable that the professional military caste of 1861 was struggling to reconcile the military science and technology of the later mid nineteenth century to the new kinds of armies that were being levied ?

Perhaps it was not the weapons, but the nature of the soldiers, that made that war so difficult to manage on the battlefield.

Regards, Phil
--Phil andrade



I had similar thought with why the battles were not as decisive. I think the size of the battles was the main cause, but reading some on the mexican-american war it seemed once a line was severed by the us, the entire Mexican army seemed to dissolve and go into a rout often and usually not reform. When in the civil war a gap is achieved, and men rallied and counter attack unwilling to as easily give into defeat. Reinforcements would poor in instead of run.


I dont know if it is culture, pride, what they believed they fought for but it does seem something was their. Same thing with reading on the native american battles against the union during the war. They would go to "war" but it was really one or two battles or raids, and than they would die down and no longer be aggressive like the war was over. While the union just reinforced and came back and wiped them out.

--1stvermont


Equilibrium in battle might account for high casualties. If the adversaries are evenly matched , it's small wonder that fighting is protracted and bloody, and yet remains indecisive.

In this sense the American Civil War might be unique. Look at the astonishing parity in casualties between the two sides in so many of the great battles. No way, IMHO, does this reflect the substitution of rifled for smoothbore muskets....this is simply attributable to the similarities between the men of the opposing armies, the way they were led by generals who had attended the same military academies etc. Had they all been armed with smoothbores all the time, I am convinced that the war would have been no less bloody.

Parities of determination, skill and equipment resulted in prolonged and intense fighting.

I suspect that this holds true, whether at Gettysburg or at Verdun.

Regards , Phil
---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

1stvermont
Vermont, VT, USA
top 50
E-4 Specialist


Posts: 80

Re: The Rifled Musket in Civil war Combat- Evolution or Revolution
Posted on: 9/5/2017 5:32:27 PM

Quote:

Quote:

Quote:
Diverging a bit from the technological aspect of the weaponry as a factor in the intensity, prolongation and bloodiness of the Civil War, I feel more convinced that the societal and demographic themes offer a better explanation .

Large citizen armies, consisting mainly of volunteers from a liberal democratic tradition are not so easily marshalled as those who are made up from regular professional recruits .

The opening post alludes to the reluctance of soldiers in the Civil War to press home attacks in the same manner as, say, the French troops at Solferino, where the centre was broken by a direct frontal assault against defenders in position armed with rifled muskets. Casualties were heavy then, too : but a successful outcome served as some kind of vindication .

Guelzo touches on this in his recent Gettysburg study.

Is it arguable that the professional military caste of 1861 was struggling to reconcile the military science and technology of the later mid nineteenth century to the new kinds of armies that were being levied ?

Perhaps it was not the weapons, but the nature of the soldiers, that made that war so difficult to manage on the battlefield.

Regards, Phil
--Phil andrade



I had similar thought with why the battles were not as decisive. I think the size of the battles was the main cause, but reading some on the mexican-american war it seemed once a line was severed by the us, the entire Mexican army seemed to dissolve and go into a rout often and usually not reform. When in the civil war a gap is achieved, and men rallied and counter attack unwilling to as easily give into defeat. Reinforcements would poor in instead of run.


I dont know if it is culture, pride, what they believed they fought for but it does seem something was their. Same thing with reading on the native american battles against the union during the war. They would go to "war" but it was really one or two battles or raids, and than they would die down and no longer be aggressive like the war was over. While the union just reinforced and came back and wiped them out.

--1stvermont


Equilibrium in battle might account for high casualties. If the adversaries are evenly matched , it's small wonder that fighting is protracted and bloody, and yet remains indecisive.

In this sense the American Civil War might be unique. Look at the astonishing parity in casualties between the two sides in so many of the great battles. No way, IMHO, does this reflect the substitution of rifled for smoothbore muskets....this is simply attributable to the similarities between the men of the opposing armies, the way they were led by generals who had attended the same military academies etc. Had they all been armed with smoothbores all the time, I am convinced that the war would have been no less bloody.

Parities of determination, skill and equipment resulted in prolonged and intense fighting.

I suspect that this holds true, whether at Gettysburg or at Verdun.

Regards , Phil

--Phil andrade



Love it, thanks for the thoughts.
---------------
“The CSA congress can have no such power over states officers. The state governments are an essential part of the political system, upon the separate and independent sovereignty of the states the foundation of the confederacy”
-1864 Virginia supremeCourt

1stvermont
Vermont, VT, USA
top 50
E-4 Specialist


Posts: 80

Re: The Rifled Musket in Civil war Combat- Evolution or Revolution
Posted on: 9/5/2017 5:36:47 PM

Quote:
You're right, 1stvermont, a lot of what I contend is suppositional.....the casualty list from Fredericksburg is not conclusive proof of , but is highly suggestive of, the preponderance of bullet wounds rather than those of artillery projectiles.

A return of 7.5 wounded to every one posted as killed indicates long range musketry....certainly the open ground in front of Marye's Heights afforded the rebels behind the stone wall there the chance to develop their fusillade at long range.

But, OTOH, that battlefield was largely commanded by artillery, too. I've no doubt that the incidence of artillery casualties was much higher than the norm in civil war battles. At least double that norm, I would have guessed : and Longstreet's testimony speaks for itself.

And, I must reiterate that important fact that many - perhaps most - of the yankees posted as missing in that battle were killed, or left to die on the field.

So the casualty list is misleading .

I can cite sources from high ranking soldiers in that conflict who observed that, wherever and whenever artillery was prominently effective in battle, the wounds tended to be more severe : the evidence of casualty figures bears that out.

At Chickamauga, where the battlefield was heavily timbered, the union artillery fired relatively few rounds, whereas the infantry expenditure of bullets was enormous. In that battle , the rebels counted 6.3 wounded for every one killed outright : at Getttysburg, where yankee gunners had so many chances to ply their trade, the figure was just over 4.5 to one.

You can , I hope, appreciate that my principal contribution to your thread is predicated on the casualty figures, because that is my area of knowledge. But I must not presume too much on this basis ; I certainly wanted to question that assertion about the toll taken by Fredericksburg artillery.....but that's in the nature of a quibble, and I would heartily endorse the op and wouldn't wish to see it changed.

Edit : This is an important afterthought : your op does allude to the increased effectiveness of the rifle in terms of sharpshooting, or " sniping"....this is certainly born out by the evidence of casualty figures. In a big battle, the wooded terrain and the generally enormous volume of firepower poured out by the distracted and frightened infantrymen tended to reduce the incidence of fatalities among the men who were hit : sometimes only one man being killed for every six or seven wounded. But when the rifle was in the hands of the skilled sharpshooter, then it was much more a question of, literally, " shooting to kill ". This was very apparent in periods of trench warfare between major attacks, when a steady drain of casualties resulted from sniping. The three white divisions of Burnside's Ninth Corps were heavily engaged at Petersburg in the attacks of 17th and 18th of June 1864. In that fighting they reported more than five wounded for every one killed. In the trenches between the 20th June and the day before the big assault at the end of July, they returned one man killed for every 3.7 wounded ; the difference in the ratios attesting the lethal effects of rifling on the activities of sharpshooters.

Another edit : would you Adam and Eve it ? I've just discovered from one of the volumes on my shelves that the Chief Medical Director of the Army of the Potomac filed a report immediately after the battle of Fredericksburg and reported that, of just over nine thousand wounds treated, only 1,650 were severe....!

This is completely counter intuitive for a battle associated with a large proportion of artillery casualties. What were the rebel gunners firing...peppercorns ?

Again, though, the report did stipulate that the official number posted as killed was too low, with the obvious inference that many of the missing were dead.


Regards, Phil
--Phil andrade



All great stuff and you have given me much to think over. I will be editing the op for any future use to not outright claim 50% causalities. Thank you for your knowledge in the area.
---------------
“The CSA congress can have no such power over states officers. The state governments are an essential part of the political system, upon the separate and independent sovereignty of the states the foundation of the confederacy”
-1864 Virginia supremeCourt

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