Artillery question inspired by gettysburg movie scene.

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#1
During Pickett's charge, there is a quick shot of Union artillery firing, and then in the next clip it shows some artillery shells exploding near a couple of couriers riding out to Pickett. The implication I think is that the artillery was trying to hit the messengers.

My question is - would artillery actually waste shots trying to hit riders a mile away? Or was this just dramatic directorial license.
 

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Hussar Yeomanry

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#2
Dramatic license.

Now I'm not saying couriers weren't from time to time hit by artillery fire but artillery of the period aimed at available enemy troop concentrations rather than individuals. Indeed opposing artillery batteries while possible to target and indeed were targeted were realistically on the small side for the capabilities of the weapons involved and some individuals theorised that attacking them was nothing but a waste of ammunition (Henry Hunt certainly believed this to be the case if the enemy battery was at anything other than close range).

On the other hand the British (for example) doctrine was to deliberately attempt to suppress enemy batteries. (Then again by this point their field batteries were only equipped with rifled artillery)

Also Gettysburg while a fine film is not the best yardtick for historical accuracy.
 

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#4
During Pickett's charge, there is a quick shot of Union artillery firing, and then in the next clip it shows some artillery shells exploding near a couple of couriers riding out to Pickett. The implication I think is that the artillery was trying to hit the messengers.

My question is - would artillery actually waste shots trying to hit riders a mile away? Or was this just dramatic directorial license.
Union artillery during Pickett's Charge had a target rich environment and artillery rounds may very well have exploded near mounted couriers from time to time, especially if they were near Confederate artillery or advancing infantry. Remember, the PPT formation was nearly a half mile wide but not very deep. Artillery near the center of the Union line could easily overshoot. We all remember the havoc wrought on the Union rear because of overshooting by Lee's artillery. They probably took out some mounted couriers, too.
 

Jimklag

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#7
The same happened to CSA infantry waiting behind their artillery for the attack to start.
Yes. The artillery on the Union flanks could hardly miss since they were shooting down the line of the advancing CSA infantry. They did most of the artillery damage to the PPT charge until the Rebs got within canister range. The guns in the middle had a much more difficult task with a much shallower target to aim at.
 
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#8
Yes. The artillery on the Union flanks could hardly miss since they were shooting down the line of the advancing CSA infantry. They did most of the artillery damage to the PPT charge until the Rebs got within canister range. The guns in the middle had a much more difficult task with a much shallower target to aim at.
I read an article years back arguing that had the rebels tried to emulate this enfilade fire on their side, they might have been successful in breaking Cemetery Ridge. So this would entail moving their guns to their flanks' extremities and firing down the Union line rather than from the center of Seminary Ridge. Would this have worked, and was it practical to execute?
 

Jimklag

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#9
I read an article years back arguing that had the rebels tried to emulate this enfilade fire on their side, they might have been successful in breaking Cemetery Ridge. So this would entail moving their guns to their flanks' extremities and firing down the Union line rather than from the center of Seminary Ridge. Would this have worked, and was it practical to execute?
It would certainly have worked better than the actual artillery barrage. When you're firing down the length of the enemy's line, faulty fuses don't matter. Long, short or in the middle, you're bound to hit something.
 
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#10
It would certainly have worked better than the actual artillery barrage. When you're firing down the length of the enemy's line, faulty fuses don't matter. Long, short or in the middle, you're bound to hit something.
With regards to solid shot, what is the "ideal" fuse? Are you trying to explode the shell 100 feet above the heads of the target, and then it explodes and dumps a shot gun like rain on the enemy? Are you trying to explode as close to ground level as possible for maximum devastation from the blast? Somewhere in between?
 

Jimklag

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#11
With regards to solid shot, what is the "ideal" fuse? Are you trying to explode the shell 100 feet above the heads of the target, and then it explodes and dumps a shot gun like rain on the enemy? Are you trying to explode as close to ground level as possible for maximum devastation from the blast? Somewhere in between?
Solid shot is best bouncing along the ground killing anyone in its path.
 
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#12
It would certainly have worked better than the actual artillery barrage. When you're firing down the length of the enemy's line, faulty fuses don't matter. Long, short or in the middle, you're bound to hit something.
Looking at a map, it looks like for this to work, you'd want to move the artillery to Ewell's front somewhere below the town and across from Cemetery Hill. Is this correct? And if so, was it practical to shift 100 pieces to that front had Lee decided to do this on the morning of July 3rd? And does Cemetery Hill block your line of sight and make the enfilade fire down Cemetery Ridge impractical? Or, do you simply arc your shots over Cemetery Hill, you don't really need to have a spotter because you know the long line of blue is waiting?
 
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#16
Nope. Solid shot is a 12-pound (the most common size) iron bowling ball. Case shot and shells have fuses.
Got it. So, same question for case shot. What is the ideal fuse and where do you want it to ideally blow?

And thank you for answering all of my questions, its very informative.
 

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#17
Got it. So, same question for case shot. What is the ideal fuse and where do you want it to ideally blow?

And thank you for answering all of my questions, its very informative.
The gunners, early on, will have established the range to the target by trial and error and set the fuses accordingly. Gunners were usually within visual range of their targets and could see the results of their shots until the smoke got too bad later in a barrage. Generally, they would have fired their ranging rounds before the barrage when not many guns are firing. You often hear of random artillery firing during quiet times in battles - these are probably ranging shots.
 
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#18
Regarding canister.. My Artillery unit took a full scale Napoleon to Illinois a few years back and we tested about 20 rounds at various elevations and patterned the gun on a wall of cardboard at about 100 yards. Interesting observation is that the canister shot stayed, for the most part below 6 feet off the ground at that range. The pattern at 100 yards is where the the pattern of each respective gun would converge so if you get in close and are lucky enough to be between the guns you have a better chance.
When you look at the physics of a canister round, visualize the balls coming out, separating from the tin can and then going in a cone.. The ones going low, bounce first and the ones going straight or up bounce a bit further out but the effect is this undulating wall of iron that is like a meat grinder. No where to hide. The balls carried all the way to the far tree line, raising dust all along the way. 500+ yards away. I had a new sense of respect for those who charged into that Hell !!
 
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#19
I read an article years back arguing that had the rebels tried to emulate this enfilade fire on their side, they might have been successful in breaking Cemetery Ridge. So this would entail moving their guns to their flanks' extremities and firing down the Union line rather than from the center of Seminary Ridge. Would this have worked, and was it practical to execute?
IIRC, Colonel Alexander made a comment in his memoirs along these lines. The problem is that there is simply no place for the artillery to unlimber where they can fire down the Union line and any that may have found a place within range would have been dominated by the Union positions. Alexander was simply wrong in this regard.

Ryan
 
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#20
Regarding canister.. My Artillery unit took a full scale Napoleon to Illinois a few years back and we tested about 20 rounds at various elevations and patterned the gun on a wall of cardboard at about 100 yards. Interesting observation is that the canister shot stayed, for the most part below 6 feet off the ground at that range. The pattern at 100 yards is where the the pattern of each respective gun would converge so if you get in close and are lucky enough to be between the guns you have a better chance.
When you look at the physics of a canister round, visualize the balls coming out, separating from the tin can and then going in a cone.. The ones going low, bounce first and the ones going straight or up bounce a bit further out but the effect is this undulating wall of iron that is like a meat grinder. No where to hide. The balls carried all the way to the far tree line, raising dust all along the way. 500+ yards away. I had a new sense of respect for those who charged into that Hell !!
Was there an infantryman "best practices" for when charging guns firing canister? It sounds like you were just screwed and if you're overrunning guns, things are probably happening so quickly there's not really time to execute tactics. But was there anything in the manual as to how best to attack a gun firing double canister?
 

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