Artillery question inspired by gettysburg movie scene.

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#21
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?
Close fast and kill or drive away the gunners.

Ryan
 

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infomanpa

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#22
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.
Interesting. I don't think that there was any implication that the messengers were specifically targeted.
 
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#24
My question is - would artillery actually waste shots trying to hit riders a mile away? Or was this just dramatic directorial license.
As far as the movie is concerned, I have no idea it could have been meant to show that, or it could have been edited together that way,, who knows. But I think all things considered the Union artillery had better, more pressing things to aim at.

But as far as an artillery piece being directed to fire at enemy officers, that is known to have happened. A perfect example is Leonidas Polk's death during the Atlanta Campaign. During a quiet period Polk, General Joseph Johnston, and General Hardee were checking the Confederate defenses on a small rise called Pine Mountain, and almost directly across from them a little under a mile, (I think, not sure if I'm remembering the distance right), General Sherman was likewise checking on one of his artillery positions, and supposedly, spotted the three Confederate generals through his glasses, (got to poke fun at Gettysburg's Pickett), and declared "How saucy they are!" and immediately ordered his gunners to train their guns on them, with the second or third shot ripping Polk apart.

If true that sort of thing happened but the circumstances are wildly different, mainly the part where the Union artillery wasn't facing a large Confederate infantry assault when they fired at the Confederate Generals a ways off on Pine Mountain.
 

thomas aagaard

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#25
But was there anything in the manual as to how best to attack a gun firing double canister?
no. The drill books don't cover tactics.
That is, it generally don't tell you when to use a specific evolution... just how to do it.
(with a few exceptions like the square and how to deal with terrain that gets in the way of a battalion during its advance)

If the soldiers was actually properly trained in marksmanship I would thrown forward a company as skirmishers and deal with it with aimed fire from them... Sufficient accurate fire and that might drive the crew from the guns.

But that is really only possible if the battery is not covered by infantry and that you are not part of a bigger attack.
When we are talking division sized attacks... your only option is basically to take it... or try look out for it and get everyone to drop to the ground and then rush forward...

Attacking ready artillery from the front is basically just a bad idea...
 
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#26
Excuse my ignorance but having just read The Killer Angels and the Gettysburg section of Shelby Foote's narrative again, I was just wondering how many type of shells etc, the artillery used?

From what all you better informed people above have said, it looks like at least 3;

1. Iron balls with no fuse

2. Iron balls with fuse

3. Canister

Is Case shot another name for canister or is this type of shell another one?

If I'm correct with #1 and #2 above, in which circumstances would they use the different types?
 
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#27
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.
You can see the scene I'm talking about here. Start at 4:02.

based on the responses to this post, i'm guessing this is just hollywood dramatics.
 

drezac

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#28
there were 4 types of rounds:
1. Solid shot
2. shell - hollow with a bursting charge, fused
3. Spherical case - Hollow, filled with lead balls and a bursting charge, fused
4. Canister - tin can full of balls, no bursting charge or fuse.

Solid shot could be bounced along the ground for troop formations, or used against objects

Shell/spherical case - used against objects or troops. typically aimed to pass over the target, timed fuse set to explode overhead

Canister - close range, turns the cannon into a big shotgun...
 
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#29
Excuse my ignorance but having just read The Killer Angels and the Gettysburg section of Shelby Foote's narrative again, I was just wondering how many type of shells etc, the artillery used?

From what all you better informed people above have said, it looks like at least 3;

1. Iron balls with no fuse

2. Iron balls with fuse

3. Canister

Is Case shot another name for canister or is this type of shell another one?

If I'm correct with #1 and #2 above, in which circumstances would they use the different types?
Shot was solid iron balls that did not explode.
Shell was an iron ball filled with powder that used a fuse to explode.
Case Shot was an iron ball with smaller balls suspended in a matrix that used a fuse to explode.
Canister was a tin can filled with lead or iron balls that burst like a shotgun shell when fired.

Solid shot was used against massed troops or fixed positions (smash instead of explode).
Shell and case was used if an exploding projectile was needed against troops or fixed positions.
Canister used against advancing troops.

In my opinion the best website on the subject of civil war artillery and projectiles is www.civilwarartillery.com
 
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Tom Elmore

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#30
It could not happen during a cannonade because there was too much smoke obscuring the field. Many officers, including General Meade himself, did not like to see his artillery taking random pot shots at small, distant targets. Meade considered it a flagrant waste of valuable (and expensive) ammunition. On the other hand, enemy batteries were legitimate targets. On July 1, Captain Hubert Dilger, with notable success, tried to land rounds among Page's Confederate battery after it came into action on the eastern slope of Oak Hill.

All that said, there was a recorded instance at Gettysburg of a Union battery attempting to hit a small group of mounted men who came into view at a great distance. Lieutenant Hermann Schuricht of the 14th Virginia Cavalry described the incident (from the Richmond Dispatch, April 5, 1896):

(Brigadier General Albert G.) "Jenkin's brigade was posted in a piece of woodland, part of yesterday's [July 1] battlefield, in sight of the Seminary and the city of Gettysburg. ... only in long intervals the report of a gun was heard. ... General Jenkins resolved to reconnoiter and I was [one] of his companions. Arriving on top of a hill, our party attracted the enemy's attention. ... A shell exploded among us, wounding the General and his horse."
 

thomas aagaard

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#31
You can see the scene I'm talking about here. Start at 4:02.

based on the responses to this post, i'm guessing this is just hollywood dramatics.
Putting some explosives in the ground is an easy way to simulate artillery fire.

But it could be a shell that overshot the infantry, landed in the ground, and then, when the fuse as run its length the shell detonate.
 

James N.

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#32
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?
This WAS done, at least to the extent possible, but by Alexander who placed guns on the rise at the Peach Orchard where they enjoyed some degree of flanking fire on the guns on Cemetery Ridge.
 
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#33
Thanks to both drezac and redbob for the replies above.

What gruesome instruments of torture those projectiles all were.
 
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#36
What Mikey B said. (Solid shot would not explode because it was, well, solid metal, no powder on the inside, no fuse.
And could be terrible. At Antietam, a ball was slowly rolling on the ground as it lost momentum and a soldier foolishly stuck his foot out to stop it. It crushed his foot and led to its amputation. Now imagine one of the solid shots bouncing at speed along a line as happened when Rittenhouse's two guns on Little Round Top fired at Kemper's Brigade on July 3.

Ryan
 

byron ed

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#37
...If the soldiers was actually properly trained in marksmanship I would thrown forward a company as skirmishers and deal with it with aimed fire from them... Sufficient accurate fire and that might drive the crew from the guns....
So TA, you've come around a bit to concede that, after all, rifles made some tactical difference in the CW (no longer "rifles made no difference as compared to Napoleonic-vintage wars / soldiers weren't capable of using a rifle effectively").
 

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