Britain had recognized the CSA?

JeffBrooks

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 20, 2009
Location
Manor, TX
If Britian intervened, that would draw the Union into an invasion of Canada and, as you very aptly put it, those are soldiers, rifles and bullets which aren't putting down the rebellion.

An invasion of Canada would also prove (as it had back in 1812) a much more difficult proposition than most people assumed.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
An invasion of Canada would also prove (as it had back in 1812) a much more difficult proposition than most people assumed.
There's several reasons for this, and one of them is about the enormous qualitative superiority the British Army had at the time over the Union (and indeed Confederate) armies, in terms of "skills and drills" (i.e. the capabilities of the individual soldiers).

Put bluntly, the specially trained 1st and 2nd US Sharpshooters represent the sort of capability that is to one extent or another organic to every single British infantry battalion, and typically speaking between 1/3 and 2/3 of a typical British infantry brigade will be able to engage effectively (i.e. a hit rate of ~1 in 16, which is about ten times better than the Union hit rate for musketry at Gettysburg) at a range of 500 yards or so.
(3rd class shots were felt capable of shooting out only to 300 yards, while 2nd class shots could shoot out to 600 yards and 1st class shots could reach 900.)

British artillery meanwhile was breathtakingly accurate by contemporary Union standards. The Armstrong 12 pounder fires a more powerful shell than most Union field artillery and does so far more accurately, and is capable of effective counter-battery fire at two miles. (In testing at that sort of range, more shots hit than missed in a target area only a few yards across.)

The Canadian militia was obviously not trained to anything like the same standard of quality, but if they'd been mustered in then musketry and marksmanship would have started appearing on their training schedules within weeks. Simply training in range estimation and the use of sights would put them ahead of most Union or Confederate infantry in a firefight, and their intended role (largely defending entrenchments) is the best role for troops of dubious quality as it best masks any flaws they have.
 

CanadianCanuck

Sergeant
Joined
Nov 21, 2014
An invasion of Canada would also prove (as it had back in 1812) a much more difficult proposition than most people assumed.

I do think that in this situation you would have many people saying "third times the charm" in the same vein as "On to Richmond" and patriotically predicting that Quebec would be in American hands by Christmas. Of course, that definitely wouldn't be the case. And I don't say that just because I'm a Canadian!
 
Joined
Jul 28, 2019
I do think that in this situation you would have many people saying "third times the charm" in the same vein as "On to Richmond" and patriotically predicting that Quebec would be in American hands by Christmas. Of course, that definitely wouldn't be the case. And I don't say that just because I'm a Canadian!

My usual, somewhat tongue in cheek description of Canadian military history goes: Apparently every general that tried to invade Canada was incompetent save Wolfe and he died, it could not possibly be that invading Canada is hard!
 

JeffBrooks

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 20, 2009
Location
Manor, TX
There's several reasons for this, and one of them is about the enormous qualitative superiority the British Army had at the time over the Union (and indeed Confederate) armies, in terms of "skills and drills" (i.e. the capabilities of the individual soldiers).

Beyond training and drill and such, the greatest strengths of the British army in the Victorian Age were the incredible esprit de corps of its regiments and the quality of its officer corps.
 

Belfoured

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
For a given definition of "large volume manufacturing"; it relied on Chilean guano and potash imported mostly from Canada. Neither are available in the event of a war with Britain and a consequent blockade and embargo, of course.

Furthermore, the production by the end of the war was on the order of 2.1 million lbs (1862-5 contracts by the New Haven Chemical Company). By contrast the imports from British sources were on the order of 60 million lbs over the same period (1862-5).

It's not nothing, but it doesn't remotely keep up with the Union's actual powder needs, notwithstanding that this domestic source involves product from Canada and Chile.
"but it doesn't remotely keep up with the Union's actual powder needs"

Du Pont produced in the neighborhood of 31% of the Union's powder requirements. There were other manufacturers, as well. Are you suggesting that the Union faced a powder shortage 1863-1865?

There's an obvious difference between Britain cutting off the supply from India and attempting to operate a blockade.
There's several reasons for this, and one of them is about the enormous qualitative superiority the British Army had at the time over the Union (and indeed Confederate) armies, in terms of "skills and drills" (i.e. the capabilities of the individual soldiers).

Put bluntly, the specially trained 1st and 2nd US Sharpshooters represent the sort of capability that is to one extent or another organic to every single British infantry battalion, and typically speaking between 1/3 and 2/3 of a typical British infantry brigade will be able to engage effectively (i.e. a hit rate of ~1 in 16, which is about ten times better than the Union hit rate for musketry at Gettysburg) at a range of 500 yards or so.
(3rd class shots were felt capable of shooting out only to 300 yards, while 2nd class shots could shoot out to 600 yards and 1st class shots could reach 900.)

British artillery meanwhile was breathtakingly accurate by contemporary Union standards. The Armstrong 12 pounder fires a more powerful shell than most Union field artillery and does so far more accurately, and is capable of effective counter-battery fire at two miles. (In testing at that sort of range, more shots hit than missed in a target area only a few yards across.)

The Canadian militia was obviously not trained to anything like the same standard of quality, but if they'd been mustered in then musketry and marksmanship would have started appearing on their training schedules within weeks. Simply training in range estimation and the use of sights would put them ahead of most Union or Confederate infantry in a firefight, and their intended role (largely defending entrenchments) is the best role for troops of dubious quality as it best masks any flaws they have.
Focusing solely on field artillery, the Armstrong 12 lb gun is not a basis for asserting field artillery superiority during the early 1860's. It had issues with the reliability of the breech mechanism - not surprising because of the novelty, similar to Whitworth's. There were also training issues in using it. The RA and its officers were still committed to drill and use of the 9 lb smooth bore, which remained the standard field piece for awhile. Manufacture of that gun only stopped in 1862 or 1863. It is very unlikely that the several Canadian Militia Artillery companies would have been outfitted with the Armstrong.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Beyond training and drill and such, the greatest strengths of the British army in the Victorian Age were the incredible esprit de corps of its regiments and the quality of its officer corps.
The point about the quality of the officer corps is worth noting, yes, simply because British officers had generally had significant time in grade (and many of them had passed exams) before promotion to the next level up. This means that the common Civil War problem of a general officer who doesn't really have regimental command experience simply does not happen, and while there are duffers (everyone has duffers) there are more and better filters to make sure that men who reach high command rank have some years of experience in lower ranks.



Something else it's worth pointing out though is that in this period the British Army is also significant for its size and level of support. In what is essentially peacetime the British Army has approximately:

230,000 regulars, including infantry, cavalry, artillery, and permanent support structures like logistics train and engineers (exclusive of troops raised in India)
115,000 militia (paid, trained second line troops) in Britain, who can be sent overseas to handle garrison commitments
163,000 volunteers (unpaid, enthusiastic third line troops who trained in formations on their own account) who can serve as a source of replacement manpower or serve for home defence.

This is exclusive of militia and volunteers raised overseas such as the Canadian militia, and comes to slightly over 500,000 men. This is not far off peak Union mobilization, and it's a peacetime total - while the whole British regular army can't deploy overseas, it is my estimate based on tracking battalions that the mobilization of the militia would allow approximately half of it to do so.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
"but it doesn't remotely keep up with the Union's actual powder needs"

Du Pont produced in the neighborhood of 31% of the Union's powder requirements. There were other manufacturers, as well. Are you suggesting that the Union faced a powder shortage 1863-1865?
No, what I'm saying is that Du Pont, and other powder manufacturers, produced their powder mostly with the use of niter from British India. In the single year where the imports were lowest the total import of British niter was 7 times the amount of niter produced per year through the new "domestic" process; in a more typical year the New Haven Chemical Company's production of domestic niter was outnumbered by imports of British niter roughly 14:1.


Focusing solely on field artillery, the Armstrong 12 lb gun is not a basis for asserting field artillery superiority during the early 1860's. It had issues with the reliability of the breech mechanism - not surprising because of the novelty, similar to Whitworth's. There were also training issues in using it. The RA and its officers were still committed to drill and use of the 9 lb smooth bore, which remained the standard field piece for awhile. Manufacture of that gun only stopped in 1862 or 1863. It is very unlikely that the several Canadian Militia Artillery companies would have been outfitted with the Armstrong.
But the Armstrong 12 lber's breech mechanism is only unreliable by comparison with a known quantity smoothbore. If you compare it with the Parrott rifles, for example, which were famous for blowing muzzles off, it looks significantly better - and it was a lot more accurate than them as well.
I don't have access to specific statistics for use/failure for the smaller 12 pounder, but the larger Armstrong guns compare well with the larger Parrotts (if nothing else, nobody seems to have actually died from an Armstrong vent piece failure, while the Parrotts killed several people at Fort Fisher alone.)

My understanding is that the Armstrong 12 pounder was fully rolled out to all field batteries by 1861, and that production continued. There were significant surpluses in Britain and some were shipped across the Atlantic during the Trent affair.

Armstrong guns manufactured to 31 March 1863:
202 9pdr (the horse artillery gun)
717 12pdr
349 20pdr
895 40pdr
1,029 110pdr

Do you have an example of the 9 pounder smoothbore still being in British regular army service in 1861, say?
 

Belfoured

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
No, what I'm saying is that Du Pont, and other powder manufacturers, produced their powder mostly with the use of niter from British India. In the single year where the imports were lowest the total import of British niter was 7 times the amount of niter produced per year through the new "domestic" process; in a more typical year the New Haven Chemical Company's production of domestic niter was outnumbered by imports of British niter roughly 14:1.



But the Armstrong 12 lber's breech mechanism is only unreliable by comparison with a known quantity smoothbore. If you compare it with the Parrott rifles, for example, which were famous for blowing muzzles off, it looks significantly better - and it was a lot more accurate than them as well.
I don't have access to specific statistics for use/failure for the smaller 12 pounder, but the larger Armstrong guns compare well with the larger Parrotts (if nothing else, nobody seems to have actually died from an Armstrong vent piece failure, while the Parrotts killed several people at Fort Fisher alone.)

My understanding is that the Armstrong 12 pounder was fully rolled out to all field batteries by 1861, and that production continued. There were significant surpluses in Britain and some were shipped across the Atlantic during the Trent affair.

Armstrong guns manufactured to 31 March 1863:
202 9pdr (the horse artillery gun)
717 12pdr
349 20pdr
895 40pdr
1,029 110pdr

Do you have an example of the 9 pounder smoothbore still being in British regular army service in 1861, say?
When I have the time, I'll try to locate specific sources showing the 9 lb still in use. That was the standard gun at least up until 1860, so the notion that by, say, 1862 it had been completely replaced everywhere by the 12 lb makes little sense. The Armstrong was only available for service starting in 1859.

To be clear, I'm only discussing field pieces and not the larger caliber guns used for seige/garrison/fortification duty. The 10 lb Parrott was not remotely "famous for blowing muzzles off". Even the 20 lb gun didn't show that. The problem you refer to applied to the much larger calibers. The issue regarding the 12 lb Armstrong's breech mechanism was not simply failure - it was also due to training/lack of drill, etc. As I indicated, the RA's drill (which only became the subject of an actual manual c. 1850 or so) was focused on the 9 lb smoothbore. In fact, the RA shifted to a muzzle-loading rifled 9 lb not long after the Civil War had ended (I'd have to check the date).
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
When I have the time, I'll try to locate specific sources showing the 9 lb still in use. That was the standard gun at least up until 1860, so the notion that by, say, 1862 it had been completely replaced everywhere by the 12 lb makes little sense. The Armstrong was only available for service starting in 1859.
Well, yes, it was manufactured in huge quantities. The British followed their practice, which was to accept a weapon into service and then to fairly promptly manufacture and deploy enough for the whole regular army; I'm aware US practice was different.

According to Hunt:
"I have the honor to report that the practice in the recent battle with the 20-pounder Parrott was in some respects very unsatisfactory, from the imperfection of the projectiles, which, notwithstanding the pains which have been taken to procure reliable ones, are nearly as dangerous to our own troops as to the enemy, if the former are in advance of our lines. In addition, the guns themselves are unsafe. At Antietam two of the twenty-two, and on the 13th instant another, were disabled by the bursting of the gun near the muzzle. The gun is too heavy for field purposes, and can be used with advantage only as batteries of position. For the last purpose it is inferior to the 4½-inch siege-gun, which requires the same number of horses and only half the number of drivers. I therefore respectfully propose that, as the allowance of artillery in this army is small, the 20-pounders be turned in to the Ordnance Department as soon as they can be replaced by light field guns."

So it seems pretty clear that the 20 pounder Parrott at least was prone to blowing the muzzle off in use.



The issue regarding the 12 lb Armstrong's breech mechanism was not simply failure - it was also due to training/lack of drill, etc.
Well, indeed drill failures were involved, but the failure rate was not high. The drill in question was mostly in screwing the breech significantly tight (the vent piece is a safety mechanism, each gun carried two spares).

The number which actually suffered significant damage to 30 June 1863 was less than 2%, and many of those damages were repaired by that date. (Two of them cost less than £2 to repair.) Only three were damaged beyond the possibility of repair, which means that out of 717 weapons manufactured to date:
4 damaged beyond repair.
6 repaired, 2 of which were expensive.
3 had not yet been repaired at time of report.
704 had no problems.

Obviously heavier usage would expose problems to a greater degree, but the heavier Armstrong guns which would be more prone to failure appear to have suffered a small number of malfunctions per round fired.

As against this, we have that the Armstrong gun was extremely accurate. The Krupp guns that the Prussians used in the Franco-Prussian War had some reliability issues, but accuracy and power goes a long way... as, indeed, does a reliable percussion fuze.
 

Belfoured

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
Well, yes, it was manufactured in huge quantities. The British followed their practice, which was to accept a weapon into service and then to fairly promptly manufacture and deploy enough for the whole regular army; I'm aware US practice was different.

According to Hunt:
"I have the honor to report that the practice in the recent battle with the 20-pounder Parrott was in some respects very unsatisfactory, from the imperfection of the projectiles, which, notwithstanding the pains which have been taken to procure reliable ones, are nearly as dangerous to our own troops as to the enemy, if the former are in advance of our lines. In addition, the guns themselves are unsafe. At Antietam two of the twenty-two, and on the 13th instant another, were disabled by the bursting of the gun near the muzzle. The gun is too heavy for field purposes, and can be used with advantage only as batteries of position. For the last purpose it is inferior to the 4½-inch siege-gun, which requires the same number of horses and only half the number of drivers. I therefore respectfully propose that, as the allowance of artillery in this army is small, the 20-pounders be turned in to the Ordnance Department as soon as they can be replaced by light field guns."

So it seems pretty clear that the 20 pounder Parrott at least was prone to blowing the muzzle off in use.




Well, indeed drill failures were involved, but the failure rate was not high. The drill in question was mostly in screwing the breech significantly tight (the vent piece is a safety mechanism, each gun carried two spares).

The number which actually suffered significant damage to 30 June 1863 was less than 2%, and many of those damages were repaired by that date. (Two of them cost less than £2 to repair.) Only three were damaged beyond the possibility of repair, which means that out of 717 weapons manufactured to date:
4 damaged beyond repair.
6 repaired, 2 of which were expensive.
3 had not yet been repaired at time of report.
704 had no problems.

Obviously heavier usage would expose problems to a greater degree, but the heavier Armstrong guns which would be more prone to failure appear to have suffered a small number of malfunctions per round fired.

As against this, we have that the Armstrong gun was extremely accurate. The Krupp guns that the Prussians used in the Franco-Prussian War had some reliability issues, but accuracy and power goes a long way... as, indeed, does a reliable percussion fuze.
When referring to anything from Hunt, you should keep in mind that he also disliked the 20 lb gun for reasons other than failures, and that comes through in his assessment. It was a classic "tweener" - too heavy for field work (the tube was twice the weight of the 10 lb and the prescribed - but little-used - team was 8 horses) - while not heavy enough for seige work. In addition (and as you can see from the quote), the Read Parrott projectiles for the 20 lb had their own problems (and there were few 20 lb projectiles turned out by the other contractors for rifled ordnance). Like the M1841 12 lb field howitzer (for other reasons), Hunt wanted to be rid of it. But the point is that there are no statistics showing an unacceptable failure rate for the 10 lb due to the defect you cite. In fact, after a shutdown in 1863 -during which Parrott changed the bore from 2.9" to 3" - orders and shipments from the West Point foundry resumed in significant numbers during 1864. Without going too deeply into tangential issues, the Prussian artillery was better-drilled with the Krupp by the F-P war than the RA was with the Armstrong in 1861.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
When referring to anything from Hunt, you should keep in mind that he also disliked the 20 lb gun for reasons other than failures, and that comes through in his assessment.
Perhaps so, but that doesn't change that two 20pdr Parrotts still blew their muzzles off at Antietam, which is 9% of those engaged being permanently damaged. I'll accept that I cannot find stats for the 10pdr that indicate a similar unreliability, but you did claim that even the 20pdr didn't show that pattern.

I've seen mention of a NYT article to the effect that the Parrott was dangerous in drill, and in addition:

Major General Quincy A. Gilmore, U.S. Army, respected them. He reported: “There is, perhaps, no better system of rifled cannon than Parrotts; certainly none more simple in construction, more easily understood, or that can with more safety be placed in the hands of inexperienced men for use. The enormous and constant demand under which it has been rapidly developed, particularly among the larger calibers, to its present state of efficiency and excellence, gives promise of a degree of perfection that will leave little to be desired at no distant future.” Gilmore also recognized that the Parrotts had defects, particularly “their very unequal endurance.” Some burst in their early stages of use; others fired thousands of rounds before they became unusable.


Cole, Philip. Civil War Artillery at Gettysburg (p. 107). Colecraft Industries. Kindle Edition.

Other artillery commanders begged to be rid of the Parrotts. “I would most respectfully recommend that the 20-pounders be taken from the Macon Light Artillery, as it is a good company and deserves better than to have its members wounded and killed by defective guns,” advised Confederate Major John Haskell. E. P. Alexander once complained, “The 10-pounder Parrotts in my command I have condemned entirely, and have made arrangements with the Ordnance Department to exchange them all for 24-pounder howitzers, having found it impossible to get satisfactory firing from them, and I hope to be rid of every one when we take the field.”

Cole, Philip. Civil War Artillery at Gettysburg (pp. 107-108). Colecraft Industries. Kindle Edition.

Similarly, on this site:
https://www.civilwarhome.com/artillery.html

On the 2.9" and 3" Parrott:

The real difficulty was the gun's unpredictability. Some Parrotts served long and dependably, firing several thousand rounds with no problem. But cast iron cannon tended not to show wear and tear. The metal simply gave way whenever it gave way, after few rounds or many, so there always was a high level of uncertainty in connection with the use of cast iron guns.
Private Augustus Buell of Battery B, 4th U.S. Artillery (a Napoleon battery) later noted, perhaps with some sarcasm, that "so long as the Parrott gun held together it was as good as any muzzleloading rifle." (Buell, p. 22)
Unfortunately for the crews who worked them, Parrotts too often failed to hold together and became extremely unpopular with artillerymen. Buell himself best expressed the common view when he later said, "If anything could justify desertion by a cannoneer, it would be an assignment to a Parrott battery." (Buell, p. 147)


This seems to indicate that there is a general sense of unreliability in the Parrott, including the field gun calibres.


Without going too deeply into tangential issues, the Prussian artillery was better-drilled with the Krupp by the F-P war than the RA was with the Armstrong in 1861.
I'm not sure I follow. The point I was making is that the Krupp C/64 was definitely not a 100% reliable gun, in that it did have a rate of failure (in the breech, and in premature detonation of shells) that was exclusive of drill problems. Nevertheless, they sufficed to defeat the French.


That the British dumped the 12 pounder Armstrong may simply indicate the British holding their arms to a higher standard in peacetime than these other powers in wartime; in wartime, the British would use the 12 pounder Armstrong.
 

Belfoured

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
Perhaps so, but that doesn't change that two 20pdr Parrotts still blew their muzzles off at Antietam, which is 9% of those engaged being permanently damaged. I'll accept that I cannot find stats for the 10pdr that indicate a similar unreliability, but you did claim that even the 20pdr didn't show that pattern.

I've seen mention of a NYT article to the effect that the Parrott was dangerous in drill, and in addition:

Major General Quincy A. Gilmore, U.S. Army, respected them. He reported: “There is, perhaps, no better system of rifled cannon than Parrotts; certainly none more simple in construction, more easily understood, or that can with more safety be placed in the hands of inexperienced men for use. The enormous and constant demand under which it has been rapidly developed, particularly among the larger calibers, to its present state of efficiency and excellence, gives promise of a degree of perfection that will leave little to be desired at no distant future.” Gilmore also recognized that the Parrotts had defects, particularly “their very unequal endurance.” Some burst in their early stages of use; others fired thousands of rounds before they became unusable.


Cole, Philip. Civil War Artillery at Gettysburg (p. 107). Colecraft Industries. Kindle Edition.

Other artillery commanders begged to be rid of the Parrotts. “I would most respectfully recommend that the 20-pounders be taken from the Macon Light Artillery, as it is a good company and deserves better than to have its members wounded and killed by defective guns,” advised Confederate Major John Haskell. E. P. Alexander once complained, “The 10-pounder Parrotts in my command I have condemned entirely, and have made arrangements with the Ordnance Department to exchange them all for 24-pounder howitzers, having found it impossible to get satisfactory firing from them, and I hope to be rid of every one when we take the field.”

Cole, Philip. Civil War Artillery at Gettysburg (pp. 107-108). Colecraft Industries. Kindle Edition.

Similarly, on this site:
https://www.civilwarhome.com/artillery.html

On the 2.9" and 3" Parrott:

The real difficulty was the gun's unpredictability. Some Parrotts served long and dependably, firing several thousand rounds with no problem. But cast iron cannon tended not to show wear and tear. The metal simply gave way whenever it gave way, after few rounds or many, so there always was a high level of uncertainty in connection with the use of cast iron guns.
Private Augustus Buell of Battery B, 4th U.S. Artillery (a Napoleon battery) later noted, perhaps with some sarcasm, that "so long as the Parrott gun held together it was as good as any muzzleloading rifle." (Buell, p. 22)
Unfortunately for the crews who worked them, Parrotts too often failed to hold together and became extremely unpopular with artillerymen. Buell himself best expressed the common view when he later said, "If anything could justify desertion by a cannoneer, it would be an assignment to a Parrott battery." (Buell, p. 147)


This seems to indicate that there is a general sense of unreliability in the Parrott, including the field gun calibres.



I'm not sure I follow. The point I was making is that the Krupp C/64 was definitely not a 100% reliable gun, in that it did have a rate of failure (in the breech, and in premature detonation of shells) that was exclusive of drill problems. Nevertheless, they sufficed to defeat the French.


That the British dumped the 12 pounder Armstrong may simply indicate the British holding their arms to a higher standard in peacetime than these other powers in wartime; in wartime, the British would use the 12 pounder Armstrong.
I think we've covered the turf adequately on what is a tangent to the OP. There was disagreement about the 10 lb, and the views were either highly critical or extremely enthusiastic. I've looked into this pretty thoroughly in the past and concluded that the alleged "reputation" was based far less on any real stats about failures than it was on the (well-earned) reputation of the larger calibers for failures (not nearly all of which were located at the first place to look - the joinder of the wrought iron wrap at the cast iron tube). The gun also suffered in comparison with the 3" Ordnance Rifle - which literally had one reported failure in battle (at the Wilderness) - but the 10 lb's actual reliability is shown by the resumption in large orders during 1864 that I pointed to and the scarcity of documented actual failures by unit and date. Regarding the 10 lb Parrott, during 1864 and 1865 a total of 273 were turned out, at a fairly steady rate until the third quarter 1865 (10). During that same period 237 Ordnance Rifles were produced. 189 Napoleons were produced, and production of those stopped after the second quarter of 1864. The big falloff for the 10 lb was in second half of 1862 (none) and in 1863 (12). This appears to have been tied to the redesign from 2.9" to 3", which also eliminated the muzzle swell and the "step" at the location of the chase.

I think I was clear that a significant issue with the Armstrong 12 lb was the RA's lack of training and official drill in the complicated breech mechanism, and not just mechanical failures. To be clear, the Prussians did not enter the F-P War with the same training/drill deficit. As noted, the RA went to the 9 lb rifle around the same time that the Prussians were successfully using the Krupp.

As for Gillmore on the 10 lb, check out p. 90 of his history of operations around Charleston:

https://books.google.com/books?id=3...wbks_redir=0&pg=PA90-IA69#v=onepage&q&f=false

 
Last edited:

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
I think I was clear that a significant issue with the Armstrong 12 lb was the RA's lack of training and official drill in the complicated breech mechanism, and not just mechanical failures. To be clear, the Prussians did not enter the F-P War with the same training/drill deficit. As noted, the RA went to the 9 lb rifle around the same time that the Prussians were successfully using the Krupp.
But the operative issue here is what would actually be in use and how effective and reliable the gun-man combination would be in battle.

The select committe on the matter examined the reports of the Armstrong's reliability, and opted to replace it with the 9 lb based on an equality of capability and a significantly cheaper price. They also heard reports on reliability, but the indications seem to suggest that it was not particularly unreliable.


"As regards the care of the gun I find no difficulty in keeping it in perfect order in all weathers and all circumstances" (Major Govan, RA)
"On one occasion his guns had very rough work indeed. They were sent out with a division of the army over a swamp, the very worst ground possible for artillery. The guns were in fact almost swallowed up, and were covered with mud when brought into action, but no impediment occurred." (Major Govan, RA)
"On two occasions vent-pieces were blown away; on the last occasion I happened to come up to the gun almost immediately after it had occurred... The traversing screw was jammed, but the gun was not otherwise injured, and with another vent-piece was again serviceable." (Major Hay, RA)
"As a preliminary measure, a new 12-pounder gun, No. 8, was left exposed to the weather without any protection, and untouched, ... [for] 45 days. It rained very constantly during this period... At the expiration of it, it was taken to the marshes, and fired without being cleaned or sponged." (Report from the Select Committee on Ordnance, 23 July 1863)


Even once they changed their minds and ultimately switched to the 9 pdr RML, they didn't exactly rush the conversion; by 1872 there were 26 horse and field batteries with the 9pdr RML and 30 with the 12 pounder Armstrong (these numbers may exclude batteries in India). The Armstrong's reliability issues weren't considered a matter for it to immediately leave service, but a matter for the replacement gun to be better than the Armstrong in every way.



The fact of the matter, though, is that the 12 pounder Armstrong would need to be very unreliable for its use by the British Royal Artillery to be inferior to the use of the field artillery available to a Union force. This is for the following reasons:

- the Royal Artillery has a large number of fully trained gunners, meaning men who are trained to do the complex trajectory calculations necessary. The number of men with that level of training in the Union is small by comparison (it's a multi year training course, they'd just trained the first batch of 32 when the war began, which add to the existing 18 to bring the total up to 50).
- the 12 pounder is extremely precise and it is well within the capabilities of the gun to put more shots than not into a 9 foot square target at a range of a mile.
- The 12 pounder has percussion shells, and is not limited to firing timed fuze or solid shot (though it can do those as well).

And, of course...
- They'd made over 700 of them by 1863, which is enough for the five brigades of field artillery (each consisting of no more than ten 6-gun batteries) to have as many spares in store ready to issue as they had guns with the unit, if need be, or to provide enough modern rifled guns to re-equip huge swathes of the Canadian militia artillery.


The fact that the 12 pounder Armstrong was merely "quite reliable" rather than "functionally impervious to damage", and that it acquired a reputation for unreliability based on not very much, doesn't change that it was a far more accurate artillery piece than anything it would be facing in North America (except a few British-built Whitworths).
 

Belfoured

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
But the operative issue here is what would actually be in use and how effective and reliable the gun-man combination would be in battle.

The select committe on the matter examined the reports of the Armstrong's reliability, and opted to replace it with the 9 lb based on an equality of capability and a significantly cheaper price. They also heard reports on reliability, but the indications seem to suggest that it was not particularly unreliable.


"As regards the care of the gun I find no difficulty in keeping it in perfect order in all weathers and all circumstances" (Major Govan, RA)
"On one occasion his guns had very rough work indeed. They were sent out with a division of the army over a swamp, the very worst ground possible for artillery. The guns were in fact almost swallowed up, and were covered with mud when brought into action, but no impediment occurred." (Major Govan, RA)
"On two occasions vent-pieces were blown away; on the last occasion I happened to come up to the gun almost immediately after it had occurred... The traversing screw was jammed, but the gun was not otherwise injured, and with another vent-piece was again serviceable." (Major Hay, RA)
"As a preliminary measure, a new 12-pounder gun, No. 8, was left exposed to the weather without any protection, and untouched, ... [for] 45 days. It rained very constantly during this period... At the expiration of it, it was taken to the marshes, and fired without being cleaned or sponged." (Report from the Select Committee on Ordnance, 23 July 1863)


Even once they changed their minds and ultimately switched to the 9 pdr RML, they didn't exactly rush the conversion; by 1872 there were 26 horse and field batteries with the 9pdr RML and 30 with the 12 pounder Armstrong (these numbers may exclude batteries in India). The Armstrong's reliability issues weren't considered a matter for it to immediately leave service, but a matter for the replacement gun to be better than the Armstrong in every way.



The fact of the matter, though, is that the 12 pounder Armstrong would need to be very unreliable for its use by the British Royal Artillery to be inferior to the use of the field artillery available to a Union force. This is for the following reasons:

- the Royal Artillery has a large number of fully trained gunners, meaning men who are trained to do the complex trajectory calculations necessary. The number of men with that level of training in the Union is small by comparison (it's a multi year training course, they'd just trained the first batch of 32 when the war began, which add to the existing 18 to bring the total up to 50).
- the 12 pounder is extremely precise and it is well within the capabilities of the gun to put more shots than not into a 9 foot square target at a range of a mile.
- The 12 pounder has percussion shells, and is not limited to firing timed fuze or solid shot (though it can do those as well).

And, of course...
- They'd made over 700 of them by 1863, which is enough for the five brigades of field artillery (each consisting of no more than ten 6-gun batteries) to have as many spares in store ready to issue as they had guns with the unit, if need be, or to provide enough modern rifled guns to re-equip huge swathes of the Canadian militia artillery.


The fact that the 12 pounder Armstrong was merely "quite reliable" rather than "functionally impervious to damage", and that it acquired a reputation for unreliability based on not very much, doesn't change that it was a far more accurate artillery piece than anything it would be facing in North America (except a few British-built Whitworths).
I'm done. Knowing better, I foolishly failed to apply my own lengthy experience that this will go on and on and on and on and on because it's never about a reasonable exchange of information - it's always about some really silly debating game and back filling with more arguments. G'day. Back to the day job.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
I'm done. Knowing better, I foolishly failed to apply my own lengthy experience that this will go on and on and on and on and on because it's never about a reasonable exchange of information - it's always about some really silly debating game and back filling with more arguments. G'day. Back to the day job.
An exchange of information is perfectly fine, but I'd prefer it if we dealt in information for information and understandings for understandings - and by all means, call me up short if I've presented an understanding as information.

For example, I'll concede a lack of specific data on the 10 lber Parrott being unreliable and that my understanding about it is merely an understanding, but then the same is true of the 12 lber Armstrong to a significant degree - what is reported on for the Armstrong is vent piece failures (the failure of a safety device) but neither of us have presented any statistics in that field so the best we can do is what we can determine from how some Union gunners referred to the 10 lber Parrott as an unreliable gun and some British gunners referred to the 12 lber Armstrong as an unreliable gun.

However, the base reliability is only one part of whether gun A is superior to gun B, and since your initial claim on the subject was that "the Armstrong 12 lb gun is not a basis for asserting field artillery superiority during the early 1860's" then it seems entirely cogent to point out that it was superior in precision and effective range and had a greater variety of ammunition types available for it.

If one is considering whether the Armstrong 12 lb gun is a superior field gun in the early 1860s, it seems entirely relevant to point out that an Armstrong battery can fire percussion shell out to two miles and hit within 9 feet of the target more often than not, according to the men who were testing it. We don't technically know if the Parrott 10lber was superior to that because no accuracy testing of the Parrott 10lber seems to ever have been done, but that doesn't make it irrelevant...
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
As it happens I've found the listing of positions of Armstrong guns and where issued in 1863 (from a report to the Ordnance Committee), along with the number of rounds fired from the gun and the present condition of the gun.


Out of the 364 Land Service guns manufactured by the Royal Gun Foundry (R.G.F), for those represented in the tables (which are not complete but close to it) 15 have the state of "R" in the tables and one has the state of "+" in the tables. R stands for Repairable and + means unserviceable, and where not noted the state is serviceable.

Many of the guns have a listed cost of repairs or alterations up to the present date.
Some guns with no rounds fired have a listed repair cost (e.g. 187 Shoeburyness), so the number of rounds fired should be considered minimal
In the number of rounds fired the total is 57,472.

There are aso a number of 12 pounder 8 CWT manufactured by the EOC (Elswick Ordnance Company), which does not separate between land service and sea service. This included guns up to serial number 91, of which 6 are designated as "repairable" and 1 is designated unserviceable.
The number of rounds fired is again incomplete but totals 2,392.

This means that out of just under 60,000 rounds fired through approximately 450 guns the number of guns rendered irreperable is 2 and the number of guns currently needing repair is 21.
In addition, one EOC gun has a listed previous repair cost (0/4/6) and 79 RGF guns have a listed previous repair cost. Some of these as noted are listed as not having fired any rounds, which indicates the rounds fired count is incomplete.

For guns where there is data on both rounds fired and repair cost, the guns up to serial # 100 are:

(RGF)
8, 191 rounds fired, 1/5/6
11, 50 rounds fired. 0/3/9
31, 510 rounds fired. 0/13/10
45, 1,911 rounds fired. 0/4/10
61, 100 rounds fired. 0/6/0
66, 100 rounds fired. 0/5/6
67, 100 rounds fired. 0/5/9
69, 100 rounds fired. 0/4/6
71, 100 rounds fired. 0/6/0
78, 100 rounds fired. 0/1/6
82, 170 rounds fired. 0/3/0
88, 10 rounds fired. 0/7/9
100, 219 rounds fired. 0/4/6


The largest repair cost with a known cause is gun 324, which fired 1,145 rounds and cost 32/6/0 to repair.
Many guns which fired 100 rounds have zero listed repair cost. Many of the guns which fired several hundred rounds also have no listed repair cost.

I cannot locate precisely the cost of the vent piece, but have confirmed there are two spares included in the kit for each gun. My suspicion (but without proof) is that many of the guns with a repair cost measurable in a few shillings suffered extremely minor damage, possibly including the need for replacement vent pieces (if they were about 0/1/6 this would explain a lot of the repair costs listed).
 

Belfoured

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
An exchange of information is perfectly fine, but I'd prefer it if we dealt in information for information and understandings for understandings - and by all means, call me up short if I've presented an understanding as information.

For example, I'll concede a lack of specific data on the 10 lber Parrott being unreliable and that my understanding about it is merely an understanding, but then the same is true of the 12 lber Armstrong to a significant degree - what is reported on for the Armstrong is vent piece failures (the failure of a safety device) but neither of us have presented any statistics in that field so the best we can do is what we can determine from how some Union gunners referred to the 10 lber Parrott as an unreliable gun and some British gunners referred to the 12 lber Armstrong as an unreliable gun.

However, the base reliability is only one part of whether gun A is superior to gun B, and since your initial claim on the subject was that "the Armstrong 12 lb gun is not a basis for asserting field artillery superiority during the early 1860's" then it seems entirely cogent to point out that it was superior in precision and effective range and had a greater variety of ammunition types available for it.

If one is considering whether the Armstrong 12 lb gun is a superior field gun in the early 1860s, it seems entirely relevant to point out that an Armstrong battery can fire percussion shell out to two miles and hit within 9 feet of the target more often than not, according to the men who were testing it. We don't technically know if the Parrott 10lber was superior to that because no accuracy testing of the Parrott 10lber seems to ever have been done, but that doesn't make it irrelevant...
Fair enough. I would respond by pointing out that, among other things, a gun is "superior" only if it's being operated by proficiently trained crews and officers. That appears to have been in question. The other problems with using test-firing ranges and accuracy are the realities of terrain and of the 19th century black powder battlefield. The 3 " Ordnance Rifle and the 10 lb Parrott were considered by the Ordnance Department to have an "effective" (accurate and good impact) range of close to 2,000 yards at 5 degrees elevation. In reality, that didn't reflect actual practice because there was no true indirect fire at the time and at that distance terrain and the cloud that embroiled these fields after a few minutes of firing prevented good accuracy at longer ranges. I'll summarize by stating that I question any assertion about meaningful superiority of the Armstrong 12 lb for "all of the above".
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Fair enough. I would respond by pointing out that, among other things, a gun is "superior" only if it's being operated by proficiently trained crews and officers. That appears to have been in question. The other problems with using test-firing ranges and accuracy are the realities of terrain and of the 19th century black powder battlefield. The 3 " Ordnance Rifle and the 10 lb Parrott were considered by the Ordnance Department to have an "effective" (accurate and good impact) range of close to 2,000 yards at 5 degrees elevation. In reality, that didn't reflect actual practice because there was no true indirect fire at the time and at that distance terrain and the cloud that embroiled these fields after a few minutes of firing prevented good accuracy at longer ranges. I'll summarize by stating that I question any assertion about meaningful superiority of the Armstrong 12 lb for "all of the above".

I will note that, while I do not have any direct information to the extent to which British artillery trained on type:

- all Armstrong guns were proofed before acceptance, and the shots fired in proof are not included in the tables in the report I have access to (because many guns have listed 0 rounds fired)
In addition, going through the table (and recall that, as noted, the number of rounds fired is a minimal estimate)

Of the 72 RGF guns identified as originally issued to 4th Brigade RA, a total of 2159 rounds were recorded as fired. The average gun for which firing data was recorded fired 86 rounds.
In four cases this included guns also used by other formations (e.g. Shoeburyness)

Of the 51 RGF guns identified as originally issued to 8th Brigade RA, a total of 4318 rounds were recorded as fired. The average gun for which firing data was recorded fired 108 rounds.
No guns in this category were used by non-RA formations.

Of the 46 RGF guns identified as originally issued to 9th Brigade RA, a total of 4748 rounds were recorded as fired. The average gun for which firing data was recorded fired 113 rounds.
No guns in this category were used by non-RA formations.


In addition, evidence given to the Ordnance committee indicated that it was felt by trainers at Shoeburyness that the training on type required totalled to three weeks.

(The School of Gunnery was established at Shoeburyness in 1859, roughly coterminous with the introduction of the Armstrong 12 pounder into service.)

I have also confirmed that a "manual of field artillery exercises" was published 1st August 1861 by Horse Guards, though I cannot access the contents. Given the date I would assume this to indicate updated tactics for the new guns etc; the similarly timed manual for infantry includes musketry practice and range estimation.


The above seems to indicate that there is a preponderance of evidence that training on type probably took place, including practice firing (both of guns with the battery/brigade and when at Shoeburyness at the School of Gunnery). When combined with the considerable training in the field of artillery in general that British artillery officers recieved simply by dint of training as artillery officers in batteries (training which most Union officers lacked), I don't think there's sufficient reason to think that British officers would be unable to use at least some of the better capabilities of their weapons relative to the ability of Union officers on Parrotts or Armstrongs.





Do we have any kind of accuracy data on the Parrott and Ordnance rifles on the test range? I have been after that for years and the understanding I have is that it just doesn't exist, except for one mention of Confederate tests that found very poor performance (which I have not been able to substantiate and mention only because there is a lack of anything else on that front).

If on one side of the comparison there is the Armstrong gun which has very good range performance and not a significant amount of battlefield data, and on the other side of the comparison there is the Union rifled field artillery park which has no known range performance and a significant amount of battlefield data indicating a lack of long ranged performance, then we can't just assume based on that that the guns are equivalent - particularly when we do have range performance data for the 4.5" Ordnance and the larger Parrotts and it's much worse than the Armstrong 12 pounder. It would have to be the case that large Federal rifles are much more inaccurate than their smaller brethren for the Armstrong and Parrott/Ordnance guns to have comparable "range performance" (i.e. comparable precision).



I will note by the way that the clouds of smoke that result tend to do so from rapid firing (several rounds a minute). There is no reason that deliberate firing (several minutes per round) should create such a cloud of smoke as to obscure long distance fire, which is why effective counterbattery and long distance firing occurred in the Franco-Prussian War on the part of the Prussians; indeed, it's largely how they won that war at all. Similarly, at both Malvern Hill and Gettysburg I understand that there are a few Whitworths on the field which do good counter-battery fire.

So there is also no reason to think that the nature of black powder artillery prohibits taking advantage of the longer range.
 

Belfoured

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
I will note that, while I do not have any direct information to the extent to which British artillery trained on type:

- all Armstrong guns were proofed before acceptance, and the shots fired in proof are not included in the tables in the report I have access to (because many guns have listed 0 rounds fired)
In addition, going through the table (and recall that, as noted, the number of rounds fired is a minimal estimate)

Of the 72 RGF guns identified as originally issued to 4th Brigade RA, a total of 2159 rounds were recorded as fired. The average gun for which firing data was recorded fired 86 rounds.
In four cases this included guns also used by other formations (e.g. Shoeburyness)

Of the 51 RGF guns identified as originally issued to 8th Brigade RA, a total of 4318 rounds were recorded as fired. The average gun for which firing data was recorded fired 108 rounds.
No guns in this category were used by non-RA formations.

Of the 46 RGF guns identified as originally issued to 9th Brigade RA, a total of 4748 rounds were recorded as fired. The average gun for which firing data was recorded fired 113 rounds.
No guns in this category were used by non-RA formations.


In addition, evidence given to the Ordnance committee indicated that it was felt by trainers at Shoeburyness that the training on type required totalled to three weeks.

(The School of Gunnery was established at Shoeburyness in 1859, roughly coterminous with the introduction of the Armstrong 12 pounder into service.)

I have also confirmed that a "manual of field artillery exercises" was published 1st August 1861 by Horse Guards, though I cannot access the contents. Given the date I would assume this to indicate updated tactics for the new guns etc; the similarly timed manual for infantry includes musketry practice and range estimation.


The above seems to indicate that there is a preponderance of evidence that training on type probably took place, including practice firing (both of guns with the battery/brigade and when at Shoeburyness at the School of Gunnery). When combined with the considerable training in the field of artillery in general that British artillery officers recieved simply by dint of training as artillery officers in batteries (training which most Union officers lacked), I don't think there's sufficient reason to think that British officers would be unable to use at least some of the better capabilities of their weapons relative to the ability of Union officers on Parrotts or Armstrongs.





Do we have any kind of accuracy data on the Parrott and Ordnance rifles on the test range? I have been after that for years and the understanding I have is that it just doesn't exist, except for one mention of Confederate tests that found very poor performance (which I have not been able to substantiate and mention only because there is a lack of anything else on that front).

If on one side of the comparison there is the Armstrong gun which has very good range performance and not a significant amount of battlefield data, and on the other side of the comparison there is the Union rifled field artillery park which has no known range performance and a significant amount of battlefield data indicating a lack of long ranged performance, then we can't just assume based on that that the guns are equivalent - particularly when we do have range performance data for the 4.5" Ordnance and the larger Parrotts and it's much worse than the Armstrong 12 pounder. It would have to be the case that large Federal rifles are much more inaccurate than their smaller brethren for the Armstrong and Parrott/Ordnance guns to have comparable "range performance" (i.e. comparable precision).



I will note by the way that the clouds of smoke that result tend to do so from rapid firing (several rounds a minute). There is no reason that deliberate firing (several minutes per round) should create such a cloud of smoke as to obscure long distance fire, which is why effective counterbattery and long distance firing occurred in the Franco-Prussian War on the part of the Prussians; indeed, it's largely how they won that war at all. Similarly, at both Malvern Hill and Gettysburg I understand that there are a few Whitworths on the field which do good counter-battery fire.

So there is also no reason to think that the nature of black powder artillery prohibits taking advantage of the longer range.
The point about smoke and rapid firing covers a battery creating its own problem but it doesn't address the smoke generated by other batteries on the same side or - just as important - obscuring smoke generated by opposing batteries. It also doesn't address the considerable smoke generated by thousands of small arms on both sides. There were several reasons why much of the actual fighting took place below the test-firing "accurate" ranges.

I think you're operating with a misleading assumption that test-firing data establishes equivalent range/accuracy superiority in actual battle conditions. Again, in an era of direct fire and distance siting limitations, the test-firing data becomes to some extent useless. The Whitworths possessed by the ANV at Gettysburg had terrific range (and, of course, complicating breech issues) but they were unlikely to play any meaningful role because of the practical limits. The consensus regarding the two Whitworths at Gettysburg is that they had some psychological effect, due in good part to the bizarre shriek the projectiles made, but no actual damage/physical effect. I'm unaware of any role Whitworths had at Malvern Hill. The Army of the P had a few on the Peninsula but they weren't really used for the reasons stated. The consensus is that they just weren't all that practical.

I have limited knowledge of the battlefield circumstances of the F-P War but am confident stating that artillery practice as of the Civil War would have significantly diminished a range advantage such as you point to.
 
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