Civil War Psychological Battle: How Common Was It for The Common Soldier Not To Pull The Trigger At The Moment of Truth?

lurid

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#1
I know this topic has been debated in the past from top war pundits on other wars, so the reality of puckering up during showtime was/is a reality. All other threads I made thus far the consensus is that the majority of the soldiers from both sides were pretty much greenhorns with not much combat endurance and devoid of war deft. Therefore, I'm assuming freezing up was quite common and was wondering what you all thought about this topic? I'm still researching it and figured I would get some good insight on this board.
 

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lurid

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#4
You cant put a percentage on it , For a start how many soldiers would admit it and how many wouldn't? Impossible to have stats on this and anyone who gives you stats hasn't been in combat or the forces.
Some scholars like; Grossman, S.L.A. Marshall' s have it narrowed down to percentages or rough estimations(WWI and WWII) I agree with you, "failed to pull the trigger" equates to "confirmed KIAs" in an all out firefight.
 

lurid

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#5
You cant put a percentage on it , For a start how many soldiers would admit it and how many wouldn't? Impossible to have stats on this and anyone who gives you stats hasn't been in combat or the forces.
Another thing, the other thread I made the one member stated that both Union and Confederate soldiers were equally worthless, that when caught in the "kill zone" both neither continued on the frontal attack nor did they bug out. This tells me a lot froze up, which indicative that they didn't pull the trigger or they didn't aim.
 

mobile_96

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#6
when caught in the "kill zone" both neither continued on the frontal attack nor did they bug out. This tells me a lot froze up, which indicative that they didn't pull the trigger or they didn't aim.
IMHO
If you can't advance because of the severe numbers of musket balls/cannon balls and shells, coming your way, and you can't go back because that would also expose you to that same terrific fire, you likely go to ground, to try and wait out the firing. It does not mean you 'froze up'. It means you try to keep from exposing yourself from getting killed. And during this time one would likely not be raising up to shoot, at least very often
 
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#7
[QUOTE="lurid, post: 1977888, me made thus far the consensus is that the majority of the soldiers from both sides were pretty much greenhorns with not much combat endurance and devoid of war deft. Therefore, I'm assuming freezing up was quite common and was wondering what you all thought about this topic? I'm still researching it and figured I would get some good insight on this board.[/QUOTE]
I would argue it depends on the circumstances. For example a soldier engaged in counterinsurgency knowing being captured is a really bad option is going to do his darnedest to put shots on target. A black soldier especially post Ft.Pillow more then likely is going to do the same. Confederate soldiers vs black soldiers are going to put shots on target. Indians vs Confederate or Union soldiers and vis versa will put shots on target.
Reluctant drafted/ conscript's and plenty on both side maybe that's a different story.
Guerrillas can only carry so many cartridges and pretty much the other side won't take prisoners so shots on target.
Leftyhunter
 
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#8
Some scholars like; Grossman, S.L.A. Marshall' s have it narrowed down to percentages or rough estimations(WWI and WWII) I agree with you, "failed to pull the trigger" equates to "confirmed KIAs" in an all out firefight.
My understanding is that S.L.A. Marshall's studies have come under criticism. Maybe some of our posters such has @cash or @johan_steele know more about that.
Leftyhunter
 
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#9
Some scholars like; Grossman, S.L.A. Marshall' s have it narrowed down to percentages or rough estimations(WWI and WWII) I agree with you, "failed to pull the trigger" equates to "confirmed KIAs" in an all out firefight.
If one Google's " criticism of S.L.A. Marshall there is an article that debunks Marshall's study. Not saying Marshall is wrong but caveat emptor.
Leftyhunter
 

lurid

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#10
If one Google's " criticism of S.L.A. Marshall there is an article that debunks Marshall's study. Not saying Marshall is wrong but caveat emptor.
Leftyhunter
I believe Marshall is off as well, his percentages are too high. But there's definitely the factor people freeze up in the combat zone, no doubt. The percentages are moot, but I think it's a little higher than people believe.
 

Patrick H

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#11
What was the percentage?
I don't believe there is any way we can possibly know the answer to the first question--and speculating about a percentage who froze or who pulled the trigger is just a fool's errand.

I don't mean to seem like I'm belittling your questions, but there is really no way we can know.

I think we can assume that some men could squeeze the trigger and others couldn't. Furthermore, I think we can assume that men who acted in self defense (about to get run through with a bayonet, for example) were able to act on reflex without moral qualms.

I honestly don't know what I would have done at long range. I can't judge anyone if they hesitated. I am pretty sure I would not have hesitated in self defense mode.

That's my two cents on the issue.
 

lurid

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#12
IMHO
If you can't advance because of the severe numbers of musket balls/cannon balls and shells, coming your way, and you can't go back because that would also expose you to that same terrific fire, you likely go to ground, to try and wait out the firing. It does not mean you 'froze up'. It means you try to keep from exposing yourself from getting killed. And during this time one would likely not be raising up to shoot, at least very often
I agree. The one member on this threadhttps://civilwartalk.com/threads/did-the-union-or-confederacy-produce-better-all-around-soldiers.153837/post-1972362, pretty much said that the soldiers caught in the kill zone neither committed or relented, indicating that they were just unrefined foot soldiers.
 

lurid

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#13
I don't believe there is any way we can possibly know the answer to the first question--and speculating about a percentage who froze or who pulled the trigger is just a fool's errand.

I don't mean to seem like I'm belittling your questions, but there is really no way we can know.

I think we can assume that some men could squeeze the trigger and others couldn't. Furthermore, I think we can assume that men who acted in self defense (about to get run through with a bayonet, for example) were able to act on reflex without moral qualms.

I honestly don't know what I would have done at long range. I can't judge anyone if they hesitated. I am pretty sure I would not have hesitated in self defense mode.

That's my two cents on the issue.
No offense taken, and I agree with you with the percentages; but some scholars that are above-mentioned seem to think they can narrow it down percentage wise.
 

Borderruffian

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#15
I don't believe there is any way we can possibly know the answer to the first question--and speculating about a percentage who froze or who pulled the trigger is just a fool's errand.

I don't mean to seem like I'm belittling your questions, but there is really no way we can know.

I think we can assume that some men could squeeze the trigger and others couldn't. Furthermore, I think we can assume that men who acted in self defense (about to get run through with a bayonet, for example) were able to act on reflex without moral qualms.

I honestly don't know what I would have done at long range. I can't judge anyone if they hesitated. I am pretty sure I would not have hesitated in self defense mode.

That's my two cents on the issue.
Some men get to scared to fire even now in their first engagement, generally it passes after some individual instruction.
 

PatW

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#16
We do know from the WWII studies that the majority of soldiers will not deliberately aim at an individual. In facts, very few people will do so. We are taught that killing people is wrong and people generally will not intentionally do so. Modern training has over come this but the long term psychological effects might be devastating. Modern veterans suffer unprecedented suicide rates.

However, in the American Civil War, soldiers in the line of battle rarely fired at individuals. The black powder used in the weapons quickly obscured vision and soldiers were essentially pointing in the direction they thought was right and firing. It was pretty much blind. So I think in most circumstances, soldiers probably had little trouble firing. They could not know if they ever hit anyone. It was a matter of luck. Things were different in skirmisher units. A skirmisher could actually select a target. Given the WWII experience, I doubt that many actually did so.

In the British army of the 18th and early 19th century, they used the brown bess. The weapon, in the hands of a good shot, can reliably hit and individual at about 80 yards. Soldiers were not even supposed to aim. They were taught to load and fire as fast as possible. Intentionally aiming at someone was considered tantamount to murder. English officers were scandalized by the notion of American soldiers actually aiming at them during the American Revolution.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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#17
It's a great question. Love to know more but like a lot of members have already stated, we'll never know. You'd like to think it was hard unless your life was on the line, like hand to hand or engaged in cavalry battles. Have frequently wondered how in blazes men brought themselves to use sabers, too. Wasn't there an observation by an officer that men avoided using bayonets? That's just something floating around in the back of my memory- if it's from Killer Angels, apologize.

In the British army of the 18th and early 19th century, they used the brown bess. The weapon, in the hands of a good shot, can reliably hit and individual at about 80 yards. Soldiers were not even supposed to aim. They were taught to load and fire as fast as possible. Intentionally aiming at someone was considered tantamount to murder. English officers were scandalized by the notion of American soldiers actually aiming at them during the American Revolution

Interesting, did not know that! Had heard the British were appalled at tactics like ambushes, considering it uncool ( guessing they did not say ' uncool ' :angel: ). May be the same thing? In an ambush the entire enterprise would be defeated if the idea was just to shoot in the general direction of the ambushes.
 

Waterloo50

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#18
I’m in agreement with the majority of posters here that it’s something that we’ll never really know the answer to. A similar question could be asked of today’s soldiers and I suspect that it would be possible to obtain accurate results, I only say this because today’s actions are on a smaller scale and I’m guessing that it would be difficult for any modern soldier to freeze up without it being obvious. I am aware that training the rank and file to kill without hesitation became more of a focus during WW1 and I doubt that civil war soldiers experienced the level of training that their modern counterparts are subjected to. The one factor that I think we have a tendency to overlook is the difference in attitudes and lifestyles, I think that life in the 1800s was tough, death was something that happened at a very young age and people were emotionally tougher as a result.
 
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#20
We do know from the WWII studies that the majority of soldiers will not deliberately aim at an individual. In facts, very few people will do so. We are taught that killing people is wrong and people generally will not intentionally do so. Modern training has over come this but the long term psychological effects might be devastating. Modern veterans suffer unprecedented suicide rates.

However, in the American Civil War, soldiers in the line of battle rarely fired at individuals. The black powder used in the weapons quickly obscured vision and soldiers were essentially pointing in the direction they thought was right and firing. It was pretty much blind. So I think in most circumstances, soldiers probably had little trouble firing. They could not know if they ever hit anyone. It was a matter of luck. Things were different in skirmisher units. A skirmisher could actually select a target. Given the WWII experience, I doubt that many actually did so.

In the British army of the 18th and early 19th century, they used the brown bess. The weapon, in the hands of a good shot, can reliably hit and individual at about 80 yards. Soldiers were not even supposed to aim. They were taught to load and fire as fast as possible. Intentionally aiming at someone was considered tantamount to murder. English officers were scandalized by the notion of American soldiers actually aiming at them during the American Revolution.
We really need to take S.L. A. Marshall' s work with a huge bucket of salt. I referenced the controversy over Marshall' s study also the NY Times did as well.
Leftyhunter
 



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