Discussion Did the Southern men fight better than the Northern men?

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Not sharpshooters, regular infantrymen. These figures are determined by hits achieved/ ammunition expended for all the infantry. Now, many of them were firing as dispersed skirmishers at long ranges, but these were not picked sharpshooters.
Yes, sorry, I was referring to the fact they were sharpshooting but that could cause confusion. Thanks for highlighting that.

I believe it's the case that we have good numbers for the number of Minie ball wounded at Inkerman (1 for every 22 Minie balls fired) exclusive of those killed.

The high hit rate also explains a lot about the nature of the action, because very heavy Russian attacks were repulsed principally by rifle fire.
 

wausaubob

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
Good discussion. The British had professional soldiers who they were teaching to shoot with great accuracy. The US and the Confederacy had a lot citizen soldiers that both sides had to teach to shoot, and to shoot to kill. The Confederates also had to teach the soldiers to keep a clean camp, and protect their supplies.
 

thomas aagaard

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 19, 2013
Location
Denmark
The 1859 Manual was written after the British Army had enjoyed (snark!) the lessons of the Crimea and the Mutiny. Those adventures had cost Palmerston his job as Prime Minister. That it was an improvement over the instruction set for the American army is hardly surprising; the embarrassments that the British military had experienced had caused an upheaval in British politics and the creation of a new political party.
What embarrassments? The issues they had in the Crimean was logistical. Not tactical.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
What embarrassments? The issues they had in the Crimean was logistical. Not tactical.
They were also entirely fixed by the end of the war, it's worth remembering...



I should also point out that the actual sequence of events is:

Logistic issues in the Crimean War and the suffering of the troops in camp, plus the Charge of the Light Brigade (which is hardly a sign of incapable cavalry, though it doesn't speak for capable cavalry leadership in this specific case - note that at the same battle the Heavy Brigade wins a cavalry battle at about 5:1 odds so it's not an army wide issue), results in the resignation of Aberdeen. He is replaced by Palmerston, who advocates a harder line in response to the war.
Palmerston then lasts several years and is brought down by the reaction to a bill about murder plots. The Indian Mutiny and consequences are barely a blip, it's the murder plots bill which brings down his government.
He spends one year in opposition.
The Liberal Party is formed (with Palmerston present) and he runs the first Liberal government.
 

thomas aagaard

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 19, 2013
Location
Denmark
Thomas it is always a pleasure to get your feedback. I was always under the impression that the Southern boys were good shots. Could you go into more details about this?
Others have given good examples of the poor marksmanship.

First of all ownership of rifles was not that common before the civil war.
For most farmers a shotgun would be more useful. And if a rifle was owned a small bore hunting rifle for shooting game like rabbits would be more common than anything bigger.
When the war broke out the actual number of military rifles in the country was very low. With the majority of military firearm in the arsenals being smoothbore muskets.

Also Even if you are a good hunter, you most likely not learned how to judge distances very precisely at 300+ yards.
And most civil war soldiers(north or south) never had any sort of structured marksmanship training and there is no indication that they even know to change the range setting on the sights... and it really did not matter that much.

Because the ammo was usually not made to the sights they where using.
The Burton bullet used by the federal army for both the springfield and enfield was smaller than the prewar one, resulting in sights no longer being correct on the M1861 and the sights on the P53 was made for british ammo.
Their Lorenz where often bored out to 58. call with the sights made for the Austrian .54 caliber Lorenz bullet... and they where in Austrian military schritt,. not imperial feet.

Plenty of them had problems even loading their guns. And a lot of others didn't know how to correctly clean their guns.
Then add the issue of poor cartridges that cause heavy fouling after very few shots.

And officers usually held fire until the enemy got close.

The end result is that most firefights took place at a bit less then 100yards... well within the effective range of a smoothbore musket.
And it was not rare that it ended by one side running low on cartridges.

If you want to read about the development of the riflemusket and how it was used in the rest of the world I suggest getting hold of
"The Destroying Angel" by Brett Gibbons. (He is a serving captain in the US army ordonnance department)
Its only 12$ on amazon.

It give a good coverage of how effective it could be in the hands of trained marksmen.
And how it did not show this potential during the civil war.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Figures from the 1859 report of the Inspector-General of Musketry.

Just to explain, the Hythe system sorts soldiers out into three classes. You start in the third class, shooting at targets from 150 to 300 yards, and you have to achieve a certain number of points in the third class before you pass into the second where you shoot at targets from 400 yards to 600 yards. 1st Class is the same thing for 650 to 900 yards; you have to requalify each year for each class.


Third Class
150 yards- 85.60%
200 yards- 72.91%
250 yards- 60.32%
300 yards- 55.87%

Second Class
400 yards- 65.12%
500 yards- 55.60%
550 yards- 46.67%
600 yards- 47.73%

First class
650 yards- 53.79%
700 yards- 60.07%
800 yards- 32.40%
900 yards- 23.56%

These are the statistics on the range.


To give a sense of the number of first-class shots that could be expected in the army, I found a sample which is the 8th Foot's musketry reports. In 1863-4 their second battalion was fairly bad, coming 122nd in the army's ranking (out of about 140 battalions of infantry plus a few colonial forces and the cavalry if they were measured on the same scale, so fairly near the bottom). They contained 18% first class shots.
That same year their first battalion recorded a rank of 49th, so credible but not exceptional; a little over average in other words. They had 50% first class shots.

(Interestingly the 1st battalion was 105th in the ranking in the 1860-1 season, and it had a numerical score of about 33 points. The 2nd Battalion's 122nd ranking position in 1863-4 was with about 38 points, so the whole army is improving quite measurably over time.)

To make that clear, the 8th Foot's 2nd Battalion contained in 1863-4 around 750 men. This means that in this badly performing battalion there were about 140 men who could score hits more than half the time at about 700 yards.

In an average battalion we could expect between 300 and 400 such men.

This is what it looks like when you have an army deeply inculcated with marksmanship training. It means that an unusually bad unit still contains more than a hundred men who are able to do effective, accurate musketry at 700+ yards.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
In addition to this, the British Army had a way in which a soldier could become qualified as a "marksman". For this they had to get at least seven points in the first class firing (which was targets from 650 to 900 yards. Five rounds for each of the four ranges at targets six feet across (man sized) and double points for the three foot bullseye).

They also had to be able to judge distances by eye (in at least the first class for that, which means being able to get fourteen points in twelve estimations of unknown distances from 300-600 yards. One point for within 30 yards and two points for within 20 yards).

They also had to have a full understanding of what can influence a bullet in flight, and of how to maintain their rifle. So they need to be able to understand and adjust for things like wind as well.

These are the men who are genuinely very effective indeed at musketry, and in 1860 there were 3,636 men so qualified in the army. (They were measured so precisely because they got a small wage bonus for the qualification.) That's an average of about 25 per battalion, though they were unevenly distributed; in fact, if there were over 100 of them in a single battalion only the top 100 scorers got the marksmanship qualification.


At every level, this system is intended to make the soldier think and be competitive. There are monetary prizes for being the best shot of the company, and of the battalion, and for being a marksman, and those prizes come with visible insignia. The men are competing against one another, and the battalions are competing against one another as well (nobody wants to be in the duff battalions), and the men are encouraged to spend as much time as possible estimating distances and practicing dry-firing; the saying at Hythe was "we teach a man to shoot without ball, and then we give him ball to show that he has learned".
 

thomas aagaard

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 19, 2013
Location
Denmark
The initial mobilization in the Confederacy included the best men, and the best horses in the south. They were a formidable fighting force.
I am arguing that they where a pretty bad military force... fighting a even worse one.
When you take 30.000 civilians and try to make them soldiers in a month.
With no cadre of experiences ncos no cadre of experienced offices and no one with actual experience commanding a force that size...
There are clear limits to how good they can become. (at the individual level)

In comparison when Prussia each year called up thousands of young men they where put under by experienced ncos and officers who year after year received young men from civilian life and over the 3 year service made them into effective soldiers. This is not a question of the quality or guts of the men. But do the army as institution have the knowledge, structured programs, facilities, equipment and the needed number of experiences men to actual teach the new recruits?

And at the higher level learning to move and coordinate large formations also take training.
A good deal can be learned in a classroom with the right books / tools. But actually doing it is required. Sure doing it in training is not the same as in actual war. But corp sized maneuvers was done yearly in Prussia. This makes sure that the whole formation have practical experience doing long marches deploying into formations for a fight... before they actually have to do it for real.

Even in Denmark having two 2000 man brigades with a battery and a bit of cavalry doing mock combat in the field with blanks was done... with the individual battalions including every few years, so men would have tried it at some point during their 8 year in the line. (Danish men served about 1½ year in uniform out of a total of 8 years in the line. But did get called up for the brigade drill at some point during this 8 year period. Then they where 8 more years in the "reinforcement")

So not impressive but a lot better than the US in 1860. Where it was not common to have two 50 man infantry companies in the same place at the same time.


As I mentioned before. Comparing American armies in the 1860ties to large standing European ones.
Would be like telling teams of danes to be ready to play "American football" in a month. One or two might have tried it years ago as exchange students. A few might have played rugby and some have seen drawing of it... and most have played soccer.
And they only have the rules and a few books on the game to help them learn it. (no TV)

Sure If we allow say 10 teams to play against each other for 4 years they might actually learn how to play pretty well.
But I still don't see the best team beating an American NFL team... And then imagine that you loose say 20% of your team each year to injuries... or simple sickness.
 

Will Carry

First Sergeant
Joined
Jun 1, 2015
Location
The Tar Heel State.
Thank you! What great replies. It makes sense to me now and I cannot argue with Thomas Aagaard and Saphroneth. I hunted growing up and I never took a shot at game unless it was 20 meters or less. A 100 yard shot was out of the question, a waste on ammo. I used to pick up bottles off the roads and turn them in the to country store. then buy a box of .22LR. I digress but I consider this "The Meat" of history studies.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Thank you! What great replies. It makes sense to me now and I cannot argue with Thomas Aagaard and Saphroneth. I hunted growing up and I never took a shot at game unless it was 20 meters or less. A 100 yard shot was out of the question, a waste on ammo. I used to pick up bottles off the roads and turn them in the to country store. then buy a box of .22LR. I digress but I consider this "The Meat" of history studies.
I think this is probably the disconnect, yes. It's because the idea of hunting producing a good shot is well ingrained, but hunting doesn't really teach you long range battlefield musketry because if you're hunting for meat you're not trying to do it at as long a range as possible - because deer don't shoot back.


As it may help to explain a bit more about the nature of musketry, here's some info about how firearms of the period perform.


All weapons have a point-blank range, and this is a lot longer than it sounds. Point-blank is the distance over which a firearm can hit a target by just being pointed directly at it, without the need to compensate for bullet drop (or other similar factors), and while we're used to the idea of a smoothbore musket being an inaccurate weapon that's only a relative thing. A late 18th/early 19th century smoothbore musket would have a point-blank range of around 80-100 yards, depending on whether you count the flash of the flintlock igniting the pan as reducing point-blank range or just making it harder to point it directly at the target in the first place.
This doesn't mean "every shot would hit". It means that a perfectly aimed smoothbore musket at 80-100 yards is very likely to hit the target.

Beyond that range, a smoothbore musket becomes increasingly likely to miss. There are several factors causing those misses, including the way that the ball's trajectory out of the muzzle is slightly randomized (it "bounces" down the barrel) and the Magnus effect (which causes the ball to "fly off target" owing to the randomized spin that it has - think like how a fast bowler can put a spin on a ball to make it curve), but these don't mean a shot goes completely wild. There are examples in the Napoleonic wars of troops giving productive (if inaccurate) fire with smoothbore muskets at 200-300 yards at area targets - sort of like artillery bombardment, you're not aiming for Joe Bloggs but you're aiming for the regiment he's in and you don't care if you hit Bill Smith next to him instead, and since you're doing it as a "bombardment" you don't care much if most of the balls fly wild so long as some of them hit.
As a point of curiosity, though, it can be argued that if you're firing at 200-300 yards with a smoothbore musket but not allowing for bullet drop then you might get the occasional hit from bullets that go high and so counteract the bullet drop itself.


The rifle improves things firstly by making the ball's trajectory down the barrel consistent (so the "cone of fire" is smaller at a given range) and secondly by imparting a gyroscopic and predictable spin to the ball. This means that over ranges of 300-800 yards (or more depending on the parameters of the rifle) you can predict the ball's trajectory to a sufficient degree of accuracy that bullet drop becomes the primary factor affecting it.

At that point, you can train your whole army in range estimation, and it'll make them accurate over longer ranges.


An interesting thing that comes out of this is that if your army is engaging at 100 yards or thereabouts anyway (like most Civil War firefights) going from smoothbore muskets to rifle-muskets is, if anything, a downgrade. Going from a smoothbore to a rifle at that range does not make your shots more likely to hit (because at that range if you were pointing the weapon directly at the target is a hit no matter what weapon you're using) and rifle-muskets were slower loading than smoothbore muskets along with having less bullet energy.
(The effect on the morale of the army is not included here.)
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
This discussion rings true. It sounds real. It changed the way I think about Southern soldiers and makes me want to read some more European history.
I understand a good book on the British Army is From Waterloo to Balaclava (which handled the British Army up to the Crimea, though not afterwards). It may also be interesting to read Paddy Griffith (Battle Tactics of the American Civil War) and Hess (The Rifle Musket in Civil War Combat) and then compare with the descriptions of musketry training in Warwo's book on the Austrian-Prussian War of 1866.

The picture that emerges from these sources is that the Prussians (with 110 rounds fired in training per year, judging their own distances for some of it) were superior to the Austrians (~40 rounds per year IIRC, and at set ranges with their sights checked by NCOs). But both of these are significantly superior to the amount of training done by the American armies (which... was very little, unless they were a specialist sharpshooter unit).


The way I tend to evaluate the really significant European armies, except the Russians (for which I have little sense of their musketry training post Crimea) is:

British - long range obsessed. The British Army is built in this period around long range fire and this informs their artillery (Armstrong rifles), infantry (naturally) and cavalry (who were issued with Enfield rifles or in some cases BL carbines, but who still retained the ability to charge home with the sabre).
French - French troops are able to give fire at around 400 yards, shorter than the British but still noticeable, but their trick is to do a bayonet charge which is fast enough that enemy troops can't adjust their sights fast enough (which worked at Solferino in 1859). They switch in 1866 or so into very long range rapid fire with Chassepot rifles but have problems with long range artillery fire.
Prussian - the Prussians are optimized for mid-range skirmishing (400 yards or less) and over this period they also develop extremely effective long range artillery. The Prussian weakness is against an enemy with superior infantry range to their own.
Austrian - the Austrians have reasonable musketry which suffers from how the men are given the range by officers rather than working it out themselves, as this introduces delay. When they try assaults against Prussian positions (in the French style) they suffer badly as Prussian troops can adjust their own sights and also have breechloaders; they have the bad luck to be the paper to the French scissors, adopt scissors for themselves and then find that the Prussians are rock.
 

LetUsHavePeace

Volunteer
Joined
Dec 1, 2018
Yes.
I can provide the derivation of the statistics if you want.


What are you talking about? I'm discussing the Pattern 1853 Enfield rifle-musket (and the earlier Minie rifle) as used in the Crimea. This is years before the Civil War.
For British artillery, I'm referring to the British Armstrong gun they were using in the 1860s. Either this was far superior to the American rifles or it was not, and if it was far superior then the Americans show no indication whatsoever of either caring or noticing - which is a bit of a sign by itself that they weren't the best all-round, I would say. While if it was not then the Americans far underperformed the British with similar weapons.



I notice you still haven't explained why it is you think that amateurs would be the best, as in better than career professionals, despite my repeatedly asking. You also haven't explained why you think Southern Confederate soldiers would be better than British regulars.

And the British didn't use conscription, which means that (regardless of whether that's considered an advantage or a disadvantage, and you haven't explanied why you think it would be a disadvantage) it's not a factor here.

So, please, actually provide some information. As promised, I'll provide the derivation of the Enfield hit rates on the practice range and in the field if you ask, but the quid pro quo for this is that once presented you have to be willing to accept the information as valid.
Wonderful discussion.
Thank you for explaining how superior British training and European armaments were. That the Americans were amateurs is beyond question; how much they had to learn - even after years at war - is a revelation.
I do wish there could be even a slight concession about Palmerston's political stature during this period. His inability to move Britain to more active support for the Confederacy was a consequence of the public and Parliament's memory regarding embarrassments of Crimea and India. That the public was wrong about what had gone wrong in those military adventures is conceded; the British voters were as ignorant as some of my own comments about weapons and marksmanship have been, but that ignorance did not change the direction of public opinion.
On the question of volunteers vs. conscripts, is there anything left to argue? The superiority of the British Army during this period seems to me to be beyond question.
A question for the experts: given how prescient the British Army was about the uses of rifles and field artillery, why did it take until 1914 for machine gun training schools to be established? In learning how completely ignorant I was about the Hythe musketry training, I came across this surprise and how deliberately the machine gun was literally painted over in commemorative art during the Victorian and Edwardian eras.

To answer the question about volunteers, I may be reflecting the same pro-American bias that led me to praise the civil war soldiers on both sides. There is no question that the successful American military tradition depends on volunteering. The wars that depended on conscription - WW I, Korea, Viet-Nam - went comparatively badly. WW II is offered as an exception; but, in fact, the majority of the soldiers, sailors and airmen who fought were volunteers for their particular assignments.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
To answer the question about volunteers, I may be reflecting the same pro-American bias that led me to praise the civil war soldiers on both sides. There is no question that the successful American military tradition depends on volunteering. The wars that depended on conscription - WW I, Korea, Viet-Nam - went comparatively badly. WW II is offered as an exception; but, in fact, the majority of the soldiers, sailors and airmen who fought were volunteers for their particular assignments.


I think the problem here is that your list of wars that depended on conscription involves some special pleading. In particular, in WW2, 2/3 of the manpower for the entire war was provided by the draft; for the Vietnam war, ony 20% of the manpower that entered the military over the period did so via the draft. Even in casualty terms, the Army had roughly equivalent volunteer/draftee casualties and almost all Marine casualties were volunteers; at that, the US won the fighting in Vietnam. The problem was that it wasn't the sort of war you could win on the battlefield.

It's also based very specifically on American performance in those specific wars.

Conscription is a trade off. It means you have more control over the size and nature of the force you are constructing, but cannot rely on the men involved having been enthusiastic at the time they signed up. However, the Prussian army in the 1860s was built in a way which allowed for the systemic factors involved in conscription (negatives and positives) and on the whole it was built such that it got more benefit than cost; in particular, there was little sign of lack of enthusiasm, while the training that took place produced a large and effective military.

Of course, perhaps the Prussian military would have been superior on a unit-by-unit basis if their men had been all-volunteer. The problem is it would also have been smaller...
 

LetUsHavePeace

Volunteer
Joined
Dec 1, 2018
I think the problem here is that your list of wars that depended on conscription involves some special pleading. In particular, in WW2, 2/3 of the manpower for the entire war was provided by the draft; for the Vietnam war, ony 20% of the manpower that entered the military over the period did so via the draft.

It's also based very specifically on American performance in those specific wars.

Conscription is a trade off. It means you have more control over the size and nature of the force you are constructing, but cannot rely on the men involved having been enthusiastic at the time they signed up. However, the Prussian army in the 1860s was built in a way which allowed for the systemic factors involved in conscription (negatives and positives) and on the whole it was built such that it got more benefit than cost; in particular, there was little sign of lack of enthusiasm, while the training that took place produced a large and effective military.
I think I was - for once - rather clear. The people who did the actual fighting in WW 2 were, to any extraordinary degree, volunteers. The Marine Corps and the Navy were all volunteer forces; within the Army, pilots, airborne, and tankers were all volunteers. One of the unhappy statistics about the Viet-Nam war during the period when people were dying in large numbers is how many of the inductees were the cannon fodder. Your statistic - "the manpower that entered the military over the period" includes the Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and all their reserves. Subtract those and you have frontline conscript ratios similar to WW I and Korea.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
One of the unhappy statistics about the Viet-Nam war during the period when people were dying in large numbers is how many of the inductees were the cannon fodder.
About 2/3 of those who died in Vietnam were volunteers.
The people who did the actual fighting in WW 2 were, to any extraordinary degree, volunteers.
In WW2, there were 10 million men drafted and 6 million men enlisted.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
I should point out by the way that the Indian Mutiny wasn't an embarrassment, at least not on the military level. It's politically embarrassing, but what it shows is largely that the British Army was quite capable.
 

wausaubob

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
Interesting discussion of marksmanship. However under American conditions, marching speed and stamina in the saddle mattered as much as marksmanship. The early Confederates, especially in Virginia, excelled at both.
On land, yes the Confederates were good soldiers. But at sea, both in terms of quantity and quality, the US captains and the northern sailors, the boatmen on the Ohio and the Mississippi River had the Confederates out matched.
In the west, there was no comparison, because the US soldiers had a huge advantage in transportation and logistical support.
The US retained St. Louis and Louisville and quickly added Nashville. Those western soldiers in the US army who experienced combat quickly learned the value of a Springfield rifle, an Enfield, or a Spencer, over the stuff they were given initially.
In terms of artillery, the US had more rifled guns, more standard guns, more horses, and a smattering of Prussian officers. The Confederates had fewer of each.
in terms of cavalry, the Confederates were superior horseman, on superior mounts. However the story was the same. The US had a much better system for recovering disabled horses and mules and allowing them to regain their strength.
One should review pp. 376-379 https://books.google.com/books?id=U...hur Edwards" Quartermaster Bridgeport&f=false
As the system for purchasing horses and mules became less corrupt, the quality of the US cavalry dramatically improved. As the eastern Army became less mobile and moved fewer guns, the demands of the artillery branch for livestock also decreased.
Therefore the answer is it depends.
On land, probably.
In the west, there is no way of knowing. One is left comparing apples and pineapples.
Early in the war, the Confederate mobilization drew off the best of their young men and their available horses.
But the longer the war went on, the better US became at the quartermaster maintenance of the war. It was this final factor that made the US effort like a locomotive rolling downhill.
 
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