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

Don Dixon

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 24, 2008
Location
Fairfax, VA, USA
You're still referring to fire based upon direct observation in line of sight. They just got up higher so that they could see further. Indirect fire, which really permits the extension of the gun's useful range, is dependent upon an FO system, which the technology of the time generally did not permit. One might have used flags, or for pre-planned fires one might have strung wire and used the telegraph, but the problem was also conceptual. No one had really done it before.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
You're still referring to fire based upon direct observation in line of sight. They just got up higher so that they could see further. Indirect fire, which really permits the extension of the gun's useful range, is dependent upon an FO system, which the technology of the time generally did not permit. One might have used flags, or for pre-planned fires one might have strung wire and used the telegraph, but the problem was also conceptual. No one had really done it before.
Well, yes, but the limiting factor for artillery fire in the Civil War is not in transitioning from direct fire to indirect fire. Krupp field guns firing in direct fire mode were effective at 2-4 times the range at which Civil War field guns were.
 

thomas aagaard

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 19, 2013
Location
Denmark
Just a rough drawing of the area about Dybbøl, on a screenshot from google maps.
The Danish lines in April 1864 (in red) had a total of 10 redoubts (only marked some of them), with a lot of heavy artillery. (including a good number of smoothbore 84 pounders... that could fire cannister out to 600 yards and shells to 1000)

In font of the fortifications. Wire fences and spiky farming equipment force the attackers into a killzone where cannister and infantry fire would cut them down.

It was a very very strong position... if it been in 1860 before the Prussians started having rifled siege artillery.

The Prussians places batteries of rifled siege artillery in the south.
And then systematically shot the Danish defenses to bits.
At that range the Danish 84 pounder would expect to hit a target the size of a ship of the line 0,5% of the time.
(hit the hull that is)

The Prussians could put close to 100% of their rounds within a Danish redoubts.
This was done at a range of 2,5-3km.

The white line to redoubt IV is 2,71km.

In an attempt to counter this the guns in redoubt II was replaced with rifled field guns... this di help draw a lot of Prussian fire.. allowing the others to be repaired at night.

The larger redoubt had blockhouses build in very heavy timber. they where immune to roundshots from smoothbores at that range.
But 30 pounder shell flew in over the walls of the redoubt, hit the side of the blockhouse in one of the redoubt and detonated inside...
(so artillerymen started to take cover in the ammunition bunkers...since they where made of concrete)

During this they dug parallels and then on the 18th of April stormed the position.

They started by 4 hours of heavy bombardment, then stopped and then the artillery shifted to hit the area behind the Danish front lines. Basically interdicting the frontlines. (Something that would be very normal tactics during the great war.)
This actually had the effect that the Danish reserve, didn't know there attack was happening until way to late because the noise of the shelling blocked out the Nosie of the attack. The Danish system of buglers to warn of an attack failed... no one knows why, but some of the buglers assign to the system died, so likely a random shell removed a link in the chain.

dyb.jpg


Note it is just a rough drawing.
for the official map made by the Danish Engineers look at this:
http://military-history-denmark.dk/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Dybboel_ingenieurkommandoen.jpg
 
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Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
It's also worth pointing out that being able to reliably hit targets at 2 miles means you can very reliably hit targets at 800-1200 yards. If American guns were limited by observation distance then the exchange of cannon fire on Day 3 at Gettysburg (which was at less than a mile) should have resulted in a rapid mutual slaughter of the guns...
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
As my comments about rifles illustrated, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

https://civilwarhome.com/huntgettysburgor.htm

http://samilitaryhistory.org/vol024dh.html
Is there anything in particular you're thinking of? That's quite a long history, and while I can see at a glance a couple of cases of counter-battery fire at 1,000 yards that was the sort of thing that turned up in Napoleon's day (literally).

Captain Mercer at Waterloo:

I ventured to commit a folly, for which I should have paid dearly, had our Duke chanced to be in our part of the field. I ventured to disobey orders, and open a slow deliberate fire at the battery, thinking with my 9-pounders soon to silence his 4-pounders. My astonishment was great, however, when our very first gun was responded to by at least half-a-dozen gentlemen of very superior calibre*, whose presence I had not even suspected, and whose superiority we immediately recognised … I instantly saw my folly, and ceased firing, and they did the same – the 4-pounders alone continuing the cannonade as before. But this was not all. The first man of my troop touched was by one of those confounded long shots. I shall never forget the scream the poor lad gave when struck. It was one of the last they fired and shattered his left arm to pieces.

* presumably 12 pounders

The French cannon were around 1,000 to 1,200 metres from the British position (according to the available evidence, that is; if the grand battery had been on the intermediate ridge it would have caused too much obstruction to the manoeuvres of the French infantry and British cavalry during the day).
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
I note with interest this account:


At about 3.30 p.m. the enemy established a battery of ten guns (four 20-pounders and six 10-pounder Parrotts) in a wheat-field to the north and a little to the east of the Cemetery Hill, and distant some 1,200 or 1,300 yards, and opened a remarkably accurate fire upon our batteries. We soon gained a decided advantage over them, and at the end of an hour or more compelled them to withdraw, drawing off two of their pieces by hand. Twenty-eight horses were afterward found on the knoll.

So we have a battery of ten rifles engaged in firing on Union batteries, and the Union batteries counter them with an hour or more of their own counter-battery fire; at the end of this process the Confederates withdraw having suffered the loss of 28 horses and presumably some men, but no guns. There is no mention of the scale of the Union casualties but it was presumably less, since the Confederates were the ones who withdrew.

If the Union counter-battery or Confederate battery had contained Armstrongs or weapons of comparable accuracy to Armstrongs, well:




The last gun made by Sir W. Armstrong and sent to be tried, was a 12-pounder. The following was the result:—Forty consecutive rounds were fired from the new 12-pounder field gun of 8 cwt., with the minimum charge of 11 lb. 8oz. of slow powder. Experiment shows that we have been wrong for some time in using powder of so quick a detonating nature for artillery practice, and especially for rifled cannon, which require slower powder than that suited to other arms. At seven degrees of elevation in five rounds, the range being from 2,465 to 2,495 yards, the difference in the range was 65 yards, and the greatest difference in width three yards. Then at eight degrees of elevation, the range reaching 2,797 yards, with 60 yards of difference between the five shots, and only one yard of difference in the width. Again, at nine degrees of elevation the range comes up to 3,000 yards and upwards, with 85 yards difference between the five shots, and three yards as the greatest difference in the width. In point of fact, almost all of these shots but three or four would have struck within a 9-feet target. The rapidity and accuracy with which small objects are hit at a great distance in the practice made at Shoeburyness, is something marvellous.


Deviation goes a little more than linearly with range (as the round slows and the Magnus effect takes place) and at 1,200 yards we could certainly expect the majority of shots to strike within a 9-foot target (as commented upon for more than twice that range). I believe that we could reasonably expect the effect of a ten-gun battery so armed to be decisive in less than an hour. Certainly if the typical American rifle would hit within a 9 foot target more often than not at two miles then a "very accurate" fire would involve at least one hit from ten guns per volley.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
After so much discussion about the military ignorance of the Americans during the Civil War period, I thought they - and Henry J. Hunt and Samuel J. Reeves, in particular - deserved at least a small bit of praise for their innovation in field artillery.

https://web.archive.org/web/20080207181323/http://www.usregulars.com/IFA/IFA_intro.htm
Is there anything in particular you're thinking of which is the innovative bit? It is of course quite possible that innovation took place, but it is also possible that what Hunt or Reeves introduced was a step already taken in Europe; unless you specify we can't actually check.

I should make clear that Hunt etc. still get credit even if what they're doing is reproducing European developments - the European armies have had significant funding for decades and have a base of experience, while the American ones are booting up from nothing. It's like how the New Armies in WW1 are a major achievement just for being trained to a reasonable level of competence (and that with a larger training base to work with).
 

LetUsHavePeace

Volunteer
Joined
Dec 1, 2018
I have given you the link to Hunt's manual; if it is not too much work, could you point me to the comparable ones from 1861 produced by the European army general staffs?
You might want to take a second look at Major Hall's discussion of British Field Artillery in the South African Military history journal article that I linked to.
I thought these comments conceded at least some praise to what the Phoenix Iron Works had accomplished, especially its success in producing cannon whose barrels did not burst:

"British Armstrong and Whitworth guns were used in the American Civil War -- both with some success. In spite of this, a movement now grew for a return to muzzle-loading. This was largely because construction methods were not keeping pace with the advances being made by scientists and inventors. There were several accidents because of mechanical weaknesses.
An 1865 committee reported that "the breech-loading guns are far inferior to muzzle-loading as regards simplicity of construction and cannot be compared to them in this respect in efficiency for active service." This report established the principle that heavier natures should be muzzle-loading with three rifling grooves only (the Woolwich system) -- a marked departure from the Armstrong poly-groove system.
This view found favour with one veteran who said: "First of all they insisted on having a lot of grooves in the bore of the gun. Now they are only going to have three grooves in the bore of the gun. Please goodness they will next have no grooves at all, and we shall get back to the good old smooth bores which did all that was necessary to beat the Russians and smash the Mutiny."
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
I have given you the link to Hunt's manual; if it is not too much work, could you point me to the comparable ones from 1861 produced by the European army general staffs?
I'm sorry, but do you mean to say that Hunt's innovation is writing a manual?

I thought these comments conceded at least some praise to what the Phoenix Iron Works had accomplished, especially its success in producing cannon whose barrels did not burst:
But Parrott rifles did burst, often, and in fact killed and wounded more sailors in one action than the Armstrong 110 pounder (the one which was most prone to suffering a vent piece failure) ever did at any point (by which I mean, nobody appears to have died as a result of a vent piece blowout in the heavy Armstrong guns).*

I should clarify here that the vent piece was a replaceable part (each gun carried two spares) and a gun could continue firing after a vent piece blowout - they just put in a new piece. I am unaware of any instances of an Armstrong 12 pounder's breech rupturing or barrel failing, because the vent piece would vent first.
At that, it's quite possible that the vent piece blowouts were the result of a failure of drill. Test weapons were fired more than 2,000 times without issue.


The reason why the Armstrong 12 pounder was replaced was that the British considered it to be too expensive, and it was replaced with a rifled muzzle-loading gun which was just as capable in all respects while being considerably cheaper. (They took note of the comments of old fashioned soldiers who wanted a return to smooth bores, and then ignored them.)


* the total number of 12 pounder guns that were damaged over their service period was 13, including obvious cases of user error like "22 ins. of muzzle blown off by carelessness in leaving in drill shot". It doesn't seem titanically unreliable to me.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
So in order to clarify this further.

The actual British thinking involved with the removal from service of the Armstrong gun and replacement with the RML family was based on a number of factors.

For the larger guns, it was based on the fact that the heavy Armstrong guns (which were unable to bear large powder charges) were not as capable in armour penetration as the RML guns which replaced them, in addition to their being less reliable (that is, prone to failing owing to poor drill in closing the breech, resulting in the vent piece blowing). Their being unable to bear large powder charges requires clarification, however - the 7" Armstrong gun (the 110 pounder) was used with a charge of 12lbs initially later reduced to 10-11 lbs for greater safety, and the 6.4" Parrott was used with a similar charge (10 lbs). So they're not that much smaller - the British comparison here was that their smoothbore guns like the 8" 68 pounder could use a powder charge of 20 lbs (compare with the 16 lbs of the 8" Parrott or the ~30 lbs of the RML 7" and you can see which rifle is the higher power one).

For the smaller guns, a key factor was simply that the 12 pounder was expensive, and they did extensive tests to see that the 9 pounder was able to replicate all aspects of its performance before replacing the 12 pounder RBL field gun. There was also a perception of unreliability because the gun had more (spectacular but mostly harmless) ways it could go wrong, though this was not enough to affect battlefield results.


The 12 pounder Armstrong wasn't a perfect weapon, but it combines the best properties of all the Civil War field guns along with a few new ones it has entirely to itself.
 
Joined
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Location
PA
The term already existed, being used in a book of 1856 and in several other cases before 1861.
You are correct. Yet the formal position of war correspondent in terms of rules of engagement—or nonengagement as non-combatants -- had not yet been formulated.

Treaty II, Article 13 of the 1899 Convention first recognized that non-combatants or civilians affiliated with but not part of the belligerent military, such as reporters and contractors, who were out of uniform, would not be treated as spies. They had the right to be treated as a prisoner of war.

John Delane, the editor of the Times, sent William Ressell to Malta to cover English support for Russia in 1854. Russell despised the term "war correspondent" -- though his coverage of the conflict brought him international renown. Russell’s fame preceded him to America, where he arrived just in time to witness the opening battle of the Civil War. Some 500 journalists attached themselves to the Union Army during the course of the war, and another 100 reported the war from the Southern side. New York Evening Post editor William Cullen Bryant wrote of New York Tribune reporter George Smalley's report at the Battle of Antietam: “a truly admirable account, which ranks for clearness, animation and apparent accuracy with the best battle pieces in literature, and far excels anything written by Crimean Russell.”

Perhaps the best candidate for the first war correspondent of th4e modern period is London Oracle reporter John Bell, who reported on the Duke of York’s European campaign in 1794. Bell, who owned the newspaper, announced his attention to “establish a chain of regular correspondents with every part of the Allied army, and to take every possible method of obtaining French papers with more regularity and dispatch than has hitherto been practicable.”

In the Mexican War of 1846, George Wilkins Kendall, publisher of the Picayune in New Orleans, set up a field office in Matamoros, recruited a staff of correspondents, and arranged for his dispatches to be carried by horseback to Veracruz, where they were transferred to boats and taken back to New Orleans.

See: Soldiers of the Press: Civil War Journalism, 1861-1865
 
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Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Russell’s fame preceded him to America, where he arrived just in time to witness the opening battle of the Civil War.
Whereupon, as a side note, he was effectively driven from the continent - not by trouble with the other side, but by trouble with his own hosts. Union soldiers held him at gunpoint at least once and he got dozens of death threats after his highly critical account of the Union army's failings at Second Bull Run. When he was forbidden from reporting on the army he simply couldn't do his job, and consequently left.

New York Evening Post editor William Cullen Bryant wrote of New York Tribune reporter George Smalley's report at the Battle of Antietam: “a truly admirable account, which ranks for clearness, animation and apparent accuracy with the best battle pieces in literature, and far excels anything written by Crimean Russell.”
Unfortunately, Smalley was both somewhat biased and also invented events that never took place. The War Department noted before Second Bull Run that Smalley was a bit overly fond of Pope (for example); at Antietam Smalley wrote up the conversation between Porter and McClellan despite being (self declaredly) too far away to possibly hear what they were saying.

In Stotelmyer he puts it:

George Smalley, along with fellow Tribune correspondents John Evans, Charles A. Page, and Albert D. Richardson, were at various locations on the battlefield throughout September 17. They gathered to prepare their reports that evening in a small farmhouse crowded with wounded. Around midnight Smalley commandeered a fresh mount and headed for Frederick. The next day he caught a train to Baltimore and then an express train to New York. Smalley composed most of his report in the back of the rail car. At the Tribune office he handed the typesetters what one writer described “the worst piece of manuscript the oldest of them had ever seen.”

Smalley managed to describe this situation:


Burnside is outnumbered, flanked, compelled to yield the hill he took so bravely. His position is no longer one of attack; he defends himself with unfaltering firmness, but he sends to McClellan for help. McClellan’s glass for the last half hour has seldom been turned away from the left, he sees clearly enough that Burnside is pressed, needs no messenger to tell him that. His face grows darker with anxious thought. Looking down into the valley where 15,000 troops are lying, he turns a half questioning look on Fitz John Porter, who stands by his side, gravely scanning the field. They are Porter’s troops below, are fresh and only impatient to share in this fight. But Porter slowly shakes his head, and one may believe that the same thought is passing through the minds of both generals: ‘They are the only reserves of the army; they cannot be spared.’


The troops in question cannot have consisted of more than Morell's division. The timing is unclear (McClellan got the news of Burnside's collapse while he was on the right, as I understand it - at the time McClellan was pulling in two brigades of Morell's division from the centre to reinforce a planned attack on the right) and even if by the time this account is describing Morell's whole force has returned to the middle (i.e. around 1815, hours after Burnside got hit in the flank) that still can't have been more than 9,000 men and was probably considerably less.
 

67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
The troops in question cannot have consisted of more than Morell's division. The timing is unclear (McClellan got the news of Burnside's collapse while he was on the right, as I understand it - at the time McClellan was pulling in two brigades of Morell's division from the centre to reinforce a planned attack on the right) and even if by the time this account is describing Morell's whole force has returned to the middle (i.e. around 1815, hours after Burnside got hit in the flank) that still can't have been more than 9,000 men and was probably considerably less.

Actually, just Barnes' brigade of Morell. The other two brigades had gotten as far as the Pry Bridge en route to Sumner.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Actually, just Barnes' brigade of Morell. The other two brigades had gotten as far as the Pry Bridge en route to Sumner.
The thing that I'm unclear on is whether this scene is taking place "just after McClellan got back to the centre" or "after the two brigades had arrived back". It certainly wasn't right when AP Hill hit Burnside because McClellan was on the right at that point, as I understand it...
 
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Location
PA
The press was particularly partizan in this period, and "reporters" often wrote concerning things that they heard about rather than saw. Civil War battlefields were much more extensive than most people would suppose. Even in small engagements, hundreds if not thousands of men might be involved. In large battles a mounted officer, who could freely gallop from place to place, could scarcely travel over the entire field during the course of a day. Dense woods choked with heavy undergrowth or crossed with streams and marshes added to the difficulty of moving large bodies of troops. Imagine the situation faced by a correspondent!
The individual soldiers saw only what occurred in their own regiment or company, and they were limited to a very narrow view of what was going on. Observers commonly heard more than they saw and relied on the reports of those coming from the front, which were sometimes incomplete or based on rumor.
 

wausaubob

Lt. Colonel
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Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
The press was particularly partizan in this period, and "reporters" often wrote concerning things that they heard about rather than saw. Civil War battlefields were much more extensive than most people would suppose. Even in small engagements, hundreds if not thousands of men might be involved. In large battles a mounted officer, who could freely gallop from place to place, could scarcely travel over the entire field during the course of a day. Dense woods choked with heavy undergrowth or crossed with streams and marshes added to the difficulty of moving large bodies of troops. Imagine the situation faced by a correspondent!
The individual soldiers saw only what occurred in their own regiment or company, and they were limited to a very narrow view of what was going on. Observers commonly heard more than they saw and relied on the reports of those coming from the front, which were sometimes incomplete or based on rumor.
If the journalists were in the rear of the battlefield, they very little contact with the soldiers and officers actually doing the fighting.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
If the journalists were in the rear of the battlefield, they very little contact with the soldiers and officers actually doing the fighting.
That's more or less an inevitability in this period, unless the journalists are going to die. This isn't the 20th century where the fighting front is hundreds of yards deep at the narrowest (and multiple miles deep in many cases) and full of good cover, where you can be attached to a company of men and see the occasional period of hard fighting.

In the 19th century, if you're in contact with "the soldiers and officers actually doing the fighting" as opposed to "in the rear of the battlefield", then you are standing within small arms fire range and exposed in the open.

At the same time, being in the rear of the battlefield is absolutely an option to get a good picture of what's going on. If you're with a corps HQ that's even remotely well run then you won't be exposed to actual danger, but you'll be hearing about what's going on and often seeing the fighting from a distance of considerably less than a mile; even commanding generals can often find a single vantage point where they can see a lot of what's going on on the field. Think of McClellan at the Middle Bridge, where he could see what was going on on a lot of the Union right; this is the main Union field army at the time and a single man can get a personal view of about half of it (as compared to the 20th Century where it would be an unusual situation for a single man to have a personal view of even a brigade sector, which is why the best way to get an idea of what the fighting is like is to embed - often at the company level).


The journalist can make contact with officers and men from the fighting front during the other 90%-plus of the year when there isn't a major battle going on.
 

wausaubob

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Location
Denver, CO
That's more or less an inevitability in this period, unless the journalists are going to die. This isn't the 20th century where the fighting front is hundreds of yards deep at the narrowest (and multiple miles deep in many cases) and full of good cover, where you can be attached to a company of men and see the occasional period of hard fighting.

In the 19th century, if you're in contact with "the soldiers and officers actually doing the fighting" as opposed to "in the rear of the battlefield", then you are standing within small arms fire range and exposed in the open.

At the same time, being in the rear of the battlefield is absolutely an option to get a good picture of what's going on. If you're with a corps HQ that's even remotely well run then you won't be exposed to actual danger, but you'll be hearing about what's going on and often seeing the fighting from a distance of considerably less than a mile; even commanding generals can often find a single vantage point where they can see a lot of what's going on on the field. Think of McClellan at the Middle Bridge, where he could see what was going on on a lot of the Union right; this is the main Union field army at the time and a single man can get a personal view of about half of it (as compared to the 20th Century where it would be an unusual situation for a single man to have a personal view of even a brigade sector, which is why the best way to get an idea of what the fighting is like is to embed - often at the company level).


The journalist can make contact with officers and men from the fighting front during the other 90%-plus of the year when there isn't a major battle going on.
True enough. And in most Civil War battles, an observer would see the Confederate infantry performing well especially for their limited numbers. As far as the fighting goes, the Confederates had an advantage. What the journalists did not observe was the vast logistical machine that was growing behind the US land forces. Buying and paying, and running railroad divisions just wasn't very exciting.
 
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