Discussion Repeaters Versus Muzzleloaders

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edfranksphd

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Aside from cost and ammunition consumption, were there any areas with respect to performance that a Springfield or Enfield was superior to a Henry or Spencer. For instance, were they more accurate in trained hands or significantly more range?

What led me to this question was, I was speculating today. What if the Union raised a sharpshooter brigade and gave them repeaters? Would this just be the most elite unstoppable force in warfare in 1865?
The Union did just this with Sheridan's cavalry in preparation for the Spr65 Campaign, I thought? My impression is that nearly an entire division was armed with repeaters, and for this reason Lee's retreat from Amelia Courthouse was successfully blocked by only Union cavalry (long enough for the Union infantry to catch up) even though the vanguard of Lee's retreat was being led by Longstreet's Corps of infantry. So, by Spr65 nearly the entire Union cavalry was armed with repeaters, at least in VA. The war ended so quickly that many of them never fired a shot in anger!
 
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I don't think anyone in this thread has disputed that. The fact that the USA was not in a position to re arm their entire armed forces or even a very substantial portion in the middle of an ongoing war is in dispute.
Well good. I can't believe that's a question either. One of the factoids that sticks in my mind is Thaddeus Laidley's claim in 1863 that the Frankfort Arsenal would in the following year be geared up to produce ten million metallic cartridges per annum. Sounds great till you realize the number of cartridges produced by the army during the war exceeded a billion.
 
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Something else regarding the overall effectiveness of infantry fire. This was quoted in General Rusling's "Men and Things I Saw in Civil War Days," p. 164, and graphically illustrated the progression of small arms fire:


As a rule, "it takes a man's weight in lead to kill him in
battle," and in even such severe engagements as Murfrees-
boro or Stone River it took twenty thousand rounds of
artillery to hit seven hundred and twenty-eight men, and
two million rounds of musketry to hit thirteen thousand
eight hundred and thirty-two men. In other words,
only one shot told in every one hundred and forty-
four fired. In the Franco-German War, it took ninety-
one and one half bullets and one and one half cannon shots
on an average to even hit a Frenchman. Of those actually
killed in battle, there was only one chance in about two
hundred and fifty. In the Crimean War the British fired
fifteen million shots and killed twenty-one thousand Rus-
sians, or one to every seven hundred shots. The French
fired twenty-nine million shots and killed fifty-one thou-
sand Russians, or one to every five hundred and ninety
shots. The Russians fired forty-five million shots, at
both British and French, and killed forty-eight thousand,
or one to every nine hundred and ten shots.

The source for the General's numbers, I finally discovered, was "Mulhall's Dictionary of Statistics" published in London in 1884. Given where it was published I assume it used a better source than Kinglake for the general accuracy of infantry fire in the Crimea. Mulhall goes on to give 400 shots to kill in the Franco-German War, which he notes as an improvement over the earlier average of 740 among all combatants.

Apart from that the one statistic that I can check is the statement about Stone's River because that also appears in "The Chances of Being Hit in Battle" by William Fox in The Century Magazine, Vol. 36, Issue 1, May 1888. That data comes from General Rosecrans' official report. Fox corrects it by noting that Rosecrans overestimated rebel losses, which were actually reported as 9,000 by Bragg (but also adds that Bragg returned the favor by overestimating those of Rosecrans). Recalculating on that basis gives more than 200 shots to hit or, to compare with Mulhall above, 600 to kill or mortally wound.

The difference between the average for the Crimea and Stone's River reflects the difference between a war in which the Russians had smoothbores and the French were still converting vs a battle in which most of the participants had the rifle musket. The improvement in the 1870 war reflects the difference when using breechloaders. It doesn't seem a stretch to expect an equivalent improvement using repeaters, despite the problems they presented with maintenance.
 
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67th Tigers

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The source for the General's numbers, I finally discovered, was "Mulhall's Dictionary of Statistics" published in London in 1884. Given where it was published I assume it used a better source than Kinglake for the general accuracy of infantry fire in the Crimea. Mulhall goes on to give 400 shots to kill in the Franco-German War, which he notes as an improvement over the earlier average of 740 among all combatants.
15 million is likely the number of cartridge sent, or expended during the era.

Ammunition supply in combat was the responsibility of the Royal Artillery, and they recorded the expenditure in action as follows:

Alma: 90,175 Minie balls and 887 artillery rounds
From Alma to 28th October (i.e. including Balaklava, but there was little infantry fighting there): 109,705 Minie balls, 11,149 smoothbore balls. 524 artillery rounds and 30 rockets
Inkerman: 176,670 Minie balls, 23,150 smoothbore balls and 2,065 artillery rounds (inc. 168 18 pdr shot)

Hence, the three largest engagements of the British Army in the year long campaign total a small-arms expenditure of not more than 410,849 rounds.

The Russians recorded 5,745 casualties at the Alma. The majority of the fighting was between the British and the Russians, and the French were known to have exaggerated their casualties, as shown by them only having 3 officers killed to 26 British officers killed. Pro rata to the 1,965 casualties the British sustained, this would only have been 227. Observers put the French casualties at closer to 560 (mostly in the 1er and 2e Zouaves and 1er Chasseurs) rather than the claimed 1,343.

At Inkerman (proper) the Russians lost 10,729. Again, the British did the bulk of the fighting, although the 7e Leger and 6e Ligne were as heavily engaged as the British. The French lost 782 vs 2,573 British.

The British inflicted ca. 15,000 casualties with 266,845 Minie balls, 23,150 smoothball balls and 2,952 artillery rounds = 292,947 rounds of all natures or ca. 1 casualty per 19.5 rds. It is of course likely that the artillery was far more effective than a rifle, and the smoothbore less effective.

During other actions and siege fighting, of course ammunition was used. The British probably expended over a million rounds in picket firing during the year, but it is unlikely they fired more than 2 million rounds at the enemy.
 
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The Russians recorded 5,745 casualties at the Alma. The majority of the fighting was between the British and the Russians, and the French were known to have exaggerated their casualties, as shown by them only having 3 officers killed to 26 British officers killed. Pro rata to the 1,965 casualties the British sustained, this would only have been 227. Observers put the French casualties at closer to 560 (mostly in the 1er and 2e Zouaves and 1er Chasseurs) rather than the claimed 1,343.
I just wanted to touch on that for moment. Thank you for your source on ammunition expenditure, but the same source that gives you your ammunition expenditure points out that overall French officer losses were 6 dead and 59 wounded, or 65, vs the British total of 26 dead and 72 wounded, or 98.

That's not a comment on minor French involvement, but on their superior medical care, or perhaps the British didn't get their returns in as soon as their allies and more wounded had time to die. Either way, there's a similar disproportion in enlisted casualties. The French were not a minor side show in a British battle.

The calculation of small arms effectiveness is also a bit complicated by not just the scale of French infantry efforts (they began the battle and flanked the Russian position), but also the presence of 132 allied artillery pieces on the field, and bombardment of the Russian position by the allied fleet.

There's a similar problem with the fine calculations at Inkerman, of trying to parse the broken bodies on the field between infantry and artillery fire, especially if the latter include case shot, to which the book you cite makes repeated references, including a cluster of dramatic instances at Inkerman itself.

None of this would matter much except that when your assumptions about the efficacy of infantry fire not only fail to account for another army on the field, but on another arm of service, there's every reason to question conclusions that differ by an order of magnitude from other sources.
 

James N.

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The Union did just this with Sheridan's cavalry in preparation for the Spr65 Campaign, I thought? My impression is that nearly an entire division was armed with repeaters, and for this reason Lee's retreat from Amelia Courthouse was successfully blocked by only Union cavalry (long enough for the Union infantry to catch up) even though the vanguard of Lee's retreat was being led by Longstreet's Corps of infantry. So, by Spr65 nearly the entire Union cavalry was armed with repeaters, at least in VA. The war ended so quickly that many of them never fired a shot in anger!
Evidently it depended as much on their training as the armament. Major James Kidd of the 5th Michigan Cav. of what had been Custer's Brigade stated in his memoirs that two of the regiments had been trained extensively in dismounted or skirmish-type tactics using their Spencer rifles - not carbines, while the other two "specialized" in mounted drills, the difference between the two being denominated as either "skirmish" or "saber" regiments. Obviously, they were each capable of performing either duty, but two were better at skirmishing while the other two were better typical cavalrymen.
 
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67th Tigers

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That's not a comment on minor French involvement, but on their superior medical care, or perhaps the British didn't get their returns in as soon as their allies and more wounded had time to die. Either way, there's a similar disproportion in enlisted casualties. The French were not a minor side show in a British battle.
When you're shot and killed outright, it doesn't matter that if you survived you'd have better medical care. You are dead. Those who died of their wounds are still counted as "wounded". Both British and French returns disambiguated serious and minor wounds, but these are rarely quoted or seen. Russian returns simply omitted minor wounds.

The idea that the French had a superior system turns out to be untrue, as witnessed by the horrific 1855-6 winter. The reason there was a different perception is that the British press was free, and hence reported all the British shortcomings, whereas the French press was (as Dawson notes) censored by the state. This ultimately bit them in the rear, as they had no incentive to improve the situation. Hence they starved again in the second winter, whereas the British were well fed and healthy.

The calculation of small arms effectiveness is also a bit complicated by not just the scale of French infantry efforts (they began the battle and flanked the Russian position), but also the presence of 132 allied artillery pieces on the field, and bombardment of the Russian position by the allied fleet.
Alma?

The French did surprisingly little fighting. Bosquet got his division up by the coast unopposed, but did nothing with it. The French only supposidly fought the Minsk and Moscow Regiments, but only 1 Bn of the Moscow was really engaged.

The British fought the Susdal, Uglitz, Vladimir, Kazan, Borodino and Tarutin Regiments, thus:

Susdal was attacked by the Highland Brigade under Campbell (1st Div)
Vladimir by the Guards Brigade under Bentinck (1st Div)
Uglitz by Buller's Bde (Light Div)
Kazan by Codrington's Bde (Light Div)
Borodino by Pennefather's Bde (2nd Div)
Tarutin was attacked by Adam's Bde (2nd Div)

This sector was also covered by 2 naval battalions and the 6th Corps Rifle battalion.

The Brest-Bielostok Reserve Brigade (the depots of these two regiments mobilised) and Volhynia Regiments were not engaged. The Brest-Bielostok Reserve Brigade was stationed along the ledge, blocking the French 3rd Divisions (Napoleon's) advance, but were withdrawn unengaged. The Volhynia was the last Russian reserve.

Most of the allied artillery firing was from 12 French guns on the Russian left, against the Minsk Regt etc., and 18 British guns moved up onto Telegraph Hill. It was mostly defensive.

There's a similar problem with the fine calculations at Inkerman, of trying to parse the broken bodies on the field between infantry and artillery fire, especially if the latter include case shot, to which the book you cite makes repeated references, including a cluster of dramatic instances at Inkerman itself.
None of which is typical. At Inkerman 91% of wounds were from rifles (according to Prof. AM Low). Hence the breakdown is 10,000 hit be 176,000 Minie balls (exc/ the French, who didn't do much of the shooting), roughly a 6% hit rate.

The Minie rifle was attested by the Russians to be the major killer. Now, of course a lot of this has to do with the fact that Lord Hardinge arranged for every soldier going east to have intensive training with the new weapon.

91% is in line with the ACW, as 90.1% of those with identified shot wounds were from small arms, thus:

Solid shot: 359 wounds
Shell fragments: 12,520
Grape and canister: 1,153
Conical (Minie) balls: 108,049
Round (smoothbore) balls: 16,742
Pistol and buckshot: 3,008
"Explosive" musket balls: 130
No projectile recovered or no other evidence: 103,829 (the majority likely Minie bullets that had passed clean through)

Of course, we don't know about those killed outright. Of the wounded, 922 had sabre or bayonet wounds.
 
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When you're shot and killed outright, it doesn't matter that if you survived you'd have better medical care. You are dead. Those who died of their wounds are still counted as "wounded". Both British and French returns disambiguated serious and minor wounds, but these are rarely quoted or seen. Russian returns simply omitted minor wounds.

The idea that the French had a superior system turns out to be untrue, as witnessed by the horrific 1855-6 winter. The reason there was a different perception is that the British press was free, and hence reported all the British shortcomings, whereas the French press was (as Dawson notes) censored by the state. This ultimately bit them in the rear, as they had no incentive to improve the situation. Hence they starved again in the second winter, whereas the British were well fed and healthy.



Alma?

The French did surprisingly little fighting. Bosquet got his division up by the coast unopposed, but did nothing with it. The French only supposidly fought the Minsk and Moscow Regiments, but only 1 Bn of the Moscow was really engaged.

The British fought the Susdal, Uglitz, Vladimir, Kazan, Borodino and Tarutin Regiments, thus:

Susdal was attacked by the Highland Brigade under Campbell (1st Div)
Vladimir by the Guards Brigade under Bentinck (1st Div)
Uglitz by Buller's Bde (Light Div)
Kazan by Codrington's Bde (Light Div)
Borodino by Pennefather's Bde (2nd Div)
Tarutin was attacked by Adam's Bde (2nd Div)

This sector was also covered by 2 naval battalions and the 6th Corps Rifle battalion.

The Brest-Bielostok Reserve Brigade (the depots of these two regiments mobilised) and Volhynia Regiments were not engaged. The Brest-Bielostok Reserve Brigade was stationed along the ledge, blocking the French 3rd Divisions (Napoleon's) advance, but were withdrawn unengaged. The Volhynia was the last Russian reserve.

Most of the allied artillery firing was from 12 French guns on the Russian left, against the Minsk Regt etc., and 18 British guns moved up onto Telegraph Hill. It was mostly defensive.



None of which is typical. At Inkerman 91% of wounds were from rifles (according to Prof. AM Low). Hence the breakdown is 10,000 hit be 176,000 Minie balls (exc/ the French, who didn't do much of the shooting), roughly a 6% hit rate.

The Minie rifle was attested by the Russians to be the major killer. Now, of course a lot of this has to do with the fact that Lord Hardinge arranged for every soldier going east to have intensive training with the new weapon.

91% is in line with the ACW, as 90.1% of those with identified shot wounds were from small arms, thus:

Solid shot: 359 wounds
Shell fragments: 12,520
Grape and canister: 1,153
Conical (Minie) balls: 108,049
Round (smoothbore) balls: 16,742
Pistol and buckshot: 3,008
"Explosive" musket balls: 130
No projectile recovered or no other evidence: 103,829 (the majority likely Minie bullets that had passed clean through)

Of course, we don't know about those killed outright. Of the wounded, 922 had sabre or bayonet wounds.

I've always wondered who dug out all those bullets for comparison. If you read McParlin's report, for example, the categories are shell, cannon-shot, bullet, sword, bayonet. That's what surgeons reported for the Overland Campaign. But I see "Professor A. M. Low" wasn't around at the time of the Crimean War and wrote a lot of books, including Sci-Fi.
 

Saphroneth

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From the Russian records, we know the number of soldiers at Inkerman who were significantly wounded by minie balls (exclusive of those killed).
From the British records, we know the number of minie balls fired at Inkerman.

From this information, pretty much regardless of any other information, we have a lower bound estimate of British battle accuracy at the Battle of Inkerman. (This estimate assumes that absolutely nobody hit by a Minie ball died, and that all minie ball wounds went through the hospital system and were thus recorded.)

That accuracy figure is several times greater than that displayed at most Civil War battles - on the order of 5-10 times greater.


Does this mean that a muzzle loading rifle is better than a breech loading rifle?
No.

What it does mean however is that a well trained man with a muzzle loading rifle may well be better than a less well trained man with a breech loading rifle.
Since the process of training someone to be good with a muzzle loading rifle is less expensive than buying them a breech loading rifle, then the training process is a more achievable way to improve an army during wartime than buying better rifles.


The interesting thing about this is that por que no los dos - why can't we have both? And the answer is that you can. You can train people in accuracy and you can equip them with breech loading rifles - it doesn't have to be an either-or - and the combination means that well-trained troops with breech loading rifles are enormously better than poorly-trained troops with muzzle loading rifles.

(Assuming that average hit rate at Gettysburg is 1/160 and at Inkerman is 1/16, that a breech loading rifle fires five times as fast as a muzzle loading rifle and does not affect the accuracy characteristics, you get that a force of 1,000 rifle trained men with Sniders generate 600 hits per minute, a force of 1,000 rifle trained men with Enfields generate 120 hits per minute, a force of 1,000 non-rifle-trained men with Sniders generate 60 hits per minute and a force of 1,000 non-rifle-trained men with Springfields or Enfields generate 12 hits per minute.)
 
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67th Tigers

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(Assuming that average hit rate at Gettysburg is 1/160 and at Inkerman is 1/16, that a breech loading rifle fires five times as fast as a muzzle loading rifle and does not affect the accuracy characteristics, you get that a force of 1,000 rifle trained men with Sniders generate 600 hits per minute, a force of 1,000 rifle trained men with Enfields generate 120 hits per minute, a force of 1,000 non-rifle-trained men with Sniders generate 60 hits per minute and a force of 1,000 non-rifle-trained men with Springfields or Enfields generate 12 hits per minute.)
Gettysburg is an interesting case. We have the resupply requests, and a few statements from ordnance officers are in the OR, and we know that this is roughly what was expended:

800,000 .57 rifle-musket cartridges (for Springfield and Enfield rifles*)
100,000 .69 rifle-musket cartridges (for M1842 converted to rifles)
200,000 .54 rifle-musket cartridges (for Lorenz rifles)
200,000 .69 musket cartridges
30,000 Sharp's cartridges (of these, Berdan's sharpshooters recorded they expended 14,400 rounds, and so the remainder is likely the cavalry)

= 1.33m infantry and cavalry weapon cartridges

The artillery expended 32,781 rounds (this includes a significant number of unfired rounds lost in caisson explosions etc.). The rebels had 24,200 casualties by the latest research by Busey and Busey, of which 4,890 were unwounded captured, leaving 19,310 men who were hit (including be melee weapons, a very small percentage which we'll ignore).

If all casualties were by small arms, then the effectiveness would be 70 rounds per casualty.

Of the hit, 3,446 were "killed", and the remaining 15,864 were various degrees of wounded (2,004 classed as mortal). Thus ca. 18% of these hit were killed outright, as you'd expect from artillery hits by solid shot. Of the corps which broke down by ammunition nature, only 11.6% of expenditure was solid shot. These are corps account for roughly half the expenditure, and was only about 3,800 solid shot were expended. The ratios indicate a lot of the artillery casualties must have been from shrapnel

Comparing to Inkerman, the Federals expended ca. 15 times the artillery ammunition and ca. 6 times the small arms ammunition for less than twice the number of hits.

Now, had either side been well trained in rifle shooting, it would likely have been decisive.
 

Saphroneth

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Now, had either side been well trained in rifle shooting, it would likely have been decisive.
This is something I was thinking about earlier, which is what the actual battlefield impact would be of rifle shooting. There are three ways to model it I think:


1) The battle would have the same overall result and end roughly when the non rifle trained side had taken the same number of casualties, so we could reduce the rifle-trained side's casualties pro rata. This is an attritional mindset best suited for when the rifle trained side is defending (e.g. Fredericksburg with rifle-trained Confederate defenders, Gettysburg with rifle-trained Union defenders).
2) The battle would continue until the rifle trained side had taken the same number of casualties, with the non rifle trained side's casualties increasing pro rata. This is also an attritional mindset, and is best suited for when the rifle trained side is attacking - or is a group of defenders which historically broke.
3) The battle would have a different outcome as a result of one of the above two producing an absurd result. In this case we could best model it by roughly estimating the casualties required to cause each side to break.

For example if the rifle trained side at Gettysburg had been the Rebels, we would expect perhaps six to ten times the Federal casualties (mostly wounded) than what historically happened by the time the Rebels "ran out of puff"; this would destroy the Union army to the last man, which would obviously mean the battle wouldn't go that way in the first place as no large army fights to the last man. Instead the Union line would collapse and the Rebels would suffer less casualties than historical.
 
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Rhea Cole

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Missing from this comparison between muzzleloaders & breechloaders / repeaters are misfires. I will use a phrase the always reliable Craig L. Barry coined on this forum, citations for the number of muzzleloaders that were recovered loaded with multiple rounds are a form of "historical entertainment". There does not appear to be any officially documented source that listed the number of rounds removed from individual muskets recovered from battlefields. That being said, it is certain that a number of muskets misfired, were loaded bullet first or with multiple rounds in the chaos of battle resulting in inoperable weapons.

There is also the fact that firing repeatedly made muzzleloaders difficult & even dangerous to load. The bore would become encrusted, making it difficult & eventually impossible to load. After multiple shots in a short period of time, the barrel would become very hot, even burning hot to touch. At a certain point, the powder would begin to flash as it was poured into the muzzle. None of these dour conditions was a result of misuse or poor drill. They were an inevitable effect of firing multiple rounds from a muzzleloading rifle. Rain & other wet conditions made it difficult to impossible to successfully fire a muzzleloader.

When multiple loads due to misfires, fouling, overheating & moisture making muzzleloader rifles inoperable are added up, a considerable, impossible to calculated exactly, number of weapons would have been put out of action during battles. While there were certainly a number of jams or mechanical malfunctions of Civil War era breechloaders & repeaters, they were significantly more reliable in an extended fire fight & damp weather conditions. A head to head example of the tactical superiority of repeaters is the fighting on the extreme right of Logan's position at Ezra Church.

The 64th & 67th Illinois, armed with Henrys fought side by side with their muzzleloader armed peers. As many as nine successive attacks were beaten off, stoped within a few yards of the defender's line. While the men armed with Henrys maintained their rate of fire, the muzzleloaders suffered the traditional disadvantages.

"By late afternoon, many of the soldier's rifles were growing almost too hot to use. Powder flashed as the men poured it down the barrels. Many suffered second-degree burns on their hands from such premature ignitions, & a soldier of the 47th Ohio had his hand punctured by his own ramrod the the charge in the rifle exploded while he was ramming it. Taylor ordered the rest of the 47th to cease firing & prepare to meet the next advance with cold steel. Soldiers of the 116th Illinois resorted to pouring water from their canteens down the barrels of their rifles."
Nothing But Victory, The Army of Tennessee, p 175

Fighting from behind a thin barricade made up mostly of fence rails, soldiers armed with a mix of repeaters & muzzleloaders achieved a lopsided victory. Federal casualties numbered 526, the exact number of Confederate losses is unknown, but 3,000 is an educated estimate. This was a harbinger of the near annihilation of the Missouri regiments that attacked a well dug in force armed with a mix of Henrys & muzzleloaders at Franklin. In both cases, the fighting occurred within three hundred yards, so the relative range of the weapons was not a factor. The sustained rapid fire of the Henrys, no doubt contributed significantly to the destruction along their section of the line as the attackers closed to within yards of the defenders.
 

Saphroneth

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While there were certainly a number of jams or mechanical malfunctions of Civil War era breechloaders & repeaters, they were significantly more reliable in an extended fire fight & damp weather conditions. A head to head example of the tactical superiority of repeaters is the fighting on the extreme right of Logan's position at Ezra Church.
I don't think you can necessarily say they were "significantly more reliable" unless you have data on it. Do you have this data?
You have a real tendency to just focus on anecdotes, but it's not sensible to just necessarily draw sweeping conclusions from anecdote.




Fighting from behind a thin barricade made up mostly of fence rails, soldiers armed with a mix of repeaters & muzzleloaders achieved a lopsided victory. Federal casualties numbered 526, the exact number of Confederate losses is unknown, but 3,000 is an educated estimate.
I feel like pointing out that at Mechanicsville the Federal defenders suffered 361 casualties and inflicted 1,484 (by the numbers I've seen); at Ezra Church the Federal defenders suffered 642 casualites (not 526) and inflicted ~3,000.

As an anecdote, Ezra Church does not necessarily indicate any great superiority of the repeater. It shows that the defence can sometimes inflict a lopsided casualty ratio, especially against an attack referred to in the histories as "poorly coordinated", but it's not clear how much is due to repeaters.
 

Rhea Cole

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Location
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Something else regarding the overall effectiveness of infantry fire. This was quoted in General Rusling's "Men and Things I Saw in Civil War Days," p. 164, and graphically illustrated the progression of small arms fire:


As a rule, "it takes a man's weight in lead to kill him in
battle," and in even such severe engagements as Murfrees-
boro or Stone River it took twenty thousand rounds of
artillery to hit seven hundred and twenty-eight men, and
two million rounds of musketry to hit thirteen thousand
eight hundred and thirty-two men. In other words,
only one shot told in every one hundred and forty-
four fired. In the Franco-German War, it took ninety-
one and one half bullets and one and one half cannon shots
on an average to even hit a Frenchman. Of those actually
killed in battle, there was only one chance in about two
hundred and fifty. In the Crimean War the British fired
fifteen million shots and killed twenty-one thousand Rus-
sians, or one to every seven hundred shots. The French
fired twenty-nine million shots and killed fifty-one thou-
sand Russians, or one to every five hundred and ninety
shots. The Russians fired forty-five million shots, at
both British and French, and killed forty-eight thousand,
or one to every nine hundred and ten shots.

The source for the General's numbers, I finally discovered, was "Mulhall's Dictionary of Statistics" published in London in 1884. Given where it was published I assume it used a better source than Kinglake for the general accuracy of infantry fire in the Crimea. Mulhall goes on to give 400 shots to kill in the Franco-German War, which he notes as an improvement over the earlier average of 740 among all combatants.

Apart from that the one statistic that I can check is the statement about Stone's River because that also appears in "The Chances of Being Hit in Battle" by William Fox in The Century Magazine, Vol. 36, Issue 1, May 1888. That data comes from General Rosecrans' official report. Fox corrects it by noting that Rosecrans overestimated rebel losses, which were actually reported as 9,000 by Bragg (but also adds that Bragg returned the favor by overestimating those of Rosecrans). Recalculating on that basis gives more than 200 shots to hit or, to compare with Mulhall above, 600 to kill or mortally wound.

The difference between the average for the Crimea and Stone's River reflects the difference between a war in which the Russians had smoothbores and the French were still converting vs a battle in which most of the participants had the rifle musket. The improvement in the 1870 war reflects the difference when using breechloaders. It doesn't seem a stretch to expect an equivalent improvement using repeaters, despite the problems they presented with maintenance.
About 60% of the Confederate & 40% of the Union infantry at Stones River were armed with smoothbores. Modern analysis has increased the number of casualties caused by artillery fire. However, these are just footnotes intended to fill out the excellent post you have made.
 
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Saphroneth

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There is also the fact that firing repeatedly made muzzleloaders difficult & even dangerous to load. The bore would become encrusted, making it difficult & eventually impossible to load. After multiple shots in a short period of time, the barrel would become very hot, even burning hot to touch. At a certain point, the powder would begin to flash as it was poured into the muzzle. None of these dour conditions was a result of misuse or poor drill. They were an inevitable effect of firing multiple rounds from a muzzleloading rifle. Rain & other wet conditions made it difficult to impossible to successfully fire a muzzleloader.

When multiple loads due to misfires, fouling, overheating & moisture making muzzleloader rifles inoperable are added up, a considerable, impossible to calculated exactly, number of weapons would have been put out of action during battles. While there were certainly a number of jams or mechanical malfunctions of Civil War era breechloaders & repeaters, they were significantly more reliable in an extended fire fight & damp weather conditions. A head to head example of the tactical superiority of repeaters is the fighting on the extreme right of Logan's position at Ezra Church.

The 64th & 67th Illinois, armed with Henrys fought side by side with their muzzleloader armed peers. As many as nine successive attacks were beaten off, stoped within a few yards of the defender's line. While the men armed with Henrys maintained their rate of fire, the muzzleloaders suffered the traditional disadvantages.
There's a logical disconnect here.

Why would a muzzle loader and only a muzzle loader heat up so much? The heating is caused by thermodynamics, not by the fact the weapon loads from the muzzle.
 

Rhea Cole

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Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Something else regarding the overall effectiveness of infantry fire. This was quoted in General Rusling's "Men and Things I Saw in Civil War Days," p. 164, and graphically illustrated the progression of small arms fire:


As a rule, "it takes a man's weight in lead to kill him in
battle," and in even such severe engagements as Murfrees-
boro or Stone River it took twenty thousand rounds of
artillery to hit seven hundred and twenty-eight men, and
two million rounds of musketry to hit thirteen thousand
eight hundred and thirty-two men. In other words,
only one shot told in every one hundred and forty-
four fired. In the Franco-German War, it took ninety-
one and one half bullets and one and one half cannon shots
on an average to even hit a Frenchman. Of those actually
killed in battle, there was only one chance in about two
hundred and fifty. In the Crimean War the British fired
fifteen million shots and killed twenty-one thousand Rus-
sians, or one to every seven hundred shots. The French
fired twenty-nine million shots and killed fifty-one thou-
sand Russians, or one to every five hundred and ninety
shots. The Russians fired forty-five million shots, at
both British and French, and killed forty-eight thousand,
or one to every nine hundred and ten shots.

The source for the General's numbers, I finally discovered, was "Mulhall's Dictionary of Statistics" published in London in 1884. Given where it was published I assume it used a better source than Kinglake for the general accuracy of infantry fire in the Crimea. Mulhall goes on to give 400 shots to kill in the Franco-German War, which he notes as an improvement over the earlier average of 740 among all combatants.

Apart from that the one statistic that I can check is the statement about Stone's River because that also appears in "The Chances of Being Hit in Battle" by William Fox in The Century Magazine, Vol. 36, Issue 1, May 1888. That data comes from General Rosecrans' official report. Fox corrects it by noting that Rosecrans overestimated rebel losses, which were actually reported as 9,000 by Bragg (but also adds that Bragg returned the favor by overestimating those of Rosecrans). Recalculating on that basis gives more than 200 shots to hit or, to compare with Mulhall above, 600 to kill or mortally wound.

The difference between the average for the Crimea and Stone's River reflects the difference between a war in which the Russians had smoothbores and the French were still converting vs a battle in which most of the participants had the rifle musket. The improvement in the 1870 war reflects the difference when using breechloaders. It doesn't seem a stretch to expect an equivalent improvement using repeaters, despite the problems they presented with maintenance.
About 60% of the Confederate & 40% of the Union infantry at Stones River were armed with smoothbores. Modern analysis has increased the number of casualties caused by artillery fire. However, these are just footnotes intended to fill out the excellent post you have made.
 

Rhea Cole

First Sergeant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
I don't think you can necessarily say they were "significantly more reliable" unless you have data on it. Do you have this data?
You have a real tendency to just focus on anecdotes, but it's not sensible to just necessarily draw sweeping conclusions from anecdote.





I feel like pointing out that at Mechanicsville the Federal defenders suffered 361 casualties and inflicted 1,484 (by the numbers I've seen); at Ezra Church the Federal defenders suffered 642 casualites (not 526) and inflicted ~3,000.

As an anecdote, Ezra Church does not necessarily indicate any great superiority of the repeater. It shows that the defence can sometimes inflict a lopsided casualty ratio, especially against an attack referred to in the histories as "poorly coordinated", but it's not clear how much is due to repeaters.
Concrete examples are not "sweeping conclusions". For example, zero men armed with repeaters were disabled by having a ramrod shot through their hand. That is a solid one to zero ratio at Ezra Church in favor of repeater dependability at that battle.
 
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Rhea Cole

First Sergeant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
15 million is likely the number of cartridge sent, or expended during the era.

Ammunition supply in combat was the responsibility of the Royal Artillery, and they recorded the expenditure in action as follows:

Alma: 90,175 Minie balls and 887 artillery rounds
From Alma to 28th October (i.e. including Balaklava, but there was little infantry fighting there): 109,705 Minie balls, 11,149 smoothbore balls. 524 artillery rounds and 30 rockets
Inkerman: 176,670 Minie balls, 23,150 smoothbore balls and 2,065 artillery rounds (inc. 168 18 pdr shot)

Hence, the three largest engagements of the British Army in the year long campaign total a small-arms expenditure of not more than 410,849 rounds.

The Russians recorded 5,745 casualties at the Alma. The majority of the fighting was between the British and the Russians, and the French were known to have exaggerated their casualties, as shown by them only having 3 officers killed to 26 British officers killed. Pro rata to the 1,965 casualties the British sustained, this would only have been 227. Observers put the French casualties at closer to 560 (mostly in the 1er and 2e Zouaves and 1er Chasseurs) rather than the claimed 1,343.

At Inkerman (proper) the Russians lost 10,729. Again, the British did the bulk of the fighting, although the 7e Leger and 6e Ligne were as heavily engaged as the British. The French lost 782 vs 2,573 British.

The British inflicted ca. 15,000 casualties with 266,845 Minie balls, 23,150 smoothball balls and 2,952 artillery rounds = 292,947 rounds of all natures or ca. 1 casualty per 19.5 rds. It is of course likely that the artillery was far more effective than a rifle, and the smoothbore less effective.

During other actions and siege fighting, of course ammunition was used. The British probably expended over a million rounds in picket firing during the year, but it is unlikely they fired more than 2 million rounds at the enemy.
Union pickets were often ordered to fire a given number of rounds during their trick on the line. The intention was to harass rather than inflict casualties.
 

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Concrete examples are not "sweeping conclusions". For example, zero men armed with repeaters were disabled by having a ramrod shot through their hand. That is a solid one to zero ratio at Ezra Church in favor of repeater dependability at that battle.
But that's not what you're saying at all.

You're saying that Repeaters were significantly more reliable. That means that in loading and firing, say, a complete complement of ammunition carried (~70 rounds) then significantly more people would have weapons disabled by serious problems with muzzle loaders than with repeaters.
Provide the data that led you to this conclusion.
 
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