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Author Topic: How was this a good tactic?  (Read 7830 times)

judgedredd

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on: October 31, 2022, 04:05:32 AM
I know. Times were different blah, blah, blah......

But I just don't understand how commanders thought this tactic was a good tactic.



Quote
"Right lads.

The enemy has rifles.

They have a slow rate of fire.

So our best way to win is to line up in several lines, far away from them, all bunched up presenting a full target for them and limiting their chances of missing and march slowly towards them.

By doing this, we will present our soldiers to the maximum amount of fire from the enemy, whilst giving them plenty of time to reload their weapons and continue to fire volley after volley into our ranks, decimating our forces.

But rest assured - our determination and willingness to show the enemy our complete disregard for our own lives will fill them with fear and we can be sure of victory



bob48

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Reply #1 on: October 31, 2022, 07:10:01 AM
A clip from the film 'Barry Lyndon'.

I'm doing a lot of reading about that period at the moment.

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Undercovergeek

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Reply #2 on: October 31, 2022, 07:44:00 AM
The whole set piece battle, we’ll meet here at at 930 tomorrow thing is a complete mystery to me

But I suppose if you’ve arranged a big fight in the middle of a field you can only rely on your ability to outshoot the enemy



bob48

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Reply #3 on: October 31, 2022, 08:21:35 AM
Muskets of the period were only accurate at close range. When, like the Prussians and English, you could fire 5 volleys to your enemy's 3, then this was often a deciding factor, but you had to get close up first. But, yes, battles of the period often took days to set up after much manoeuvring and could be very bloody.

The period I am interested in at the moment is one that encompasses the League of Augsberg (9 years war 1688-1697) up until the end of the 7 years war (1756-63) so this includes the War Of Spanish Succession, The Great Northern War, The War of Austrian Succession and the Silesian Wars.

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judgedredd

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Reply #4 on: October 31, 2022, 11:36:52 AM
Muskets of the period were only accurate at close range....
Yeah but how inaccurate where they when you present them with such a long, solid line or target?

I mean - we kept a similar philosophy into the 1st World War I suppose.



besilarius

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Reply #5 on: October 31, 2022, 11:57:45 AM
A good book for background and evolution of weapons and formations is Battles of the Thirty Years War by William Guthrie.
He was a war gamer and he gets down to really gritty details. The linear formations were developed by Gustavus Adolphus, king of Sweden.  He was always thinking of how to improve his army.
At the beginning of the wars, the Spanish tercio was the standard infantry formation.  In it, the arquebusiers or shotte were in two long sleeves next to a pike square.  The shotte were in a deep mass and the soldier would fire in the first rank then fall back to the rear, as he reloaded, he moved up in the mass to shoot again.  It was all individual fire at an enemy unit.
Gustav us came up with a lighter, handier musket with a faster reload.  He disliked the waste of so many people in the deep sleeves and wondered what would happen if they all fired at once.
He came up with the three deep line and volley fire.  This didn't hit more people than the old system, but psychologically it put greater stress on the target.
It was necessary for the line to hold it's fire to give the volley its impact.
Since the effective range was so short, unit commanders would try to start this firefight at really short ranges.  So they would brave the enemy fire while advancing.  That first volley could be devastating, like the English guards at Fontenoy or the great volley at Wolfe's victory on the Plain of Abraham.  One volley seems to have discouraged the entire French army.
« Last Edit: October 31, 2022, 12:00:47 PM by besilarius »

"These things must be done delicately-- or you hurt the spell."  - The Wicked Witch of the West.
"We've got the torpedo damage temporarily shored up, the fires out and soon will have the ship back on an even keel. But I would suggest, sir, that if you have to take any more torpedoes, you take 'em on the starboard side."   Pops Healy, DCA USS Lexington.


mcguire

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Reply #6 on: October 31, 2022, 04:36:55 PM
I know. Times were different blah, blah, blah......

But I just don't understand how commanders thought this tactic was a good tactic.

It looks pretty?  ;)

Muskets of the period were only accurate at close range....
Yeah but how inaccurate where they when you present them with such a long, solid line or target?

Ok, so quoting from Battle Tactics of Napoleon and His Enemies by Brent Nosworthy (which I have not read because I started his ACW book and then got distracted), here's a couple of "experimental" percentages of shots "that hit a target":

RangePicardMuller
75m60%
100yrd40%
150m40%
200yrd18%
225m25%
300yrd15%
300m20%

I'm not sure what a target is there, but Nosworthy's ACW book has descriptions of units firing at board targets that were man-high and many yards wide, and they're not wildly different.

Ah, but wait, what about actual use? Some estimates based on casualties vs. ammo use:

GuibertGassendiPiobertAnonymouseJacksonNapierHughesDecker
.2%.03%.03%.1%.5%.3%3-5%.01%

"...if a single infantryman was able to fire three rounds per minute continuously, between [6] minutes and [55] hours would elapse before the enemy suffered a single casualty. [A] 500 man battalion firing [...], between [.05]and [25] casualties would be suffered every volley." (The math in the book don't work. I fix.)

So, yeah. A few guys shooting on their own would use up their ammo before they did anything useful.

The other thing that you have to consider, as I understand, is that by modern standards, soldiers weren't trained. Keeping everyone pointed in the same direction and not using up their ammunition before they could get close enough to hit the broad side of the barn was problematic. Keep 'em all together where you can watch 'em and swat 'em if they do anything stupid seems to be the idea.

A good book for background and evolution of weapons and formations is Battles of the Thirty Years War by William Guthrie.

I want that book. I just don't want to pay several hundred dollars for it.   :(  :'(

"Man...knowing how to use the cards properly certainly changes how I play the game" -- judgedredd


besilarius

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Reply #7 on: November 01, 2022, 10:03:02 AM
Yeah, I know.  Guthrie was dieing of cancer and decided that a traditional, hard bound book was what he wanted.
He found a vanity press and paid to get his two books put into print.
There were a couple of libraries that had them and I know people who got it through inter library loan.

The second book is not so interesting as the first one.. 

"These things must be done delicately-- or you hurt the spell."  - The Wicked Witch of the West.
"We've got the torpedo damage temporarily shored up, the fires out and soon will have the ship back on an even keel. But I would suggest, sir, that if you have to take any more torpedoes, you take 'em on the starboard side."   Pops Healy, DCA USS Lexington.


bob48

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Reply #8 on: November 01, 2022, 11:32:58 AM
Going back to the original question, though.

Bear in mind that no one 'thought this was a good idea'. It has to be remembered that tactics were evolving in line with improved weapons over a period of several hundred years. We see, for example, a change to smaller, more flexible formations and the process of losing pikes and gaining more and better firearms. Gone are the huge musket and pike tercio's to be replaced with the battalion / regiment/ brigade.

You are picking out a snapshot of a particular period in history without connecting it to process' that preceded it.

Linear warfare really continued through to the Franco-Prussian war and even, to an extent can be seen during the Russo-Japanese War 1904-05, despite the introduction of the machine gun and magazine fed rifles. While no so evident on the Western Front in WW1, there are some well documented example of 'old style' linear battle being fought on the Eastern Front. I would recommend 'Collision of Empires' series by Prit Buttar as being excellent and informative reads.

“O Lord God, let me not be disgraced in my old days.”

'We few, we happy few, we band of brothers'


trailrunner

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Reply #9 on: November 01, 2022, 01:28:16 PM
Would the general absence of NLOS communication have something to do with those tactics?  It seems like it would have been difficult to allow much initiative for smaller units because it would have been difficult to stay in communication with them.  Surveillance was also limited. So when faced with a wide line of enemy troops, what else could have been done?

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mcguire

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Reply #10 on: November 01, 2022, 04:13:04 PM
Linear warfare really continued through to the Franco-Prussian war and even, to an extent can be seen during the Russo-Japanese War 1904-05, despite the introduction of the machine gun and magazine fed rifles. While no so evident on the Western Front in WW1, there are some well documented example of 'old style' linear battle being fought on the Eastern Front.

IIRC, Paddy Griffith argued that in the Franco-Prussian war, linear tactics were successful. That led to the similar tactics of early WW1. (And I have this weird idea that Japanese "banzai" tactics of WW2 were more or less similar to early WW1 tactics---the Japanese didn't get the WW1 memo.)

"Man...knowing how to use the cards properly certainly changes how I play the game" -- judgedredd


Putraack

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Reply #11 on: November 02, 2022, 08:54:37 AM
I'm no expert on the 18th century, but I think there should have been more than we saw in that film clip:

To my mind, that French(?) line was firing pretty rapidly, was that 3+ shots per minute? It seemed to me like all three lines were firing when the camera was on them, not one line at a time.

Also, I didn't see any skirmishing by either side's light troops, was that a later development?

And no supporting artillery to punch holes in the defenders' line, or at least rattle their morale?

I noticed the sergeants with their polearms out in front of the line, weren't they supposed to be to the rear of their companies, while the officers were up front?



besilarius

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Reply #12 on: November 02, 2022, 10:04:25 PM
The French during the Marlboroughian Wars had a really odd system.
The battalion was in five lines.  The first rank would fire and then lay down.
Then the second rank, the third, fourth, and fifth.
When the fifth rank fired, the command was given for all the men to stand up and either reload or charge with the bayonet.
For various reasons, the British system of platoon fire had much greater impact on their enemy.
This French system allowed for five pretty rapidvolleys, but then a long pause before the unit was reloaded.
And, as any gunnery sergeant will tell you, once troops go to ground under fire, many will not stand up again.
A coralary of this tenet is if troops are advancing under fire, and stop, then you can never get them to move forward under fite for the rest of the day.  It is just asking too much of a soldier.
That is what the Prussian tried at Jena.  The infantry advanced on the French positions.  The French wete using skirmishers, so the Prussians halted and fired volleys into the irregulars.  They kept up fire but their officers couldn't get them advancing again.  A marine Gunny explained this was accepted yruth after two tours in Nam.

Oh,Putraack, you thought the clip was too short?  Ryan O'Neal was interviewed about Barry Lyndon.
He indicated that shooting the battle scenes took days and there were thirty good minutes of film.
However, Kubrick felt an extended sequence did not help the story's progression and chopped most of it out.  Perhaps somewhere there are unseen reels of film waiting to be discovered?
« Last Edit: November 02, 2022, 10:35:52 PM by besilarius »

"These things must be done delicately-- or you hurt the spell."  - The Wicked Witch of the West.
"We've got the torpedo damage temporarily shored up, the fires out and soon will have the ship back on an even keel. But I would suggest, sir, that if you have to take any more torpedoes, you take 'em on the starboard side."   Pops Healy, DCA USS Lexington.