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"Howitzers vs. Licornes" Topic

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7,103 hits since 17 Jul 2007
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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Defiant17 Jul 2007 7:43 a.m. PST

hi all,

In my rules we have hit percentage rolls for Indirect Fire (Line of Sight) Howitzers and Licornes. In these tables the D100% is broken up between 1st and 2nd and further shots but then also broken up between Howitzers and Licornes. So in our system there are 4 Hit Tables. 2xHows – 2xLicornes.

Take the actual Gunners out of the equation; My question is this – We all know Licornes are more accurate but just how more accurate? Would you say they were 5% overall more accurate of mayber 10% or maybe even higher ? This question has been in my mind for a long while.

Okay, secondly overall if assigning bonuses for French Line Artillery gunners as compared to Russians what % bonus would you give oe side over the other and why ?

We have 7 Fire Disciplines :

1st Rate – Old Guard Gunners +15%
2nd Rate – Some Elite Units Gunners +10%
3rd Rate – French Gunners/British Gunners (most other Guards)+5%
4tth Rate – Most other Line artillery Gunners +0%
5th Rate – Russian Line Gunners -5%
6th Rate Poorer nations gunners -10%
7th Rate – Militia Gunners etc…-15%

The percentage modifiers here are taken from or added to the chances of hits.


Personal logo Der Alte Fritz Sponsoring Member of TMP17 Jul 2007 8:43 a.m. PST

I continue to have difficulty accepting the idea that one nation's trained artillery gunners are that much better than another country's gunners. And rating Guard artillery as even better than line artillery has never made much sense to me. Does a bearskin headgear make you better at sighting a gun and placing a round shot on a particular target? I doubt it. There seem to be numerous examples of so called second tier nations' gunners, say Spain and Russia, standing valiantly by the guns to the very end. IMHO you are making something more complicated than it has to be.

50 Dylan CDs and an Icepick17 Jul 2007 8:51 a.m. PST

I know this doesn't help you or answer your question, but I'm curious about something:

If you're going to get so detailed and specific, then why do so for a sort of "general rule?" Would it not make more sense to apply such distinctions of relative quality on a per-scenario basis?

After all, the relative skill of gunners (or anybody else), wasn't uniform across a whole army, or over time. Surely there were some days, some units, some cases when some Russian gunners were better than some French gunners, and vice-versa, right?

So if you're going to do all this fine-detail, then why use it only for lump averages?

After all, if you did this sort of detail on a per-scenario basis, then you could dispense with 90% of the data because you'd only need stats on the units in the battle. You'd only need to know, in any given battle, which units were performing Task X better than which other units – in that battle. And you could assign a base-zero modifier and then only modify the people who were superior in that case.

Wouldn't that save you a lot of math and bookkeeping, while still allowing you to make all these distinctions?

Because at present it seems as if you're going into very great and specific detail, but then just smearing it broad-brush across an entire army. Surely when everybody in that army is averaged out, vis-a-vis everybody in every other army, the differences are probably not that great to be worth drawing the distinctions in game terms.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP17 Jul 2007 9:48 a.m. PST

The artillery arm was the most technically demanding so one would expect a higher degree of professionalism. Elting writes that the French made their officers pass practical and theoretical exams, and the rank and file were paid at grenadier rates.

It's a bit like the way the Argentinian Air Force was highly effective in the Falklands War whereas the infantry and the navy were much less so. Someone who has spent years flying a high-performance jet is going to have, justifiably, a lot more confidence in his abilities.

There must have been a reason why Napoleon included artillery in the Guard, and I would personally expect that they were better in action – but that could simply be because they got first dibs at the best horses and stuff. There's no reason an SS tank crewman would be more effective than a Wehrmacht one, unless he's in a Tiger rather than a Panzer III.

Lee Brilleaux Fezian17 Jul 2007 10:22 a.m. PST

Shane, licornes were 7% more accurate than howitzers. This increased to 8% on fields where there had been light rain that same day, or heavy rain on the previous afternoon or evening.

Austin Rob17 Jul 2007 10:34 a.m. PST

Shane, licornes were 7% more accurate than howitzers. This increased to 8% on fields where there had been light rain that same day, or heavy rain on the previous afternoon or evening.


50 Dylan CDs and an Icepick17 Jul 2007 10:45 a.m. PST

Jack, you're spouting nonsense, and that's just really too bad. The comprehensive study of licorne effectiveness done by Fromage du Putaine that I haven't really read because nobody has translated it for me, states categorically that licornes were 6.4% more effective during light rain, but 7.2% more effective when firing against Germans, who deserved it, anyway, since war is their national sport and they are just waiting to hear a drum-beat, so you have to watch them. I wonder when they're going to start asking for Poland back?

Why you insist on spouting horse-pooey, I find incomprehensible, and it's really a pity, but as a great man once said, "Quid dextrose excrudatum."

Shane, you're a good man and you should be praised for such excellent questions. Well said and well done. The usual suspects will make their clamor I suppose, but there's not much that lions can do in the face of sheep.

Condottiere17 Jul 2007 11:15 a.m. PST

Phew, for a minute there I thought nobody was going to chime in on the subject with any sincerity.

Lee Brilleaux Fezian17 Jul 2007 11:55 a.m. PST

Sam, I find your response reprehensible.

When I and 99 other serious military historians undertook licorne testing under actual field conditions, precisely 7% of us were killed on the day it turned out nice, whereas when we a had a bit of a shower losses went up to 8%.

I am the only survivor, so I quote myself, with footnotes. Actually, stump-notes, since I stupidly tried to stop a rolling shell with my shoe. There'a an anecdote from Waterloo about a soldier trying that stunt, and I wanted to test its veracity.

Which it passed. Damn.

Austin Rob17 Jul 2007 12:28 p.m. PST

Hey, should we submit the "rolling-cannon-ball-rips-off-a-leg" thing to Mythbusters?


Khevenhuller17 Jul 2007 12:50 p.m. PST


I have to go with spleen here. Unless you are amassing data for a computer system (that can handle fiddly percentages) then any result under 10% will probably be swallowed up by a margin of error anyway. Was the gun captain drunk? Was the powder in that charge better, worse or just the same as the last? Did a sudden gust of wind propel that shell just a little further to the left than the last? This is sort of what dice rolls in games represent, or at least as far as I was aware, and any marginal advantage can be swallowed up with them.

Alte Fritz has a point too, certainly as regards morale. Gunners in general seem to have been a stubborn lot. But where I deviate from him is as regards training and ability. To be a good gunner you not only needed to have a certain standard of education but you also needed to be fairly strong. To be a gun captain needed a knowledge of maths, trigonometry, where was the 'first graze' going to fall? Would there be a second and a third?

The Austrians, for example, insisted that all recruits be fit, able to read and write and be literate in German. The course was both practical and theoretical, included maths, surveying, fortification, administration and science as well as tactical use of guns. The course was 7 years long (after 5 you werre eligible to become a sergeant if you left).

The problem was always raw material. It should be no suprise that Britain and France had more numerous skilled artillerymen as their education systems were better. For the Austrians if you got through the 7 year course you were considered one of the best trained in Europe, but given the education level of the raw material it is no suprise that they were thinly spread around the establishment.

So it is not just the morale of the gunners it is their skill. Those Russian batteries are massive, their gunners stubborn, the equipment excellent, but the skill of the personnel is questionable in many cases.


Luke Mulder17 Jul 2007 1:16 p.m. PST

As for poorer nations having worse gunners, I think that is a too broad generalization to be of much use. We may assume that richer nations had more opportunity for firing live rounds, instead loading iron rounds without powder for practice, or worse yet, wooden balls carved by the men! Yet I do not think we can say for sure that poorer nations had worse gunners. For example, Bavaria was notorious in the 18th century for the poverty of its soldiers, some of them were even sent out by their captains to beg, the proceedes of which would be shared by the men. But do we really know that Bavarian gunners were worse than Saxon or even Austrian gunners?
And why the minus 5% for Russian gunners? Certainly in the SYW and in WWII the Russian gunners had very good reputations. Had something gone amiss during the napoleonic era?
As for the Licorne information, I wish you gentlemen would read Handbuch der Licorne, easily obtainable in the fourth carten, 3rd shelve, section 412B of the most serene and Princley Castle de Baden Baden Baden archives, where you will have the scale removed from your eyes and see that the accuracy of the Licorne was indeed 6.75% greater than that of the semi-secret 4.5" Bavarian bifurbicated conical chambered Howitzer.

donlowry17 Jul 2007 2:48 p.m. PST

>"Shane, licornes were 7% more accurate than howitzers. This increased to 8% on fields where there had been light rain that same day, or heavy rain on the previous afternoon or evening."<

Ha! This PROVES your obvious pro-British bias, because everyone knows it rains more in Britain!

Lee Brilleaux Fezian17 Jul 2007 4:21 p.m. PST

Curses, donlowry! You thwart me with your taunt! But I will return to the argument with many statistics, all of which I have made up.

Stavka17 Jul 2007 5:13 p.m. PST

What? no modifiers for bricoles? A dangerous error, and a sign of sloppy research. We all know that Wellington deliberately withheld a supply of replacement bricoles from Blucher as revealed in an email he sent to DeLancy before Quatre Bras, so the Prussians fought Ligny without them and so could not be blamed for losing, which was then all Wellington's fault.

All fun aside, I agree with Khevenhuller, 10% or under is not really significant statistically, and I would ask myself whether adding such a rule is worth the extra complexity. Why seven ratings when two or three at the most would do?

Another point is that we should be talking about tendancies, not absolutes. For the most part there should some possibility of the unexpected. Not talking now about extremes such as Old Guard or militia, but a given battery- better experienced, led and fed- may on the day be capable of a better performance than one theoretically more well-trained and equipped that has a crew suffering from dysentry and who have been awake for 24 hours straight.

Makes for a more unpredictable game, as well.

Defiant17 Jul 2007 7:54 p.m. PST

geez, I have seemingly opened a real hornets nest here.


Firstly, our rules system is at a scale that demands a curtain level of intricate factors (like many game systems).

Secondly, a Militia battery can still go against the norm and deliver a devestating salvo while and Old Guard battery can still fire ineffectively and miss its target altogether. The % modifiers just make these likely hoods rarer than some generic table where everyone is the same.

Thirdly, my whole system is based on Unit experience and training. Would you not agree that Old Guard batteries where the best and most experienced gunners where placed in these batters would not have some kind of advantage over lesser experienced gunners ? I believe they would.

With respect to Russian gunners I have read where their pieces were superb but their technical skill was no where near that of some other nations, they simply went for volume of fire over accuracy. Which in our games is exactly what happens.

As for weather factors etc and the perceived idiocy of adding them I would like to say that it might not be so ridiculous as one might think. Atmospheric conditions did play a major role in artillery accuracy. For example I have read eyewitness accounts from soldiers of the time where they indicated that Rain for example had the tendency to dissipate battlefield smoke and thus expand the visibility distance longer…

My question still stands, Would Licornes have an accuracy advantage and if so what is the general consensus if any ?


Defiant17 Jul 2007 9:16 p.m. PST

"certain" sorry. not curtain.

un ami17 Jul 2007 10:19 p.m. PST

Borodino and the War of 1812

"Russian commanders were accustomed to fight with an
extremely powerful artillery at their disposal, if only to make
up for the comparative lack of manoeuverability of their
infantry. The Russian artillery had fallen somewhat behind
the times by the beginning of the century, and the army came
to Austerlitz in 1805 with guns that were heavy, powder that
was dirty and artillerymen who did not understand their job.
Prince Orlov loudly remarked that it was entirely a matter of
luck whether Russian gunners hit their target or not.

It was Alexei Arakcheev who was largely responsible for
putting things right. The System of 1805 introduced a new
range of twelve- and six-pounder cannon and twenty-, ten-
and three-pounder 'unicorns'. These unicorns were long-
barrelled howitzers of a type first designed by Danilov and
Martinov in 1757, and they threw explosive shells with greater
velocity and accuracy than the six-inch howitzer of the French.
The three-pounder unicorn went out of use before the War of
1812, but the heavier models remained in service until the
Crimean War, after which many specimens found their way
to Great Britain as prizes, where they may be recognized by
the characteristic constriction at the exterior of the breech.

The elevating wedges of Arakcheev's guns were operated by
screws, which gave greater accuracy
, and the carriages as a
whole were strong and light and equipped with admirable
harness and tackle. The woodwork was painted apple green,
and the brass barrels were rubbed until they shone like candle-
sticks. The Karbanov [sic – Karabanov ?] system of gun sights was fixed to the
barrels in 1811.
The lighter pieces were drawn by four of the
strong but diminutive Russian draught-horses, eight or ten
of which could pull a twelve-pounder into one side of a
mountainous snowdrift and out the other.

The foundries at Bryansk, Ekaterinburg, Kamensk, Aleksandrovsk and
other places were capable of casting eight hundred pieces a year for
the armed forces, and great quantities of shot and shell were
produced by the factories which had been established by Peter the
Great in the Urals. As Wilson observed: 'No other army moves with so
many guns, and in no other army is it (the artillery) in a better
state of equipment.'

In 1811 Barclay reorganized the artillery into twenty-seven
field brigades, ten reserve brigades and four depot brigades.
The field brigade was usually on an establishment of two
companies of light artillery and one of heavy, each company
being composed of up to twelve pieces. The sixty-four guns
of the Guard Artillery were on a separate roster of six companies."

approx. verbatim :
George Nafziger
Napoléon's Invasion of Russia

1-pud licorne 1805

French 6.3" howitzer – 3 calibres bore length.
Russian licornes : 7.5 à 8.5 calibres bore length


D. Blackwood and F. P. Bowden
‘The Initiation, Burning and Thermal Decomposition of Gunpowder'
Proceedings of`The Royal Society, Series A, CCXIII, No. 1114
"The burning rate of nitrocellulose propellants increases as a direct function of increased pressure and temperature, that of black powder remains essentially constant, for reasons connected with the means of propagation of the decomposition reaction in black powder (apparently through a fine spray of molten salts)."

"There is often a general belief that longer barrels are more accurate than barrels of a shorter configuration. Part of this thought may extend from the period when most were equipped with iron sights. In that era the longer sight radius provided by a lengthy tube equated to better, more consistent accuracy at long range."

- un ami

un ami17 Jul 2007 10:21 p.m. PST

so, it is all true :
"Licorne was indeed 6.75% greater than that of the semi-secret 4.5" Bavarian bifurbicated conical chambered Howitzer."


Defiant17 Jul 2007 10:34 p.m. PST

un ami,

It is great to have you here on TMP, you provide excellent research and information. I applaud your response and thank you for this information. I knew I had read somewhere the Licorne was more accurate while the gunners less able.


Stavka17 Jul 2007 11:28 p.m. PST

Providing that the difference in accuracy is not that marked, I would think that training trumps accuracy myself, as better training means a higher rate of fire.

Shane, when it is said that the Russians were "less able", is technical skill the same as training here, or does it mean more along the line of doctrine?

Either way I love my 12 gun Russian batteries for all their faults!

Defiant17 Jul 2007 11:37 p.m. PST

as one of my friends put it simply and clearly, a better trained and experienced gunner would have a better chance to aim and set the piece to the right angle etc and cut the fuse to the correct length taking into account, windage, weather conditions, speed of the target etc…

so in my opinion a Licorne gives a bonus to this even if the gunners are less able to align the piece or as quickly as better gunners might be able to.

Defiant17 Jul 2007 11:40 p.m. PST

and our system works on a totally random percentage chance to hit withy simple modifiers for Experience and Training, Wind and the Sun. Might sound a little too detailed for some but we do not play at the Grand Tactical Level, we play a much more detailed and lower scale where these things can make a small but important difference. Still, some people might not agree but no need to make fun or ridicule someone elses work…

un ami18 Jul 2007 1:32 a.m. PST

@Shane Devries

Thank you !!

"even if the gunners are less able to align the piece or as quickly as better gunners might be able to."
I do not know this.

For the Russian artilleriy, after the reforms of 1806-1808, they have "le droit à la haute-paye" , the special academy, the best of the conscrits, military train in each companiy, a system of guns and caissons, etc. – all as in France. But, the use of guns is like Great Britain, but with 5x-10x the number of guns ! It is not like Sénarmont at Friedland, Drouot at Lutzen, etc.

If a French memoire says "it is good, the Russian cannonball (shot, round, fires) went over" or " it is good, they did not aim correctly, and my men were not all killed" – this is may be because other times they did shoot with accurecy ?

my opinion, ok ?

- votre ami

Khevenhuller18 Jul 2007 3:19 a.m. PST

Stavka wrote

"Either way I love my 12 gun Russian batteries for all their faults!"

Yep. After all, you may not be able to hit a great deal at distance, but cannister needs little accuracy and those big batteries can dole it out wonderfully well…


WKeyser18 Jul 2007 4:47 a.m. PST

Well I think I will put my two cents into the pot.

I believe that Howitzers/Licornes would not place much emphasis on the exploding aspect of their weapon in the open field of battle and facing infantry, cav, due to the possibility them moving towards or away from the guns would then be very hard to detect, and cutting the fuse to the correct length would be iffy at best.

From my reading of the howitzers/licornes I have come to the conclusion that in the open field of battle they would (in the vast majority of open battle situations) fire as if they where using round shot. Now if they are firing at fixed targets in field works, buildings etc or against unlimbered artillery then I think you saw the gunners using the "exploding" aspect of the weapon.

Also as to overhead fire I think that this so rare to be almost a specific scenario ability. If I remember my artillery correctly most if not all the field howitzers had only a few more degrees of elevation than the regular guns. Of course the artillery observation post was not quite in use yet and therefor almost if not impossible for the gunners to spot the fall of shot even if they could elevate the guns high enough.

As to ability, vs. training, I think that in the twenty some years of combat during the period you could find an enormous variation in the abilities of the various Nations artillery arm. I also think that one thing that is frequently missing in wargames is what is the mission of the guns, not what we as gamers want our guns to do. Are they attached to an infantry brigade and if so does the infantry commander have any idea of how best to use the guns, are they a divisional asset, corps or army. All of these levels have I believe a unique impact on the battlefield performance of the artillery batteries, everything from where they would aim their guns to at what range would they open up on the enemy.

So I hope this does not muddy up the water to much.

Stavka18 Jul 2007 6:17 a.m. PST

"Still, some people might not agree but no need to make fun or ridicule someone elses work"

Shane, I do not think people are taking the mickey out of your rules here so much as they are poking fun at some of the more contentious (pretentious?)threads that have graced the Napoleonic boards here over last year or so.

"we play a much more detailed and lower scale"

A level that interests me greatly, and one that I perceive is not "flavour of the month" with many people out there. Nothing wrong with a detailed set of rules. I do find, though, that the more detail a ruleset gets into, the greater the danger of it eventually collapsing under it's own weight.

My own rule of thumb.
1) Does the rule add significantly to the flavour of the game?
2) If so, is what I am trying to reflect being expressed as simply and elegantly as possible?

Not always easy to get right, of course, but that is why I questioned the need for so many factors.

I'd be curious to know how many units a side max do you game with, and what figure ratio you may use.

Defiant18 Jul 2007 7:12 a.m. PST

Hi Stavka,

Actually, you would be surprised to know the actual factors which go into the Howitzer/Licorne To Hit tables are astonishingly little.

We have the tables for Hits and misses then at the bottom is a small table with the Fire Discipline modifiers as sighted above plus a few other factors such as Light Wind, Strong Wind. Sunny conditions (looking into the direct sun) and that is about it. We purposely tried to refrain from making to many modifiers for the very reasons you state.

As for your question regarding Units. We cater for usually Corps size battles of less. Say 30 to 50 units (btlns) per side but can do and have done battles on a much larger scale. The great thing about our group is we have plenty of time and meet at my place every Tuesday night and some weekends. We have no problem leaving a battle set up and coming back to it week after week if we have to. I have known some battles to last 5-6 sessions and even more.

We never tire of the same battle taking so long, we actually enjoy it because we have gotten used to this kind of play. I have witnessed battles that sway your way one week only to turn against you the next then a week later you have the the advantage once more. This I feel makes us eager to come back week after week to fix the problem, right the wrong or push the advantage what ever the situation. We find it very enjoyable.

As for Unit scale, each figure is based to 40men (Artillery Gunners – 20men) with each unit being the Battalion if Infantry, Regiment if Cavalry and Battery if Artillery. We also allow sub-units of companies, Squadrons etc when and if they are required.

The rules set we play is based on old school Casualty removal with paper work such as in Bruce Quarries old rules. We prefer this kind of rules set even though today's mind set is usually against such a mechanical set of rules.


Kevin F Kiley19 Jul 2007 8:24 a.m. PST


The licorne and howitzer were two different types of weapons. The howitzer was short-barreled, the licorne was akin to what would now be termed a gun-howitzer in that it had characteristics of both. The tube was longer than a howitzer's and it could not be elevated to the extent that a howitzer could. The French emplaced their howitzers at times in defilade, such as in ditches, and fired from there. The only thing visible in the gun position being the tops of the gunners' heads. This was remarked upon by a Russian by the way. Accuracy would depend on the skill of the gunners and their officers.

Russian artillery officers were poor and not well-trained. That is remarked upon by Wilson in his memoirs. The best trained artillery officers of the period were probably the French and the British. American artillery units were also excellent, as remarked upon by the British (at New Orleans, for example, in 1815 the US artillery literally blew the British artillery off the battlefield; the British themselves admired the US artillery on the Niagara frontier in 1814, stating that 'we thought you were French'). Austrian artillery officers were well-trained, but old for their grades. Rothenberg comments on the age of the Austrian battery commanders.

Russian equipment had been modernized by Arakcheev, but the elevation device was the Prussian screw quoin (copied by Austria also), and was not as modern as the elevating screw employed by the US, Britain, and France. The Russian sights were also inferior in that they had to be removed before firing and reattached after. Not so with the French adjustable sight.

Russian artillery has always been numerous, but it has not been as accurate nor the artillery officers as skilled as in western armies. This goes for 1812 as well as 1945. I had to opportunity to see captured Russian equipment used by the Iraqis in 1991 (I have a compass and a gunner's quadrant) and neither are as well made as US equipment nor anywhere close to as accurate. The gunner's quadrant is crude and the compass is only graduated to 6000 mils whereas a US compass is to 6400 mils. I thought their towed artillery was good, but their SP stuff was terrible. Little or no protection for the crew and the mechanized stuff is not up to western standards. It was designed to be used in mass with a lot of pieces and it isn't as good as the US and British artillery pieces.


Defiant19 Jul 2007 9:07 a.m. PST

Thanks Kevin,

So you would say that Russian Licornes had no advantage in sighting or accuracy over the French, British Howitzers at all ?

Kevin F Kiley19 Jul 2007 12:03 p.m. PST

Both weapons, howitzers and licornes have advabtages and disadvantages. French optics were much better and I would give the skill edge to the French. I would not rate either above the other. It would depend on the skill of the crews in the final analysis. The French did prize licornes when they captured them and they moved with the parcs. However, I see no inherent advantage of the licorne over the howitzer in similar missions; in fact, the howitzer would have the advantage over the licorne for 'high angle' fire.


Defiant19 Jul 2007 5:11 p.m. PST

great, thx Kevin

Kevin F Kiley19 Jul 2007 6:27 p.m. PST

You're welcome, Shane. It was a good question to post and it's too bad there was so much ridicule to go along with it. I found that to be somewhat disconcerting and unhelpful.

Luke Mulder19 Jul 2007 9:44 p.m. PST

I wonder if then, the Russian gunners had fallen behind their older standards by the time of the Napoleonic wars, or if their reputation in the SYW was overwrought? Although the Russians have for years had a reputation for powerful artillery, perhaps indeed it had fallen by the wayside in terms of training.
For example, at the beginning of operation Barbarosa, the Russians had massive amounts of artillery on hand, but suffered from a list of problems too long to detail, but including the improper training of at least some gun crews, and the complete lack of ammunition for others. However, one can read of individual Russian batteries at the beginning WWII that were obviously above average. In fact someone (a Russian) commented once that the Russians were training better gunners than the Germans by '42, but that the German mortar crews were mostly superior to the Russians.
So Shane, under such circumstances, and after considering what un ami posted, perhaps some kind of penatly for Russian artillery, that modifies what their cannon were capable of on a material basis is called for.
In addition, I hope that you do not perceive some of the previous jesting to poorly. The forum is a good place to receive feedback on what you are doing, and your attempts to modify and improve your rules are admirable.

Defiant19 Jul 2007 10:49 p.m. PST

hi Luke,

Thanks for your support. the jest will not deter me as many people here still desire to help those asking serious questions.


Stavka19 Jul 2007 11:42 p.m. PST

" It was a good question to post and it's too bad there was so much ridicule to go along with it. I found that to be somewhat disconcerting and unhelpful."

A good question most certainly. Some of the suggestions unhelpful no doubt. But some people out there may want to sit back and ponder what inspired the jests in the first place!

Personally, I find it rather healthy when as a community we look at what we do and write about, and from time to time enjoy a good laugh at ourselves and our obsessions (what else would anyone consider it?). I'm actually surprised that some of the kind of replies Shane got here do not come up more often!

Kevin F Kiley20 Jul 2007 3:26 a.m. PST

Unfortunately, it is also a technique that is often used to denigrate and trivialize people as well as the topic to which they are talking. I've seen it used more often than not on forums and it's a staple on the CA board on this site. It isn't humor, it's akin to a personal attack and I don't think it appropriate here, especially after complaints of personal attacks and arguments between parties have taken place here also. It's just another form of baiting in order to start an argument or to belittle someone with whom someone disagrees but can find nothing concrete to criticize a posting or an argument.

Steven H Smith20 Jul 2007 7:15 a.m. PST

Sad, really. Really, really, sad, really. Sad.



Kevin F Kiley20 Jul 2007 8:02 a.m. PST

Well, Steven, since you're one of those that perpetrates that type of nonsense it really is sad because you should know better.

un ami20 Jul 2007 8:45 a.m. PST

"Both weapons, howitzers and licornes have advabtages and disadvantages. French optics were much better"
I am sorry, but I do not think that the French used a telescope attached to the obusiers, howitzers. Do I not understand correctly ?

One supposes it is easier to aim a piece of length 7.5-8.5 calibres vs. a piece of 3 calibres with mechanical aiming. The piece is longer, as is seen in the picture.
It is indeed as a pistol vs. a rifle or a fusil.

I am sorry, if I do not understand you.

- un ami

Kevin F Kiley20 Jul 2007 8:57 a.m. PST

Not a problem. The standard French artillery sight was the adjustable hausse which was attached to the breech. It was sturdy and remained during firing.

The Russians used a dioptre sight among others. They had to be removed before firing and attached again after.

I am a retired Marine Corps artilleryman. Sights are also called optics today and I sometimes use the term interchangeably. Technically, as the eye is used for both the older and newer types of sights, they are 'optics' but in reality the ones we use today are a form of telescope. Not so in the Napoleonic period, of course.


Graf Bretlach20 Jul 2007 1:38 p.m. PST

Sad Happy Sad please don't be, smile its the weekend! :¬)

Steven H Smith20 Jul 2007 2:10 p.m. PST

Behold the ego
Set in glowing emptiness
On the edge of time

By Noel Kaufmann


Defiant20 Jul 2007 7:45 p.m. PST

obviously you have nothing to boast about Steve ?

Malcolm21 Jul 2007 12:54 a.m. PST

Russian field artillery used two types of gunsights (called dioptre): Markevich type of 1802 and Kabanov type of 1811.
The latter was swinging so can take into account the earth elevation and it was removed before firing.
And I agree howitzers and unicorns are two different types of guns. Unicorns are better with cannister (almost as effective as cannons) and flat trajectories, but less usable as howitzers.
And Russian artillery was among the best in Europe. That was because of Arakcheev's work during Pavel and Alexander reigns. then artillery schools were established, also in 1808 "Artillery magazine". Most officers were educated in St-Petersburg Artillery and Engineer Cadet Corps (the best of russian cadet corps in that time).
So level of training were enough and I wouldn't equal russian gunners to french, but say they are second after them.
The main disadvantage of russian artillery was its use, not training.

Kevin F Kiley21 Jul 2007 4:12 a.m. PST

Russian artillery was not among the best in Europe during the period. The officers were not trained well and the troops were trained in their artillery batteries.

The French, British, and Austrian artillery arms were better, though I would have to say that because of Arakcheec and his reforms the Russian artillery arm was the most improved of the period among the main belligerents.

The Polish, Wurttemberg, and Bavarian artillery was probably better than the Russian artillery arm, and the artillery arm of the Kingdom of Italy was probably superior quality-wise to the Russians.

The Russians have always substituted quantity for quality. Bottom line, if the artillery officers are not well-educated and trained, and the Russians were not, then the quality of the arm suffers. There was no comparison between the technical and tactical education of the Russians and the British, French, and Austrians.


Malcolm21 Jul 2007 9:39 a.m. PST

Well, Have you any sources or agument supporting your statement?
Russian artillery weren't in good state before Pavel I when Arakcheev began his work on improving it. And first improvement was new system of training, when each number of gun crew has to perfect his own role. Also there were schools in Artillery battalions and soldier company in Artillery Cadet corps for NCOs training. In 1811 artillery recruit depots were created for training gunners.
74.4% artillery companies commanders were graduated from Cadet Corps (in Guard only 50% :-). In total 68-70%artillery officers had received proper 7-years education in different Cadet corps and other institutes.
So I think your statement isn't correct. Even Wilson state that russian gunners were good (and cossack artillery also)
For education of russian artillery officers look here Russian however, but there you can find extended list of almost all Russian artillery officers for 1812-1814)
And Russian 1805 system were quite equal to French Gribeauval.
So just don't follow the stereotype of awful and drunken Russian officers

Kevin F Kiley21 Jul 2007 10:14 a.m. PST


I didn't say anything about drunken Russians, officers or enlisted.

Check Wilson for the comments on the inferiority of Russian artillery officers.

There was also no Russian artillery school.

You can also check the Zhmodikovs' Tactics of the Russian Army of the Napoleonic Wars which was published by George Nafziger in two volumes a few years ago.

The Arakcheev system of 1805 was a great improvement, but the sights (optics) were inferior to the French as were the elevating mechanisms (copied from the Prussians and Russians and behind the elevating screw used by the British, French, and United States) and gun carriage design. That being said, the worst problem was employment which was remarked upon by General Sievers after the 1807 campaign. Russian artillery doctrine was poor, though it did slowly improve through the course of the wars.

If you want to check what General Sievers said, it's on page 200 of Artillery of the Napoleonic Wars 1792-1815


Widowson21 Jul 2007 10:43 a.m. PST

It seems like the original subject of Licorne fire has been passed over.

My personal opinion is that the licorne was similar in concept to the british shrapnel round. An exploding round fired on a flat trajectory. I would expect the licorne to be inferior to shrapnel, but it seems like that should be the starting point of the discussion.

Does any rule set out there treat British shrapnel rounds with a difference? Perhaps we should start there and then back into the licorne discussion.



Malcolm21 Jul 2007 11:37 a.m. PST

OK, let the drunken be drunken.
But there was Russian artillery school.
First one was established in 1712 and were addition to Artillery Regiment. That yere Engineer school was also established.
In 1758 they both were united and this united school in 1762 were transformed in Artillery and Engineer Cadet corps. In 1784 Soldier Company were added to it for NCOs training.
Also in 1775-1796 there was Gymnasium (later Corps) for foreign coreligionists. Most graduates were taught as artillery and engineer officers.
Also graduates from other military schools were sent to artillery units (1st Cadet corps, Gentry regiment, Page Corps etc)
So Russian artillery officers were properly educated and trained as most of them were graduated from this institutes
And Wilson wrote about Russian artillery (cite after MAA 096)"No other army moves with so many guns and with no other army is there a better state of equipment, or more gallantly served". And Wilson was very biased to Russians.
Gunsight were normal for the period and sometimes (Kabanov pattern of 1811) better then French (because they were removable and didn't suffer from firing) and elevation mechanism was a bit out of date but still very useful for handling. The main disadvantage of carriage was wooden axe, but it was also an advantage as it can be quickly replaced.
In 1805-1807 campaigns Russian artillery suffered mostly not from its officers but from its use by generals and old 18th century doctrine of regimental guns when in 1805 light artillery companies were divided between infantry battalions. And the whole organisation of army were quite poor (especially command and supply).
Also troops has little experience of being in action that time.
In 1808-1811 these problems were fixed in some parts but as it was written in 1811 in "Military magazine" by one artillery officer: "It's artillery officer's skill to operate guns and it's general's skill to place them"
So we need to divide tactical use of artillery and operating guns.
Unfortunately I haven't the books mentioned by you and my knowledge based on Viscovatov
Nilus link
and Krylov
(all in russian unfortunately)

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