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"Artillery and ammunition resupply" Topic

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Ravenfeeder19 Apr 2015 3:33 a.m. PST

I've read in various places the quantity of ammunition supplied to artillery batteries but have a couple of questions.
1) Was all this carried with the battery itself or were ammunition wagons stationed further back and the powder/shot only brought up on demand?
2) Was there any resupply from further back?

Personal logo Artilleryman Supporting Member of TMP19 Apr 2015 4:12 a.m. PST

It varied from country to country but the systems were similar. Within a battery there would be ready ammunition held on the limbers. This would be for immediate use if pushed but would be left if possible and immediately replenished. Then there would be the caissons and ammunition wagons which would actually be the main source of ammunition with gun numbers moving backwards and forwards bringing rounds to the guns (sometimes using large leather or canvas satchels to do so). Outside the battery there would be an ammunition/artillery park at formation level, usually corps or division, from which caissons and ammunition wagons would move forward to replenish the batteries as required. As I said the details varied from army to army and you need to check on the individual organisations to see how they followed these principles. This flow of ammunition was one of the key responsibilities of an artillery commander and getting it wrong could be disastrous for the result of a battle.

Personal logo ochoin Supporting Member of TMP19 Apr 2015 4:45 a.m. PST

It should be said it was relatively rare for armies to run out of artillery ammunition in The Napoleonic era.
I'm sure someone more knowledgeable than me (pretty well everyone!) will be along to list the battles in which the guns were silenced.

At Wagram & Borodino, the French fired in excess of 90 000 rounds & had no problems. This speaks well for their supply system.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP19 Apr 2015 4:47 a.m. PST

Artilleryman is correct. And the flow of ammunition was forward, and not having the artillery companies/batteries withdraw to be resupplied. That developed over the period.

The French artillery ammunition resupply system is illustrative of the period.

The number of ammunition caissons assigned to an artillery company depended on the caliber the company was equipped with.

12-pounders and howitzers had five each; 6- and 8-punders had three each, and 4-pounders had two.

The basic issue of rounds per piece was 350. Additionally, each foot artillery company assigned to an infantry division had four extra caissons with musket cartridges. Those would move up to the infantry to replenish after a fight.

The gun companies traveled with one caisson per piece, the others would be with the parcs and would move forward to replenish ammunition and the empty caissons would go to the rear to replenish.

The gun crews would place the coffret (trail ammunition box) on the limber when going into action and that is where the ready use ammunition was used for firing. The coffrets would be refilled from the caisson assigned to the piece.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP19 Apr 2015 4:49 a.m. PST

The French came close to running out of artillery ammunition after the unusually heavy expenditure on the first day of Leipzig. And the reason for this was that the French trains were cut off from the army at Eilenberg. This was one of the main reasons why Napoleon decided to withdraw.

Still, though, they didn't run out of artillery ammunition.

The Grande Armee might go hungry, but they didn't run out of ammunition, and as Ochoin stated, that speaks well for their resupply and logistic system.

Jcfrog Supporting Member of TMP19 Apr 2015 5:41 a.m. PST

Well, they might often not run out, but to achieve it, save. Which in game terms should have an impact.

rmaker19 Apr 2015 10:57 a.m. PST

In Mercer's Journal of the Waterloo Campaign, he states that he sent his senior sergeant back to the park with the caissons either two or three times for resupply. And the last time he told him not to bring back anything but canister.

John Miller22 Apr 2015 10:32 a.m. PST

Brechtel198 & Ravenfeeder: Hoping you guys won't be offended if I digress from the topic drastically but can I assume that the above was not true in the ACW. The reason I bring it up is because of the references to Union artillery moving off the battleline just preceeding Pickett's charge due, IIRC, to having expended their ammunition. Thank you, John Miller

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