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"Firefights: how long until decisive result usually?" Topic

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©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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Queen Catherine28 Nov 2016 11:29 a.m. PST

Anyone have any idea how long a firefight would last in the 7YW-AWI period, more or less.

Let's assume parity of size and skill, so 200 v. 200, 300 v. 300, etc.

How long did it take for someone to crack under the pressure if they were both standing in the open blazing away?

And what role did distance play?
I assume half as far would be twice as fast for a result. That sound right?

historygamer28 Nov 2016 11:49 a.m. PST

Braddock's forces stood for almost three hours while being attacked by the French and Indians. The answer you seeks depends on the circumstances.

vtsaogames28 Nov 2016 11:58 a.m. PST

At 100+ yards it might go on for some time. Below 50 yards I'd think it was over rather quickly.

Braddock's forces were being sniped at by the largely unseen enemy.

Battle of Hubbardton went on for a couple hours, with some attacks repulsed and others driving the defenders. So it had several firefights. One American soldier noted that he fired 20 rounds. Figure he fired them off in 10 – 20 minutes? And he was in at least two separate firefights, maybe three.

I don't think you can make a numeric formula, like twice as long if twice as far.

Plains of Abraham seems to have been pretty quick.

AICUSV28 Nov 2016 12:04 p.m. PST

Any man who tells he he stood up to a volley is a brave man. Any man who tells you he stood up to two volleys is a lier.

MajorB28 Nov 2016 12:11 p.m. PST

"Firefights: how long until decisive result usually?"

How long is a piece of string?

Generalstoner49 Supporting Member of TMP28 Nov 2016 12:29 p.m. PST

At the battle of Fontenoy the French line was shattered by a single volley followed by platoon fire. The French guards were shattered, the Swiss Guards retired and I believe another French brigade also retired.

I would imagine the effects of this were rather fast but the range was also less than 100 yards.

JasonAfrika Inactive Member28 Nov 2016 12:59 p.m. PST

Watch the battle scene from Barry Lyndon- apparently it is highly accurate in its representation of a meeting engagement. It's on Youtube

Queen Catherine28 Nov 2016 1:21 p.m. PST

When I say decisive result, I mean that one side or the other falls back a good 100-150 yards, truly giving ground. I assume that actual casualties were in the 10% range, many of whom were lightly wounded or just scared and ran off.

If that was all that they did, then I'd assume that this "decisive result" probably had 80-90% showing up for work the next day.

I'm not talking about a point blank firefight followed by being overrun by the Grenadier Guards and 5 support squadrons.

My assumption is that at the edge of Engagement Range, or 100y, two infantry regiments might blaze away for up to an hour before one retired in order or fall back involuntarily.

If one had more vim/vigor or pressing orders, I could see them closing to Effective Range or 50y and pressing the issue. Then one or the other would give ground, or a close range firefight might ensue that would be over faster than the 100y one with one regiment hastily decamping.

Yes, the Barry Lyndon scene is great. Maybe not the entire movie, but at least that scene.

Ottoathome28 Nov 2016 1:53 p.m. PST

Dear Queen Catherine


The Prince De Ligne said of stand up fire fights when one side was organized, not demoralized, had fresh flints, muskets, and order and their first volley. "Anyone who says he has stood for one such Volley is a hero. Anyone who says he has stood for a second is a liar."

On the other hand there are cases where such fire fights went on for over an hour. It all depends on so many things. Winterfeldt and others noted that when in combat the careful platoon fire of the drill field dissolved into a general rumbling fire of each man firing as fast as he could, or when he could gather up the courage and nerves to actuall stop trembling like a man with the palsy and load and fire his musket. Others not that most rounds ploughed into the ground before the enemy or went over their heads. Depends on how much ammunition you have. Depends on what the enemy is doing. DuPiq noted that the inclination of men to charge a formed enemy is practically nil. If the enemy is unsteady, turning around, looking to their rear, their determination to charge knows no bounds.

RudyNelson28 Nov 2016 4:10 p.m. PST

Hard to say but one thing to remember is that they ahd a limited amount of powder and shot to fight with. Most situational conflicts did not allow for resupply.

Sobieski28 Nov 2016 4:18 p.m. PST

The entire movie is first rate, imffho.

historygamer28 Nov 2016 5:08 p.m. PST

"How long is a piece of string?"

LOL that is classic. :-)

Queen Catherine – you seem to be fishing for a lot of information, but it doesn't seem like you've read much on the period. Can we suggest some books to you?

Bill N28 Nov 2016 5:40 p.m. PST

Is "it depends" an acceptable answer?

Queen Catherine28 Nov 2016 7:43 p.m. PST

Always happy for suggestions. As I'm adapting a set of generic H&M rules for AWI, I'm mostly trying to get down how far one can move, how much one can shoot, and what frontage one occupies.

This will help me set the parameters for what can happen in a generic "turn" of x minutes. Then I'll put in some dice action to make it less predictable.

But it helps to know what one can achieve on the battlefield. After all, isn't that something every re-enactor seeks to re-create?

So if a musket can be fired in battle twice a minute, and the soldiers is ill-supplied with only 20 rounds, we can expect about ten minutes of shooting. So it matters if a firefight lasts 5, 10, 20 or 30 minutes and at what range. Then one can get into resupply, or other battlefield events.

Honestly, there's a bunch of this data on the ACW in several books, from Nosworthy to Griffith, so answers like "it all depends" I can not only make up myself but imagine loads of factors that can impinge on a result. But if you actually KNOW SOMETHING then do go ahead an post, particularly if you've a few battlefield snippets from 7YW to AWI era that may be informative.

Personal logo Weasel Supporting Member of TMP28 Nov 2016 10:06 p.m. PST

I for one would love any book recommendations that deal with this sort of thing explicitly :-)

Martin Rapier29 Nov 2016 12:14 a.m. PST

I wouldn't overanalyse this, and there certainly isn't a linear relationship between range and effect (then or now).

You've already identified the critical ranges, close where a decision is reached very rapidly, and distant where firing is almost completely ineffective and merely serves to pin both sides in place.

You may wish to model some sort of long term exhaustion or a more depletion for the latter, or simply regard them as pinned until someone or something happens to change their state.

Counting cartridges and notional rates of fire is a route to frustration.

Green Tiger29 Nov 2016 3:18 a.m. PST

Try this:

Destructive and Formidable: British Infantry Firepower 1642 – 17653 by David John Blackmore

Only covers British forces.
Nosworthy and Griffiths also hav ebooks covering the eighteenth century. 'With Zeal and with Bayonets Only' covers AWI tactics…

historygamer29 Nov 2016 5:28 a.m. PST

"As I'm adapting a set of generic H&M rules for AWI, I'm mostly trying to get down how far one can move, how much one can shoot, and what frontage one occupies."

I'm not sure what H&M rules are? Why are you re-inventing the wheel when there are several good AWI rules sets out there already?

There are two ways to build a rules system – from the ground up (lots of details) or from the top down (has the right feel without getting bogged down in minutia). I think you need to consider your approach if you are starting from scratch. As I said, BG works well for us, and we (our group) are re-enactors.

Queen Catherine29 Nov 2016 9:10 a.m. PST

H&M = Horse and Musket

Don't know what BG is but if it's British Grenadier all I can say is that we playtested it and found it to be slow torture and unrealistically detailed with minutia.

If it's something else, you you've a recommendation for another set, do tell.

historygamer29 Nov 2016 11:21 a.m. PST

It is confusing as you are asking all kinds of very low level detail questions, then you state, "found it to be slow torture and unrealistically detailed with minutia."

Kind of conflicting points of view you are posting here. Those rules were written by an acknowledged expert on the period. We love the rules and feel they have the right balance between historical feel and playability.

Give your statement above then, I would again suggest Volley and Bayonet.

Personal logo Whirlwind Supporting Member of TMP29 Nov 2016 12:31 p.m. PST

How long did it take for someone to crack under the pressure if they were both standing in the open blazing away?

Clausewitz estimated that a Napoleonic soldier became exhausted after 20 minutes. Fuller reckoned that an ancient warrior became exhausted after 15 minutes of close combat. 20 minutes shooting would exhaust a typical Napoleonic personal ammunition load. The firefight at Albuera, which is pretty close to a high-morale/equal skill continuous firefight lasted about 20 minutes or so.

So if you need a "top-end" time, I'd go for 20 minutes. If it lasts longer than that, then the range is probably sufficiently high for the fire to be ineffective.

Major Bloodnok29 Nov 2016 5:32 p.m. PST

The Duke of Wellington is quoted as saying that if the troops were not kept in hand they would fire off their 60 rounds in an hour. I remember reading a quote from a soldier at Culloden who sounded surprised that he fired as many as nine rounds.

Queen Catherine29 Nov 2016 6:21 p.m. PST

Whirlwind, thanks for an answer.

speaking of fatigue, I would venture to guess that our re-enactors would be familiar with how fatiguing it is to fire off 10-20 rounds or more.

Having shot in high-power rifle competitions as a kid, I can say that I found the recoil to be pretty fatiguing, if not outright bruising, to the shoulder. And that's with padded garments.

I have a copy of Nosworthy, will have to check out what it says about firefights, if anything. The AWI Encyclopedia had some great info but not on timing.

Virginia Tory30 Nov 2016 2:56 a.m. PST

I've fired about 60 live rounds from my Bess as part of a shooting competition (years ago, now). Live fire is far more fatiguing than firing blanks.

Plus, nobody is actually trying to kill you (usually) in either case.

As noted by others, you have to look at firefights in context. Some could be extended, others not. For example, the firing at the first line during Guilford Courthouse was over very quickly. The fighting at the second line took longer.

Royal Marine04 Dec 2016 12:33 p.m. PST
Queen Catherine05 Dec 2016 5:41 a.m. PST

@ royal marine
don't see how the link answers OP – am I missing something or did you just make a mistake?

@ Virginia Tory
yeah, well I've set the context. Parity of units and skill and numbers; the only thing I didn't put into place was range.

Not getting much in the way of answers, so have been checking out Duffy and Nosworthy.

Virginia Tory05 Dec 2016 8:19 a.m. PST

"@ Virginia Tory
yeah, well I've set the context. Parity of units and skill and numbers; the only thing I didn't put into place was range."

Assuming parity of skill, it could be over within a few volleys, say 10 or 15 minutes (see Spring's _Zeal and Bayonets Only_ for a discussion of this).

Range would obviously be a huge factor--long range fire tended not to hit much.

At Freeman's Far, the British stood for 4 hours trading fire and bayonet charges with Poor and Learned's Continentals, who appeared, engaged, then fell back (or were chased back) so it's not like it was a constant fire over that time.

BG actually models this sort of thing extremely well.

Queen Catherine07 Dec 2016 11:51 a.m. PST

I just got my copy of "Zeal" today – looks interesting.

As a flintlock musket should be good for an average of 2 rounds a minute under field conditions, 10 minutes would be 20 rounds per man. With 100 men [v. 100 men] that's 2000 rounds:
5% hit rate = 100 hits.
1% hit rate, that's 20 hits.
0.4% hit rate = 8 hits [Michno]
0.2% hit rate = 4 hits [Guibert]

My thought is that at effective range, less than 50y or 65 paces, only a volley or two would be needed for a decision. At long ranges over 100y, you get a huge drop in hits and then the firefights rage for a long time.

I'd like to get a better feel for the timespan, however.

Supercilius Maximus Supporting Member of TMP07 Dec 2016 12:09 p.m. PST

I seem to recall that, on the opening day of the AWI, it took an estimated 200 rounds from the Militia to inflict each of the 300 casualties suffered by the Regulars.

Queen Catherine07 Dec 2016 6:47 p.m. PST

yeah, that's what is mentioned by Duffy in The Military Experience in the Age of Reason. It's about 1/200 ish in a battle. However, that ratio doesn't give us the specific that most of the casualties are probably from the few closer-range firefights.

It may be more accurate to say that there were a few firefights in the 1/50 to 1/100 range, and many firefights in the 1/400 range, and the average in a battle is 1/200.

So for game purposes, the challenge would seem to be to reflect that it isn't easy to get the soldiers into that decisive range and challenge the enemy at 50-75 paces. There's a lot more shooting at engagement range of 150-250 paces or so.

The feel one gets from reading the various books here mentioned is that a battle plan would have most infantry hanging out at engagement range, and a few committed to a decisive point, there to drive in to a higher % hit firefight and possibly bayonet charge, resulting in significantly higher casualties.

The vast majority of wargames I've played let players do as they please, driving the soldiers forward like sheeps to the slaughter whenever. I'd say a mechanic would be needed to provoke an advance into that killing ground, then let the casualty checks take it from there.

From this it may also be inferred that the length of a firefight was usually until one side felt it had taken quite enough damage. Perhaps in game terms that might be when it's morale is at 50% or lower, which may be 10-15% casualties or even less, but the short amount of time for them to occur make it seem pretty intense.

Osterreicher08 Dec 2016 11:13 a.m. PST

This discussion is very interesting, and for my forthcoming rules re-write, I divide infantry combat into three zones: 1) under 100m, 100-200m, & 200-300m. Each has a different lethality and challenge. Long range is ineffective, but both sides have some challenges to move the infantry forward after getting troops involved in a long range shooting match. The middle zone has some lethality, but results are not decisive for the loser usually. And the close zone (both close range fire fights and/or a change) is risky, and much more decisive for the loser. Moving units to the closer zones requires an action and a roll to regain full command of the units.

My own experience with muskets from this era is that they are in theory actually accurate out to 100-200 and very accurate at 25 – 50m. However, this is only true when no one is firing at you, you have modern black powder consistent FF grain, no one is knocking into you, no one is dying next to you, etc. Getting 3 ranks to deliver an effective volley would be difficult in the best circumstances, and maybe only happen on the initial volley. (this is perhaps why the British under Wellington attempted to deliver a solid volley at close range and follow this up with an immediate charge.)

Once units were at 50m my own take would be that it would last only a very short time (perhaps 1-4 volleys) before a until started to waver and break up a bit, and fall back is some disorder. Great discussion!

Major Bloodnok09 Dec 2016 7:10 a.m. PST

While a soldier was being trained to fire two, if not three rounds a minute, how long could he keep it up? How long does his officers want him to keep it up if his full compliment of ammo. is fifty six rounds, and you've used a third of it in the first ten minutes?

An enemy force is advancing on your position with the intent to push you off it at bayonet point. Your first fire is at fifty yards, and they keep coming. How much time does it take to charge fifty yards (half a US football field)? How many rounds are you, and your mates going to "squeeze off" in that time, with misfires etc.?

historygamer09 Dec 2016 9:58 a.m. PST

I'm going to post some excerpts from a great new book that has some info, related to this thread, that will surprise many.

historygamer09 Dec 2016 10:01 a.m. PST

"My own experience with muskets from this era is that they are in theory actually accurate out to 100-200 and very accurate at 25 – 50m."

Not sure what kind of musket you have, but the rest of us have very inaccurate muskets at 100 and 200 yards (forget about it). 300 yard you would have to elevate the musket so high you would be looking at clouds.

Osterreicher09 Dec 2016 2:09 p.m. PST

I've used a number of muskets: Brown Bess, Charleville, Springfield 1861, Richmond 1862. Shooting with the Brown Bess and the Charleville, I've used both military loads and recreational loads (which is lower than a military load of the day). Additionally, you can aim the musket just fine, and grouping at 25m or 50m is not difficult. Avoid the Flintlock flinch.

I shot rolled historically accurate cartridges (some with military load of FF and some at lower target shooting loads), rather than patched balls, e.g., a .662 for the .69 Charleville and .69 for the .75 Brown Bess. Reaching to 100m – 200m as I said is still doable with some experience. The ball won't drop as much as you are making it out (depends on load). If you patch the ball, you can shoot very well with some practice.

The (in my view inaccurate) literature is full of examples showing how the ball bounces around in the barrel and showing no real accuracy in a musket. But I would contest this view for pure shooting range accuracy.

However, my point was, despite the ability to shoot well or not, in formation even the best would find it difficult to volley well, with the smoke, noise, being bumped, men dying around you, the enemy shooting back, misfires, etc.

This is not to say that a volley at 200m would be profoundly destructive – probably, few would be hit for each volley, for the reasons I just mentioned. But a volley at 25m or 50m could be very destructive if the unit was relatively fresh, was fully loaded, had good fire discipline, good NCOs, not too much smoke, etc. A good volley at 25m-50m would most likely cause the unit to waver or worse. Of course getting a fresh unit to 25m was not easy.

Please do post from this new book you mentioned, would love to see what they say.

crogge1757 Supporting Member of TMP10 Dec 2016 6:13 a.m. PST

I think calculating firefights with an average performance of two rounds fired in a minute is far too optimistic. It should be far less to my understanding.
I recall the Austrian staff officer Cogniazzo (of IR2) commenting on the Austrian firings just before the SYW. He mentioned that the fire by divisions (4 to a battalion) was found rather impracticable because the intervals between the firings were too short. You could hope at best to fire through twice this way without leaving the men exhausted in a few minutes. A well trained Prussian battalion executing fire by platoons (8 firings) got out a platoon salvo at a rate of between 10 to 14 seconds. Thats 1 round in every 80 to 140 seconds. So, you are well below 1 round a minute when conducting ordered fire.
When firing at will after the collapse of fire discipline for whatever reason, I doubt the men would shoot at a much higher rate in most situations. If you calculate with an average 1 round fired in 2 minutes, I believe, we are much closer to reality.
I would also assume, most fire fights in open terrain were decided at distances well over a 100 paces. At least in Europe with so many more guns spitting canister.
The Prussian Berenhorst (SYW veteran) sais that he has talked to many 7YW veteran officers that had been present in many actions, who assured him that on no occasion they ever got closer to the enemy then 150 paces. The issue was won or lost before getting closer. Of course, in terrain with limited LOS (vegetation, hill tops, build-up areas) the situation was different. In those rare events when you actually exchanged fire at less then a 100 paces, I believe, the issue was decided within a few minutes if not seconds.

Well, thats at least how I see it.


Chad4710 Dec 2016 6:50 a.m. PST

A friend of mine in a Napoleonic re-enactment group says that after a few rounds the barrels become so hot and the weight of the musket so tiring that sustained fire for any length of time is not achievable

von Winterfeldt13 Dec 2016 6:07 a.m. PST

barrels become hot, true, a fool whose touching them when loading, you don't have to do it.
Loading and firing a musket is tiring indeed, but fire fights could last for hours, a cartridge box had about 60 cartridges, that would do it for a fire fight and I am positive that a trained musketeer instead of an unfit re-enactor could fire them.

Why don't we listen to what contemporaries or nearly contemporaries have to say on this :

The soldiers has a strong tendency to fire much and quickly, and when a so called Placker Feuer (fire at will) is established, so it is very difficult to stop this. The unit is unable to get an impulse for a decisive move and the commander has to wait for a chance by random. The fire at will, or the Bataillenfeuer (feux de bataille) where each soldier is shooting as soon as he has loaded is therefore to used with care and the fire according to commands will be mostly advantageous.
(Valentini, page 66)

An old Prussian Officer writes about the Prussians in the 7YW :

One started to fire with pelotons, two, three fired well, but then a common burning started and the usual fire where each who finished loading pulls the trigger, files and ranks are intermingling, the front rank is not even able to kneel down, even if they intended to, and the officers from below up to the generals cannot do anything any longer with this mass, but have to wait till they will move forward or backwards.
(Jany, page 47)

Gaudi, another eye witness writes about the Prussians of the 7YW :

Who will think back will have difficulties to remember that in a battle or action to have witnessed that at firing the first rank will have knelt down or did do this constantly, despite such a thing happens constantly on the drill ground, but they kept standing as the rear ranks. There one witnessed this at those troops who rightly were classed as being the best taught and disciplined, so the thought to kneel down in action must be un natural.
(Jany, page 47)

Tempelhoff another veteran writes :

The Bataillenfeuer (feux de bataille) as the fire at will was typically was called replaced in the hitherto battle in the end the drilled art. Then everybody fired who could fire and wanted to and everybody as often as he was capable without giving a damn about his neighbour or front man.
(Jany page 46 / 47)

Ein Veteran des Siebenjährigen Krieges , General v. Tempelhoff, bemerkt darüber : „Man feuert in einer Schlacht ganz anders als auf dem Exerzierplatz; denn die anrückende Infanterie fängt trotz allem dem, was man auf dem Exerzierplatze gelehrt und eingeprägt wird, oft schon auf 800 Schritt vom Feinde an zu feuern; doch wenigstens auf 600. Gewöhnlich glaubt man, daß ein solches Feuer nichts thut, allein hierin irrt man sich. Eine Kugel aus dem kleinen Gewehr tödet oder verwundet einen Mann, wenn sie nur trifft, ebenso gut, sie mag aus in einem Bogen oder horizontal abgeschossen werden.
(Jany, p. 38/39 (Gedanken des Generals v. Tempelhoff vom 11. April 1802, Beilage 13 zu Band II der Massenbachschen Memoiren, Amsterdamm 1809, S. 504)

A veteran of the 7YW, General v. Tempelhoff notices about (range of firing and hitting HCvW) ; "One is firing total differently in a battle than on the drill ground, despite what was learned and taught on the drill ground – the advancing infantry often opens fire at 800 paces distance from the enemy – at least however at 600. Usually it is believed that such a fire is useless, however this is an error. A small arms ball kills or wounded a man as long as it hits regardless of being short in an arc or horizontally.
(Jany, p. 38/39 (Gedanken des Generals v. Tempelhoff vom 11. April 1802, Beilage 13 zu Band II der Massenbachschen Memoiren, Amsterdamm 1809, S. 504)

Noise another factor to brake down even the best troops because they cannot hear commands any longer, about the clash at Baumersdorf (battle of Wagram)

One was exchanging fire at closest range. The immense noise of the continuous banging and even more the iron noise produced by handling more than 20,000 muskets in such closeness and density surpassed all imagination. Everything even the thunder of the numerous guns seemed to be low compared against the tempest of the so called little gun (Kleingewehr)
(Jany, page 46)

A British officer wrote about the 1st Foots Guards at Dettingen,

They were under no command by way of Hide Park firing, but the whole three ranks made a running fire of their own accord. … The French fired the same manner, without waiting for words of command and Lord Sinclair [the allied commander] did often say he had never seen many a battle, and never saw the infantry engage in any other manner."
Muir page 77

As to the rate of fire – the longer the fire fight, the more it would decrease, flints would blunt and needed to be changed (immagine to do that in rank and file) – touch holes would clog, barrels fouling – the stress of combat – all very much different to drill ground circumstances

von Winterfeldt13 Dec 2016 6:37 a.m. PST

in my opinion two good photos who show under what circumstances an infantry soldier had to fire his musket, please note the flashes of the pan



von Winterfeldt13 Dec 2016 6:46 a.m. PST

"Not sure what kind of musket you have, but the rest of us have very inaccurate muskets at 100 and 200 yards (forget about it). 300 yard you would have to elevate the musket so high you would be looking at clouds."

Please check the results of the Scharnhort shooting trails conducted between 1800 and 1810 – you will learn at what elevation they had to point at various distances, certainly not into the clouds.


"1816 – Regulation of 1791

The horizontal range of the infantry firelock, with an ordinary charge, is more or less 120 toises, and at the angle of about 45 degrees, that gives the greatest range it may just go 500 toises; but beyond 120 toises all shots are unreliable, and it is at about 70 toises that the fire of infantry is most formidable: all the shots fired beyond 120 toises have very little effect, producing sheer wasteful consumption of valuable stock and making our weapons less formidable to the enemy. It is therefore of the utmost importance to train the soldiers by shooting at a target; and to fulfil the purpose which is proposed one should have them fire from different distances, to the head and above it (l), and lastly to always strike the enemy in the chest. One should for short distances up to 50 toises aim directly at the centre of the body; from 50 toises until 70 toises at the height of the shoulders, from 70 to 100 at the height of the head and from 100 to 200 from 1 to 2 pieds above the head.

A toise is about a bit less then 2 m.

1 Toise = 6 Fuß == 1,949 m

"Scharnhorstscher Schießversuch – Hintergrundinformationen
§. 4.
Hitting of the 6 Fuß (1.88 m) high and 100 Fuß (31.38 m) wide wall on even ground.

These here presented trials took place against a wall of 1 Zoll (2.615 cm) thick boards of pine wood at on overgrown (with weeds) ground, which consisted mainly of sand.
10 infantrymen were used for such a trial, who stood side by side in one rank and fired as longs as it took them for delivering 20 shots. The time needed for each of one of them for those 20 shots, was very different, the fastest shooter never undercut 7.5 minutes the slowest needed 13 to 14 minutes. Generally one can consider that in one minute 2 to 2.5 shots occurred.
The aiming point on the wall was for Prussian and French guns, at 100 Schritt (73.22 m) distance 3 (99,14 cm) and for English, Swedish and Russian guns 1 Fuß (31.38 cm) high.
Did one use for the aiming point 3 Fuß (99.14 cm) for the later ones, a lot of balls went over the wall.
The aiming point for all the guns was the middle of the wall, that is a height of 3 Fuß (99.14 cm) when shooting at 200 Schritt (146.22 m). Only guns with a straight butt were pointed horizontally , without aiming.
The aiming point for all guns was 5 Fuß (1,569 m) high at 300 Schritt (219.66 m). It was also aimed, with great effort with guns of straight butt at 300 (219.66 m) and 400 Schritte (292.88 m).
The aiming point used for shooting at 400 (292.88 m), 500 (366.1 m) and at 600 Schritte (439.2 m) was bayonet height, or breast height for cavalry, that is 7 Fuß (2.19 m), that is 1 Fuß (31.88 cm) over the wall."

Of course – when you look at Prussian instructions where to point there guns when firing – you will learn that they were taught to aim rather low than high – to counter the habit of high firing by pulling the musket down as soon as they had pulled the trigger to enable a high rate of fire

historygamer13 Dec 2016 7:09 a.m. PST

So can you point to a battle in the AWI where fire was opened at 200 or 300 yards?

von Winterfeldt13 Dec 2016 10:56 a.m. PST

My answer was related to 7YW and later – not to AWI

still the muskets were more or less the same, ballistics, rate of fire, hitting power.

Note also – Tempelhoff speaks about opening fire, at about 600 to 800 paces – that doesn't necessarily mean – that it was restricted to that distance, as infantry could advance further before it stopped.
He also notes that casualties were inflicted at that distance.

grtbrt14 Dec 2016 5:00 p.m. PST

Not to be a stickler ,
But in your quote Tempelhoff does NOT say that casualties were inflicted , only that they can be IF someone is hit . (True at any range and conversely fire at 10 yards does not inflict casualties if it registers no hits .)
There is a big difference

Actually there are significant difference in muskets even during the same time period -caliber,weight,length ,where the flints were from , etc..- all go into making guns behave differently. .

thehawk15 Dec 2016 5:58 a.m. PST

I agree with the previous post about differences in muskets. There were also tactical differences. With a sample size of 500 or so soldiers even a small difference in hit efficiency or firing rates could have a significant impact.

Another weakness in wargames is the way casualties are scored across the whole unit. In reality I think causing something like a break in the line would be more important. Soldiers are only concerned about what happens around them. If one part of the line faltered then the whole lot might decide to run for it.

von Winterfeldt15 Dec 2016 7:28 a.m. PST

Again Tempelhoff

"A veteran of the 7YW, General v. Tempelhoff notices about (range of firing and hitting HCvW) ; "One is firing total differently in a battle than on the drill ground, despite what was learned and taught on the drill ground – the advancing infantry often opens fire at 800 paces distance from the enemy – at least however at 600. Usually it is believed that such a fire is useless, however this is an error. A small arms ball kills or wounded a man as long as it hits regardless of being short in an arc or horizontally.
(Jany, p. 38/39 (Gedanken des Generals v. Tempelhoff vom 11. April 1802, Beilage 13 zu Band II der Massenbachschen Memoiren, Amsterdamm 1809, S. 504)"

He clearly states, that infantry opened fire at a much longer distance than immagined, I stress immagined much worse today than then, because our minds are corrupted by Hollywood films.

Of course Tempelhoff says that casualties were inflicted he even stresses the observation by saying that it is irrelvant if the target is hit by a straight or point blank shot – or a "bow" shot (indicating long distances) – of course one would have to hit, but hit they did – otherwise why to make such a comment?

Especially by overshooting – it was sometimes safer to be directly close to the enemmy than being in the second supporting line – which were hit by bow shoots due to pointing errors (pulling the trigger and bringing the musket down to the side without waiting that the shoot is fully out of the barrel) of the infanry firing.

On average guns will behave identical, taking into account a whole battalion – though each musket – as each soldier – is an individual – a statistical average performance will be achieved.

What I take from Tempelhoff – and I won't ignore him.

In battle infantry is firing differently than on the drill ground.

Infantry will open fire at longer range – than it is usually immagined – 800 paces or at leat 600 paces.

Fire at those distances is not without effect and is able to inflict casualtiey.

other aspects from veterans and people who did fight in the 7YW are

fire discipline brakes down very quickly
first rank is not kneeling any longer, or stays knelt.
when starting to fire – infantry gets out of hand of officers until cartridge boxes are empty.

Weakness in wargames is – in my view – ignoring totaley the experience of soldiers who fought in the 7YW.

If one part of the line falters – where can it run to? Behind them is the second battle line in unbroken order, in 7YW is was crucial not to get the whole battle line broken – for that reason put the best units in the first battle line.

grtbrt15 Dec 2016 10:42 a.m. PST

"A small arms ball kills or wounded a man as long as it hits regardless of being short in an arc or horizontally."
This is from the quote you use .
Just where does it state that at that range hits are inflicted?
People make many statements that are not necessarily true or accurate -why would a self promoting military individual be any different ?
Actually – On average all muskets do not perform identically -quite the contrary . Referring back to what you posted -The tests involved Prussian and French and other muskets . If they performed identically why do that ??
If they performed identically why have a different aiming point ?
Why was the time needed for those 20 shots so different ? The muskets were different !!!

I am not saying ignore him -just don't take 1 writer and accept their word as gospel .Especially when the date of his writings (as given by you -in his thoughts of 1802)are 40 years after the fact . Lots of time to remember things as he preferred. I would tend to take anyone recalling everyday things from 40 years ago with a grain of salt .

Bill N15 Dec 2016 1:44 p.m. PST

I have no doubt there were instances of individuals being killed at ranges in excess of 200 yards by shots from smooth bore muskets. I will also accept there were realistic tactical reasons for musket armed troops to open fire at ranges in excess of 200 yards. What I find difficult to accept is the argument that commanders would open fire at such long ranges with a reasonable expectation that such fire would result in significant casualties being inflicted on their opponents.

I have seen studies showing how accurate muskets could be on ranges. On the battlefield though instances where a volley inflicted 10% casualties are relatively rare. At longer ranges I suspect the number of instances where volleys from smooth bore muskets caused even 1% casualties are rarer still.

Queen Catherine15 Dec 2016 3:03 p.m. PST

Wow, great posts, and I'm really REALLY R-E-A-L-L-Y thankful that people who know more than I have chosen to post.

Another variable that is worth introducing, is "what are the orders under which the battalion / regiment / division / company / platoon / whatever is operating?

Were they just told to go and keep the enemy busy? Or were they told to "take that hill, I don't give a damn how many of you die"? obviously, these are two extremes.

I'm reading about the skirmishes at Whitemarsh during Dec. 1777. To engage but not bring about a decisive result, Washington sent forward 600 militia at one point against the British on Edgehill, and the Maryland militia under Gist with Morgan's Riflemen at another point, again several hundred men. In both cases their orders seem to have been "engage the enemy, keep him busy, let him know you're there" but there was no decisive push. As the terrain was heavy, there was about 200-300 casualties and prisoners altogether on both sides. So out of the forces engaged, about 10,000 for the armies and probably abotu 2,000 total committed on each side, there were 200 Rebel and 120 British casualties, about 5-10%.

This is a totally different scenario than marching up Breed's hill to take an entrenchment. The Rebels had about 2500 engaged and took about 500 casualties. The British had about 3000 engaged and took about 1000 casualties, including 226 killed and 828 wounded, or about 10-35%.

So given the tactical situations and orders of each side in each fight, one an engagement battle and one a decisive battle, the casualties over a lengthy period of time were quite different, mainly because of the commitment to a decision on Breeds Hill v. an engagement of the enemy on Edgehill.

Certainly worth including in a gaming situation. Perhaps the orders of the units should reflect and modify their ability to handle casualties?

Major Bloodnok16 Dec 2016 5:10 a.m. PST

No one expects to hit anyone at 200yds (Major Hanger's remark about shooting at the moon and expecting the same result spings to mind), however some nations did start firing at that distance hoping to make the enemy "windy" and who knows maybe some might get hit after all. Then by the time they get into effective range they may be in a highly nervous state. Of course this all depends on how well trained, motivated, and experienced the enemy is.

von Winterfeldt16 Dec 2016 6:00 a.m. PST

Hits with the Old Prussian musket at 400 Prussian paces =
292,8 m –

21 %

penetration of the wooden target

11.5 %

much better results than shooting at the moon.

Regimental Report of the Saxon regiment von Low 1806

"„Am Tage der Bataille, als am 14ten Oktober, wurde das Bataillon gegen 3 Uhr Nachmittags durch Annäherung der französischen Kolonne mit Angriff bedrohet und einige Tirailleurs schossen gegen 500 Schritt 2 Unteroffiziere von meinem Fahnen Peleton tot.""

At the day of the battle, the 14th of October, the battalion came under threat of being attacked by approaching of the French columns and some skirmishers shoot at about 500 paces and killed two NCOs of my colour section.

But it is not necessarily to inflict huge casualties but to brake the morale of the enemy or make him react to ones own intentions.

Kleßmann (editor) : Deutschland unter Napoleon in Augenzeugenberichten, pocket book edition, München 1976
Leutnant von Borcke (Koprs Rüchel, 14. Oktober 1806) berichtet

„Dagegen erreichten uns in einer sehr großen Entfernung schon die Kugeln der feindlichen Tirailleurs, die in dem vorliegenden Feldgestrüpp und hinter einzelnen Deckungen, ohne daß wir sie sahen, so vortrefflich aufgestellt waren, daß uns Unkundigen die Kugeln aus der Luft zu kommen schienen. So beschossen zu werden, ohne den Feind zu sehen, machte auf unsere Soldaten einen üblen Eindruck, denn, unbekannt mit dieser Art des Gefechts, verloren sie zu ihren Gewehren das Vertrauen und fühlten die Überlegenheit das Feindes sofort. Sie büßten daher in dieser ohnehin schon bedenklichen Lage schnell an Mut, Ausdauer und Ruhe ein und konnten die Zeit nicht abwarten, wo sie selbst zum Schießen kamen, was sich bald zu unseren Nachteil zeigte.
S. 136
However (before that he noticed that the enemy artillery was overshooting them) the bullets of enemy tirailleurs reached us from a very big distance, who were placed with advantage in the field brushes and single cover before us, so that we couldn't see them, that for us ignorants it seemed that the bullets come out of the air. To be under such a fire, without seeing the enemy made a bad impression at our soldiers, because – ignorant with that kind of fighting, they lost trust in their own guns and felt immediately the superiority of the enemy. The suffered quickly therefore, in this by all means bad situation in courage, endurance and composure und couldn't wait the time to also start shooting, which soon showed to be of our disadvantage.
p. 136


"Jany, Curt : Die Gefechtsausbildung der Preußischen Infanterie von 1806. Mit einer Auswahl von Gefechtsberichten.
Urkundliche Beiträge und Forschungen zur Geschichte des Preußischen Heeres.
Herausgegeben vom Großen Generalstabe, Kriegsgeschichtliche Abtheilung II.
Fünftes Heft
Berlin 1903
18. Ein Preußischer Jägeroffizier Leutnant von Seydlitz, später Yorks Adjutant und bekannt als Herausgeber des Tagebuchs des Yorkschen Korps von 1812, berichtet 1808 das „die französischen Tirailleurs schon auf 1600 Schritt blessierten." Ferner : „Die Belagerung von Danzig giebt als Beispiel, daß Jäger ohne Bajonett eine Schanze weggenommen und keine Blessierten hatten, und ihe Repli, Linieninfanterie mit Bajonett, was 1500 Schritt hinter ihnen stand, dazu eine Menge hatte." (…)
S. 103

translation of the last part of the above : The siege of Danzig provides the example that Jäger without bayonet – took a redoubt and had no wounded while their support, infantry with bayonets, which was standing behind theam at 1500 paces had a lot of them.

the suisse officer Legler against a battle in Russia 1812

"Wir deployirten darauf unsere Massen und begrüssten die rasch anmarschirende feindliche Infanterie aufs Beste mit einem wohl unterhaltenen Rottenfeuer, so dass sie auf 7 — 800 Schritte vor uns doch stehen blieb.

Legler, p.28

We depolyed our mass (in this context closed column) and greeted the advancing enemy enemy with the best with a well nourished fire of files, so that they eventually stopped 7 – 800 paces in front of us.

It was usually agreed that the soldier was prone to fire much and quickly and that he wanted to overtake the enemy in opening firing.

In cantrast to Major Hanger – these quotes clearly proove that there was an effect over 200 yards – and casualties were inflicted, the smoothbore musket had the potential to hit well at about 300 yards (under test conditions, in battle this would be reduced dramatically).

But there were tactical, disciplinary and morale issues to open fire at longer distance compared to the usual theoretical and military philosophical writings would allow.

Crogges observation fits well into the picture

"The Prussian Berenhorst (SYW veteran) sais that he has talked to many 7YW veteran officers that had been present in many actions, who assured him that on no occasion they ever got closer to the enemy then 150 paces. "

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