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"Effects of massed small arms (muskets) on ACW ships?" Topic


17 Posts

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1,071 hits since 25 Dec 2016
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Comments or corrections?

The G Dog Fezian Inactive Member25 Dec 2016 10:09 a.m. PST

Like the title says, wondering about the effects of small arms fire against warships. For example say a company or regiment of infantry are firing at a ship. Would it have appreciable effect?

An ironclad – likely not – but maybe the smokestacks if not armored?
A tinclad – would the non-armored parts like the wheelhouses and cabins take enough damage to have an effect on the structure?

An unarmored vessel? Same as above, but with more chance of crew casualties?

I assume that unprotected deck gun crews would be subject to losses.

Looking forward to your thoughts.

Personal logo Dye4minis Supporting Member of TMP25 Dec 2016 10:14 a.m. PST

Look at the Red River Campaign. There is an instance of a Union gunboat surrendering to a Confederate cavary formation due to such gunfire as the boat was hung up on a low spot and could not dislodge itself.

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP25 Dec 2016 10:52 a.m. PST

Unless you catch a ship that is "stuck" I'd say no real effect other than crew casualties.

Personal logo David Manley Supporting Member of TMP25 Dec 2016 11:04 a.m. PST

There is evidence indicating that the Hunley was sunk by a single musket shot from a sharpshooter on the Housatonic

Vigilant25 Dec 2016 11:46 a.m. PST

Much would depend on the range and the quality of the weapon, early muzzle loaders would not have much effect on structures unless pretty close. Later better weapons might have more impact on wooden ships. If nothing else they would keep the crew's heads down.

Rev Zoom25 Dec 2016 12:02 p.m. PST

Excuse me, David. While I respect your knowledge in many nautical areas, on this one about the Hunley you are absolutely wrong. There is no such evidence as you state. While the scientists examining Hunley do know what caused her to sink, it was not a sharpshooters bullet as the uncovering of the hull revealed the hull was beached after she sank. The men did not likely die by drowning but by asphyxiation.

Personal logo David Manley Supporting Member of TMP25 Dec 2016 12:25 p.m. PST

I can only go by what I was told during a presentation in Atlanta in 2013 by the chief archaeologist of the restoration project. If later analysis has shown that the sharpshooter's bullet that was stated to have shot out one of the viewing ports did not lead to the sinking then fair enough (as I recall the port and bullet were located inside the hull). I believe there was a theory at the time that shock from the detonation of the spare torpedo rendered the crew unconscious or at least incapacitated and so unable to respond to the incoming water through the missing port. If you search on Google and others there is a photo from the bow showing one port in place, the other missing. Interesting to know where the Hunley beached though, is it supposed that she floated off later and then sank?

TGerritsen Supporting Member of TMP25 Dec 2016 1:13 p.m. PST

Here's an article mentioning the sharpeshooter scenario for the Hunley.

link

Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian25 Dec 2016 3:30 p.m. PST

don't think I've ever heard this "spare torpedo" theory evil grin

Rev Zoom25 Dec 2016 6:27 p.m. PST

The latest ideas go to the oxygen being used while the crew was either waiting form an incoming tide or for whatever reason were remaining submerged. It has been found that the bilge pumps were not engaged which would have been the case had it been taking water. And, all the crew were found at the stations – not the most likely posture had they been in danger of drowning. Also, the accumulation of sediment inside the sub points to an absence of water inside the hull. At least this is what I was told by the conservators when I visited Hunley as of this past January.

Personal logo David Manley Supporting Member of TMP25 Dec 2016 10:19 p.m. PST

Interesting development, we shall watch with interest. I had hoped to have been able to visit the sub this year but circumstances have prevented that so far. Maybe 2019

Rev Zoom26 Dec 2016 6:35 a.m. PST

The Hunley is only open to the public on weekends, so keep that in mind when planning a trip. When you go, you can also stop by the cemetery in Charleston where all the crew are buried.

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP26 Dec 2016 9:43 a.m. PST

Well, Ray, you did get a couple of responses before your question was sunk.

For open decks/unprotected crew, I'd say a chance at crew casualties. There might also be a chance at a 'critical hit' such as a round through the pilot's melon, etc.

Rev Zoom26 Dec 2016 10:28 a.m. PST

Back to the topic: based on my readings, the only possible time an ironclad or such could be damaged – and again, as stated, crew only – is if the ship is beached near the shore. Let me add a caveat – if you are attacking a ship like the Albemarle with a steam launch as Cushing did, then by all meants permit damage from small arms.

One of my big objections with rules like Steam and Sail Navies is the space and effort it devotes to boarding parties and similar actions such as the topic here when it so rarely happened.

The G Dog Fezian Inactive Member27 Dec 2016 5:29 a.m. PST

Look at the Red River Campaign. There is an instance of a Union gunboat surrendering to a Confederate cavary formation due to such gunfire as the boat was hung up on a low spot and could not dislodge itself.

I was specifically thinking of the Red River. Hordes of Confederate infantry, dismounted cav and field batteries along the banks. The cannon are easy to model with most rules. But the small arms aspects a game like Smoke on the Water does not really track crew casualties, except as an abstraction of Hull Damage Points. Which is where I get to the question do a hundred guys firing Rifled Muskets do material damage to a vessel?

It would appear, the consensus is not really, except for special cases.

One of my big objections with rules like Steam and Sail Navies is the space and effort it devotes to boarding parties and similar actions such as the topic here when it so rarely happened.

I'll share that in all the years I've played Smoke on the Water, I've seen a boarding action be successful exactly one time and that only because the ship's captain was killed and the crew failed morale.

Well, Ray, you did get a couple of responses before your question was sunk.

Well Joe, I can only float the question into the air. Where the winds of answers take it is out of my hands. grin

Cloudy20 Jan 2017 1:12 p.m. PST

Here is a interesting tidbit out of the Annual Report of the Secretary of the Navy 1864 while not directly relevant to small arms, does indicate some of the effects of a boat howitzer on a flammable target:

"In pursuance of orders, Captain Spotts returned to Murrill's inlet, which he
reached on the 1st January, and opened fire from the heavy guns of the NIPSIC to scour the woods and also to destroy the schooner, which proving ineffectual by reason of intervening sand-hills, dispositions were made to land. ,Thirty marines, under Lieutenant Fagan, were put ashore and deployed as skirmishers across the spit, while a launch, with a howitzer, took position to enfilade any advance on their front by the rebel cavalry. .
Thus covered, the seamen landed with a boat howitzer on its field-carriage
and opened on the schooner in the inlet. At the fifth round she took fire, an ,
with a valuable cargo of turpentine, was soon in one blaze. The party then
returned to the Nipsic."

The G Dog Fezian Inactive Member21 Jan 2017 7:03 a.m. PST

Thanks Cloudy,

For most rules, I could model that using the normal gun model for the effects of the boat howitzer. In the case of the NIPSIC, the Marines are intended to cover the gun crew and not engage the schooner.

That's a great example of the right tool for the right job.

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