Help support TMP


"Canister fire and battlefield archaeology" Topic


42 Posts

All members in good standing are free to post here. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the posters, and have not been cleared with nor are they endorsed by The Miniatures Page.

For more information, see the TMP FAQ.


Back to the Napoleonic Discussion Message Board

Back to the 18th Century Discussion Message Board

Back to the ACW Discussion Message Board



1,435 hits since 24 Jul 2017
©1994-2017 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

138SquadronRAF Supporting Member of TMP24 Jul 2017 8:01 a.m. PST

Some of you may recall this video. It is my civil war artillery group firing an original 1864 12pdr. "Napoleon"

YouTube link

The reason for this live firing exercise was to conduct some research to assist in the understanding of battlefield archaeology. Whilst the video is interesting, the academic paper based on the experiments is even more useful in understanding canister on the battlefield.

Here is the accompanying paper. To read the PDF file please click on the red text "Canister use in the American Civil War"

link

I trust you will find this useful.

donlowry24 Jul 2017 8:53 a.m. PST

The page loads, but there's no paper there, just the title.

BTW, I recently came across, in the OR, a letter from General Hunt to General Barry (at Washington) requesting some canister rounds for Napoleons with more, smaller, balls instead of the normal load, especially for the horse artillery. Might see if I can find it again if anyone is interested.

138SquadronRAF Supporting Member of TMP24 Jul 2017 9:02 a.m. PST

Click the RED TEXT and NOT the White Text on the Black Background.

It was in the instructions in the OP. Sorry if it was wasn't clear.

Oliver Schmidt24 Jul 2017 9:04 a.m. PST

THy this for the PDF:

PDF link

138SquadronRAF Supporting Member of TMP24 Jul 2017 9:12 a.m. PST

Thank you Oliver!

Artilleryman Supporting Member of TMP24 Jul 2017 10:29 a.m. PST

Also really interesting to see how far the gun recoiled. Maybe only 6 feet? Much less than I thought it would.

Trajanus24 Jul 2017 10:31 a.m. PST

Remember this from when it first appeared. Excellent piece of battlefield archaeology.

I'll never forget hearing the Napoleon ringing like a bell when fired, it still intrigues me.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP24 Jul 2017 11:02 a.m. PST

I like Artilleryman's question. The length of recoil. Even at "only" six feet, I would not like to be in the way of that.

I think (stress think) the recoil would be influenced by Newton's (third?) law…Imagine a charge with no projectile at all. Very little recoil. Much noise and smoke, much like Hollywood films.

OK, Imagine a charge that fires what is basically large buckshot. Low mass. Most of the action is blast out the front.

But then… Imagine an explosion that can project 9lbs of a metal sphere a far greater distance than canister/case can.

I almost forgot to add how good this posting is. One of my lads is working on an ACW based Masters in History…..let's just say he was sickened (That means he was jealous BTW and did admit it). He read the whole thing….

We all hope it was well marked.

1968billsfan Supporting Member of TMP24 Jul 2017 1:03 p.m. PST

It looks to me that the results, (less then 50% of the shot recovered), found are just recording most of the shot pattern that hit the ground and stuck, where as the shot that bounced did not get recorded because it wound up in the woods with the poison ivy. (Yes this is obvious but the paper didn't mention it).

I would expect that the lateral spread of the shot @ the ~ 300-600 yard ranges would represent the native "scatter" from the big shotgun. The length of the pattern of the found shot would start off about the same, but would be increased (~ 275 yards) by the variations in the shot velocity and by a short bounce by shot that almost embedded itself in the ground.

More than half the shot was not found and the location of the second (and probably final) graze is unknown. It would have been nice to see those locations. Figure 53 in the study shows a light pattern of found balls short of the treeline and a much heavier concentration just in the woods. That suggests to me that much of the study is looking at only the lower part of the canister pattern and the central core of shot and upper part of the pattern is not addressed by this study. If the intent was to hit people at less than 300 yards, I think these guys were firing way too high. Any part of the pattern that went high was wasted, most anything shot low had the chance to bounce into people.

badger2224 Jul 2017 3:17 p.m. PST

Deadhead I was told that the weight of the canister round was 14 LB. This was at a reenactment by one of the gunners, so likely at least close.

And the gun does not care if it is a bunch of little balls, or one big one, it only cares about mass and velocity. So recoil should be close for ball. What i dont know is the weight of a 12lb shell. Considerably less I would guess but it is only a guess. I am sure somebody on here can give weights for everything. And I believe I was told all charges are the same, but that could be old guy syndrome.

Owen

Blutarski24 Jul 2017 6:49 p.m. PST

donlowry wrote -
"BTW, I recently came across, in the OR, a letter from General Hunt to General Barry (at Washington) requesting some canister rounds for Napoleons with more, smaller, balls instead of the normal load"


Can't speak for canister for the 3-inch ordnance rifle, which equipped the large majority of horse batteries. But the following may be of some use/interest.

The canister round of the twelve pounder Napoleon throughout most of the war period consisted of twenty-seven iron balls each approximately 1.5-inches in diameter and 0.43 pounds in weight, packed along with immobilizing sawdust into a thin sheet metal canister (in 1864, the Union introduced an alternate canister round containing seventy-two smaller three ounce balls of .69 caliber).

B

goragrad24 Jul 2017 8:42 p.m. PST

Interesting.

Pity a longer field was not available at the time.

Trajanus25 Jul 2017 1:32 a.m. PST

I would love to see the experiment repeated with some kind of tracking device that could show the vertical and horizontal flight of the balls. When I first saw the video my first reaction was that the cone of fire was no where near as wide as I expected.

That was because you can only see the strike of those that hit the ground not those going high or wide and the figures in the thesis give some correction to this but it be great to see the balls in flight.

Recoil was about what I expected and was greater when double loaded. I noted that the ground was very hard so there was no digging in by the trail or wheels. Still must have been a real pain to run the gun back again for the next round in "real life".

4th Cuirassier25 Jul 2017 7:30 a.m. PST

That was a really interesting read, especially

Firing a full charge and a shot causes recoil and barrel rise. The barrel rings like a bell. The canister leaving the barrel makes a scraping noise. The shot flying downrange makes a zipping or buzzing noise that is subject to the Doppler effect.

Disappointing though that the balls bouncing off the hard ground and into the forest effectively thwarted any attempt at understanding the actual dispersal pattern of the canister. The same experiment on wet ground would be instructive.

138SquadronRAF Supporting Member of TMP25 Jul 2017 7:52 a.m. PST

Disappointing though that the balls bouncing off the hard ground and into the forest effectively thwarted any attempt at understanding the actual dispersal pattern of the canister. The same experiment on wet ground would be instructive.

Agreed on the site. I suspect the problem came in the selection of the site. The experiment took place in IL and I'm sure we could have found better ground closer to home.

The author make the same point on ground conditions. Unfortunately it was a matter of funding.

steve1865 Supporting Member of TMP25 Jul 2017 1:48 p.m. PST

I find it interesting that medical records show only 10% of wounds were caused by ART. From reports of eye witnesses can were very effective in stopping charges. WHY?

42flanker25 Jul 2017 2:15 p.m. PST

[q]I find it interesting that medical records show only 10% of wounds were caused by ART. From reports of eye witnesses can were very effective in stopping charges. WHY?[/q]

Is it possiblly because a significant proportion of those hit were killed?

Blutarski25 Jul 2017 2:37 p.m. PST

steve1865 Here is my thinking on the question:

I do not believe that the dead lying upon the battlefield were scrupulously examined and cataloged by medical professionals. Normally, they were hastily buried; occasionally they were simply left on the field. This suggests to me that statistical analysis of casualty causes (i.e., weapons responsible) were basically driven by Medical Corps records covering those casualties which managed to reach dressing stations behind the battlefield. If so, those weapons which displayed a higher lethality quotient (Pk nowadays) would have been under-represented at the dressing station and those weapons with a lesser Pk over-represented. A 1.5-inch canister ball weighing close to a half-pound would have been pretty lethal, as would a 12-lbr solid shot or a two pound iron chunk from an explosive shell.

Likewise re bayonets and bladed weapons. While I completely agree that pitched hand-to-hand melees were not common, a skewering bayonet wound would have been highly life-threatening. I would rather take my chances being shot by a rifle than stabbed by an 24 inch sword bayonet.

Not a lot of soldiers hit by artillery or stabbed by bladed weapons would have reached the dressing station alive.

If anyone has good information on this topic, please do contribute. I'd be interested to learn more, whether it reinforces or contradicts my impressions.

B

4th Cuirassier26 Jul 2017 3:16 a.m. PST

@ Blutarski

I think you are correct. It reminds me of that (apocryphal) story about the USAAF deciding where to add armour to fighters. They looked at battle-damaged aircraft, and noticed that lots of them had tails and fuselages full of bullet holes but few had damage to the engine. So they decided to armour the tails and fuselages – until it occurred to someone that the ones with engine damage were the ones that never made it back to be counted.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP26 Jul 2017 5:59 p.m. PST

If anyone has good information on this topic, please do contribute. I'd be interested to learn more, whether it reinforces or contradicts my impressions.

Blutarski:

While I agree with your thinking, particularly in respect to artillery, it's difficult to find evidence to that effect. Most wound 'counts' happened after the casualties were recovered.

As for bayonet wounds, the contemporary consensus was that actual bayonet use in combat was a very rare occurrence, so casualties would be too. However, there does seem to more incidences of bayoneting once the enemy had turned tail… and I agree that the once form of combat that has a one-to-one relationship to a soldier wanting his opponent as wounded as possible and is there to check his effectiveness. Then again, the claim that cavalry rarely fought each other is countered by any number of reports and wound descriptions to the contrary.

However, there might be other ways to get an estimate of weapon effects other ways.

Blutarski26 Jul 2017 6:40 p.m. PST

Quite agree, McLaddie. Conclusive evidence remains elusive. Without it, we can only honestly speak in terms of general impressions.

Nevertheless, what has always bothered me is this: if artillery was so relatively ineffectual (supposedly inflicting only 10pct of overall battlefield casualties in the ACW), why did the Union army, after two years of intensive warfare, still field 362 guns to Gettysburg? That is one gun for every 275 men or so a number akin to those fielded by Napoleon.

B

Lion in the Stars27 Jul 2017 6:12 a.m. PST

I'll never forget hearing the Napoleon ringing like a bell when fired, it still intrigues me.

Me, too. That was such an unexpected sound!

Captain de Jugar27 Jul 2017 8:26 a.m. PST

Nevertheless, what has always bothered me is this: if artillery was so relatively ineffectual (supposedly inflicting only 10pct of overall battlefield casualties in the ACW)

I think, as wargamers, we tend to envisage a weapons effect in terms of casualties. But a weapon could be highly effective in the field even if it caused very few actual casualties if it nevertheless 'intimidated' the enemy. Congreve's rockets for example.

Trajanus27 Jul 2017 8:50 a.m. PST

Most wound 'counts' happened after the casualties were recovered.

That being so, if we then consider 75% of operations were amputations and that 70% of all wounds were gunshots to the limbs, hands and feet, its not hard to see that the majority of artillery hits were likely to be immediately, or very soon after, fatal.

On top of that given the inadequacy of medical practice and high numbers to deal with, the triage used at the time would have inevitably led to most artillery casualties hit in the head or torso being placed on the mortally wounded side right away, even if they had been carried to the rear.

The military rather than medical considerations must question the effective use of round shot and shell (by far the most used ammunition) against the prevailing two rank line targets.

Round shot passes through at right angles with relatively little damage and does the same to any similarly deployed units behind. Shell is hard to judge for fuse setting against an approaching target and the ordnance scarcely changed since Napoleons time where the targets were likely to be in denser formation and there was a lot of cavalry present to provide a better target.

Canister doesn't get used much and there's little of it carried by batteries in any event, so unsupported batteries can be over run. Particularly if attacked from more than one direction. Plenty of this on Day 2 at Gettysburg.

Does that mean generally they are deployed to fire at longer ranges and so operate less effectively under the prevailing conditions?

Yet regardless of all this we all still can quote battles and reports where great play is made of artillery effectiveness.

Interesting subject.

Blutarski27 Jul 2017 6:39 p.m. PST

CdJ – Re the "intimidation factor", I do not disagree. A well-sited concentration of artillery with a good field of fire could IMO dominate its surroundings.

B

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP28 Jul 2017 9:27 a.m. PST

The military rather than medical considerations must question the effective use of round shot and shell (by far the most used ammunition) against the prevailing two rank line targets.

Trajanus: Yes, from what I understand, it was a practice to go to line formation if under a cannonade for just that reason. Also, if attacked by infantry in line, that is when canister [with a 100+ yard spread] would be most effective.

Blutarski:

One of the ways to deal with this is to find examples of casualties and rounds fired. The different 'counts' of the injured stay pretty much in line with the SYW count:

In 1762 in Invalides (Paris) an inspection was done and the results were quite interesting. The majority of wounded were from musket fire.

69 % musket balls
14 % sabers
13 % artillery
2 % bayonets

In 1809 in the two day Battle of Wagram, the Austrians suffered 27,000 casualties and another 10,000 prisoners. If we take 13 % as being inflicted by artillery, we get 3,510 casualties suffered from artillery fire. The French artillery fired 96,000 rounds at Wagram by about 400 of 488 guns. That is 27 rounds for every one casualty or one hit per eight guns for the entire two days.

Now if the 130,000 french infantry [lets say 110,000 engaged]caused 69% of the casualties, that is 18,630 hits, or 1 hit for every five men. Assuming that every man fired off half his 60 rounds, that is 660,000 rounds to inflict 18,630 casualties or 2% hit rate. That is the hit rate that contemporaries like British General Murray [supplying rounds to the Peninsular armies] and others such as Hughes calculated--1-5%. If we assume over the two day battle that more than one cartridge box of rounds were expended, then the hit rate becomes ridiculously low.

In other words, infantry had a 1 in 5 hit ratio while artillery had a 1 in 8 ??? Considering the reach of artillery, their massed targets and the training and experience artillerymen had in comparison to most all infantry, [and the perfect artillery terrain of the Marchfeld] this is difficult to accept. A reason to not believe the percentage above. Clausewitz noted that a battery of six pounders threw out the same amount of lead as three battalions of infantry on a narrower front, and that is just canister at longer ranges than a smoothbore….


In 1807 at Konigsberg, 13 men were hit by a single roundshot, and at Hanau in 1813, nine.

Of course this must be balanced against incidents like Wagram where regiments bombarded all day by the full weight of the French artillery lost only 1/8 of their strength."(Griffith "French Artillery" pp 13-14)

Of course, there are other ways to look at the question.

The biggest problem is one of averaging. Close volleys would have far greater percentage hit than long range skirmishing, which there would be more off. Often artillery fired 'random' shoots, more to indict an area than to target a particular enemy formation and any unit actually seriously hit by artillery fire would not stay in the line of fire for very long.

I pulled this information from this site among other places:

link

14Bore Supporting Member of TMP28 Jul 2017 2:58 p.m. PST

That looks like too much fun

4th Cuirassier29 Jul 2017 9:53 a.m. PST

I am bemused by this ringing-like-a-bell thing. Are we sure the reconstructors did that bit right? I've never heard of any contemporary account that describes guns doing that, nor of the cascabel end kicking upwards upon firing either.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP29 Jul 2017 12:26 p.m. PST

I am bemused by this ringing-like-a-bell thing. Are we sure the reconstructors did that bit right?

4th Cuirassier:
Well, it could have been a D flat where historically it was an B sharp. I have read ACW artillerists mentioning the ringing and WWII 81mm mortars were said to ring like that too. Chimes are just hollow tubes and the gun tubes were brass… grin

Blutarski29 Jul 2017 2:21 p.m. PST

4C wrote "I am bemused by this ringing-like-a-bell thing. Are we sure the reconstructors did that bit right? I've never heard of any contemporary account that describes guns doing that, nor of the cascabel end kicking upwards upon firing either."

An ACW re-enactor acquaintance of mine from RI, who is associated with a re-enactment battery equipped with an authentic bronze James Rifle shared some interesting experiences about firing their piece. They built their own gun carriage (and limber) from original plans and followed everything right down to the most minute detail although certain features absolutely escaped their understanding at the time of construction. One such mystery item was a very shallow ice-cream scoop of wood removed from the top forward corner of the gun carriage cross piece immediately beneath the gun tube. They fired the gun on numerous occasion, including some with full charge, but never could figure out the purpose of the scoop until someone arranged to shoot very high-speed video of the gun being fired. Only then were they able to see and understand that the discharge of the gun caused the tube to violently rotate down on its trunnion axis and strike the cross-piece exactly where the relief had been carved out.

He also remarked about a "gong"-like sound when the gun was fired and believes that it is a function of the gun tube hitting said cross-piece.

FWIW.

B

badger2229 Jul 2017 2:53 p.m. PST

Modern steel tube artillery can ring a little bit. Specifically US M198 and Paladins will ring a little when you fire higher charges. But it is steel rather than brass so it doesn't last very long. The Napoleon is firing 2.5 LB black powder, where my 198 was firing 29 lb of modern powder so much of the ring is lost in the shot.

Owen

Trajanus31 Jul 2017 5:13 a.m. PST

Stumbled across another Napoleon firing video on You Tube that had the "bell ringing" effect @ 2.24 and some other shots, if you listen care fully.

YouTube link

This group were a little more casual. They made up their own fixed ammo in the back of an SUV as they went along, from this big tub of black powder, Eeeek! All non smokers I guess! :o)

The ball was taped to the charge, so no metal straps nor apparently a sabot, that I could see, unless there was one inside the foil container they used.

So the ring appears to be ballistic.

1968billsfan Supporting Member of TMP03 Aug 2017 4:13 a.m. PST

The ringing is real. Other circular tube that make harmonic sounds are bells, chimes, trumpets and water glasses.

Trajanus03 Aug 2017 7:38 a.m. PST

All of which are considerably safer ! :o)

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP03 Aug 2017 7:55 a.m. PST

Just a tangential comment on lethality. I found pre-ACW weapons research for the bayonet. The three bladed/star-shape version that was most common during the ACW was engineered. The three-pronged shape <^> with hollowed out sides were meant to 1. create three-sided wounds that would be difficult to close and heal and 2. whose hollow sides to the blades would allow for air to get into the wound, both improving the chances of infection but also counter the skin sealing around the blade, keeping air from getting in, thus making it more difficult to pull the blade out.

All this thought into a fairly basic weapon. The same kind of thought went into the 'proper' size of canister shot etc. Military technology.

4th Cuirassier06 Aug 2017 5:25 a.m. PST

It's interesting though that what might have been an instructive study of canister dispersal pattern turned into something else due apparently to practical constraints.

I would have been interested to know exactly what canister did on leaving the tube. I have always imagined it would spread in an oval rather than circular cross section. Balls leaving at a low angle would hit the ground and depending on its condition would either bounce or sink in. Those leaving at a high angle would drop sooner. So the top and bottom sectors of a circular dispersal would end up in the middle, leaving a sort of oval spread. Or so I conjecture.

As it is all we know is that on hard ground canister bounces a long way, meaning that where it is found today implies it was fired from a different distance depending on the ground condition that day.

Blutarski06 Aug 2017 7:29 a.m. PST

4C – All the balls of the canister round would be driven out of the barrel with more or less the same initial velocity. Those balls that take up a more elevated trajectory as a result of dispersion will travel further before striking the ground. A plot of the ball strikes upon the ground (disregarding ricochets) would produce a very elongated oval. The same principle applies to case shot, except the dimensions of the oval (length and width) and the relationship between them will vary depending upon the angle of fall of the case shot and the height at which it discharges its contents.

B

42flanker06 Aug 2017 10:09 a.m. PST

Captain Shrapnel's spherical case shot?

Blutarski06 Aug 2017 11:02 a.m. PST

"Captain Shrapnel's spherical case shot?"

Yes, and also rifled case shot. The charge in both projectiles was designed to rupture the projectile sufficiently to permit the balls/bullets/pellets within to spread out in a forward cone oriented along the trajectory of the shell.

B

Trajanus06 Aug 2017 12:50 p.m. PST

Here's your man:

link

Blutarski06 Aug 2017 7:57 p.m. PST

Pulled this out of an 1863 US Artillery Manual –

"Grape and Canister shot leave the piece diverging from each other, in the form of a cone, the greater part of the balls being in the centre, and the extreme ones separating about one-tenth of the range. When fired at too short a distance, the balls occupy too small a space to produce the proper effect; and at too great a distance they diverge too much, and strike on too extended a surface. Good results can be obtained at from 300 to 600 yards, but the maximum effect is produced at from 300 to 450 yards. When firing at very short distances over hard, dry ground, a suitable dispersion of the balls may be produced by firing very low,
and allowing the balls to ricochet."

B

4th Cuirassier07 Aug 2017 6:29 a.m. PST

@ Blutarski

That is very interesting and reminds me of a discussion on here some years ago in which it was hypothesised that canister must become less effective at short ranges because it would not yet have dispersed properly. So it is interesting to find that a period artillery manual says the same.

Sorry - only verified members can post on the forums.