Help support TMP


"Are the Rifles over-rated?" Topic


74 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



2,271 hits since 4 Sep 2017
©1994-2017 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Pages: 1 2 

4th Cuirassier04 Sep 2017 4:16 a.m. PST

The profusion of memoirs from members of the 95th, along perhaps with the relative novelty of their weapon, has made them perhaps the most written-about unit in the British army with the possible exception of the SAS.

The quality of this writing varies immensely. The memoirs have the advantage of authenticity. Some of the fiction about them is good (Death the the French), some is mediocre (Sharpe); the non-fiction is likewise uneven. Most focuses on the 95th rather than any other rifle unit.

Little of this writing, however, gives a usefully objective impression of how these tactically effective riflemen were, compared to equivalent contingents in other armies. Were they the super-soldiers the fiction in particular makes them out to be? Or were they, as I suspect, merely on a rough par with an ordinary French light infantry unit?

Also, what do we mean anyway when we talk about "Rifles" qua units? I can't be the only person to have come across wargame rules that classify "Rifles" as a type, with no distinction drawn between those of the 95th, the 5/60th or indeed the Royal Corsican Rangers, all of which wore 5/60th style uniforms but which had two companies of ten armed with Baker rifles. I am not at all sure how that is justified. The two latter were just emigré corps, which as a unit type were not widely noted for their quality. The other battalions of the 60th are not rated especially highly so I am not sure why the 5th should be just because they were issued rifles.

I've always liked riflemen, because they make a nice change to paint. But surely if they were notably more useful than average light infantry, there'd have been more of them? Are they over-rated?

Prince Rupert of the Rhine04 Sep 2017 5:00 a.m. PST

I would suggest the effectiveness of rifles would depend on the sort of game you are playing. In a skirmish game a rifle's extra range and accuracy but slower rate of fire over a musket would be a major factor. In a Corps level game weather skirmishers are armed with a musket or rifle is probably irrelevant.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP04 Sep 2017 5:25 a.m. PST

The generals would love to have had more of them, but they were expensive to train and had to be highly selected for light infantry work. The average line infantryman acted as a small part of a big machine and blazed away or charged with his bayonet. The Light bobs and especially Rifles had to show initiative, an ability to act independently and intelligence beyond the average line requirement. Not so easily found.

The Rifles did work in line, most notably at Waterloo where 2/95 and 3/95 spent the day thus or in square. The sword bayonet should have compensated for the shorter Baker, but I do wonder if the reduced firing rate might not have been so compensated by accuracy, when threatened with cavalry.

Also, how good they were varied much with the period addressed. By Waterloo there were many newcomers and fewer Peninsula veterans.

Supermen? No and most agree Waterloo was not their finest hour. As Wellington said, all units can break, the question is whether they come back again. Elites can inexplicably "fall into confusion" is the euphemism, whether some 1st Airborne at Arnhem, or SS facing the British at Arras in 1940, or La Garde itself

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP04 Sep 2017 7:53 a.m. PST

The six companies of the 95th didn't do too well at New Orleans in January 1815 either, along with the rest of Packenham's command.

Edwulf04 Sep 2017 8:09 a.m. PST

No more overrated than other famous units. Imperial Guard, Polish lancers in our period for example.

They were one of the only real ELITE units of the time. (French imperial guard being the other).

The 60th is a large and unique unit. 8 battalions strong I think. 4 of these were redcoats with muskets. The 5th and 6th were trained riflemen …. the 7th I can't remember if they wore red or green.

As stated the British would have liked more riflemen but their kit was pricier, they needed more training and higher standards for recruiting meant a smaller pool of possible recruits. Any able bodied man could be turned into a red coat, a rifleman needed good eyesight, marksmanship and some quick wits…. they'd be a limit to how many units you can raise before you have to lower your standards.

Edwulf04 Sep 2017 8:39 a.m. PST

I'm looking for evidence if the 95th behaving poorly at New Orleans.
From what I can see they lost 11 killed in the whole battle and one of those was a man who drowned in a swamp. They didn't break and were in good order.
In the American night attack of the 24th, they lost 23 killed. Far more. But even here they successfully counter attacked and beat back an American attack and nearly captured Jackson himself. Quite the opposite of "not doing to well".

Nine pound round04 Sep 2017 8:50 a.m. PST

I don't know that I would necessarily agree. I think most rules sets accord them a degree of elitesse, without putting them in the top of the top drawer. Empire V (just to name the set I am most familiar with) rates "Rifles" as a whole as "elites," with the 95th specifically rated as "grenadiers." That's certainly an excellent ranking (equivalent to that assigned to the Young Guard for much of its existence), but it is still topped by "guard" and "old guard". If anything, I am inclined to think a case could be made for ranking them a bit higher- this was, after all, a unit that spent five or six years campaigning in a tough environment against very competent and well led opponents.

Personal logo miniMo Supporting Member of TMP04 Sep 2017 9:25 a.m. PST

May or may not be over-rated.

They should definitely not be under-rated — The famous units should have better ratings!

I don't want to play Napoleonics in a dark and twisted Lake Woebegon of Despair where none of the units are above average. ~,~

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP04 Sep 2017 9:29 a.m. PST

I'm looking for evidence if the 95th behaving poorly at New Orleans.
From what I can see they lost 11 killed in the whole battle and one of those was a man who drowned in a swamp. They didn't break and were in good order.
In the American night attack of the 24th, they lost 23 killed. Far more. But even here they successfully counter attacked and beat back an American attack and nearly captured Jackson himself. Quite the opposite of "not doing to well".

The two best references for the New Orleans campaign are Robin Reilly's The British at the Gates and Robert Quimby's The US Army in the War of 1812.

I would recommend looking there for any information on the units in the attack on the main American line on 8 January. The few KIAs the 95th incurred on the 8th was because they were in open order and artillery fire is seldom effective against skirmishers.

Some did reach the American line and had no better luck that the other British units in the assault. They were in General Keane's 3d Brigade along with the 93d Highlanders. During the failed attack most of the 95th screened the main attack, but some were involved with the lead companies of the 21st foot in attempting to scale the American parapet. Those that actually accomplished that act were either killed or captured.

The 93d itself was slaughtered in the open losing 75% of its strength, the regiment's commanding officer was killed and General Keane was seriously wounded. The 95th, just like the other British regiments on the field, were defeated and accomplished little except for being shot down in large numbers, along with almost 500 captured.

In the night action in late December, the 95th did quite well, though I haven't seen any reference that they almost captured Jackson. An outpost of the 95th, commanded by Captain Hallen and numbering 80 all ranks. During the savage fighting small parties of the 95th arrived to reinforce Hallen. Hallen himself was seriously wounded and half his original command lost half killed or wounded in the confused fighting, eventually regaining their original position that they had been driven from initially after serious fighting.

I never said that the 95th 'behaved poorly' at New Orleans. I did say that they didn't do too well and that was in reference to the main battle on 8 January. The entire British army in the field didn't do too well as already shown.

Nine pound round04 Sep 2017 9:37 a.m. PST

I always go back and forth on this myself; in an era where there were, in tactical terms, comparatively few variations in weapon characteristics (I have the pages and pages of Information from Advanced Squad Leader on AFVs and weapons in my mind as I write this), the big distinctions in Napoleonic rules usually reflect morale, training and cohesion. It's interesting, but I think it should be borne in mind that these categories are designed principally to make the simulation work like it's supposed to. I am prepared to believe, as someone wrote here a few weeks back, that the members of the 95th attained a general level of hardiness and competence at field craft that we would today find only in the most skilled SOF units. But they were used as skirmishes and scouts, not the kind of battle-clinching operations that the Imperial Guard was reserved for. So I would expect, in game terms, for the morale ratings to work as a part of the overall simulation design to produce different results.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP04 Sep 2017 9:56 a.m. PST

Scharnhorst and the Prussians did extensive tests in 1809-1812 and Scharnhorst found that:

1. Because the rifle could be loaded about half as quickly as a smoothbore musket, but with increased accuracy, the damage was about equal out to 120 yards.
2. He felt the effective range for the rifle was about 200-250 yards.
3. Because the rifle had a greater range and would use half the ammo to generate the same damage on enemy targets, he was interested in arming all troops with rifles.

However, as pointed out, the downsides were the increased expense [about 50% more per weapon] and the greater need for training to benefit from the rifle's advantages. Scharnhorst didn't see the benefits outweighing the cost of the weapon and training.

I have the fire power of rifles equal for the same number of men with smoothbores, but with an increased range. This has less and less impact as you increase the scale of the game.

Gazzola04 Sep 2017 11:49 a.m. PST

I think most of us would probably, if we went back in time and had to join the British army, would prefer to join the rifles, rather than other units, although I would place them second choice to the RHA if I had to chose.

attilathepun4704 Sep 2017 12:06 p.m. PST

It seems to me that we should consider the worth of rifles in the larger context of the Peninsular War. One, among others, of the keys to Wellington's tactical success there was that his army usually managed to at least hold the French skirmishers at bay, and often to actually drive them back on their own formed units. In campaigns elsewhere the French skirmishers usually won handily and proceeded to severely harass an enemy's main line.

So, why the difference in the Iberian Peninsula? For starters, Wellington knew the value of an effective skirmish line and how to employ it. But his army also contained a relatively large proportion of well-trained light infantry units, and a significant proportion of them were armed with rifles. Wellington must have considered that important because he saw to it that a company of riflemen was attached to each infantry brigade that didn't already contain rifles.

It is not just a question of the three battalions of the 95th Rifles and the 5th Bn. of the 60th. The Brunswick troops included at least two companies of rifles, which were detached to brigades along with the companies of the 5/60th. The Portuguese cacadore (SP?) battalions each had a rifle company. The two light battalions of the King's German Legion initially each had at least two companies of rifles, but that proportion increased as time went on. And the line battalions of the King's German Legion each had a contingent of riflemen; the way they were organized changed, but the number amounted in any case to about half a company in strength. That adds up to a pretty large number of riflemen. The only riflemen available to the French came from Confederation of the Rhine units, but those were not widely employed in field battles against Wellington. It seems reasonable to conclude that this imbalance made a significant contribution to the defeat of the French skirmishers who had been successful everywhere else.

As to the Baker rifle, it was well made, but probably had no significant superiority in accuracy or rate of fire over other military rifles of its time. It was furnished with an effective bayonet, but so were other European military rifles (but unlike American rifles). One important point in its favor, however, was that its caliber was the same as that of British cavalry carbines, which made it easier to obtain resupply of ammunition. It should be noted that, when necessary, the Baker could be (and was) fired as fast as an ordinary musket by simply omitting use of the patch. Of course it then lost all advantage in range and accuracy.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP04 Sep 2017 1:06 p.m. PST

I would suggest that the regular light infantry regiments, plus the light companies of the line regiments, significantly 'outnumbered' the rifle armed companies in the army and on the skirmish line.

A quick look at the organization of Wellington's army in Oman's single volume clearly demonstrates this.

Another factor is the declining quality of the French infantry in the Peninsula after 1810 as units were being withdrawn from Spain from 1811 or so through 1814.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP04 Sep 2017 1:41 p.m. PST

It seems reasonable to conclude that this imbalance made a significant contribution to the defeat of the French skirmishers who had been successful everywhere else.

attilathepun47:
When do you see the French lights defeated? Do you mean held off defensively? I haven't seen the quality of British skirmishers overmatch the French. It was numbers that seem to have been the deciding factor… that and skirmish actions usually weren't decisive in themselves… but preliminaries to formed actions which did fail.

I have seen a number of quotes where British light officers rank French tirailleurs better than British lights except for the 95th. I haven't seen any stating that British lights in general or because of the rifled-armed troops, were better than the French. Of course, there is always history I haven't seen.

I hope you have missed all the fires--and smoke there in Oregon. Were you in a good location to see the eclipse?

dibble04 Sep 2017 2:35 p.m. PST

Brechtel

"The 95th, just like the other British regiments on the field, were defeated and accomplished little except for being shot down in large numbers, along with almost 500 captured"

Which would mean the entire 3rd 95th were destroyed.

Of the about 500, there were 5 companies of the 3rd 95th deployed at the battle. Two companies shielded the left of the line and three companies the right.

The losses were one Sergeant and ten other ranks killed. Captains James Travers (Severely) and Nicolas Travers (Slightly), Lieutenants John Reynolds, Sir John Ribton, John Gossett, William Backhouse and Robert Barker (severely), five Sergeants and 89 Riflemen wounded. William Blackhouse died later of his wounds and James Travers even later, 1841 to be exact, the ball that wounded him was said to have finally killed him.

That they (the 3rd 95th) were part of a defeated army isn't in doubt but they did what was asked of them. Oh! They weren't totally destroyed either.


For an excellent history of the 95th, Caldwell and Cooper's 'Rifle green in the Peninsula' series and 'Rifle Green at Waterloo' are an absolute must.

A nice little paper-back 'The 95th (Rifles)in America. It's only 155 pages long but an interesting read.

As for the 60th, Volumes one and two of the 'Annals of the Kings Royal Rifle Corps' by Lieutenant-Colonel Lewis Butler are also a must.

Paul :)

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP04 Sep 2017 4:47 p.m. PST

The reference to the 500 captured was for the entire army if the references listed are referred to.

On the 8th, by the numbers you posted, which amounts to a total of 112 casualties, the 95th lost about 20% of their strength on the field. That's quite a few for what apparently was a fifteen minute action. And the brigade they were attached to was quite literally destroyed.

In short, they had a bad day.

dibble04 Sep 2017 5:22 p.m. PST

"The 95th, just like the other British regiments on the field, were defeated and accomplished little except for being shot down in large numbers, along with almost 500 captured"

Well I suggest you rephrase your quote (above) as it looks like the sentence pertains only to that of the 3rd 95th.

I furnished a pretty comprehensive casualty list of the Regiment (note no prisoners mentioned) and posted it for the perusal of all, including you. I'm not arguing that their casualty list was anything but heavy, though it seems that you think I think otherwise.

In short, they did their duty.

Edwulf04 Sep 2017 8:22 p.m. PST

I have them with 41 men captured on the 24th but 0 missing/captured at New Orleans.
For prisoners at New Orleans…
21st – 9 officers and 229 men.
93rd – 3 officers and 103 men
4th – 1 officer and 54 men.
44th – 1 officer and 79 men
43rd – 1 officer and 5 men.
1sr WI – 1 man
85th -1 man. For a total of 459 missing and prisoner.

Of the 276 dead. Just under 1/2 came from the 21st and 93rd who lost 60 and 63 ORs killed and 200 (21st) and 300(93rd) wounded each.

No units routed…. except for those American ones on the West Bank… Kentucky Volunteers if I recall, routed by Marines and the 85th.

Leadjunky04 Sep 2017 9:29 p.m. PST

So a little under 800 casualties? How many American casualties?

attilathepun4704 Sep 2017 10:10 p.m. PST

@McLaddie,

Perhaps defeat was not the best choice of words, but certainly the French light troops usually failed to achieve their objective, which was, of course, to drive in the British skirmishers and then shoot up the British close-order troops. As I said already, Wellington's army contained a relatively large number of light troops, but they certainly did not outnumber the French skirmishers in most of the Peninsular battles. As Brechtel rightly pointed out, the majority of the British and allied light infantry were armed with muskets, but an unusually large minority consisted of riflemen. It probably can never be conclusively proved, but something has to account for the relative lack of success of the French skirmishers in the Peninsula, compared to other theaters of war. I strongly suspect that the answer lies with the presence of numerous British and allied riflemen. That is just my opinion; if others vigorously disagree, fine and dandy. They didn't win the battles or the war in themselves, but keeping the French skirmishers at bay was an important contribution.

I was rather surprised that you remember that I'm an Oregonian. My home is in N.E. Oregon, so the solar eclipse did not amount to much here, being well north of the path of total eclipse. Although this area is in the arid portion of Oregon, I live in the comparatively well-watered valley of the Walla Walla River, so there is no fire danger to my home. There is a very great risk of fire in the nearby mountains, as we have had no measurable rain for over two months. There have been a number of small fires within a 100-mile radius, but no big blazes so far. There are several major forest fires at greater distance, so the skies have been very hazy for more than two weeks. There is a nearly full moon tonight but it appears red-orange because of the smoke.

Whirlwind05 Sep 2017 4:49 a.m. PST

Were they the super-soldiers the fiction in particular makes them out to be?

No. The concept is pretty ludicrous in a Napoleonic context anyway for any soldiers of any army.

Or were they, as I suspect, merely on a rough par with an ordinary French light infantry unit?

Unlikely. At the start of the Peninsular War, the 95th definitely and the 5/60th to some degree had strong claims on being elite (as did the 43rd and 52nd). By the end of the Peninsular War, that element of selection had gone but the experience levels and tradition of victory were there. No French light infantry unit had a basis in the first bit and no French light infantry unit had the second in the latter period of the war (maybe excepting the 1st and 3rd Light in Suchet's army). I think that rulesets that equate the 95th to the Young Guard are woefully, laughably, biased towards the French; conversely I fail to see how the British Guards can be comparable to the French Old Guard infantry units before 1812. Neither statement should be taken to imply that I think either French Young Guard units or British Guard units were poor – nothing could be further from the truth.

However, I think that greater problems line in over-estimating the difference between any trained and experienced troops in the Napoleonic Wars; thinking that army performance is simply reflected in the quality of troops of those armies; thinking that combatants are reliable witnesses for good or ill in assessing the competence of themselves or their enemies; lack of objectivity in assessing different armies as certain people systemically over-rate the performance of their favourites; reliance on "battle performance" as if that could be adequately separated from the complexity of the situation where a unit triumphed or was defeated in combat.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP05 Sep 2017 5:16 a.m. PST

The French tactical system was based on the coordination in the attack of large numbers of skirmishers in open order as the fire support element which would support the advance of infantry in a line of battalion columns. The skirmishers role was two-fold: first to open the engagement and to engage the enemy infantry in a firefight. Once the advance of the line of battalion columns began, the skirmishers would reform between the battalion columns and keep firing as the troops in formation advanced. Artillery would also be used in close support.

If that wasn't done, then the advance of the battalion columns might not be successful. Unfortuantely, too many French commanders would either not be patient enough to allow the battle to 'ripen' and advance too early or without skirmisher support, or they would just try to bull their way through. This usually didn't work against the British in Spain and Portugal.

Many French commanders on defense would form their first line as a heavy skirmish line instead of having their troops in formation. What might have happened sometimes against the British in the Peninsula is that the French would encounter Wellington's heavy skirmish line and think that it was the British first defensive line, which it was not and deploy and fight there, instead of fighting the skirmisher battle and then continue.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP05 Sep 2017 5:24 a.m. PST

British casualties at New Orleans on 8 January were 285 killed, 1,186 wounded, and 484 captured for a total of 1,995.

Keane's and Gibb's brigades lost almost two-thirds of their strength.

Total British casualties from 23 December to 8 January were almost 2,500.

American casualties on both sides of the river were 71 killed, wounded, and missing. For the main action American losses were 6 killed and 7 wounded.

American losses from 23 December to 8 January were 333, of which 55 were killed.

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP05 Sep 2017 10:16 a.m. PST

The effectiveness of rifles and the ineffectiveness of the muskets are both exaggerated.
While the rifles, in theory, can hit a man at 600+ meters, most rifle armed soldiers couldn't hit at that range. Urban in his Rifles book, claims most engagements were about 150-250 yards distance. 150 is about max for a good well trained light infantry man with a smoothbore.

Which means rifles gave you a small tactical advantage, not huge, but probably noticeable.
What made the 95th special was their training and the fact that they fought under a different doctrine.
The whole of the light division did excellent stuff rifles or no rifles.
The French Light infantry dominated early in the period, not because of rifles(as they didn't have any) but because of the training and the fact the army as a whole bought into the concept. The British army was an oxymoron. Parts of it was very liberal in how to fight in new ways but at the same time one of the most conservative.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP05 Sep 2017 8:35 p.m. PST

attilathepun47:

It was a vague memory, [many of mine are], so I checked your profile to confirm it.

Sorry you got some of the smoke and haze. It was Bejing bad in Medford and around Crater Lake. Fortunately, it was clear when we watched the eclipse. Really spectacular and the crowds were as bad as predicted, probably because folks didn't travel owing to the fires and the crowd predictions.

++++++++

I find it fascinating, in a confusing way, about the stated 'effective' ranges of smoothbore and rifled muskets. Many military men such as Guilbert, Scharnhorst and de Verner all saw 200 or more yards as the 'effective' range of a smoothbore. There are a number of accounts of the French opening up at 200-250 paces [or yards too] such as the columns at Talavera. I can think of several reasons for that apart from seeing enemy casualties as the primary purpose at opening up at that range.

I have a friend that has found that with a French smoothbore of the period that he couldn't hit a 4 X 4 target at 100 yards more than 3 out of 10 times. However, when he patched the ball with cloth or paper [like the cartridge paper holding the powder] he was able to hit the same size target 7 out of 10 times at 175 yards…

I am sure that contemporary military men were aware of that. Of course, many military men felt that firing at 100 yards was a waste of ammo, so who is right? Or was it a real judgement call/controversy at the time?

attilathepun4705 Sep 2017 11:25 p.m. PST

I think there was a genuine divergence of opinion among experienced soldiers during the horse and musket period about just what constituted effective musket range. I too have seen references to commanders opening fire at ranges of 200 yards or even more, while others thought 75 yards was about the maximum effective range.

First, it's important not to compare apples and oranges. The odds of an individual soldier hitting a chosen target with a musket at 100 yards may be quite low. But the chance of hitting somebody within a an enemy battalion formed in close order at the same range is much better, and musket balls could certainly be lethal at ranges well beyond 200 yards if they happened to hit a man. So, if one battalion fired a volley at another one at 200 yards, it might be expected to cause a few casualties (probably very few, like three or four).

The divergence of opinion may boil down to different attitudes on the question of enemy morale. Some commanders seem to have believed that is was important to bring the enemy under fire as early as possible to start whittling away at their morale and discourage them from attempting to advance. Others felt the "shock and awe" approach was better--wait until the enemy were close and then deliver one or two devastating volleys at ranges where few shots could miss and the survivors would be stunned by the level of carnage.

The British, in particular, generally favored the latter approach, but they seem to have been particularly bloody minded because they pursued a similar approach in naval warfare, preferring to lay their ships yard-arm to yard-arm alongside the enemy and blast the hulls to kill the crew and disable the guns. By contrast, the French liked to fire from a distance at the enemy's rigging in an attempt to cripple the enemy's ability to maneuver.

By way of contrast, and getting back to the question of the effectiveness of rifles, an early historian of the American frontier named Lyman Draper conducted extensive correspondence and interviews with surviving frontier figures from the period of the American Revolution through the War of 1812. One of the questions he asked of numerous different sources was what it took to be considered a good rifle shot among the real frontiersmen (a very small proportion of the population). The consensus he reported was that to be considered good (not great or the very top-my emphasis) a man should be able to consistently hit a target the size of a man's head from 200 to 250 yards. I have seen a pretty similar statement from a completely different source. That being said, such a man could obviously deliver dangerous fire, though less certainly, at considerably greater range.

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP06 Sep 2017 2:29 a.m. PST

The musket it self is perfectly capable of hitting a man sized target close to 100% at 150 meters. It's other factors that makes the effective range "less than 100 meters"

1. It's not an easy weapon to operate, the trigger is really really hard compared to modern weapons, this means it's much harder to get a smooth pull on the trigger, which means harder to be accurate. There is also a noticeable delay from the trigger pull to the actual bullet getting on its way.(this is one of the major advantages of the percussion weapons of the mid 19th centry, the delay was much much shorter)

2. No back sight, not surprisingly no or bad back sights has an effect(hence the British light infantry muskets having back sights)

3. Smoke, lots and lots of smoke

4. Shoulder to shoulder isn't a very effective way of standing if you plan on aiming.

5. Having the brains of your sergeant cover your face when a cannon ball hits him in the head, is also not very nice when trying to aim.

6. No training, generally they weren't trained to aim.

7. It's a human doing the shooting. WW2 weapons are 100% accurate up to 500+++ meters, yet only a tiny tiny fraction actually hit. adrenalin, fear and most of all the human aversion to killing other humans. If every single Napoleonic soldier actually tried to kill the enemy, battalions would annihilate each other in 5 minutes.

This a lone might be one of the reasons for elite units effectiveness. The soldiers in the 95th were elite, they were more motivated. It might be more of those "killer soldiers" in that unit than on average.
Research says between 5-10% of soldiers actively tried to kill the enemy. If the 95th had, say 20% or even 30% of soldiers actively trying to kill the enemy. that would give a very clear advantage over an enemy were only 10% actively tried to kill

Whirlwind06 Sep 2017 3:06 a.m. PST

WW2 weapons are 100% accurate up to 500+++ meters, yet only a tiny tiny fraction actually hit. adrenalin, fear and most of all the human aversion to killing other humans. If every single Napoleonic soldier actually tried to kill the enemy, battalions would annihilate each other in 5 minutes.

This a lone might be one of the reasons for elite units effectiveness. The soldiers in the 95th were elite, they were more motivated. It might be more of those "killer soldiers" in that unit than on average.
Research says between 5-10% of soldiers actively tried to kill the enemy. If the 95th had, say 20% or even 30% of soldiers actively trying to kill the enemy. that would give a very clear advantage over an enemy were only 10% actively tried to kill

I have really serious doubts about trying to explain Napoleonic warfare in terms of variable participation rates based on SLA Marshall / Grossman. I'd strongly advise anyone interested to read Brains and Bullets, or at least Ardant du Picq.

Trajanus06 Sep 2017 4:10 a.m. PST

Some note should be taken of which 95th players are talking about. The three Battalions had varying amounts of time "in country" when it comes to talking about Spain.

Not all the Battalions had equal service and for quite a lot of the time not all companies of any one Battalion served there together.

It should also be noted that due to the nature of their duties, long serving companies got "used up" more than Line regiments and the physical deterioration of the men was remarked upon. Some were toughened but others health broke down altogether.

I'm inclined to think that when it comes to durability the Companies of the 5th/60th had a better time of it due to their Brigade attachments where the 95th got all the tough assignments.

Trajanus06 Sep 2017 6:50 a.m. PST

Oh and a really big + 1 for Brains and Bullets!

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP06 Sep 2017 7:33 a.m. PST

I have really serious doubts about trying to explain Napoleonic warfare in terms of variable participation rates based on SLA Marshall / Grossman. I'd strongly advise anyone interested to read Brains and Bullets, or at least Ardant du Picq.

This isn't about Marshal/Grossman. It's just how humans are. You can't explain how any battle worked if you go by the assumption that much more than 10% actually tried to kill. Adrian Goldsworthy makes the claim that this has been universal since human warfare in his book on Cannea

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP06 Sep 2017 7:52 a.m. PST

Gunfreak:

Smoke is something that we rarely take into account on a Napoleonic battlefield. I read one British account of the battle of Vimiero that the 93rd [IIRC] used the smoke of a British regiment to conceal a move behind it and surprise the French on their flank.

However, Marshal/Grossman's more than 10% actually tried to kill really can't reasonably apply to a group of men standing shoulder-to-shoulder NOT being asked to aim. Skirmishing perhaps, but close order actions?

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP06 Sep 2017 8:19 a.m. PST

It's very easy not to hit someone in a firing line. Just aim your musket a few degrees up and that bullet will miss the enemy battalion by meters sone 70 meters out. Nobody will see that.
Yes smoke was a very good reason. When you read about battalions locked in a firefight at 40 yards distance both battalions are inside a giant cloud. With men just loading and firing. Oblivious to everything. The enemy battalion could have retreated and they wouldn't know for several minutes.

dibble06 Sep 2017 10:13 a.m. PST

This will be of some interest pertaining the Baker Rifle, not least the illustration opposite the title page. It's a depiction of a 'militia' rifleman. the interesting thing about the picture is that of the lock cover and tampion (barrel stopper) at his feet, his reinforced trousers and jacket, the detail of his cap badge with the design repeated on what seems to be a brazzard (Upper arm band)on his right arm. His plume seems to be white and his water canteen 'judging by the shade of grey of its strap' seems to be painted either black (more likely) or dark green.

If the Baker was no better than the India pattern, then the India pattern would have been issued to the rifle regiments and called the 60th-95th light infantry. that they weren't and employed in what would be seen today as a more modern approach to soldiering with field craft much more relied upon, initiative, a much greater reliance of accurate, independent fire and movement.

Were they over-rated?….Nah! They were an excellent military arm that proved it over and over again in scouting, outpost duties, in advance and rear guard.

Paul :)

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP06 Sep 2017 10:23 a.m. PST

While i agree the Baker was more accurate and effective light infantry weapon. We shouldn't assume it was better because people thought it was better. It's perfectly possible they deluded them self. It's not like there haven't been many a time in history were money, time and lives were wasted on what people thought was a new nice thing.

Whirlwind06 Sep 2017 10:33 a.m. PST

This isn't about Marshal/Grossman. It's just how humans are. You can't explain how any battle worked if you go by the assumption that much more than 10% actually tried to kill. Adrian Goldsworthy makes the claim that this has been universal since human warfare in his book on Cannea

Yes, Goldsworthy's claim is based on Grossman, which is based on a quite quirky reading of Marshall. There is no evidence at all that I am aware of that 90% of troops actively avoided trying to kill the enemy from aversion to killing in the Napoleonic Wars. Marshall's own work would make this extremely unlikely, since he emphasizes the loneliness of the modern battlefield as one of the major reasons for not participating in fire combat.

dibble06 Sep 2017 12:35 p.m. PST

While i agree the Baker was more accurate and effective light infantry weapon. We shouldn't assume it was better because people thought it was better. It's perfectly possible they deluded them self. It's not like there haven't been many a time in history were money, time and lives were wasted on what people thought was a new nice thing.

So the 'new nice thing' was carried on with the Brunswick rifle until the rest of the army could catch up with the (the rifle brigade had minies rifle temporarily) 1853 Enfield. If the Baker, then Brunswick rifles were nothing to write home about, how come the rifle regiments kept with the Baker, up to the late 1830's when the said Brunswick rifle was introduced.? and why weren't the rifle regiments issued with the light infantry musket If there was no real advantage of the Baker? It can be expected that it's faults would have come heavily to the fore during the 6 1/2 years of very arduous campaigning 'over the hills and far away' in the peninsula and southern France where the 'new nice thing' would have been cosigned to the militia only.

36 years of service was a long time for a late produced, muzzle-loading, flintlock military weapon to be in service

It wasn't a wonder weapon but it was the first in the British army (apart from the war bow) that could be shot accurately out to the 'golden' combat range of 300 yards/meters.

Paul :)

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP06 Sep 2017 12:43 p.m. PST

It's very easy not to hit someone in a firing line. Just aim your musket a few degrees up and that bullet will miss the enemy battalion by meters sone 70 meters out. Nobody will see that.


GunFreak:

That's true. And then there are the 20 to 25% misfires that was estimated to have occurred. However, that is a different issue from "not much more than 10% actually tried to kill."

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP06 Sep 2017 12:50 p.m. PST

dibble:

Thank you. Very interesting.Those are interesting patterns for a 9X9 target at 300 yards. with the half turn, it looks like it could be a 6-7 to 10 shots with a 6' target. I am amazed at the 'delicate' why he is holding his weapon with his left hand… being an "Experto Crede." grin

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP06 Sep 2017 12:53 p.m. PST

As I said. I believed it was a good weapon. I just said that because people back than believed it was a good weapon doesn't mean it was. People believed all kinds of things. People opened up their veins for centuries. Doesn't mean it was good for them. Preseeved effectiveness and actually effectiveness is hard to differentiate. It was more a general comment about "because they started to use it a lot, it was actually good"

The fact is no battle in history makes much sense if many people actually killed on purpose. The first volley (before the smoke) would down half the enemy battalion. Battles would last an hour instead of 12.

Units no matter if they used rifles, sword, spears or muskets would annihilate each other very fast.

leidang06 Sep 2017 1:18 p.m. PST

I think it is not so much that the rifles are overrated in rules but that all Napoleonic lights are overrated. They frequently have all the benefits of loose order along with the benefits of superior fire and morale.

This can be especially true when using rules written for a d6. Putting a plus or minus one on everything for them being lights, along with better movement and greater range for rifles, compounds itself and turns them into super- troopers.

Finding ways to give them more incremental benefits of their training within rules would help present them more realistically.

Sparta06 Sep 2017 1:41 p.m. PST

As already said Ardent Du Picq is a great place to go. From his studies and combat experience the batallion fire is mostly totally ineffective in terms of casualties and this from a time with rifledmusket or minie rifles.

dibble06 Sep 2017 2:27 p.m. PST

Gunfreak

As I said. I believed it was a good weapon. I just said that because people back than believed it was a good weapon doesn't mean it was.

Ehh? I don't want to sound down on you but the above quote has me bamboozled….

People opened up their veins for centuries. Doesn't mean it was good for them.

We are talking about a tool of war that could be seen experienced, and recordable results, not some quack medicinal operation with no real scientific or tangible proof to back up the proceedure.

Preseeved effectiveness and actually effectiveness is hard to differentiate.

soldiers who have experience in combat with a weapon that they rely on, know how effective it is and the results it attained. They had six and a half years of campaigning for gods sake, not a six day raid. They knew exactly what could be achieved with the rifle.

It seems to me that you are saying that of the many hard bitten veterans who used the Baker in the Peninsula was a delusion and that in fact what they were using was nothing special because you know better.

I'm sorry to say that this smacks of 'wargamer attitude' that I encountered once before, it occurred on this site (Medieval forum) who said that the English warbow (military longbow) couldn't possibly have had a pull weight of more than 70lbs because if it was more, the entire French army at Agincourt would have been wiped out! He knew better because he wargamed a scenario where the pull weight was increased to 90lb and indeed 'according to him' the French were totally destroyed before they even reached the English battle.

Paul :)

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP06 Sep 2017 6:07 p.m. PST

As already said Ardent Du Picq is a great place to go. From his studies and combat experience the batallion fire is mostly totally ineffective in terms of casualties and this from a time with rifledmusket or minie rifles.

The greater majority of du Picq's combat experience was in northern Africa against native tribesmen and not against European professionals.

That is a very large difference.

In short, du Picq is all wet and should be taken with a very large salt pill,

He is not a very good reference either for the Napoleonic period specifically, or European warfare in general.

He was killed in action at the beginning of the Franco-Prussian War so his experiences from his short participation in that war aren't available for comment.

Sparta07 Sep 2017 11:14 a.m. PST

Either you have not read it or you are joking. He fought in the Crimea,but build his analysis on historical documents – something you must be familiar with – and based his writings on intellectual deductions as well own experiences from french troops and contemporary officers giving accounts from 1859 and 1866.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP07 Sep 2017 11:31 a.m. PST

Sorry, but I've read it and I'm not joking. I know he was in the Crimea, but his conclusions could not have been drawn from that war, but from his experience in North Africa.

Du Picq was a dilettante and his outlook is quite different from those of the Prussians, who ended up proving his ideas wrong.

Like I said, his conclusions are all wet and not instructive. Unfortunately, again, we can't know what he thought of the Franco-Prussian experience as he died early.

Sparta07 Sep 2017 12:19 p.m. PST

Your deductions are completely different from mine after reading him. He recommends greater use of skirmishers firing at the enemy as the primary destructive element as opposed to fire by close order troops, and recommend close order troops only being used for the final assault on a worn down enemy – exactly the way the prussians won in 1866 and the way they had success with in 1870 – discounting the early battles where they attacked to early in close column!!???

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP07 Sep 2017 2:41 p.m. PST

…He recommends greater use of skirmishers firing at the enemy as the primary destructive element as opposed to fire by close order troops, and recommend close order troops only being used for the final assault on a worn down enemy…

Sounds like the French tactical system of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic period-nothing new here.

Sparta07 Sep 2017 11:53 p.m. PST

He does not invent new stuff but analyses the different formations and their effectiveness dependent on troops training and discipline. As I see it he is propably the first that analyses the human element in combat in a psychologically insightfull manner.
To call him a diletante is very simplistic and I cannot see where that would ome from. Is anyone doing military analysis without extensive combat experience a dilettante – Moltke never commanded a company in his life…..

Pages: 1 2