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"Friendly Fire in the ACW?" Topic


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Action Log

04 Oct 2017 6:53 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

  • Changed title from "Americans shooting their own" to "Friendly Fire in the ACW?"


947 hits since 3 Oct 2017
©1994-2017 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Personal logo ochoin Supporting Member of TMP04 Oct 2017 4:53 a.m. PST

I'm currently re-basing my entire ACW armies.
I'll spare you the sordid details why but the process has raised a question.

Infantry (1/72) were based in a single rank of 3s on 40 X 30mm bases.
I am now using 40 X 40 bases with 2 ranks of 3 (ie 6 figures). It looks more authentic but is a squeeze.

The close proximity of my "firing line" regiment figures to each other raises the question of accidently shooting your comrades in the heat (& smoke) of battle.

Did this happen? Are there documented cases? Any statistics of its frequency?

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP04 Oct 2017 5:08 a.m. PST

Wikipedia list of "friendly fire incidents":
link

Along with the obvious shooting of Generals Jackson and Longstreet, the Wiki author estimated that up to 5% of total battle casualties were "friendly fire".
And the percentage is much higher in later Wars.

KeithRK04 Oct 2017 5:13 a.m. PST

Do you mean the men in the rear rank hitting the men in the front rank of their company?

ACW Gamer Supporting Member of TMP04 Oct 2017 5:14 a.m. PST

I wrote a short article about fratricide in Issue 10 of my magazine, ACW Gamer. I entitled it "Most Melancholy of Disasters" from a report from a Civil War officer.

Personal logo ochoin Supporting Member of TMP04 Oct 2017 5:20 a.m. PST

Do you mean the men in the rear rank hitting the men in the front rank of their company?

Yes, that.

I wrote a short article about fratricide in Issue 10 of my magazine, ACW Gamer.

I would like to read it.

KeithRK04 Oct 2017 5:22 a.m. PST

No that didn't normally happen. The men in the rear rank were to remain 13 inches from the front rank and fire over the shoulders of the front rank men. They were drilled to maintain that distance.

From the tactics manuals:

17. The distance from one rank to another will be thirteen inches, measured from the
breasts of the rear-rank men to the backs or knapsacks of the front-rank men.

KeithRK04 Oct 2017 5:25 a.m. PST

Now, one unit firing into another unit happened, but that is different from rear rank men hitting the front rank men in their own company.

Clays Russians04 Oct 2017 6:21 a.m. PST

What kieth said, and no! The frank rank did not kneel as they did in Glory. You put the front ranker's ear between the middle barrel band and the back barrel band with the lock far enough back so it doesn't 'snap' right next to his ear. 13 inches is the prescribed setting.

davbenbak Supporting Member of TMP04 Oct 2017 6:26 a.m. PST

I've considered that basing for 1/72's myself but it's tough. Maybe with the new Strelets marching figures you could make it work. I use 4 figures, 1 deep on a 2"x1" base. I use a 25 pace to 1 inch ground scale so each base represents approximately 120 men in a two rank line.

skipper John Supporting Member of TMP04 Oct 2017 6:49 a.m. PST

I've got to think that it was common with a mounted charge.

VVV reply04 Oct 2017 9:56 a.m. PST

Yep I think they had thought of that one.

skipper John Supporting Member of TMP04 Oct 2017 11:29 a.m. PST

I read somewhere that Lawrence, of Arabian fame had his camel drop dead from under him during a charge. Later upon inspection he determined that he himself had shot it in the back of the head during the excitement.

Personal logo John the Greater Supporting Member of TMP04 Oct 2017 12:36 p.m. PST

Do you mean the men in the rear rank hitting the men in the front rank of their company?

Even though the troops were drilled not to shoot the guy in front of them, it did happen sometimes. Generally not in the back or head but rather in the hand or the other guy's musket.

A few years ago I read a letter from a Union soldier to his brother about just this thing happening at Corinth. The soldier says "a Frenchman" in the rear rank shot the soldier's musket barrel and knocked it out of his hand. The soldier turned around, punched the Frenchman, took his musket and went back to shooting.

Justin Penwith04 Oct 2017 1:40 p.m. PST

@John the Greater, I don't know what it is about Frenchmen and friendly fire. At 135th Gettysburg, a Frenchman really did shoot another Confederate reenactor with a a pistol. It hit the poor guy in the neck, where he nearly bled to death.

My Union company was right in front of the Confederate lines when this happened; we were lucky to not be hit by the other five rounds he popped off.

So, if that happened at an event were NONE of the rifles and pistols were to be loaded with bullets, what's the likelihood of fratricide occurring in a battle where bullets are flying?

14Bore04 Oct 2017 2:20 p.m. PST

Men have been committing 'friendly fire' since cave men could only throw rocks. I suspect a good percentage of casualties are from friendly fire in the ACW.

ACW Gamer Supporting Member of TMP04 Oct 2017 4:56 p.m. PST

I am sorry, my article was on unit on unit fratricide, not the men in the rear rank shooting the front rank.

gprokopo04 Oct 2017 5:58 p.m. PST

Do you mean the men in the rear rank hitting the men in the front rank of their company?

No that didn't normally happen.

I came across one instance of this happening, at Shiloh, in the 16th US. See Prokopowicz, All for the Regiment, p. 109.

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP05 Oct 2017 3:19 a.m. PST

As a long-time reenactor, I've noticed that there is a tendency for the rear rank to slowly creep backwards during firing. The 13" distance is uncomfortably close when you are loading and there is the urge to step back a tiny bit to get more room. In time, the distance might get big enough to put the front rank at risk. HOWEVER, that's one of the function of the file closers: keep the rear rank up close and tight. A company has five sergeants and two lieutenants and their proper position in a fight is two paces behind the rear rank. In addition to prevent anyone from running away, their job was to make sure the rear rank didn't 'drift' backwards.

ACW Gamer Supporting Member of TMP05 Oct 2017 6:28 a.m. PST

'In addition to prevent anyone from running away, their job was to make sure the rear rank didn't 'drift' backwards.'

Excellent point!

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