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"Infantry giving fire" Topic

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Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP26 Oct 2017 3:21 a.m. PST

So all countries had several doctrines of giving fire.
From company/platoon fire to obsolete rank fire.
And of course the volley.
I'm under the impression that battalion volley was the most common form of giving fire?
Any references that give info on this?
Also, does anyone have a specific source for the British doctrine of holding fire until 30-40 yards away and giving a single volley before charging?

Art Inactive Member26 Oct 2017 4:13 a.m. PST

G'Day Truls,

First doctrine is a modern term…

Here is the link to the British Rules and Regulations


It will explain in detail how an execution of fire was executed…

once you are ready…I will give you a link that provides information on each nation's system of executing method of fire…

Also there are plenty of threads on TMP on that subject

Best Regards

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP26 Oct 2017 4:14 a.m. PST

Battalion commanders liked to do some sort of controlled volley fire. By battalion, company/platoon, rank, or even wing. It allowed them to keep the men under good control and ready to follow any new orders which might come along. But most, even Napoleon himself, recognized that in a firefight the firing would quickly become independent in spite of the officers' wishes as the faster-loading men refused to wait for the slower and would fire as quickly as they could rather than wait for orders.

von Winterfeldt26 Oct 2017 4:29 a.m. PST

there was the theory and there was the actual firing.
In most armies it was after one volley fire at will.

Seemingly only the British professionals could mange fire control.

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP26 Oct 2017 5:01 a.m. PST

'Day Truls,

First doctrine is a modern term…

Here is the link to the British Rules and Regulations


It will explain in detail how an execution of fire was executed…

once you are ready…I will give you a link that provides information on each nation's system of executing method of fire…

Also there are plenty of threads on TMP on that subject

Best Regards

Thanks, But I know the theory, my question is what did they actually do?
Are there any sources were officers actually say what kind of fire they gave?
I never see officers specify how they gave fire in the actual combat, they mostly simply say we fired on the enemy, or we gave a volley, or we fired at the enemy for some time etc. There is no "we fired on the enemy by company" None of the after-action references I've seen make any mention of how the fired, simply that they fired in some unspecified way.

Major Snort26 Oct 2017 7:52 a.m. PST

As far as the British army is concerned, eyewitness accounts can be found describing various modes of fire being used in battle.

Andrew Leith Hay witnessed a battalion volley at the Battle of Busaco:

"…the 9th Regiment, commanded by Colonel Cameron, being the leading battalion, when about a hundred yards distant, wheeled into line, firing a volley, the effect of which was terrific; the ground was covered with dead and dying, not new levies or mercenaries, but the elite of the French army. This destructive fire being followed up by an immediate charge, the enemy gave way, rushing down the steep face of the sierra in the utmost confusion."

Charles Cadell of the 28th Regiment described platoon volleys at the Battle of Barossa:

"[We] advanced to meet their right wing, which was then coming down in close column; this gave us a great advantage, and here the coolness of Colonel Belson was conspicuous; we being the left regiment, he moved us up without firing a shot, close to their right battalion, which just began to deploy. Colonel Belson then gave orders to fire by platoons from centre to flanks, at the same time to be sure to fire at their legs and spoil their dancing."

And Colonel Inglis of the 57th Regiment, writing about himself in the third person, ordered file fire at the Battle of Albuera in 1811:

"Colonel Inglis then called the General's attention to the steadiness evinced by his regiment, who were standing with ordered arms under so heavy a fire from the enemy. General Hoghton directed Colonel Inglis not to engage till he should receive his orders to do so, and said, that he himself was going to the right of his brigade, and would take off his hat to the Colonel, as a signal to him when he wished him to commence. When the signal was given it was returned by the Colonel, who then ordered arms to be shouldered, and his regiment then threw in a very heavy well-directed fire, by files from the right of companies."

Several more examples can be found.

Major Snort26 Oct 2017 8:21 a.m. PST

Again referring to British practice, the most prevalent mode of firing during the Napoleonic Wars was almost certainly file fire.

Writing just before the Revolutionary Wars, Major Lindsay stated that many veteran officers in the British army believed that it was not possible to fire more than two organised volleys before file fire automatically set in.

Now if we are to fire regular discharges of musquetry, whether by platoons, wings, or battalions, any farther thoughts upon this subject are unnecessary; but many officers of great experience are of opinion, that in action, after the first discharge or two, it is impossible. Do what we may, the regular discharges will degenerate into file firing.

A good example of this happening in action can be found In David Stewarts account of his regiment at Maida, where two volleys were fired:

The lines were fast closing, but with perfect regularity and firmness. They were now within three hundred yards distance, and a fire having commenced between the sharpshooters on the right, it was time to prepare for an immediate shock. The enemy seemed to hesitate, halted and fired a volley. Our line also halted, and instantly returned the salute; and when the men had reloaded, a second volley was thrown in

It is worth noting that the only distance mentioned here is "within 300 yards"

This was followed by a "charge" that forced the French back a short distance and then more firing:

A constant running fire was now kept up on the march, the enemy continuing the same, but retiring slowly as they fired, until they threw their first line on their second.

"Running fire" is file fire, so this sequence follows Major Lindsay's observations closely.

There is no period publication that I am aware of, either official or unofficial, that advocates holding fire until 30 or 40 yards. It may have happened on several occasions, but the distance at which fire was opened by the British seems to have been generally much further than this.

The Manual and Platoon Exercise booklet states that fire was normally opened at between 150 and 200 yards, and this is supported by many other theoretical works. It is also interesting to look at the distances used for musketry practice, which were generally 60, 100, 150 and 200 yards, with 60 yards only being an option for recruits or "bad shots". This must represent the distances that were envisaged for combat.

Returning to the most common mode of fire, Captain James of the 67th Regiment wrote in 1813:

Various opinions have been offered by professional writers upon this momentous point; [the most effective way of delivery fire] but the prevalent opinion at present seems to be in favour of file firing, which, when briskly and coolly kept up cannot fail to be extremely galling and destructive.

More importantly, when the 1824 regulations were published, based on wartime experience, the normal mode of fire used in action had been recognised and the troops instructed accordingly:

File or independent firing from the right or left of wings or from the right or left of subdivisions, should be practised frequently, as being the most essential and usual mode of firing upon actual service … file firing must be conducted slowly and deliberately. Each file must bring up the piece to the present at the same time but the rear rank man must not fire until the front rank man has fired; and the front rank man must always reserve his fire until the file he follows has fired. If this is carefully attended to, no hurry, and consequent loss of fire and intermission of fire, can ensue.

Even in a well disciplined army like the British, there is a good chance that all organisation went out of the window after a couple of shots and chaos ensued, whether firing by volley or by file. Colonel Mitchell's description is perhaps how most fire was delivered in action:

What precision of aim or direction can be expected from soldiers when firing in line? One man is priming; another coming to the present; a third taking, what is called, aim; a fourth ramming down his cartridge. After the first few shots, the whole body are closely enveloped in smoke, and the enemy is totally invisible; some of the soldiers step out a pace or two, in order to get a better shot; others kneel down; and some have no objection to retire a step or so. The doomed begin to fall, dreadfully mutilated perhaps, and even bold men shrink from the sight; others are wounded, and assisted to the rear by their comrades; so that the whole soon becomes a line of utter confusion, in which the mass only think of getting their shot fired, they hardly care how or in what direction. True it is that owing to the crowding in on some points, and casualties on others, elbow room is got fast enough; but by that time the blood is already rushing with lightning speed and fire through the veins, excitement is at its height; all composure is out of the question; and your well-drilled battalion, is fit for little more than a dash to the front, or a flight to the rear.

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP26 Oct 2017 8:25 a.m. PST

Thanks just what I was looking for.
Though that first one was "colourful"
I highly doubt the ground was covered with dead and dying. From a volley at 100 yards…

von Winterfeldt26 Oct 2017 11:56 a.m. PST

there is plenty around, just what I found in one memoire

"At reading the memoirs of Orson, I found a lot of fascinating information's, amongst others about the firing systems used.
The units referred are the 205 e demi brigade and 4e chasseurs à pied in the year 4 in the Palatinate.

One battalion of 205e is placed at the heights of Heidelberg with 12 hussars of the 8e regiment, one hussar deserted and by this the enemy knew the position of the battalion and attacked with cavalry.

"After having fired with two ranks (feux de deux rangs), the soldiers of this batallion were forced to retreat a bit quickly. Luckily they were protected by a wood of firs; They retreated to the demi brigade (p.119)."

In an action close to Mannheim at the 26 vendémiare an IV (18 October 1795) he gives this account, the enemy Wurmser attacked with more than 10 000 men at two o clock in the morning (to say, at night, ) and believed that the French were still in the camp and not ready for battle. He writes about the 4e de chasseurs à pied:

A part of that horde, commanded by the count de Wurmser, was throwing themselves onto the 4e de chasseurs à pied, which were deployed in line and responded by a fire of two ranks."
(page 122)

The Austrians could not break the 4e chasseurs and encountered the 205e who waited with utmost silence. The 205e was also deployed in line formation.

"when they know the moment for firing, the three bataillons executed a fire of two ranks and the artillery, on the way, fired with canister (tira à mitraille)."
(page 123)

"The enemy redoubled their shouts, but the artillery met them with canister and the 205e continued to fire with two ranks, in the way that the fire lasted till the morning / daybreak, and the Austrians were smashed. (page 123)"

« At first the enemy made a great mistake to disperse in the current (débanda en courrant ?) like to pass the river; to that the 205e executed his firing in files." (p. 137/ 138)

"He rallied all the hearts by his presence and all repeated the words "En avant, en avant!", The drummers beat the charge, we hurled ourselves forward with the bayonet and lowered heads, then we stop to carry them, we execute our battalion fire. The charge is always beaten, one small drummer had his arm carried off, the general Duhesme took his drum and beat the charge with the grip of his sabre, what an admirable idea!
The enemy, with his numerous cavalry, wanted to cut us to pieces, but always he is smashed; we marched always a la baïonnette (lowered bayonets) and threw off all who put themselves against us. (page 191) this was an action or battle at the 3 floreal an V, 23 april 1797, Orson named it battle of Diersheim

Castaniè François : Mémoires du Porte – Drapeau Louis – François Orson (1789 – 1799), Paris, no year.

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP26 Oct 2017 12:02 p.m. PST

Would fire by two ranks be a battalion volley with a 3rd rank holding fire?

von Winterfeldt26 Oct 2017 12:18 p.m. PST

no, in theory itstarts with a fire by file, starting at each company from the right to the left, so the first file – two ranks would fire, then the second rank firer would swop his musket with the third rank one which is still loaded, then he would load this and fire and then get again his original loaded from the third rank, then they would continue to fire at will.
So the front two ranks would fire and the third rank would only load and then always swop with the second rank the musket, by that a continous fire is achieved, in theory, in practice it seems that soldiers were very reluctung to swop their gun.

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