Help support TMP


"French Obusiers Espangol, Modified Pack Howitzers " Topic


29 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



762 hits since 6 May 2018
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Eagleman Sponsoring Member of TMP06 May 2018 3:37 a.m. PST

I have just read a reference to French Howitzers used in the Peninsular campaign that could be broken down and carried by pack mule called 'obusiers espagnol' or 'obusiers de 12cm'.
Does anyone have further information on this artillery piece or ideally any pictures drawings of it?
Cheers
Ian

Brechtel19806 May 2018 3:59 a.m. PST

What is the source?

Eagleman Sponsoring Member of TMP06 May 2018 4:06 a.m. PST

Albuera 1811 by Guy Dempsey quotes L'Artillerie de Montagne, Morillon p32.

Brechtel19806 May 2018 4:48 a.m. PST

Thanks.

Is the book on Google?

Le Breton06 May 2018 6:32 a.m. PST

It is an article, not a book.

"L'artillerie de montagne sous le premier Empire"
Marc Morillon
pages 27-36
Soldats napoléoniens N°9 (Mars 2006)

Le Breton07 May 2018 1:30 a.m. PST

At least two "obusiers de montagne" were in use at Saragossa in 1809, per Sucet's letter to minister of war dated 31 novembre 1809.
link
link

From Belmas, "Journaux des siéges …." (T. 4, page 19), four "obusiers de montagne" were used at the siege of Tarifa in 1811-1812.
link

In 1811, two of these were used at a blockhouse type post for the gendarmerie at Ayerbe in Aragon, along with 2 pièces de 4, 10 fusils de rempart and grenades.
link

Perhaps interestingly, an "obusier de montage de 12 cm" was part of the Valée system, adopted by the French in 1828 (à obus encartouché de 4 kg, calibre de 121 mm, longeur du pièce 1 m, poids de 203 kg décomposable en deux fardeaux transportable sur bâts de mulets, portée de 1200 m). Well-regarded after use in Algeria. Copies entered the Swiss service from 1841. I do not know how this design related to "obsiers de montagne" found/used in Spain during the 1er Empire.

picture

link

Eagleman Sponsoring Member of TMP07 May 2018 1:45 a.m. PST

Thank you for the info and the pictures. I am very grateful. I run Eagle Figures and you will probably see these as part of the Napoleonic range later in the year.
Cheers
Ian

Le Breton07 May 2018 3:04 a.m. PST

Dear Eagleman,

"Cuidado!"
I have no way knowing if the French model of 1828 looked like what they found in Spain ~20 years earlier.

So far, for the Spanish, I have found mentions only a naval design of 1783 and a mountain artillery design of 1838 – no images and no records of fabrication of the earlier naval design ….

Under Don Francisco-Javier Rovira (1740-1823), Comisaría General de la Artillería de Marina, there was designed in 1783 a obusier de 12 cm with conical breach for use on sloops and the upper decks of frigates.
link

In 1838, together with the permanent establishment of the Spanish "artillería de montaña", there was adopted an obús corto de 5 pulgadas [de Castille – i.e., 12 cm].
PDF link

If I had to guess, the Spanish mountain artillery design of 1838 would have been, like the Swiss design of 1841, very similar to French design of 1828.

Le Breton07 May 2018 8:36 a.m. PST

I do not think the piece in question was really Spanish. It is not mentioned in these three works, which give a rather complete history of Spanish artillery of the era:
--- Tomas de Morla, Tratado de Artillería para el uso de la Academia de Caballeros Cadetes del Real Cuerpo de Artillería (T.I – T.IV), 1816
--- Ramón de Salas, Memorial histórico de la artillería española, 1831
--- Moritz Meyer, Manuel historique de la technologie des armes à feu, 2e partie : 1764 jusqu'à nos jours, 1837

However, it *does* appear that the French mountain artillery howitzer of model 1828 was indeed a development of a piece of similar calibre made by the French in Spain during the Peninsular War!

"On avait commencé dès 1820 à s'occuper de cette question [du système d'artillerie de montagne"] en réunissant à Grenoble et à Toulouse toute les bouches à feur propres à ce service qui se trouvaient en France. On rapprocha ainsi divers modèles, comprenant …. un obusier de 12 francais. Cet obusier de 12 avait été coulé, en Espange, sur des dessins adoptés par le général Sénarmont, en même temps que l'obusier [à grand porté] de 6 pouces nommé obusier de Séville, et il avait été emplyé dans les montagnes de l'Andalousie et de l'Estremadure. …. L'expérience constatet fit admeetre que le canon de 4 et l'obusier de 12, réduits au poids qui permet de les porter à dos de mulet, pouvaient seuls produire des effets utiles dans la guerre de montagnes. …. [L]es résultats qu'on obtint à l'armée du midi de l'Espagne, dans les campagnes de 1810, 1811, 1812, de plusieurs batteries de montagne qui furent composées, d'après l'usage suivi pour les batteries de campagne, de canons de 3 ou de 4 et d'obusiers de 12; l'expérience prouva que les canons de 3 et de 4 ne produisaient que peu d'effet et que les obusiers de 12 en produisaient toujours de décisifs : aussi n'eut-on à remplacer que peu de munitions à canon – les consommations portèrent principalement sur les obus. …."
Études sur le passé et l'avenir de de l'artillerie, Volume 5, pages 112 et seq. (1871)
link

"A l'époque de la guerre d'Espagne (1810-1811-1812), on employa, en Catalogne et dans les provinces du midi, des batteries de montagne, transportables à dos de mulet, composées de canons de 3 français [sic – piémontais], de canons de 2 et de 4 espagnols, et d'obusiers de 12 centimètres. Cette dernière bouche à feu n'était ni espagnole ni d'invention nouvelle. Le général Lariboissière l'avait remarquée en Suisse, en 1799; et ce fut d'après les dessins du général Sénarmont, que les premiers obusiers de 122 centimètres , employés par l'armée française, furent coulés à la fonderie de Séville. Ils parurent, dans la pratique, d'un effet satisfaisant et supérieurs aux canons. …."
Mémorial de l'artillerie, ou Recueil de mémoires, expériences, observations et procédés relatifs au service de l'Artillerie, Volume 7, pages 13 et seq. (1852)
link

Brechtel19810 May 2018 6:57 a.m. PST

I believe that it is worth noting that the French had no mountain artillery units permanently formed from 1792-1815. They were formed as provisional artillery companies or units when they were needed.

summerfield10 May 2018 7:40 a.m. PST

No army have permanently established mountain artillery units at this time. You will find mky writings on the Mountain guns in various issues of the Smoothbore Ordnance Journal.

A version of this howitzer was used by the US in Mexico (1848) and by both sides in the American Civil War. Piobert developed the howitzers in the late Napoleonic Wars before and the pattern was adopted c1824 for the French invasion of Spain. It predated the adoption of the Valee system in 1828 that was the French version of the British Desaguliers Block Trail system designed back in 1778 and first used during the American War of Independence.

It must be noted the position of the trunions between the French and US versions of the 12cm (12-pdr) mountain howitzer.
Stephen

summerfield10 May 2018 7:41 a.m. PST

Le Breton and others
I am always looking for contributions to the Journal. There are now 10 volumes so far. Most of which I have written.
Stephen

Brechtel19811 May 2018 3:43 a.m. PST

No army have permanently established mountain artillery units at this time.

The original question in the OP was about the French in Spain which prompted my answer.

Brechtel19811 May 2018 4:56 a.m. PST

Regarding Piobert, are you referring to Guillaume Piobert (born 1793) who works in include Traite d'Artillerie Theoretique et Experimentals and Traite d'Artillerie Proprieties et Effets de la Poudre?

Did not the French intervention/invasion of Spain occur in 1823? The fighting ended the same year although a French occupation force stayed until 1828 in support of Ferdinand VII.

Brechtel19811 May 2018 5:01 a.m. PST

…British Desaguliers Block Trail system designed back in 1778 and first used during the American War of Independence.

Source(s)?

Brechtel19811 May 2018 5:23 a.m. PST

There are now 10 volumes so far. Most of which I have written.

I think that only seven are listed on the Napoleon Series. Are you not posting them on that site any longer?

Le Breton11 May 2018 5:29 a.m. PST

Guillaume Piobert
--- 1793 né près de Lyon
--- 1813 élève de l'Ecole polytechnique
--- 1815 élève sous-lieutenant de l'École d'application de l'artillerie et du génie de Metz
--- 1818 lieutenant au 5e régiment d'artillerie à pied, à Strasbourg
--- 1825 capitaine, aide de camp du général comte Valée
--- 1829 chevalier de la Légion d'honneur
--- 1831 professeur de balistique à l'École d'application de l'artillerie et du génie de Metz
--- 1837 aide de camp du général comte Valée, à l'armée d'Afrique
--- 1838 chef d'escadron
--- 1839 officier de la Légion d'honneur
--- 1840 membre de l'Académie des sciences
--- 1841 lieutenant-colonel
--- 1845 colonel, examinatuer des élèves au dépôt central d'artillerie à Paris
--- 1848 général de brigade, directeur du service des poudres
--- 1852 général de division, membre du Conseil de perfectionnement de l'École polytechnique
--- 1858 admis au cadre de réserve
--- 1871 mort à La Pierre en Isère

Bibliographie
— 1830 Mémoire sur les effets des poudres de différents procédés de fabrication
— 1838 Traité d'artillerie théorique et pratique, 2 vol.
— 1841 Cours d'artillerie
— 1842 Mémoire sur le tirage des voitures
— 1844 Mémoire sur les poudres de guerre
— 1845 Expériences sur les roues hydrauliques à axe vertical

Le Breton11 May 2018 7:29 a.m. PST

I still can't figure out exactly what the commandant du parc d'artillerie de l'armée d'Helvétie chef de brigade Lariboissière saw in Switzerland. I am finding more on what the later design of 1828 looked like. This is frustrating as there must have been some real differences between what Lariboissière saw in 1799 in Switzerland and which was copied at Seville for use in the Peninsula – vs. – the French design of 1828 which the Swiss adopted as a improvement in 1836. If they were quite similar, the Swiss would have had no need to re-equip.

For the French model of 1828, also adpoted by Spain and Switzerland, you can see its scale drawing, the drawing of its carriage and mule "saddle", and its loading on mules in plates XVII, XVIII and XVIIIbis (after pages 164 and 168) in the "Manuel d'Artillerie: à l'usage des officiers d'artillerie de la république Helvetique" by capitaine Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, son of the ex-king of Holland (1836).
link

Photo of a French piece of the same type

picture

These French 1828 pieces were somewhat similar to the Russian 1/4 pud unicorn for horse artillery deployed in the 1790's:
Caliber (diameter of the bore) : 121 mm for the French design vs. 123 mm for the Russian
Length of the bore without the chamber : 6.67 calibers for the French design vs. 7.75 calibers for the Russian
Length of the barrel without the cascabel : 0.86 m for the French design vs. 1.23 m for the Russian
Total length of the barrel : 0.97 m for the French design vs. 1.38 m for the Russian
Weight of the barrel : 105 kg for the French design vs. 300 kg for the Russian
Weight of the standard shell round : 4kg for both, including 0.8 kg of propellant powder for both
Contruction of the standard shell round : "cartridge" for both
Shape of the chamber : "conical" for both
Location of the trunions : below the axis of the bore for both

Comment/opinion:
The Russian design of the 1790's has somewhat greater length, but differs mostly in the thickness of the metal at and just in front of the breech. While some of this thickening may have been for desirable durability in a standard field piece (and could be omitted in a specialized montain piece), it is likely that the French had made some real progress in metallurgy in their experiments in the 1820's, thus allowing for the thinner walls in their mountain piece of 1828.

However the Russians were not too far behind : here is there 122 mm mountain unicorn of 1838 :

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/fe/122-мм_горный_единорог_образца_1838_года.jpg

(copy the link and paste into your navigation bar, hit "enter" or "return" and you will see the image – the TMP auto-formatting system does not accept Cyrillic characters in photo links)

Le Breton11 May 2018 8:09 a.m. PST

"…British Desaguliers Block Trail system designed back in 1778 and first used during the American War of Independence.
Source(s)?"

I do not know if the request for sources is as to the use by Desaguliers of a block trail in his design made for a 3-pounder in 1775-1777 and actually built from 1779. If that is the question, the answer is "yes", see ….

"The Introduction of the Block Trial Carriage"
Captain Adrian B. Caruana
Canadian Journal of Arms Collecting
Vol. 18, No. 1 (February 1980)

"British Smooth-Bore Artillery: A Technological Study"
David McConnell
Ottawa : Canadian Government Publishing Centre, 1988
pages 200 et seq.

If the qustion is, "was Desaguliers the inventor?", his own records state that he based his design on a unususal piece found by the British in Martinique in 1761, which may or may not have featured a block trail.

If the question is, "were these used in the war with the American colonies?", I have no information at hand on this topic.

Brechtel19811 May 2018 5:26 p.m. PST

From British Smooth-Bore Artillery: A Technological Study by David McConnell, 198-201:

'The Block Trail Carriage'

'The next important development in carriage design was the introduction of the block trail, firstly for horse artillery, shortly for all field guns, and eventually for siege guns and guns of position. Instead of two long brackets joined together by transoms, this new pattern carriage consisted of a solid central shaft of wood to which two small brackets were fitted and bolted at the front to support the trunnions of the gun. The shaft tapered toward the trail which was turned up and shaped in much the same way as the double bracket carriage.'

'The new design had a number of advantages over the older pattern. The center of gravity of the latter was too far to the rear necessitating heavy work for two men with handspikes to traverse the gun or to lay it under the direction of the commanding NCO. With the new design, the trail could be picked up by one man using a crooked handspike; moreover, this same man could lay the gun as well. The narrowness of the block trail allowed a greater amount of lock to be given the limber, thereby allowing the whole carriage to be reversed almost on its own ground.'

'As early as 1779 or before, Desaguliers had designed a carriage for a heavy 3-pounder suitable for use with cavalry which, according to Congreve, was based on some field carriages captured on the island of Martinique in 1761. Drawings of maneuvers which Desaguilers asked Congreve to prepare indicated that the carriage was a block trail. In 1788, when the Duke of Richmond, Master-General of the Ordnance, ordered Congreve to design carriages for field pieces and ammunition wagons, Congreve had recourse to Desaguiler's design…'

'…In 1779, by his own testimony, Congreve had made some 'trifling additions to the design and, in 1788, had felt it was only necessary to strengthen the block or shaft to prevent it from warping and rendering the draught uncertain. After a series of experiments, the block trail carriage was introduced for the 3-pounder Desaguilers, 6-pounder Belford, and probably the 1.6-inch howitzer when the Horse Brigade of the Royal Artillery was formed in 1793.'

'Although initially introduced for horse artillery, the block trail carriage was soon extended to all field guns. By 1813, the medium 12-pounder, 9-pounder, heavy and light 6-pounders, and the heavy 3-pounder were all said to be mounted on the new pattern carriage. As well, the light 3-pounder was similarly mounted…Undoubtedly double bracket carriages were still issued as long as they were in store, but by the end of the Napoleonic war the revolution in field carriage design was complete.'

There is no evidence here showing that the British used a block trail gun carriage in the War of the American Revolution. Development and testing of a block trail carriage indeed was going on from at least 1779, but no British field artillery was equipped with it until the introduction of the Royal Horse Artillery in 1793.

Other useful references are:

-British Smooth-Bore Artillery by BP Hughes.

-An Introduction to British Artillery in North America by James Gooding.

-Grasshoppers and Butterflies: The light 3-pounders of Pattison and Townsend by Adrian Caruana.

-The Light 6-pounder Battalion Gun of 1776 by Adrian Caruana.

Brechtel19812 May 2018 1:13 p.m. PST

Regarding mountain artillery units, both the British and Portuguese employed them in Spain.

The British designed a 3-pounder mountain piece, designed by Colonel Cuppage at Woolwich and they were sent to Spain in May 1809.

The 1st Mountain Brigade was formed in 1813 with 3-pounder guns captured from the French and put under the command of Lieutenant WL Robe, RA. Three light 3-pounders were sent from Lisbon and added to the brigade. The captured French pieces were converted to single draft and the later three were mule-packed. The brigade was disbanded at the end of the campaign.

Robe was later killed in action at Waterloo.

The Portuguese later formed a brigade of mountain guns manned by Portuguese artillerymen with British drivers and mules.

Alexander Dickson, the premier British artillery officer in the Peninsula stated:

'…To return to Mountain Guns, I have two kinds; one carried on mules, the other single draught. The former kind galls, and indeed ruins many animals, and the only advantage it possesses over the other is that the ordnance can be conveyed by the narrowest footpaths, and up the most difficult steeps. The gun in draught does no injure the animals; it is much easier to bring to action; it can retire quicker, and as it will admit of being of greater length, its practice will be more exact than the other. I think these kind [draught] of guns might be useful in a close or woody country with light troops…'

summerfield15 May 2018 4:11 a.m. PST

As you know well, all ten volumes of Smoothbore Ordnance Journal are avaiable from Ken Trotman Publishing. The latest has been on SOJ-08 Crimean Artillery, SOJ-09 Franco-Prussian Rifled Artillery and SOJ-10 ACW Smoothbore Artillery.
link
Stephen

Brechtel19815 May 2018 5:23 a.m. PST

In point of fact, I was not aware of the last three issues. Thanks for posting, but they are just a little expensive.

Brechtel19816 May 2018 1:58 p.m. PST

There is an excellent chapter on mountain guns and the various gun carriages used for them in Volume II of Tousard's American Artillerist's Companion (167-198). It is highly recommended. Crew drill is included.

Le Breton17 May 2018 1:36 a.m. PST

One can read the Toussard here :
link

However, there apperas to be nothing there about howitzers of the size or type being discussed here.

He proposes use of the 6-inch [Gribeauval] howitzer (163mm vs. 121mm) with a conventional carraige with two flasks, and states that a limber should also be employed so that "the carriage would last longer" He assigns 8 mules to pull the piece, not 2 to carry it dis-assembled.

Mad Malx17 May 2018 3:37 a.m. PST

I was under the impression that the "obusier" didn't come into use until after the Napoleonic wars, but that the "obusier de vaisseau" was used on French ships in place of carronades. Could the guns mentioned here actually be naval obusiers on field carriages?

Brechtel19817 May 2018 6:18 a.m. PST

Howitzers came into the French service in the late 1740s and they were employed by other European armies prior to that date.

The obusier de vaisseau came into service with the French Navy as an answer to the British carronade in the second half of the 18th century, but was later replaced by the carronade ca 1805.

Le Breton17 May 2018 7:31 a.m. PST

Dear Max,

In theory, quite possible. I was exploring this line (see above) when assuming "Spanish howitzers" meant made by the Spanish.
Under Don Francisco-Javier Rovira (1740-1823), Comisaría General de la Artillería de Marina [Española], there was designed in 1783 a 12 cm howitzer with conical breach for use on sloops and the upper decks of frigates.

However, as I found more references, it became clear that (i) "Spanish howitzer" meant made by the French in Seville in 1810/1811, and (ii) that the design was that of a Swiss howitzer seen by the French artillerists in the 1799 campaign there.

My problem is that the Swiss widely adopted from 1836-1841 a "new" 12 cm mountain howitzer, replacing rather few pieces of their "old" 12 cm mountain howitzer design, which was the one copied in Seville. The "Swiss literature" describes the "new" one in detail, but I have found no good details on the "old" one.

The "new" Swiss 12 cm mountain howtizer was a copy of the French 1828 12 cm mountain howitzer. It was also adopted by the Spanish in 1838. The relationship of this French design of 1828 to those made in Seville in 1810/1811 I do not know.

So, for 12 cm mountain howitzers ….

Swiss "old" model, designed before 1799 (details not found, yet) ---> copied as "Spanish howitzer" made by the French at Seville in 1810/1811 – the pieces that the OP was asking about

??? ---> French design of 1828 ---> copied as Swiss "new" model from 1836 ---> copied in Spanish service from 1838

Le Breton17 May 2018 8:06 a.m. PST

A little more detail, in case one finds Mr. Brechtel's response above too summary.

In 1786, the French Navy adopted the "obusier de vaisseau". Based on the Gribeauval 6-inch land howitzer (169 mm calibre), and intended to be made in various sizes, actually only 36-pounders were made. These were in bronze, and intended to fire cannister and shell, just like the land pieces. The 36-pounder barrel was 84.3 cm long and weighed 350 kg.

picture

The French found the shell rounds difficult and dangerous to use at sea, and began to load the pieces with plain ball rounds instead, leading to the use of the term "caronade obusier". Ill-suited to firing the ball round, the pieces were replaced from 1804 by true caronades.

These French caronades of the An XIII were cast in iron, first 36 pounders and then later (1810) also 24-pounders. The 36-pounders were still 169 mm caibre, but longer (182.1 cm) and much heavier (1223 kg). They were essentailly copies of British designs.

picture

Sorry - only verified members can post on the forums.