Help support TMP


"Russian Artillery - improvements in aiming?" Topic


70 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



1,899 hits since 13 Jun 2018
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Pages: 1 2 

138SquadronRAF Supporting Member of TMP13 Jun 2018 9:35 a.m. PST

I was listening to this:

YouTube link

Adam Zamoyski claimed, that the Russians intoduced a method of aiming artillery that was superior to that used by the French.

I have never read of any improvements introduced by the Russians that were superior to the French.

Any suggestions as to what he was talking about?

rmaker13 Jun 2018 10:18 a.m. PST

Pendulum hausse. Compensates for placement of the gun on non-level ground. Yes, the Russians introduced it , and by 1830 everybody was using it.

link

Le Breton Inactive Member13 Jun 2018 10:24 a.m. PST

Markovich – Маркович – 1802 – dioptre

picture

Kabanov – Кабанов – 1808 – pendulum

picture

picture

The pieces used Markovich sight normally, and switched to Kabanov when needed.

Bestuzhev – Бестужев – 1835 – improved pendulum

picture

summerfield14 Jun 2018 10:00 a.m. PST

Yes it was superior. Important on uneven ground where one wheel was higher than the other
Stephen

Brechtel19815 Jun 2018 8:33 a.m. PST

Zamoyski made the claim in his book on the Russian campaign that the Russian artillery was superior to the French. That is an incorrect assessment. The Russians certainly had more artillery, but in equipment, training, and doctrine the Russian artillery arm was inferior to the French along with the British and Austrian artillery arms.

The Russians during the period employed three different sights.

First, Markevich's dioptre sight caused significat error when the field piece was on uneven ground and the trunnions of the gun tube were not level.

Second, the gunner's quadrant which was used when the range was greater than the parameters of the diopter sight, had to be inserted into the muzzle of the gun tube to be used. Later an improved gunner's quadrant was developed by Markevich, but that had to have a flat horizontal surface parallel to the axis of the bore had to be used to mount the quadrant. The cascabel knob was flattened to supply this required surface. Pieces with the modified cascabel knob went into production.

Third, Kabanov proposed and developed a pendulum sight in 1809 which was hung on a pin which was attached to a bracket screwed on the top of the breech. This sight had two significant disadvantages: it was difficult to use in a strong wind and had to be removed from the gun tube before firing and then reattached. This sight was adopted in 1811 but was not issued to all of the artillery companies, even in 1812-1814.

It was not superior to the French adjustable elevator sight during the period. The French elevator sight was simple, easy to use, and did not have to be removed from the breech after every shot.

The United States Army developed a pendulum hausse sight which is described in Artillery for the Land Service by Brevet Major Alfred Mordecai of the US Army's Ordnance Department published in 1849. The author mentions that the sight was 'derived from the Russian artillery service.'

von Winterfeldt15 Jun 2018 11:04 a.m. PST

yes Russian artillery material had a tremendous reputation and a lot of military experts were awe struck by the quality of men, horses and equipment

Brechtel19815 Jun 2018 12:52 p.m. PST

Do you have a source(s)?

Brechtel19815 Jun 2018 2:16 p.m. PST

a lot of military experts were awe struck by the quality of men, horses and equipment

Who?

Le Breton Inactive Member15 Jun 2018 3:14 p.m. PST

The French Gribeuaval hausse sight worked on *exactly the same principal* as the Markevich sight (without the correcting quadrant) : it did not take into account uneven ground. The Gribeauval sight was further limited to 3 degrees of elevation (18 lignes d'hausse) and the Markevich worked to 30 degrees of elevation. So using the Gribeauval on slopes of more than 2 degrees was impossible. You had to either construct a flat space to locate the gun, or shoot without using the sight.

The benefit of the Gribeuaval site was precision : each linge d'hause was 1/6th of a degree of elevation. The Markevich sight was graded to 1/2 degree. But given all the variables effecting the fall of shot, the Russians thought 1/2 degree was sufficient precision. In the rare cases where it mattered, one could switch to the higher precision Kabanov sight.

"The Gribeauval hausse, good for pieces on platforms, is a horrible instrument for field artillery; not only because, in most cases that are enountered in war, it gives the aimer a false line of sight and thus an elevation in discord with the data in the tables, but moreover because there does not really exist any practical means of correcting with sufficent approximation the inaccuracies of its readings. …. It is the Russian artillery that invented first the graduations on the sight made in such a manner as to account for the [uneven] elevation of the piece."
Essai sur les principles de la Hausse
Capitaine L. Delobel
Revue Militaire Belge – T. III
Liége, 1845
link

French Gribeauval hausse sight

picture

Brechtel19815 Jun 2018 8:29 p.m. PST

The Gribeauval Elevator Sight

From DeScheel's Treatise on Artillery, Translated by Jonathan Williams, 75-76:

This description of the use of the new French elevator sight is described in DeScheel's manual under the title ‘Of the New Method of Pointing Guns.' The new sight was simple, effective, and accurate.

‘We are particularly indebted to Gribeauval, for the means of ascertaining, at the same time, the direction which the point or aim sights enabled the gunner to give, and also a farther direction with respect to the true elevation of the piece which the sight-points could no assist him in.'

‘This is done by fixing behind the breech of the gun a brass bolt of an inch and a half high. This bolt has upon its end a slight-notch: it is divided by two lines, and is raised and lowered from its situation at pleasure. When the object is within point blank shot, the summit of this bolt is made level with the breech, and answers the purpose of the common sight groove, which is to range with the point on the muzzle. When the object is beyond point blank distance which almost always happens in war, and which is known by the ball striking short of its object, it become necessary to raise the chace, and for that purpose to lower the breech, then this bolt is pushed up, and which is therefore called the moveable sight-having its summit in a range with the object and the sight-point on the muzzle, it is of course raised exactly in proportion as the breech is lowered.'

‘In this way, the gunner never loses sight of his object. He knows exactly how high to elevate his piece, and if a ball falls short of its mark, he can remedy the defect in the next shot. He can by this means always adjust his piece at will, and if by accident it has been deranged, he can instantly restore it to its proper elevation.'

‘The gunner is, in short, certain, if he be a good marksman, of hitting his object precisely at the second or third shot.'

‘It will be readily seen how sure and convenient this method of pointing is, in all positions in which a gun can be placed; especially of what service it must be where pieces are constantly moving, as is the case with respect to field pieces where the gunner changes his distance, and his object, at every moment.'

‘It ought also specially to be observed, that this method of pointing does not require any scientific knowledge. No anxiety need be entertained with respect to the distance of the object fired at, or as to the degree of elevation of the pieces; and still less as to the talents of the gunner for entering into calculations of certain learned tables, which do more honor to the patience, than to the sagacity of those who wasted their time in composing them; as it cannot be supposed that men go to war with books in their pockets, or if they do, that they read them when in front of an enemy in battle.'

‘The moveable sight supposes a man to be ignorant, that he knows nothing about projection or amplitude; that he does not know what a degree means. In short, it is calculated for a mere gunner, who has nothing to do but to point his gun, and to raise or lower it by means of a moveable piece of brass, the summit of which he places in a line with the sight at the muzzle, and with the object which is no longer out of his view.'

‘Of all the new improvements made in artillery, this is perhaps the most important in its consequences; for, by pointing guns well, the ammunition which was formerly thrown away, is now saved; which, when the expense of every shot is considered, is an immense object. But what is still more important, it preserves ammunition for decisive moments, that would otherwise have been wastefully expended. In short, it renders artillery more terrible to an enemy, by the certainty of its execution.'

Le Breton Inactive Member15 Jun 2018 10:09 p.m. PST

The work of captain of the Danish service Heinrich Otto de Scheel (and not "DeScheel") was published in 1777. It's full title gives an idea of the author's intent : to justify the adoption of the Gribeauval designs to a divided or skeptical French artillery service. The full title is : "Mémoires d'artillerie, contentant l'artillerie nouvelle, ou les changements faits dans l'artillerie françoise en 1765 – avec l'exposé et l'analyse de objections qui ont été faites à ces changements"

Exactly how a polemic written in 1777 about French artillery informs us about the comparison of artillery sights used in 1810-1815 by various nations I do not know.

What might have been new or a substantial improvement in French artillery sights 1765 might also be considered rather dated and in general lacking when viewed 50 years or more later and in comparison to other nations' devices.

The career of Heinrich Otto de Scheel (Randsburg, Schleswig-Holstein 1745 – Berlin 1808) was mostly as an inspector and insturctor. At the time of writing his "Mémoires …." his enitre "war-time" experience had been as a lieutenant in the Holstien service during a mobilization of forces for a possible conflict with Mecklemburg.
See : link

von Winterfeldt15 Jun 2018 11:05 p.m. PST

in case a certain person mentions de Scheel – he means Toussard Deleted by Moderator

Contributions by un ami or Alexandre – see archives – unearthed a lot of interesting information about Russian artillery and their training, so one could form easily one's own opinion, any yes – the material was much better in quality than the outdated Gribeauval system, considering weight – pull relation, sighting systems, mobilitx etc.

There this thread – alas will move in the direction of all hail to the superiority of the Gribeauval system again, I will move on.

Wu Tian16 Jun 2018 3:36 a.m. PST

As to Markevich's 'diopre' and Kabanov's, there exists some interesting material in Zhmodikov's Tactics of the Russian Army in the Napoleonic Wars, vol. 2, p. 57.

The aiming devices used in Russian artillery in 1805-07 had significant disadvantages. Markevich's dioptre produced significant errors when an artillery piece was placed on uneven ground, because the system could not take into account the angle between the axis of the trunnions and the horizon. The quadrant used to aim an artillery piece at a range beyond the effective range of the dioptre was difficult to use: an artilleryman had to keep the quadrant inserted into the barrel during the aiming procedure. Markevich proposed a new quadrant, which had to be set up on a flat, horizontal surface, parallel to the axis of the barrel (starting from 1808, artillery pieces were produced with a platform at the cascable knob). In 1809, Podpolkovnik (Lieutenant-Colonel) Kabanov proposed a new aiming device, which was hung on a pin inserted into a special bracket screwed on the top of the breech. The device had a weight at the lower end, so it was always in vertical position, irrespective of the angle between the axis of the trunnions and the horizon. Kabanov's aiming device had two disadvantages: it was difficult to use in a strong wind, and it had to be removed before each shot and to be set up again after the shot. It was adopted in 1811, but not all artillery companies were supplied with it in 1812-14.ccclxx

ccclxx. Istoriya Otechestvennoi Artillerii. (A History of Artillery of Our Country.) Moscow, vol.1, book 3, 1962, pp.37-8

For further details about Kabanov, try Igochin's article:
PDF link

Brechtel19816 Jun 2018 3:48 a.m. PST

Well done on using the Zhmodikovs' work. None of the Russian optics were as good, as far as I can see, with the French elevator sight. If you have to remove a sight before each round is fired, there's a major problem with it.

And leveling the trunnions is necessary for accurate artillery fire. It still has to be done today. The emplacement of artillery on suitable ground is the responsibility of the artillery commanders, be they company or battery commanders or higher.

Brechtel19816 Jun 2018 3:52 a.m. PST

The Russian artillery system of 1805 used an elevation device that was developed by the Prussians in the 1740s. The gun carriage design followed those of the Prussians and Austrians.

Gribeauval's elevating screw was superior to the screw quoin employed by the Prussians, Austrians, and Russians, and the French carriage design was also superior to those of the three nations mentioned.

The British developed a new system of artillery vehicles and gun carriages in the 1790s that was superior to any of them and which would later be adopted by the French ca 1827 and later by the United States.

Le Breton Inactive Member16 Jun 2018 6:30 a.m. PST

"If you have to remove a sight before each round is fired, there's a major problem with it."
The Kabanov sight is not removed, the pendulum is removed.
As opposed to the larger French Gribeauval pieces, where one had to move the *gun barrel* when limbering the piece – it seems rather small beans to lift a little pendulum.

"Markevich's dioptre produced significant errors when an artillery piece was placed on uneven ground"
Exactly also true of the Frnch Gribeauval hausse sight, but the French lacked any alternate such as the Kabanov sight to correct for this deficiency.

"None of the Russian optics were as good, as far as I can see, with the French elevator sight."
Incorrect.The French Gribeauval hausse sight operated with exactly the same method as the Russian Markevich – it differed in having less ability to aim at elevation (3 degrees vs. 30 degrees of elevation), but with more precision (to the 1/6th of a degree of elevation vs. to within 1/2 of a degree of elevation. I posted images of the devices and they are clearly of the same basic method of operation.

"Gribeauval's elevating screw was superior to the screw quoin employed by the Prussians, Austrians, and Russians, and the French carriage design was also superior to those of the three nations mentioned."
Are these merely your own opinions, or have you any souce, evidence or analysis that leads to these conclusions?

For example, the Russians under Shulavov in the 1760's made extensive trials of vertical elevating screws of the Gribeauval type, They concluded that they were (i) more expensive, (ii) heavier (iii) harder to repair/replace in the field, and (iv) more liable to breakage, especially in extreme cold weather (from forged iron embrittlement under extreme temperature cycling). In the Russians' opinion, the wooden wedge (quoin) with horizontal screw mechanism was preferred – with the metal screw acting on a grooved receiver and not itself being load-bearing.

A similar method was used on the Gribeauval 6-inch howitser, where greater shock could be expected due to the greater elevation compared to canon.

picture

One may suppose the Austrians and Prussians did similar tests as the Russians – as well as the Saxons, who fielded new-design pieces in 1810 that also used a non-load-bearing crank (on the right side of the piece) moving an angled wooden platform.

Brechtel19816 Jun 2018 10:26 a.m. PST

Removal of all or a part of the sight slows down both pointing and firing.

Encastrement was done before unlimbering and then before limbering the piece. And it took no longer than it took to unlimber. And if the situation called for it, the gun crew would use the prolonge which avoided both encastrement and limbering up and unlimbering.

Both the Austrian and British used both firing and travelling trunnion plates on their 12-pounder field pieces.

Initially the French did use the screw quoin on their new 6-inch howitzer, but it was later replaced by the elevating screw.

The British, Swedes, and Americans also used the elevating screw.

It appears that the Markevich sight was something of a copy of the French elevator sight.

And to compare the Russian 1805 System with the Gribeauval System, the French were still more advanced in artillery design than the Russians. Russian artillery was employed as a defensive weapon, while the French artillery was employed offensively with decisive results. Russian artillery doctrine and command and control, as well as training, were also inferior to what the French were doing.

Captain Henri Othon DeScheel (1745-1807) was a soldier in the Royal Danish Artillery. His two-volume Memoires d'Artillerie, contenant L'artillerie nouvelle; ou, Les changements faits-dans l'artillerie francoise en 1765. Avec l'expose et l'analyse des objections qui ont ete faites a ces changements was first published in Copenhagen in 1777 and a second edition was published in Paris in 1795. This was the edition that was translated for American use by Jonathan Williams.

The first volume of DeScheel's treatise was a complete analysis of the Gribeauval System which included tables of construction and the second volume was an anthology of the different writings, for and against, by the opposing factions in the French artillery who either supported Gribeauval (les bleus) or Valliere fils (les rouges). By the time that DeScheel wrote his first edition, the argument between the two factions had been settled with the second, and permanent, adoption of the Gribeauval System by the French army.

For a modern 'interpretation' of the Gribeauval System, see 'The Systeme Gribeauval: A Study of Technological Development and Institutional Change in Eighteenth Century France by Howard Rosen.' It is highly recommended as much archival research was done by the author. The bibliography is particularly useful.

Brechtel19816 Jun 2018 10:39 a.m. PST

in case a certain person mentions de Scheel – he means Toussard


That is an incorrect statement as DeScheel as noted was used for the material.

Brechtel19816 Jun 2018 10:42 a.m. PST

I have never read of any improvements introduced by the Russians that were superior to the French.


The Russians found that their artillery arm was inferior when the wars began in 1805. Their new system of 1805 was the Russians playing catch up. An argument can be made that their new equipment was just as good as the French, as General Sievers noted, but their command and control, tactics, training, defensive mindset, etc., never caught up. In short, their artillery arm was not the best of the period and was surpassed by the British and the French and probably by the Austrian as well.

That means that their artillery system was not as good, as an artillery system encompasses everything to do with artillery, not just guns and vehicles.

Brechtel19816 Jun 2018 12:20 p.m. PST

The Russians found that their artillery arm was inferior when the wars began in 1805.


That should read '1792' and not '1805.'

Le Breton Inactive Member16 Jun 2018 12:50 p.m. PST

"an artillery system encompasses everything to do with artillery, not just guns and vehicles"

If so, then we can clearly see the superiority of the French system by the many hundreds of captured Russians pieces adorning the various arsenals, cathedrals, museums and even public parks in France's major cities – and the lack of similar displays in Moscow or Saint Petersburg. This must have stemmed from the complete destruction of the Russian artillery in the campaigns of 1812/1813, while the French artillery ended the fighting virtually without losses.

========================

"The Russians found that their artillery arm was inferior when the wars began in [1792]"
Maybe.

As for the equipment designs, I think they were pretty satisfied by 1798, except for the 4-wheeled caisson wagons (which they ditched for 2-wheeled caisson carts from 1801).

As for the overall system, which included provisioning at a truely heroic scale of guns per battalion or per 1000 men, and a radical change in the social standing of artillery (and engineer) officers, I think they were not really satisfied until about 1808 or so.

Brechtel19816 Jun 2018 12:56 p.m. PST

The many hundreds of captured artillery pieces were melted down for monuments in Paris…

1968billsfan Supporting Member of TMP17 Jun 2018 3:59 a.m. PST

Wow. So the French not only brought back all their artillery from the retreat from Moscow but also brought back so many captured Russian pieces that they decorate every French village square and the extras were melted down for the metal.

Brechtel19817 Jun 2018 4:15 a.m. PST

Where did you come up with that?

After the heavy artillery losses in Russia, the French artillery arm, both Guard and Line, were completely rebuilt and fielded by April 1813.

That completely demonstrates the robustness and efficiency of the French artillery arm and the system it employed. No other artillery arm had to do that and the achievement is noteworthy. In point of fact, I doubt that any other artillery could have done that.


The Austrians were knocked out in 1805 and didn't return to the field until 1809. The Russian army was decisively defeated in 1807 and didn't return to the war until 1812. The Prussian army was nearly destroyed in 1806 and they didn't return to the wars until 1813.

And that rebuilt French artillery arm dominated battlefields in 1813 as it had since 1807-especially at Lutzen, Bautzen, and Dresden.

And the main reason the allies won in 1813 was that Austria came in on their side in August and provided the necessary cannon fodder.

Le Breton Inactive Member17 Jun 2018 9:23 a.m. PST

"The Russian army was decisively defeated in 1807 and didn't return to the war until 1812."

Well, a *part* of the Russian army was defeated at Friedland

Seven out of 24 first-line infantry divisions, less than 30% of the Russian army, was at Friedland.
Also at Frieland were about 27 field artillery companies, against a total of 115, or about 1/4 of the Russian total field artillery.
This was a rather typical size for a Russian expeditionary force, but was by no means their "army" as a whole – a misunderstanding which I think was also made at the time by the French.

Four more first-line infantry divisions were formed by 1813 for a total of 28, backed-up by 8 second-line infantry divisions and 10 third-line divisions of recruits.
Total : 46 infantry divisions (they skipped number 29, so that the highest number fielded was the 47th).
Plus opochenie/militia.
Also by 1813, the Russians had 165 field artillery companies and some 2000 pieces of field artillery.

The "didn't return to the war until 1812" forgets about ….
--- Persian War (1804–1813)
--- Turkish War (1806–1812)
--- Swedish/Finnish War (1808–1809)
--- deployment to Galicia and Poland (1809)
--- revolts in the Caucasus, pacification of the Inuit in Alaska, confronataion with Japan in Kamchatka (1804-1810).

The stuff with Napoléon was maybe "the war" for the French. But except for 1812, it was only "a war" for the Russians.

Le Breton Inactive Member17 Jun 2018 10:01 a.m. PST

"the main reason the allies won"

So, it was not the "treason" of Marmont?

Too bad the French could not have rigged up an especially harsh winter * of 1813/1814 that would effect only Russians and people who spoke German – while leaving the French army essentially intact and ready for continuing operations.

* as measured by the enemies of the French – all regular weather stations reporting just normal seasonal conditions

Brechtel19817 Jun 2018 12:57 p.m. PST

"the main reason the allies won" So, it was not the "treason" of Marmont?


The year cited is 1813, not 1814 when Marmont betrayed Napoleon and France.

In 1813 the French won the spring campaign and drove the allies back to the Oder. It was apparent that the Prussians and Russians could not stop the French on their own.

Brechtel19817 Jun 2018 12:59 p.m. PST

Well, a *part* of the Russian army was defeated at Friedland


That 'part' was apparently important enough for the Tsar to sue for peace. Friedland was a decisive French victory over the Russians and no use of semantics can change that. It ended the war and led to Tilsit.

Le Breton Inactive Member17 Jun 2018 2:15 p.m. PST

"In 1813 the French won the spring campaign and drove the allies back to the Oder. It was apparent that the Prussians and Russians could not stop the French on their own."

So, absent Austrian participation in 1813, the French win the Napoleonic Wars? The French re-conquor Prussia? The British evacuate Iberia? The Russians give back Poland? Lithuania? Minsk? Smolensk? Moscow?

What part of France vs. Britain+Prussia+Russia (Austria neutral) looks so advantageous to the French? Might have taken longer than to spring 1814, and the British might have got to Paris first, but I hardly think that Britain+Prussia+Russia would be unable to "stop the French".

Brechtel19817 Jun 2018 2:49 p.m. PST

Your opinion and you're entitled to it. As you have no basis in fact for that opinion is what is important.

Marcus Brutus17 Jun 2018 6:08 p.m. PST

"As you have no basis in fact for that opinion is what is important."

That is a bit of an overreach Brechtel. I think it is a reasonable conjecture by Le Breton even if I think he is wrong.

Brechtel19818 Jun 2018 3:18 a.m. PST

Since Napoleon had no intention of remaining in Russia if he had won, I seriously doubt that he would have demanded that Russian cities actually in Russia be 'returned' to the French. Both Poland and Lithuania would undoubtedly have remained independent of Russia. The Lithuanians had no use for the Russians any more than the Poles did.

And if the Austrians had not joined the allies in August 1813 neither Prussia nor Russia was strong enough to defeat Napoleon on their own. If they had been, they would have won in the spring of 1813.

A decisive French victory in Saxony in 1813 could have put Wellington in jeopardy in Spain. It surely would have prevented an invasion of southern France.


So, no, I don't believe it to be a 'reasonable conjecture.'

Le Breton Inactive Member18 Jun 2018 6:26 a.m. PST

"if the Austrians had not joined the allies in August 1813 neither Prussia nor Russia was strong enough to defeat Napoleon on their own."

My "conjecture" was not about each state individually.
The actual state of play was :

Britain+Prussia+Russia+Sweden+Spain+Portugal+Sardinia+Sicily

vs.

France+Denmark+Duchy of Warsaw (occupied by the Russians)+North Italy (the "more willing")
and
South Italy (occupied)+Netherlands (annexed)+Saxony+Bavaria+smaller German-speaking states (the "less willing")

neutral
Austria
United States (as applies to the European theatre)

Would make a good counter-factual game, maybe.
The question would be how to handle the loyalty of the "less willing". With Austria neutral, they might be prone to revolt and declare neutrality after any French reverse (as opposed to joining the same side as the British+Prussians+Russians).

Marcus Brutus19 Jun 2018 7:03 p.m. PST

Le Breton, how do you imagine the Armistice ending and absence of the Austrians in the Fall campaign? It was a close run thing as it was and without the 150,000 Austrians in the fray surely Napoleon has a big advantage in Germany. As Brechtel suggests, an Allied defeat in Germany surely ends Wellington's invasion of France. Sweden doesn't likely come into the 1813 campaign without Austria and in any event, they are a side show. So it all comes down to whether Russia and Prussia together can take on the Grande Armee in 1813. That seems like a tall order to me.

Le Breton Inactive Member20 Jun 2018 1:05 a.m. PST

"So it all comes down to whether Russia and Prussia together can take on the Grande Armee in 1813."

I am thinking they don't – in 1813. I was thinking more like Spring 1814. Or later.

The Austrians contributed roughly 93,000 infantry, 15,000 cavalry and 300 guns to the Autumn 1813 campaign.

Counting the Russians alone ….

For the cavalry, the Russians were in the process (completed in 1814) of increasing cuirassiers by converting dragoons, converting various units to horse jäger, and converting Bug and Ukrainian Cossack units to regular lancers. They also had 20 regiments of Bashkirs and 30 regiments of Don Cossack militia cavalry (which in fact never went on campaign) ready to replace the converted Cossacks. So, given the winter of 1813/1814, bringing an extra 15,000 cavalry to fight the French would present little difficulty.

As noted above, the Russians had plenty of artillery. The crews might need the winter of 1813/1814 for training, and to move the pieces and munitions to the west, but moving an additional 25 field artillery companies was not too much to have asked them to do.

The 93,000 men would have been about 8 Russian divisions. The Russians sent home about 100,000 opolchenie (militia) in late 1813 who had made the 1812 and spring 1813 campaigns. In would have taken a while to get everyone organized as regular divisons and re-equipped, but the raw numbers were there already.

And then the Prussians might have expected to expand their contribution also – compare the Autumn 1813 Prussian force to what they fielded in the Spring of 1815.

Which all begs the question …. what would the French be doing?
My opinion (just opinion) is that they could not sustain operations into Prussia, Poland and Moravia in the winter. As in late 1805 and 1806/1807 and 1812/1813, their logistics system just did not have the capability for sustained operations in winter in poorly developed countries. So I think the Russians and Prussians could stepped back a little and prepared over the winter in relative safety – sending the increasinly dreaded "Streif Korps" on long raids into French-held territory.

By Autumn 1813, the British were "all in" monetarily : "mortgaged" heavily, they either had to win or face economic crisis. The Russians were accustomed to fighting wars for decades or generations. The Emperor had decided that the he had a God-given mission to cleanse the world of the Anti-Christ. He reported seeing visions – which is usualy a good sign of zealotry. The major Russian nobles were making fortunes on deals with the British. The Prussians were using the fight against the French to create their national identity (and by extension, a new idea of German identity).

And if the British did not invade France in late 1813, landings to liberate south Italy, Illlyria, the Sept Isles and perhaps even Corsica could have been arranged. One could also bombard Copenhagen again and likely drive Denmark-Norway into neutrality. And in 1814, the American distraction would end. The stranglehold of blockade on France and north Italy would tighten with each of these, as the Royal Navy's ships were freed from other tasks or gained local supply sources and/or bases.

So, I do not see a diplomatic "miracle" that would have let the French convince any of Britain, Russia or Prussian to relent. On the contrary, each day would put additional pressure on German-speaking French "allies" to turn neutral or defect.

The French would eventually run out of men and money. In essence, they could not fight a long-term war of attrition against the much larger population of Russia+Prussia and the much larger economy of Britain. The French could win every battle (as some argue they did in 1812), but they would eventually lose the men of their forces, and spend their gold – and they could not replace them (while their foes could) – and so would eventually be defeated.

In 1814, in 1815, in 1820 …. it was a question of when, not if. And I think the Austrians recognized this, and joined the coalition almost against their will and, to some extent, their own interest.

Personal logo jeffreyw3 Supporting Member of TMP20 Jun 2018 1:57 p.m. PST

Well…at least the thread didn't move in the direction of all hail to the superiority of the Gribeauval system again. grin

Lion in the Stars20 Jun 2018 7:52 p.m. PST

Ease of use is definitely an important part of the superiority (or lack thereof) of a weapon.

Which artillery sight was the easiest to use?

Le Breton Inactive Member20 Jun 2018 9:48 p.m. PST

"Ease of use"

The Markevich and the Gribeauval were really about the same – very similar mechanisms.

To change the Markevich to the Kabanov was done with three large mounting screws (you can see them in the images above). The Russians provisioned each piece with both.

Indeed, you did have to lift off the pendulum of the Kabanov just before firing. To me, this seems a pretty small deal (esepcially compared to all the other actions needed to use the piece).

It might be noted that one really did not use *any* sighting mechanism most of the time : at ranges up to about 600 meters, you just aimed by the "line of metal" (the top line of the barrel). And that was the vast majority of firing.

Lion in the Stars22 Jun 2018 8:01 p.m. PST

(Please bear with me, Napoleonics is nowhere near my major periods of interest)

I guess the secondary question is "which sight is harder to mess up in the heat of battle?"

Le Breton Inactive Member23 Jun 2018 2:34 a.m. PST

"which sight is harder to mess up in the heat of battle?"

All of them, really. Another reason to not use them, if at all possible, and just aim by the "line of metal" and by experience.

Brechtel19827 Jun 2018 6:40 p.m. PST

More on the Gribeauval elevator sight:

From Jean Duteil's , De l'Usage de l'Artillerie Nouvelle dans la Guerre de Campagne:

‘The hausse, or moveable sight, thus has the advantage, while elevating up or down, of never losing sight of the target, and to avoid that disadvantage, which one cannot deny is very common in war, because one can never judge distances well, and any number of optical reasons contribute to variation. The utility of the hausse consists of this, that the shots are more sure to be on target, and thereby prevent the waste of ammunition, the conservation of which on the day of battle is so precious. It does much, undoubtedly, to ensure the aiming of the field artillery, which is all the more difficult as their firing is not done from a platform as is that of the siege artillery. Indeed, on the contrary, they are constantly changing position, and firing at many different ranges, and are frequently placed in terrain that is rough and irregular.'

‘They arrived at this correction by substituting for these defective means a machine called the ‘pointing screw', which is placed under the breech, and the strength of a single man can easily raise and lower it by turning it with his hand, as much or as little as he may judge appropriate. The combined use of this screw, the gun sight, and the hausse allow for accuracy and a more rapid rate of fire. One can thus say that these improvements have a utility that must be appreciated.'

Brechtel19827 Jun 2018 6:44 p.m. PST

"which sight is harder to mess up in the heat of battle?"

I would have to go with the Gribeauval elevator sight in that it didn't have to be removed when firing and it would maintain the last set of data that was put on it. And that also goes for the elevating screw, which maintained its 'position' during firing, in that it didn't have to be readjusted unless the target changed.

Brechtel19827 Jun 2018 6:45 p.m. PST

More on the Gribeauval elevator sight:

From Jean Duteil's , De l'Usage de l'Artillerie Nouvelle dans la Guerre de Campagne:

‘The hausse, or moveable sight, thus has the advantage, while elevating up or down, of never losing sight of the target, and to avoid that disadvantage, which one cannot deny is very common in war, because one can never judge distances well, and any number of optical reasons contribute to variation. The utility of the hausse consists of this, that the shots are more sure to be on target, and thereby prevent the waste of ammunition, the conservation of which on the day of battle is so precious. It does much, undoubtedly, to ensure the aiming of the field artillery, which is all the more difficult as their firing is not done from a platform as is that of the siege artillery. Indeed, on the contrary, they are constantly changing position, and firing at many different ranges, and are frequently placed in terrain that is rough and irregular.'
‘They arrived at this correction by substituting for these defective means a machine called the ‘pointing screw', which is placed under the breech, and the strength of a single man can easily raise and lower it by turning it with his hand, as much or as little as he may judge appropriate. The combined use of this screw, the gun sight, and the hausse allow for accuracy and a more rapid rate of fire. One can thus say that these improvements have a utility that must be appreciated.'

Brechtel19828 Jun 2018 3:37 a.m. PST

Any comparison of artillery systems has to include all of the facets of those systems. For example, merely comparing the weight of field pieces as a measure of which was more efficient isn't an indicator.

Gribeauval realized that both his gun carriages and gun tubes were heavier than those of his possible opponents on the battlefield.

For the gun carriages, the iron axle, while adding to the weight, was more efficient that a wooden one and lasted longer in the field. That was a development in metallurgy that allowed the use of an iron axle. The new French field pieces were given larger artillery wheels which both reduced friction and enabled ease of movement. Further, brass boxes were installed in the wheel hubs into which the axles were fitted. That also reduced friction and negated the extra weight. Those improvements made the field pieces of the 'three calibers' much easier to maneuver.

Gribeauval decided to use 150 pounds of metal per pound of ball in the design and casting of the gun tubes. That made them more robust than either those of the Austrian and Prussian field pieces (which he was more than familiar with) and that gave the new French gun tubes a longer service life. When the new AN XI gun tubes were designed and cast, they were given 130 pounds of metal per pound of round.

Regarding the new British gun carriages and ancillary vehicles that were introduced in the 1790s, first to the RHA and later to the foot artillery, they were undoubtedly the best of the period and were greatly admired by the French. They would adopt them ca 1827 with the new Valee artillery system that finally replaced the Gribeauval System.

The United States did a partial adoption of the Gribeauval System ca 1809. They adopted the vehicles and gun carriages, but not the field pieces as the US had an overabundance of British-type ordnance available. And the US artillery arm in the War of 1812 performed excellently. After the battles on the Niagara frontier in 1814 (Chippawa, Lundy's Lane, and the siege of Fort Erie) the British believed that the American artillery was commanded by French artillery officers. They actually made the comment that 'we thought you were French.'

Material on the Gribeauval System can be found here:

link

link

link

Brechtel19828 Jun 2018 3:45 a.m. PST

The following might help when discussing period artillery systems:

Definition of an Artillery System:
‘Often obscured by the large number of changes it introduced, was the fact that the systeme Gribeauval was a genuine system, a thoroughly integrated blend of organizational principles, tactical ideas, and technology. Gribeauvl conceived of the artillery as a system in which each part was designed in functional relation to the whole. Men and material were both viewed instrumentally, as elements of this system. From the details of the equipment to its social organization, every aspect of the systeme Gribeauval was designed to achieve a specific purpose: to create an artillery force with sufficient mobility to participate actively in offensive operations.'-Howard Rosen.

‘The most significant innovation one sees in the systeme Gribeauval was that it was indeed a system: a thorough synthesis of organization, technology, material and tactics. Every aspect of the system, from the harnessing of the horses to the selection and organization of personnel, embodied a single functional concept. Utility was its principle, mobility was its goal. Every element of the systeme Gribeauval was designed to function in a particular way, in a particular circumstance. Men and technology were considered functional elements in a total system.'-Howard Rosen.

Brechtel19828 Jun 2018 4:38 a.m. PST

The following is from the two-volume study on Russian tactics by Alexander Zhmodikov and Yurii Zhmodikov:

‘While before the 1805 campaign Russian artillery was well-trained in firing, there were no significant improvements in artillery tactics.'-Volume I, 64.

‘Tactical training of artillery was much too formalized for use in battle. The artillerymen tended to keep their pieces, limbers, and caissons aligned as if on a parade ground, without any attempts to use irregularities in the terrain as a cover. Because there were no exercises and joint training between the three arms, the infantry and cavalry were not able to cooperate with artillery and the jagers did not protect artillery from enemy skirmishers. As a result of this, at Austerlitz, the Russian artillery lost many men and horses from the fire of enemy skirmishers, and lost many pieces (133, or more than half of the total number) because infantry and cavalry did not support artillery at critical moments.'-Volume I, 64-65.

‘After the 1806-1807 campaign, Major General Sievers, commander of an artillery brigade, wrote a report on artillery tactics and equipment. He wrote that French artillery equipment was not better than the Russians, but French commanders used their artillery more skillfully; they chose better position for artillery batteries, and the actions of their whole army helped their artillery to be more effective. This was because they usually outflanked the Russian Army, so that their artillery fire was concentrated at the Russian lines, and the Russian reserves were under a crossfire (though, at the same time, Sievers noticed that the French liked to fire at a long range, elevated their barrels of their pieces too high in order to do that, and so their fire was not very effective). Comparing the ways of selecting artillery positions, Sievers wrote that the Russians usually placed their artillery on every hill in their position, so that the enemy could count almost all Russian guns. In contrast, the French placed their batteries of howitzers in depressions or behind hillocks, so that their artillery pieces could not be observed by the Russians. He also wrote that Russian artillerymen often fired at enemy batteries, and that senior commanders were partly responsible for that, because some of them liked to give orders to ‘silence the enemy battery'. In order to perform this counter-battery fire, the Russian artillery expended too much ammunition and time.'-Volume I, 71.

‘The main purpose of artillery was to defend other troops.'-Volume II, 58.

‘…artillerists probably often abandoned their positions under the pretext of a lack of ammunition.-Volume II, 71.

‘…Russian artillery had a significant disadvantage: the unicorn was not well-adapted to plunging fire, because its barrel could not be elevated at such a high angle as the barrel of a howitzer, and Russian artillerymen were not well-trained in plunging fire. Ermelov wrote that, at Borodino, the enemy placed eighty howitzers into the ravines of the Kolotchka River and Semenovsdkii Brook, so that only the heads of the enemy artillerists were seen, and Russian artillery was unable to silence or dislodge them. The maximum range of French howitzers was longer than that of the Russian unicorns.'-Volume II, 73-74.

‘…the organization and higher-level command of the artillery were still not very effective.'-Volume II, 75.
‘…the use of artillery at the battle of Borodino was not well-organized.'-Volume II, 76

‘[IP Liprandi] writes that the Russians were incapable of using large numbers of artillery successfully.'-Volume II, 77.

Comparing the two artillery systems, French and Russian, and assuming that the guns and equipment were equal, the Russian artillery had problems in command and control, employment, cooperation with the other arms, and in tactics.
The French trained in infantry/artillery cooperation and had a definite artillery chain of command from the army level down to division. And that command structure was made up of artillery officers, not infantrymen. The Russians were definitely inferior to the French in those aspects of artillery, and that is also part of any artillery system.

Le Breton Inactive Member28 Jun 2018 4:45 a.m. PST

"I would have to go with the Gribeauval elevator sight in that it didn't have to be removed when firing and it would maintain the last set of data that was put on it. And that also goes for the elevating screw, which maintained its 'position' during firing, in that it didn't have to be readjusted unless the target changed."

Exactly the same for the Russian Markevich sight and horizontal screw quion.

==============

"For the gun carriages, the iron axle, while adding to the weight, was more efficient that a wooden one and lasted longer in the field."

Russians tried it, found it liable to breakage especially in extreme cold and hard to repair in the field. So they choose wooden axles with iron bushings on the parts that enter the hubs.

===============

"Gribeauval decided to use 150 pounds of metal per pound of ball …. When the new AN XI gun tubes were designed and cast, they were given 130 pounds of metal per pound of round."

Russian used about 1/2 as much metal. Perhaps the advances of the Scottish emigré metallurgists? There was literally a whole town full of their research works, now called Petrozavodsk (in Karelia, near Olonets).

==============

""The most significant innovation one sees in the systeme Gribeauval was that it was indeed a system"

Maybe an innovation in 1765, maybe not (Liechtenstein in Austria was not a system?) Not so unuusal by 1800-1815. The Russians called theirs the "Arakcheyev System".

==============

"Any comparison of artillery systems has to include all of the facets of those systems. "

OK, maybe an unfair question, but : whose pieces were still essentially all in service after the Russian campaign and whose were all lost, destroyed or captured?

Brechtel19828 Jun 2018 5:20 a.m. PST

OK, maybe an unfair question, but : whose pieces were still essentially all in service after the Russian campaign and whose were all lost, destroyed or captured?


That has already been addressed and it is not a reflection on the viability of the French artillery system.


What is essential to understand is that the French completely rebuilt their artillery arm, both Guard and Line, by the time of the spring campaign in 1813 and that arm went on to distinguish itself in the spring battles, especially Lutzen, as well as at Dresden, as examples.


I doubt very seriously that the Russian artillery arm could have been rebuilt as fast or be as viable afterwards.


And creating an artillery system was done beyond 1765. The Arakcheev artillery system was done by 1805, but it did not include all of the aspects that the Gribeauval System did-especially in education, training, command and control, tactics, and organization.

Le Breton Inactive Member28 Jun 2018 5:52 a.m. PST

"That has already been addressed and it is not a reflection on the viability of the French artillery system."
"I doubt very seriously that the Russian artillery arm could have been rebuilt as fast or be as viable afterwards."

OK – but when you say "look at the overall system", would not looking at the actual results be a reasonable idea? The Russian artillery survived 1812-1814 virutally intact, the French artilllery was effectively lost twice. The Russians provisoned artillery at 2x or more per battalion or 1000 men compared to the French, and "quantity" can surely be part of a "total sytem". And as to "re-building" speed – it is not really needed if you don't lose your artillery in the first place.

"The Arakcheev artillery system was done by 1805, but it did not include all of the aspects that the Gribeauval System did-especially in education, training, command and control, tactics, and organization"

Of course it did, from 1808 or 1810 or so. The critical social changes effecting the social status (and nobility levels) of engineering and technical officers were not completed until about 1810. Similarly for the doctrinal/organizational developments effecting the use of large bodies of troops.

And I would not disagree that the Russian tactical employment of artillery was less agressive in the attack for foot artillery compared to the French. But to have as tactics to dig in and build extensive field fortifications for foot artillery in batteries each of 24-36 heavy pieces or so with interlocking fields of fire and to deploy lighter foot pieces in direct support to infantry formations is not to say that there were no tactics, just ones different from the French.

Brechtel19828 Jun 2018 6:07 a.m. PST

That is not a system failure on the part of the French. How many of the French losses were actually captured in combat?

In the one actual artillery battle at Borodino, the French artillery dominated the field, even though the Russians fielded more guns.

And, no, the Arakcheev System did not include all the aspects of the French artillery arm. Education, tactics, organization, command and control were deficient as has been shown on this thread and before.

I never said that there were no Russian artillery tactics. What has been shown is that Russian artillery tactics were inferior to that of the French and that idea is reinforced by General Sievers.

The Russians didn't abolish regimental artillery until 1813. That diluted the number of guns that could be massed against the French. The Russians also did not have a howitzer-the licorne certainly was not a howitzer and that has been shown also.

And the rebuilding of the French artillery arm in early 1813 clearly demonstrates the efficiency and viability of the system, something the Russians did not have. And the total number of pieces available does not demonstrate the viability of an artillery system.

The bottom line here is that the French, Austrian, and British artillery systems were more advanced than that of the Russians and that was clearly demonstrated in combat. The Russian artillery did not demonstrate a skill level comparable to the French at any time during the period. Their large number of guns fielded was an attempt to make up for deficiencies in other aspects of artillery.

Pages: 1 2