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"If the Gribeauval System of Artilley, (fighting the bug)" Topic


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©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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138SquadronRAF Supporting Member of TMP21 Jun 2018 10:25 a.m. PST

If the Gribeauval System of Artilley was that good, why attempt a reform with the Système An XI?

Personally I can see the need for the 6pdr gun and how this replaces the 4pdr and the 8pdr

If the Système An XI was not an improvement, why did it last until 1828?

Does the Système An XI have a tainted reputation because of involvement of the the duc de Raguse? ( I know how popular Marmont is with some here).

I'd also say that the British produced a superior gun carriage. I've work guns using both systems and I know which I'd sooner man.

Thoughts gentlemen?

BillyNM21 Jun 2018 10:58 a.m. PST

I've also always wondered why everyone sings the praises of the Gribeauval system in the Napoleonic Wars. If it was that good why did Bonaparte initiate a review almost immediately on becoming First Consul. He must've been less than impressed with the system.

Stoppage21 Jun 2018 11:02 a.m. PST

Who said the Systeme de Artillerie au Gribeauval was so good? Sources?

The S-A-G was a late 18th century innovation based on the novel ideas and practices of Liechtenstein (mid-18thC).

The S-A-G was good for its time – standardised calibres, ammunition, carriages, limbers, wheels, ammunition carts, blah, blah. And good enough to serve the needs of Revolutionary France.

However advances in metallurgy meant that the same outcomes could be achieved with shorter barrels, thinner bores and chambers; those of chemistry meant lighter-weight charges, blah, blah.

All of these things meant lighter pieces which were more manoeuvreable (on the field) than the superceded 18th century artillery equipage.

Interestingly the Russians started with long and medium 12lbers (1790s) and then their 1805 models were only short 12lbers.

The S-A-G also included fortress and siege pieces – considering the extent of French state this is probably where the most savings re effectiveness and efficiency were scored.

Garde de Paris21 Jun 2018 11:09 a.m. PST

I also would like to hear more about this. I only use 8prs and 4pdrs for my French and allies in Spain. I like the comparative agility of the 4 pdr for horse artillery, and when one forces a Spanish unit into square (the Brits and Portuguese almost never got caught in such a situation), the horse artillery can rush to the scene, firing 4 pound shot or cannister.

On the other hand, "bricoling" (get your popcorn! Here it comes!) an 8pdr into support for an infantry attack would be more tiring to the crew, but more metal in the air.

GdeP

Stoppage21 Jun 2018 11:59 a.m. PST

Don't know too much about the Spain, Portugal, nor Pyrenees; however – harsh geography and climate, poor communications, etc would have predicated against having large/heavy pieces of artillery to lug about.

The Spanish used the Gribeauval system too – it'd be interesting to look at after-action-reports for the 1793/4 Franco-Spanish battles and see if anything was written about their relative artillery performances.

Did the Spanish operate artillery batteries/companies? or did they mix their small pieces into their infantry lines like the Austrians (of this period)

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP21 Jun 2018 7:13 p.m. PST

Hmm. Lots of reasons not having to do with the quality of the weapons can come into play. I never met an old soldier without either a story of some wonder weapon pulled or never fully issued, or a whine about some piece of junk he'd been stuck with. Many have both.

138, by "both systems" do you mean Gribeauval and An XI? I'd be interested in your comments.

But good, bad or indifferent, I am never surprised when the system in use at the end of a war persists during the cash-strapped peace. Talk to military historians about the US keeping the 2.4" bazooka and the Sherman tank after WWII, until the North Koreans informed us that no, history wasn't over yet.

138SquadronRAF Supporting Member of TMP22 Jun 2018 6:52 a.m. PST

138, by "both systems" do you mean Gribeauval and An XI? I'd be interested in your comments.</Q>

My bad wording. As a reenactor I've manned a gun using the Gribeauval system – it's extremely heavy and cumbersome.

A British single trail gun is far lighter.

Le Breton Inactive Member22 Jun 2018 8:31 a.m. PST

Comparison ….


French Gribeauval Russian Arakcheyev
8-lber light 12-lber
weight of a ball round (kg) 4.5 6.5
diameter of the bore (mm) 106 120
barrel length (cm) 184 157
weight of the barrel (kg) 574 463
ratio barrel/ball round weight 128x 71x
weight of carriage+limber (kg) 869 761
total weight (kg) 1,443 1,224
barrel shift when limbering? yes no
hausse sight? yes yes
dioptre sight? no yes

Stoppage22 Jun 2018 1:13 p.m. PST

Now that is interesting – the Russian Light 12lber c1805 is 219 kg lighter (482#) than the French 8lber (c1768?) and throws 10% more weight. Allowing 70kg load per artillerist/mattrosse that is three-less for manning the Ruskie piece versus the Frenchie.

However, I bet the Gribeauval piece would throw further because of the greater barrel length and greater sturdiness of the carriage. However, however, would this greater throw be useful in a main battle?

Stoppage22 Jun 2018 1:17 p.m. PST

But, but (incidentally 6.5kg versus 4.5kg is circa 50% more) the French used the 4# and 8# pieces in Spain (and maybe Italy?) whereas they'd have used the 6# and 12# in continental yurp – against the Russian 6# and 12#

Le Breton Inactive Member22 Jun 2018 2:37 p.m. PST

"Gribeauval piece would throw further because of the greater barrel length"
(it is not the carriage – the round is gone before the impact of the recoil, just like when firing your pistol)

Assuredly yes, but ….
All the pieces of the era, if inclined at a steep angle (say 15+ degrees) would throw the round out past 1.5km to the first graze. And there were no methods of indirect fire control. So shooting at more than 600-750 m was rather rare and at more than 1500 m almost never happned except perhaps in sieges (and that would/should be using siege artillery, not field artillery).

The Russian piece was about as short as could be made without sacrificing accuracy. Modern ballistic analysis indicates that there is no benefit to accuracy at all above about 15 calibers bore length.

The Gribeauval 8-lber had a bore of 16.5 calibres (longer than needed), the Russian light 12-lber bore was 12.5 calibres (really rather short). The diameter of the French ball round was 97.1% of the diameter of the bore. The Russian 12-lber ball was 96.6% of the diameter of the bore, a very slight amount more windage.

The French Gribeauval hausee sight worked for elevations of the gun only +2 degrees, but was marked with 6 divisions per degree of elevation. The Russian Markevich hausse sight worked at much greater elevations, but had only 2 divisions per degree. Of course, most shooting for any piece was done at ranges so close as to preclude using any sight.

All-in-all, the Gribeauval canon might have been marginally more accurate, but whether this provided any real combat advantage I rather doubt. I am sure that the much heavier round (and larger cannister round, of course) and the substantial weight savings were combat advantages for the Russian piece.

The Gribeauval piece loaded each horse 530 English pounds, the Russian only 449 lbs. And, perhaps interestingly, the Russians reckoned that having horses pull more than 500 lbs (they used English measures) was essentially unacceptable both for speed on the battlefield and endurance over a campaign.

The Gribeauval had iron axles. These are more efficient on good roads than wooden ones. However, the Russians tried iron axles and found them prone to breakage (especially in cold weather) and hard to repair in the field.

So, if I had the choice, I would go for the Russian piece. If you have a short campaign on good roads, in good weather, or are doing tests "on the polygon", and maybe want to try "sniping" with canon, then the Gribeauval design might be better.

"three-less for manning the Ruskie piece"
Not too sure about that. In general, Russian artillery companies had lots of "extra" men (both "combattant" and "non-combattant") as they were expected to dig field fortifications and covered firing ramps, and do much of the repair and maintenace work done in artillery parks for the French. Mr. Brechtel may jump in and sing the praises of the "offensive" use of French artillery vs. the Russian "defensive". He usually over-states this difference, but at the margin he is perhaps right.

"they'd have used the 6# and 12# in continental yurp"
The 6-lber was part of the replacement of the Gribeauval system, the new An-XI system. There was also a new 12-lber and 12-lber carriage, lighter than the Gribeauval designs. The Russian "cognate" pieces were their medium 12-lber (the long 12-lber was reserved for fortresses and sieges) and their standard 6-lber.

The French generally re-equipped their European companies with the An-XI 6-lber as fast as they could. The new 12-lber was also built, but was a much lower priority. Judging by the pieces captured in 1812, about 1/2 of the 12-lbers were An-XI and 1/2 of the Gribeauval design. The only other Gribeauval pieces taken into Russia were 32 pieces of 4-lbers for the young guard artillery and used as regimental artillery with the guard infantry (all were captured, by the way – 8 Spanish-made pieces and 24 French-made, the most recent casting dated 1793).

Stoppage23 Jun 2018 3:40 p.m. PST

I was looking up the fellow from Scotland that leant-a-hand to Catherine-the-Great's artillery production – Charles Gascoigne

The makers of carronades…
The Carron Company

Brechtel19827 Jun 2018 6:52 p.m. PST

Who said the Systeme de Artillerie au Gribeauval was so good? Sources?


For starters, Jean Duteil, DeScheel, Gassendi, Ruty, and Tousard.

Gassendi, DeScheel, and Tousard all wrote period artillery manuals. Duteil authored the only doctrinal artillery publication that dealt with matters above the battery/company level, and Ruty wrote in support of the deletion of the 6-pounder and the reassumption of the 8-pounder in 1814.

British artillery officer, Ralph Willett Adye, the author of the Bombardier and Pocket Gunner wrote the following on the Gribeavual System, ca 1800:

‘The French system of artillery was established as far back as the year 1765, and has been rigidly adhered to through a convulsion in the country which overturned everything like order, and which even the government itself has not been able to withstand. We should, therefore, conclude that it has merit, and, though in an enemy, ought to avail ourselves of its advantages. At the formation of their system, they saw the necessity of the most exact correspondence in the most minute particulars, and so rigidly have they adhered to this principle that, though they have several arsenals, where carriages and other military machines are constructed, the different parts of a carriage may be collected from these several arsenals, in the opposite extremes of the extremities of the country, and will as well unite and form a carriage as if they were all made and fitted in the same workshop. As long as every man who fancies he has made an improvement is permitted to introduce it into our service, this cannot be the case with us.'

‘the systeme Gribeauval was as perfect a work as is humanly possible.'-Jean-Gabriel Roquerol, L'artillerie au debut des guerres de la Revolution.

Gribeauval ‘rendered the artillery more scientific.'-Jean Duteil.

The Gribeauval System was created as ‘a killing machine, somber and efficient.-Matti Lauerma.

The Gribeauval System ‘was the key technical-military development in the period immediately following the Seven Years' War.'-Howard Rosen.

From Duteil:
‘As the French artillery is rendered formidable by the speed with which it supports the rapid and clever movements of our troops, and the rapidity and intelligence of its execution, we are committed, now more than ever, to determine the best manner of utilizing it in field battles.'
‘It is all the more interesting for military men to take notice of the composition of the field artillery, and the principles by which it has been lightened, so that they will be able to compare it with that of the Empress of Hungary, and especially with that of the King of Prussia. It is in consequence of this reduction in weight that Gribeauval found it necessary to make similar changes in the French artillery; but this was done with such intelligence that it now exceeds the models that one finds in Germany.'

Brechtel19827 Jun 2018 6:59 p.m. PST

The S-A-G was a late 18th century innovation based on the novel ideas and practices of Liechtenstein (mid-18thC).


The Liechtenstein System was the result of the poor showing of the Austrian artillery in the War of the Austrian Succession and the superiority of the Prussian field artillery. Leichtenstein was influenced with his new system by both the Valliere System in France and the new Prussian field artillery arm.

Gribeauval's new field artillery system was influenced by the Valliere System, the Prussian field artillery and the Liechtenstein System. But Gribeauval's new system was not a copy of either the Prussians or the Liechtenstein System. It was an improvement on both.

Gribeauval had extensive experience with both the Prussian and Austrian artillery arms. He had gone on a military 'visit' to Prussia and observed their artillery first-hand. During the Seven Years' War he was seconded to the Austrian artillery as they were short of qualified senior artillery and engineer officers. He observed and employed the Austrian artillery arm against the Prussians, and was promoted for merit in their service.


He did not copy either artillery arm, but created a new field artillery arm for France by direction of the Duc de Choiseul after he returned to France. His list of innovations is long and if you place a Gribeauval field piece next to a Liechtenstein field piece it is clear that the Gribeauval field pieces are not copies of the Austrian models.

Brechtel19827 Jun 2018 7:10 p.m. PST

I've also always wondered why everyone sings the praises of the Gribeauval system in the Napoleonic Wars. If it was that good why did Bonaparte initiate a review almost immediately on becoming First Consul. He must've been less than impressed with the system.


Napoleon was trained as an artillery officer on the Gribeauval System. The introduction of the Systeme AN XI was an attempt to improve that system.

The artillery committee, headed by Marmont, decided by a split vote, Gassendi being one of the dissenters, to adopt the Systeme AN XI. However, the system was never fully adopted or put into production and ended up supplementing the Gribeauval System and not replacing it.


As late as 1809 much of the French artillery employed against Austria was of the Gribeauval System, usually by Davout's III Corps.


After the wars, the Systeme AN XI was abolished and the Gribeavual System completely reinstated.


‘With a very few exceptions, all the innovations prescribed by the decree of the year XI, and those which came after it were abrogated, and the system of Gribeauval, exhibited in detail in the tables of construction, rigorously restored.'-Professor N Persy.

General Ruty in late 1814 pushed for the complete reinstatement of the Gribeauval System, especially replacing the 6-pounder with the 8-pounder:

‘The 8 caliber has, in all respects, an undeniable advantage over the 6 caliber. The use of the former, in preference to the latter, could not be put in doubt if we disregard all economic considerations in the use of the resources. If, on the other hand, we proposed to coordinate with these last considerations, rather than the first ones, the determination of field calibers, the advocates of the old system would oppose [sic] to the 6 caliber, the 4 caliber, which, for the economy of resources, obtains more advantages in relation to the 8 caliber. Yet, if the question was considered from only one of these points of view, it would be discussed in an incomplete and wrong way. In order to grasp the real point of view of the question, we must determine, in a more precise manner, the various purposes the cannon can serve in field warfare and then, examine if, for a definite sum of resources, the combination of the 8 and 4 calibers serves better these purposes than the intermediate 6 caliber.'-General Ruty.

‘If the reasoning itself did not suffice to establish the advantage of the 8 caliber or the 6 caliber in the formation of the batteries…it would rely on the memories of the past to convey its undeniable advantages…Twenty years of brilliant success had sanctified it. Nobody can feel more inclined than an artillery officer to grant the personnel a share of merit it has to claim in these successes; yet it is for the same officer to judge to what extent the nature of the weapon has played a part in obtaining these successes. It seems impossible to deny that the material and positive superiority of a caliber more significant than the usually weaker caliber, had a lot to do with the superiority of our horse artillery batteries generally accepted at the time of the war currently being discussed. This opinion is so widespread that the gunners brought themselves reluctantly to renounce a weapon that so many reasons of pride and trust made it precious to them. They seized with eagerness the opportunity to take it back, wherever the 8 caliber was still accepted in the composition of field companies, in competition with the 6 caliber, which has been introduced in our armies only successively.'-General Ruty.

The Gribeauval System was finally replaced by the new Valee System ca 1827. The two long-gun calibers employed by that system were the 8- and 12-pounder.

Brechtel19827 Jun 2018 7:11 p.m. PST

More on the Gribeauval System:

‘…M Gribeauval, surveying with the eye of a man of genius, all the branches of artillery, undertook to remodel the system; fulfilling the conditions of lightness, solidity, uniformity, and simplicity. The first condition, that of lightness, which was the main object, especially in relation to field artillery, required that the limit should be fixed at effects really indispensable; and with this view, experiments were commenced at Strasbourg, in 1764…'-Professor N Persy, An Elementary Treatise on the Forms of Cannon and Various Systems of Artillery.

Brechtel19827 Jun 2018 7:14 p.m. PST

However advances in metallurgy meant that the same outcomes could be achieved with shorter barrels, thinner bores and chambers; those of chemistry meant lighter-weight charges…


Advances in metallurgy, etc were one of the areas that enabled Gribeauval to develop his system, along with new methods of gun founding. Powder charges had already been reduced thanks to French professor Belidor.


An excellent reference is Ken Alder's Engineering the Revolution.

Brechtel19828 Jun 2018 4:47 a.m. PST

The S-A-G also included fortress and siege pieces – considering the extent of French state this is probably where the most savings re effectiveness and efficiency were scored.


Period artillery systems usually, if not always, included siege and fortress pieces, known as heavy artillery. Gribeauval' intent was to give France a field artillery system, which he did, as the Valliere System which his replaced was not suitable as field artillery. He kept the Valliere heavy pieces with some modification for they were excellent siege and garrison artillery.


Gribeauval first made his mark as an artillery innovator in the 1740s with a new garrison gun carriage, which was approved for adoption by Valliere.

Stoppage28 Jun 2018 11:24 a.m. PST

@Kevin

Thanks for taking the time and effort to elucidate further –

Adye's observations are illuminating.

i didn't realise that Valliere pieces formed the heavy artillery ordinance for sieges and fortifications.

Brechtel19828 Jun 2018 3:21 p.m. PST

The Gribeauval heavy (siege and fortress) artillery was basically the Valliere System pieces though they were made with the Gribeauval production tolerances and with the gun tubes now cast solid and bored out by the horizontal boring machine developed by Maritz.

Brechtel19828 Jun 2018 3:31 p.m. PST

Interestingly the Russians started with long and medium 12lbers (1790s) and then their 1805 models were only short 12lbers.


Russian heavy foot artillery batteries were also composed of mixed calibers of long guns (four each of 12-pounders of medium and light 'proportion') as well as four licornes and there were usually 12 pieces per battery.


Light artillery batteries had eight 6-pounders and four licornes. Horse artillery batteries had six 6-pounders and six unicorns.


Russian Guard batteries only ten guns per battery-the heavy batteries having four medium 12-pounders and two light 12-pounders and four unicorns and the light artillery batteries had five 6-pounders and five unicorns.

Le Breton Inactive Member29 Jun 2018 4:12 p.m. PST

"Russian Guard batteries only ten guns per battery-the heavy batteries having four medium 12-pounders and two light 12-pounders and four unicorns and the light artillery batteries had five 6-pounders and five unicorns."

Well, that is mostly incorrect.
Or it is correct for horse artillery December 1803-July 1806 and true for foot artillery until 1811 if you forget to include 1 piece (3-pound unicorn) per battery company.

Without reserve, school, testing, pontoon, construction or logistics elements (which varied considerably) ….

10 June 1798 – The Life-Guards Artillery Battalion was brought to an establishment of 3 foot companies and 1 horse company :
the horse company : 4x or 6x * 6-pound canon
the three foot companies were assigned to three guard infantry regiments at the ratio of 2 pieces per battalion (8 pieces for the 1st foot company, 6 pieces for each of the 2nd and 3rd companies) – 3x 1/4-pud or 1/2-pud * unicorn, 7x 12-pound short canon, 10x 6-pound canon – 20 pieces total
* sources differ

17 December 1803 – The Life-Guards Artillery Battalion was brought to an establishment of 2 battery companies, 2 light companies and 1 horse company :
each battery company : 4x 1/2-pud unicorn, 4x 12-pound medium canon, 2x 12-pound short canon, 1x 3-pound unicorn
each light company : 5x 1/4 pud unicorn, 5x 6-pound canon
horse company : 5x 12-pound short canon, 5x 6-pound canon
total 52 pieces

25 March 1805 – The Horse company of the Life-Guards Artillery Battalion was detached from it and designated to be independent under the title of Life-Guards Horse Artillery Company

22 July 1806 – The Life-Guards Horse Artillery Company was increased from 10 to 12 pieces
hosre company : 6x 1/4-pound unicorn and 6x 12-pound short cannon
total 12 pieces

22 January 1808 – The Artillery Half-Company of the Life-Guards Battalion of Imperial Militia was assigned to the Life-Guards Artillery Battalion : 6x 6-pound canon

16 February 1810 – The Artillery Command of the Guards Navy Crew was affiliated with the Life-Guards Artillery Battalion : 2x 6-pound canon

August-October 1811 – The Life Guards Artillery Battalion was re-named Life-Guards Artillery Brigade, its four companies being brought to the standard army organization with 12 pieces. The Life-Guards Horse Artillery Company was divided into two Life-Guards Horse Artillery Batteries.
each horse battery : 4x 1/4-pound unicorn and 4x 12-pound short cannon
each battery company : 4x 1/2-pud unicorn, 4x 12-pound medium canon, 4x 12-pound-short canon
each light company : 4x 1/4-pud unicorn, 8x 6-pound canon
total 64 pieces, or 66 including the Artillery Command of the Guards Navy Crew

12 September 1812 – a Life-Guards Horse Artillery Command of 6 pieces [type(s) ?] was formed in Saint-Petersburg.

19 August 1814 – The Life-Guards Horse Artillery was ordered to consist of three companies: a Battery Company and two Light Companies
the battery company : 4x 1/2-pud unicorn, 4x 12-pound medium canon
each light company : 4x 1/4-pound unicorn, 4x 6-pound canon
total 32 pieces

Brechtel19830 Jun 2018 4:19 a.m. PST

You might wish to take a look at the Zhmodikovs' Tactics of the Russian Army in the Napoleonic Wars, 2 Volumes.

The bottom line is that usually Russian artillery batteries were too big and appear awkward. 12 field pieces is just a bit too much for span of control in combat.

Zhmodikov30 Jun 2018 6:04 a.m. PST


Comparison ….

French Gribeauval Russian Arakcheyev
8-lber light 12-lber
weight of a ball round (kg) 4.5 6.5
diameter of the bore (mm) 106 120
barrel length (cm) 184 157
weight of the barrel (kg) 574 463
ratio barrel/ball round weight 128x 71x
weight of carriage+limber (kg) 869 761
total weight (kg) 1,443 1,224

This comparison doesn't include the powder charge weight/cannonball weight ratio, which is highly important.
This ratio is 0.326 for the French 8pdr cannon and only 0.175 for the Russian light 12pdr cannon.
Quality of the gunpowder is also important, but I have no clear data for comparison.

Stoppage30 Jun 2018 8:04 a.m. PST

The bottom line is that usually Russian artillery batteries were too big and appear awkward. 12 field pieces is just a bit too much for span of control in combat.

Twelve pieces in a gun-line is more than the eight for French or six for others. However, it appears that the Russians operated in smaller numbers – half-companies of six pieces, platoons of four, or sections of two.

There was a post a number of months ago that showed the employment of a light battery – the 6lbers were spread between the first and second infantry lines with the gun-howitzers in two sections as mobile reserves. Thus the artillery company was spread-out into small units – not deployed in one gun-line.

The earlier period with different sizes and weights of 12lbs might suggest that employment would be – similarly- in small groups. Perhaps the long-range pieces were employed as a platoon at the beginning of the battle and then withdrawn to be replaced by the platoon with the shorter-range pieces for the closer part of the battle.

This would suggest a more sophisticated method of tactical employment was used by the Russian artillery.

Le Breton Inactive Member30 Jun 2018 8:08 a.m. PST

"12 field pieces is just a bit too much for span of control in combat."

Then theat means large batteries formed by the French (e.g. Sénarmont at Friedland) were also "too much"? Or are you saying only the French could control 12 pieces and more?

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

"This comparison doesn't include the powder charge weight/cannonball weight ratio, which is highly important."

Is it? Higher powder ratio would mean higher initial velocity. Good for longer range for a given elevation of the piece, or for penetrating some stone structures. But really, how often did field artillery really need to accomplish such fires. I did note that for "sniping" with artillery, one might prefer the French 8-pounder. Overall, during campaigns of a year or more, a substantially larger round and a lower weight system seems to be pretty good idea, in the context of the OP : "If the Gribeauval System of Artilley was that good ….".

Stoppage30 Jun 2018 9:22 a.m. PST

It just occurred to me – whilst weeding the garden – that we might be mixing-up tactical usage versus strategic considerations.

Royal France appears to be mainly defensive – its theatres of war were on its borders (Pyrenees, Flanders, Northern Italy, etc, etc). Strategic distances were short and the armies close to their depots and magazines. Possessing large heavy pieces – such as those the Gribeauval system (and/or Valliere) – is not too much of a problem re moving about and/or maintaining.

Russia operated in a more offensive manner – its theatres of war were widespread and differing (Poland, Balkans, Ukraine, Georgia, Persia, etc, etc). Strategic distances were humungous. Possessing lighter weight equipments would help overcome the problems of movement; simple, robust equipments would ameliorate those of maintenance(*).


(*) Smaller charges would help prevent touch-hole burn-out – which would obviate the need to frequently re-bouche them.

Le Breton Inactive Member30 Jun 2018 9:40 a.m. PST

Stoppage,

I agree.
Also, for the Russians 2x+ as many peices for the same size force.
If a Russian short 12 pounder was not so perfect as a French 8-pounder (a comparison for which I do not think the French piece is a clear winner, if a winner at all), then 2-3 Russian short 12-pounders would I think be pretty clearly preferable to 1 French 8-pounder.

It is not that the French artillery was anything but excellent. It was excellent, especially taken overall as a total system. But going on to claim a superiority on every single point, without really comparing to other nations, is rather aggressive, in my opinion.

And comapring to other nations requires an unbiased and multi-lingual approach, which can be challenging.

Brechtel19830 Jun 2018 10:33 a.m. PST

Then theat means large batteries formed by the French (e.g. Sénarmont at Friedland) were also "too much"? Or are you saying only the French could control 12 pieces and more?

12 field pieces making up a permanent battery commanded by one relatively junior officer is one thing.

Grande Batteries formed tactically is completely something else.

A Russian 12-gun battery was a permanent organization. A French grande batterie was a provisional organization employed for a specific mission.

Senarmont had subordinate artillery officers commanding the artillery under him at Friedland. Further, Senarmont was a general officer and a corps artillery chief. His subordingates included all of the artillery company commanders as well as his chief of staff, Colonel Forno, who acted as a subordinate artillery commander to Senarmont and who was killed in action.

The comparison between an artillery battery/company, and a larger tactical formation with a chain of command of its own is two different things-not the same at all. Senarmont used his subordinates as artillery commanders under him. And Senarmont was not a company commander.

Brechtel19830 Jun 2018 10:40 a.m. PST

This would suggest a more sophisticated method of tactical employment was used by the Russian artillery.


I don't think so as Russian artillery was always employed as a defensive weapon. That was completely contrary to French practice in order to gain a tactical advantage either offensively or defensively. In point of fact, the French were perfectly willing to lose guns if their loss gave them an advantage in the field.


And, as has already been posted, higher level artillery command and control was not always the responsibility of Russian artillery officers. It was handled by infantry commanders who may or may not have understood artillery either technically or tactically.


The French had an artillery chain of command that began at the army level with an artillery general officer as the army artillery chief. Each corps and division also had an artillery chief, usually an artillery general at the corps level and an artillery colonel at the division level. The Russians did not have that custom or practice. They improved after 1807, but they never reached the tactical expertise that the French had, even in 1814. The practice was institutionalized in the Grande Armee.

Zhmodikov30 Jun 2018 12:19 p.m. PST

Le Breton wrote:


Higher powder ratio would mean higher initial velocity. Good for longer range for a given elevation of the piece, or for penetrating some stone structures. But really, how often did field artillery really need to accomplish such fires.

The powder/ball ratio for the Russian small 12pdr gun was lower than that for all other guns, including the ratio for the Russian medium 12pdr gun (0.28). In other armies, this ratio could be as high as 0.30 to 0.34. Do you think that such high ratio was excessive?

Stoppage30 Jun 2018 2:58 p.m. PST

This would suggest a more sophisticated method of tactical employment was used by the Russian artillery.

Please note that my interest in all of this is as a wargamer.

The sheer numbers of pieces in a Russian artillery company – compared with other nations' – presents a problem of understanding and usage.

On the wargames table I plonk down all fourteen pieces of artillery and then expect the battery to blow it's enemies away with one volley. This doesn't happen as the rules I like always hobble the Ruskies with some Class III nonsense – they directly compare a fourteen-gun Russian gun-line with one of six/eight guns.

In real life two of the pieces were tiny gun-howitzers used by the Jaegers or to protect the park/baggage. One platoon had long 12lbers which were probably only used at range and would have been removed before the enemy got too close, another platoon had the shorter 12lbers which were probably trotted-out for close-range canister work; and finally the sections of gun-howitzers were generaly used for flank defense or as a handy mobile reserve.

The fourteen pieces were – maybe – never meant to be deployed together all-at-once. At most you might get a platoon (x4) of 12lbers and one section (x2) of gun-howitzers. This Russian half-battery is equivalent to most other nation's artillery companies (French included as they often kept their howitzers back for flank defense and/or reserve.)


This is what I meant about sophisticated method of tactical employment – not as a comparison of tactical effectiveness.

Stoppage30 Jun 2018 3:01 p.m. PST

As an aside – I would like to know a lot more about the organisation and employment of the French Grand Battery – perhaps a new post?

That would be the place to compare grand tactical practices between the various protagonists.

Brechtel19830 Jun 2018 3:16 p.m. PST

Which one? If you're looking for information on Senarmont's action there is plenty of evidence for it and what Senarmont accomplished with it.

Brechtel19830 Jun 2018 3:19 p.m. PST

(French included as they often kept their howitzers back for flank defense and/or reserve.)

Napoleon massed howitzers both at Borodino and at Waterloo. Senarmont took his with him in his large 30-gun battery that he attacked the Russian center with at Friedland. So they were engaged with the rest of the large battery. The pieces he kept in reserve were six 12-pounders.

Stoppage30 Jun 2018 3:39 p.m. PST

i believe that a single French artillery company might keep its howitzers back as a reserve – the detachment and massing of a Divisions' or Corps' howitzers would be a grand-tactical complement to this practice.

The info I'd like (let's make a new post) is more on the organisation – how the companies were gathered (artillery park or specific artillery forming-up-point?) – how they were divided into the centre division and then two flank-protection divisions. Were chasseurs/hussars deployted for operatinal security? How was the artillery protected as it moved up to position? Etc, Etc

P-Lus – The French obviously thought about this and had some kind of doctrine/standard-operating-procedure. I would expect their usage to be more effective than that of the coalition member's attempts – albeit at a grand-tactical level

Le Breton Inactive Member30 Jun 2018 5:31 p.m. PST

"Do you think that such high ratio was excessive?"
No, not excessive – but I am not sure it was really needed for the most typical (and effective) fire : under 750 m and at formed bodies of troops. If one gives up some range for lighter weight (and hence tactical and strategic mobility, campaign endurance, etc.) and a larger round, it is not obvious to me that this is a bad trade.

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

"12 field pieces making up a permanent battery commanded by one relatively junior officer is one thing."

You have done no research on this topic, it appears, as you do not seem to know who commanded Russian artillery companies.
Knowing the subject matter improves one's posts, and tends to mitigate bias. One might caution that checking facts first is generally a good idea.

In the Russian service, the artillery company commanders were *not* relatively junior officers. They were lieutenant-colonels and colonels (with nobility ranks of army colonels and general-majors), usually in their mid or late 40's with 20-30 years experience as officers.

For example, the 1st artillery brigade (divisional artillery for the 1st grenadier division) at the beginning of 1812 ….

1st battery company : colonel (from 14 january 1807) Vasiliy Alekseyevich Glukhov :
-- nobility rank of army general-major
-- 48 years old, Russian noble, married, 4 children, no serfs
-- cadet corps graduate of 1781
-- Crimea and Kuban 1783-1789 awarded Saint-George 4th class
-- storm of Izmail 1790, awarded for excellence
-- 1805-1807 campaigns against the French, awarded golden sword "for bravery"

1st light company : captain (january 1813 lieutenant-colonel) Nikolay Matveyevich Shishkin-2

2nd light company : lieutenant-colonel Petr Matveyevich Kop'yev
-- nobility rank of army colonel
-- 43 years old, married, 3 children , 30 serfs
-- cadet corps graduate of 1791
-- 1807 campaign against the French, awarded Saint-Anna 3rd class, golden sword "for bravery"
-- 1808-1809 campaign against the Swedes, awarded Saint-Vlaidmir 4th class with ribbon for bravery

A company commander in the French service was a captain's billet.

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

"The French had an artillery chain of command that began at the army level with an artillery general officer as the army artillery chief. Each corps and division also had an artillery chief, usually an artillery general at the corps level and an artillery colonel at the division level."

Same for Russians after 1807, except artillery general (not colonel) for Russians at the divisional level (60 plus general officers billets in the Russian service, vs. 20-odd in the French service).

Le Breton Inactive Member30 Jun 2018 5:58 p.m. PST

"all fourteen pieces of artillery"

Well, it was supposed to be 12, not 14. If some companies managed to mount barrels on their spare carriages, it would be a reserve.

The twelve pieces would be typically used as 6 platoons, each of 2 identical pieces under the command of a company-grade officer.

In a very general sense, subject to a thousand exceptions, each light artillery company (late period) supported directly a heavy infantry brigade of 4 battalions (typically formed as closed columns on 2-platoon frontage). 2 platoons (4x 6-pounder) would be placed on each flank of the brigade. 1 platoon (2x 1/4-pud unicorn) would be held in reserve or for self-defense on each flank.

The division's battery company was supposed to be available either to form a baisis for a field fortication position or to be taken into an artillery reserve under higher echelon control.

Horse artillery was typically assigned to either cavalry formations or avant garde/rear guard detachments. Behind an irregular or Cossack cavalry screen, the lead of the avant-garde would be 2-4 light cavlary squadrons with 2 or 3 platoons of horse artillery. The remaining 3-4 platoons would come on with the main body of the avant/rear guard (usually a mix of more cavalry and jäger).

Just some more or less typical examples, with every other variation you could think of likely to have been used at least once.

Stoppage30 Jun 2018 6:19 p.m. PST

Fourteen pieces – very early TO&E. Perhaps used against ottomans, etc. Maybe never used in yurpeen operations.

I am probably mistaken in my terminology:

* One section = Two pieces
* One platoon = Two sections = Four pieces
* Half company = Three sections = Six pieces
* Full company = Three platoons = Six sections = Twelve pieces

Please note that I am happy to be corrected – I like to get things right :)

Stoppage30 Jun 2018 6:25 p.m. PST

WRT Terminology.

The term "battery" seems to be a modern term and doesn't appear to be historical – except in sieges.

British Royal Artillery refers to "Brigades" which is a con-joining of a detachment of artillerists with pieces or ordnance and accompanying equipment. Five pieces made a brigade. I've assumed that a section refers to two pieces.

(Late period) Russian artillery companies were organised into artillery "Brigades" – as pointed out – the position/heavy company was detached and sent to corps whilst the two remaining light companies deployed with their infantry division.

I don't know if similar existed for the Austrians – though I'd like to find out.

I don't know the French equivalents – if any.

Stoppage30 Jun 2018 6:31 p.m. PST

Cod-explanation of British weapon provisioning:

Following the English-Civil-War and the coup-d-etat carried out by Cromwell leading to the Commonwealth – the English Elites were obsessed with the curtailment of military power on English soil.

Hence the separation of manpower – the army – from weaponry – controlled by the board of ordnance.

Hence the idea of a "Brigade of artillery" – the army provide the artillerists; the board provides the pieces.

Ps. There is probably something in here about provisioning guns to the navy – especially as the ECW navy was Royalist whereas all the ports – with the weaponry – tended to be Parliamentarian.

Zhmodikov30 Jun 2018 10:04 p.m. PST

Le Breton wrote:


I am not sure it was really needed for the most typical (and effective) fire : under 750 m and at formed bodies of troops. If one gives up some range for lighter weight (and hence tactical and strategic mobility, campaign endurance, etc.) and a larger round, it is not obvious to me that this is a bad trade.

Nevertheless, in 1820s the small 12pdr guns were gradually replaced with medium 12pdrs.

Le Breton Inactive Member30 Jun 2018 10:51 p.m. PST

One platoon = Two pieces, commanded by an officer
1/3 company = Two platoons = Four pieces
1/2 company = Three platoons = Six pieces
Full company = Six platoons = Twelve pieces

From August 1806 : group of companies = brigade
The composition and types of brigades subject to some variation.
Typical 1811-1813 "field" brigade to go with an infantry division = 2 light companies + 1 battery company

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

" in 1820s the small 12pdr guns were gradually replaced with medium 12pdrs."

I was aware of this. But the comparison drawn was not Russian short 12-pounder vs. Russian medium 12-pounder in the context of the 1820's. The thread was about how great (or not so great) was the Gribeauval system in the context of the Napoleonic era.
I think the comparison of the Gribeauval 8-pounder to a Russian piece is closest if the comparison is made to the short 12-pounder.

Zhmodikov30 Jun 2018 11:44 p.m. PST

Le Breton wrote:


the comparison drawn was not Russian short 12-pounder vs. Russian medium 12-pounder in the context of the 1820's. The thread was about how great (or not so great) was the Gribeauval system in the context of the Napoleonic era.
I think the comparison of the Gribeauval 8-pounder to a Russian piece is closest if the comparison is made to the short 12-pounder.

I think that to compare the artillery systems we should compare similar guns, for example, the French 12pdr and the Russian medium 12pdr. Concerning your comparison, we san compare the effectibeness. The 1765 French cannister tests results show that the French 8pdr gun was only 15 to 20 per cent less effective in firing long range cannister than the French 12pdr gun at the same distance (taking the 12pdr results as 100 per cent), and almost as effective in firing short range cannister. The Russian 1807 tests results show that the small 12pdr is 30 to 40 per cent less effective in firing long range cannister than the medium 12pdr, and less effective in firing short range cannister at ranges more than 150 sazhen (320 meters): 40 per cent less effective at a range of 250 sazhen (534 meter), 14 per cent at a range of 200 sazhen (427 meter), and almost as effective at a range of 150 sazhen.
Russian artillery expert Andrey Markevich, a member of the Artillery Committee and the designer of artillery sights, believed that the small 12pdr is 20 to 30 per cent less effective in firing cannonballs than the medium 12pdr at the same range. So, the effective range of the small 12pdr is about 20 per cent shorter than that of the medium 12pdr.
Guibert wrote that the maximum effective range of Gribeauval 12pdr is 500 toises (975 meters), that of the 8pdr – 450 toises (878 meters), that is only 10 per cent less.

Brechtel19801 Jul 2018 8:34 a.m. PST

The term 'battery' can be confusing as it has two meanings. In the Austrian, Prussian, and Russian armies it usually meant a company-sized artillery unit.

In the French and American armies, the same-type unit was a company, horse or foot.

Battery was also any number of guns in a fortified position during a siege or in field works.

British artillery nomenclature for a company-sized artillery unit was 'brigade' for foot artillery, and 'troop' for horse artillery.

Brechtel19801 Jul 2018 8:42 a.m. PST

A company commander in the French service was a captain's billet.

That is not in dispute and is normal for a commander of a company-sized unit of any arm, with the exception of the French artillery train where company commanders were lieutenants in order to be subordinate in rank to the artillery company commander they were brigaded with.

If all of the Russian artillery batteries were commanded by senior field grade officers, then that is a waste of manpower. It is also an indicator of two things-Russian artillery company-grade officers were neither competent enough to command an artillery battery, and/or they were not trained and educated enough to be entrusted with an artillery company.

Yet, you do show one of the three companies you used as examples being a captain.

Going through the Russian artillery general officers, who supposedly had once also held the rank of lieutenant colonel and/or colonel, a good portion of them did not have 20-30 years of experience and their service indicates that some did not begin their careers as artillerymen and they were not kept in the artillery during their careers.

For example, Kutaisov was 28 when he was killed in action at Borodino; Sievers was 33 in 1812; Gogel was 25. I only looked at a few for age, not all of them.

On the contrary, French artillery generals usually, if not solely spent their entire careers in the artillery and were promoted in that branch of the service. Marmont was an exception in that in 1805 he was given command of II Corps.

Zhmodikov01 Jul 2018 9:25 a.m. PST

Brechtel198 wrote:

If all of the Russian artillery batteries were commanded by senior field grade officers, then that is a waste of manpower. It is also an indicator of two things-Russian artillery company-grade officers were neither competent enough to command an artillery battery, and/or they were not trained and educated enough to be entrusted with an artillery company.

I am sorry, I can't understand how you have reached your conclusions. The Russian artillery companies were commanded by lieutenant-colonels or colonels, because the companies were large.


Yet, you do show one of the three companies you used as examples being a captain.
Going through the Russian artillery general officers, who supposedly had once also held the rank of lieutenant colonel and/or colonel, a good portion of them did not have 20-30 years of experience and their service indicates that some did not begin their careers as artillerymen and they were not kept in the artillery during their careers.
For example, Kutaisov was 28 when he was killed in action at Borodino; Sievers was 33 in 1812; Gogel was 25. I only looked at a few for age, not all of them.

Kutaisov was young, but he was a highly educated officer. Jacob Ernst von Sievers was the commander of a heavy artillery company in 1801-1805, Langeron describes his actions at Austerlitz as brilliant. He was the commander of an artillery brigade in 1806-1807, and after the campaign he wrote a memoir on the use of artillery in these campaigns. He was born in 1773, and was killed on 22 July 1810 at the siege of Ruschuk, a Turkish fortified town at the lower Danube. So, he was 36 to 37 years old. Ivan Gogel, a member of the artillery committee, was born in 1770, so in 1812 he was 41 to 42. He did not take part in the fighting. Karl von Löwenstern, the commander of the artillery of the 2nd Army of the West in 1812, was born in 1771, so in 1812 he was 40 to 41.

Brechtel19801 Jul 2018 11:07 a.m. PST

An artillery company with four more field pieces and a larger manpower component, still a large company, rated being commanded by a senior field grade officer?

I'm not convinced. It makes the point to me that Russian company grade artillery officers were either not well-trained or experienced enough to command an artillery company or they did not have the requisite artillery education to accomplish the mission.

Zhmodikov01 Jul 2018 12:08 p.m. PST

Brechtel198 wrote:


An artillery company with four more field pieces and a larger manpower component, still a large company, rated being commanded by a senior field grade officer?

The Russian heavy artillery company consisted of 333 men and 291 horse, and of expensive guns and vehicles. Do you think a captain would cope with such amount of men and animals, and such responsibility?


It makes the point to me that Russian company grade artillery officers were either not well-trained or experienced enough to command an artillery company or they did not have the requisite artillery education to accomplish the mission.

I see no problem. Well educated and well experienced officers became lieutenant-colonels or colonels, and commanded large artillery companies. The commander of a heavy artillery company was usually the commander of the artillery brigade of three companies (one heavy and two light ones) in the same time.

Brechtel19801 Jul 2018 2:32 p.m. PST

Well-educated artillery officers in the Russian service is somewhat debatable. The Russian military schools suffered from poor instructors, among other issues.

Why did a Russian heavy artillery company have 333 personnel-I'm assuming that's all ranks.

French foot artillery companies had about 100 plus the train company-and that was for eight pieces.

And, yes, I believe an experienced, capable artillery captain should be able to command an artillery company in any army.


How large were the gun crews?

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