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"Squares were tiny artillery targets" Topic

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Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP11 Jul 2018 3:53 a.m. PST

When forming squares from units based as battalions, I like I guess a lot of people would simply arrange the bases that make up the battalion into a square.

This actually gives a wholly misleading impression of the real footprint of a battalion square.

For example, a British battalion in 10 companies would have formed a square with three and two companies on opposite faces, or possibly four and one. Each face would have been four men deep.

Assuming 500 men to the battalion, this means that the three / two configuration would have been 37.5 men wide on each of the longer faces and 25 men wide on the shorter.

The four / one configuration would have been 50 men wide by 12.5 men.

A British infantryman's frontage was 22", so the three / two configuration with its 37.5 by 25 men would have been less than 69 feet, or 23 yards, wide on its broadest side, and only 15 yards wide on the shorter face.

I've used the British because I have the figures in my head, but they are not so very different for any nationality. As I recall, the French formed square in three ranks rather than four, but they reinforced the inner corners with elites. So the three-rank density didn't expand the footprint all that much over the British four-rank depth because not all the unit was in the square's faces.

This vanishingly small size suggests to me that squares, while liable to be horribly damaged by artillery hits, were much less vulnerable to such hits than one might think. An enemy line that formed into squares would be largely empty space.

23 yards is of course about the frontage into which an artillery battery could fit two guns. In fact, if you positioned an artillery piece at a typical 600 yards' range from a square that is 23 yards wide, and you aimed at the middle, you will hit as long as the round isn't more than 11.5 yards wide of the mark. An 11.5-yard error over 600 yards is a laying error of only 1.1 degrees either side, however, and this is to ignore any inherent inaccuracy of the piece itself even if correctly laid.

Hitting a target that small from 600 yards' range, through lots of white smoke and with uneven ground affecting both the laying of the piece and possibly also the path of the round, was not going to be all that easy a task gunners, even if they have the Gribeauval system :-)

I'm wondering if I need to rethink how artillery works against squares.

I have also concluded that this size of square is actually too small to represent using all the figures from the battalion. Removing bases and forming the square from only part of the figures doesn't help, because the footprint required is the wrong shape as well as the wrong size.

I'm dabbling with Airfix plastics again at the mo' and giving serious thought to making squares up in a proportionately correct size from the figures that come in the set that I'm not otherwise going to use. When a unit forms square, this would mean removing the battalion's ten 2-figure stands (28cm wide) and replacing them with a single rectangular base depicting a knot of blokes in a square that is 2.3cm wide and 1.5cm deep.

Does anyone else do this or is it just something you agree to ignore, like overscale unit depth?

Durban Gamer11 Jul 2018 4:12 a.m. PST

Having to make duplicate figures for a unit is pretty fiddly!

Jcfrog Supporting Member of TMP11 Jul 2018 4:17 a.m. PST

Not so smaller than a column. But a column in combat is made of sucessive lines, often up to one company frontage distance between each, which makes the multiple hits by cannon balls bouncing difficult.
A square or mass has just a similar short silouhette but once hit the damage is way bigger and the guys see it even more.

Up to a point your pb is not so bad as no squares would be very close to another, or they'd forfeit shooting. So a bit more space does not hurt.
Up to a point, big figures with very squeezed ground scale does not work well unless on "brigade" bases, or the like.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP11 Jul 2018 4:22 a.m. PST

@ Durbangamer
Well, it's a maximum of about three extra figures per unit – because that's all that will fit onto a base that is of the correct proportionate size!

@ jcfrog
Sorry, what's "pb"?

Artilleryman11 Jul 2018 4:36 a.m. PST

Also, smooth bore artillery could be pretty accurate. I think that it was at Almeira that a French siege gun shot down the British flagpole every time it was raised and repaired. A square was maybe not a big target per se, but it was an easy one and the effect of one cannon ball or burst of case could be greater.

Arcane Steve Supporting Member of TMP11 Jul 2018 4:52 a.m. PST

It is an idea that my gaming group have looked at, without being quite as precise regarding the actual physical size of the 'real' square. The idea of square markers was based on the base size that we usually use for our battalions in Black powder. The additional modelling and painting certainly adds to the workload but as you can see, the result makes a nice diorama as well as a gaming piece. Here's the link to the blogs, if you would like to know how the figures were converted and the story behind the model.




Major Mike11 Jul 2018 4:54 a.m. PST

When at best a musket will be effective at 50m, why would I park my artillery at 600? Parking the gun at 200 yds (even 400) puts the square at cannister/grape range. Not until the widespread use of the rifled musket and the Minie ball do the artillery lose this advantage. It's call the King of Battle for a reason back then.

Aethelflaeda was framed11 Jul 2018 6:23 a.m. PST

A target (either square or a column) that is not as wide is 2-4 times more costly when the hit is accuarate due to the density. A square having two sides pierced could mean as many as 8-10 casualties per round compared to the 2-3 of a shot at a line, a column even if the ranks are separated are still more likely to take some hits in the second or third line by bounce through.

Add the stationary aspect of a square making targeting easier and still the square is going to come out much worse despite its smaller exposed frontage. It is the static nature that in my opinion is more damaging in the long run.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP11 Jul 2018 7:06 a.m. PST

I've started to make squares for my 5mm H&R infantry. Normally 1"x2" stands, but 1"x1" stands for the squares. Fiddly and expensive, but it looks better than having a bunch of markers on my board.

evilgong Supporting Member of TMP11 Jul 2018 7:14 a.m. PST

I'm thinking that the density of the square and it's relative narrowness sorta cancel out for roundshot, but it is in some greater peril from canister.

I can see the logic that a motionless square should be easier to shoot once your gunners find the range, I guess that holds true for any target, is it worth the trouble to factor this into your rules.

As for using replacement figs for a square in the correct formation, no I don't bother, I'm way too slow a painter to make up such things.


Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP11 Jul 2018 7:18 a.m. PST

@ Major Mike

The majority of artillery never moved during a battle. If you established your grand battery at 600 yards' range, that's where it would stay, horse artillery aside.

It seems no coincidence that the unit worst hit at Waterloo was the one engaged at close range by horse artillery. In few other battles do you get instances of infantry units forming square and then being shot to smithereens by artillery. At Wagram, for example, there were length artillery duels but not that many gun-versus-square affairs AFAIK.

davbenbak Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member11 Jul 2018 7:57 a.m. PST

I've been thinking about this as well. You could look at the extra footprint space as a sort of "zone of control". Another thought I've had is that I have started basing my 1/72 plastic Napoleonic battalions on three 2in X 2in squares. One rule set I like to use is very specific that the unit frontage match the ground scale. To achieve that I've considered removing two of the bases and just leaving the center "command stand" base on the table when the unit goes to square instead of creating a triangle formation.

As to casualty rates, you should remember that the square, while being a small target, was a dense and stationary target. Since most artillery pieces were set to 0 or 1 degree elevation round shot would generally not bounce higher that about 5 feet. So gunners didn't need to hit the target exactly as long as they were lined up.

marshalGreg11 Jul 2018 8:05 a.m. PST

No you should not.
yes perhaps there were less hits since a smaller target per say. But the the legality was 3 to 10 times greater. Remember the the mobility was also a factor. They rarely moved or did so at a much slower rate than a line or battalion so "targeting in" was faster/easier for the artillery.
Net result was bad news for a square targeted by artillery and reason going to square was to be at a last resort, for most national doctrines (though not always applied to that degree)

Edwulf11 Jul 2018 8:20 a.m. PST

I agree wargaming makes them look bigger. I dissagree that theyvwere more difficult to hit. I'd assume most nations artillery officers would be competent enough to work out the range … they don't need a direct hit. Even a rolling ball can plough through taking off knees and feet.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP11 Jul 2018 8:27 a.m. PST

Artillery was the most "scientific" of the three branches. It's officers and men were better educated.
They could turn the trail of the gun to aim it, even emplaced in a battery.
They could vary the powder and the elevation.
So, a target shrinks to 30%-15% in width? That's what all that training is for. No problem.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP11 Jul 2018 8:49 a.m. PST

If the lethality were that much higher, nobody would have formed square.

A square at 600 yards has an angular diameter about 3x that of the moon. Formed into line, the same unit would have a diameter 30x that of the moon.

That is an enormous difference. The puff of smoke from one nearby musket discharge would obscure a target the size of a square for several seconds, but wouldn't obscure so much of a line that you couldn't shoot at any part of it.

It's clear that hits would be far more damaging, but it's less clear that they would be all that frequent.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP11 Jul 2018 8:50 a.m. PST

@ Winston

More like 90%. Under combat conditions how would they even see it?

Personal logo miniMo Supporting Member of TMP11 Jul 2018 8:59 a.m. PST

angular diameter of the moon

I like the cut of your comparison metric A square at 600 yards is 93 arcminutes, a line 930, cool beans!

Whirlwind11 Jul 2018 8:59 a.m. PST

4th Cuirassier is probably right, but until some harder data about artillery performance is found/calculated, then it seems we are all just guessing.

BillyNM11 Jul 2018 10:14 a.m. PST

Surely there's period comment on the vulnerability of square to artillery or is it all modern interpretation?
Having seen the video posted of an ACW artillery piece shooting at a derelict APC I was impressed with the accuracy and reckon a square would be an easier target and the consequences quite scary.
As for changing the rules perhaps you just need greater variability, i.e. less likely to hit but worse when you do. On the other hand over many shots (how many from a battery in a 'turn'?) it would average out to something less variable.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP11 Jul 2018 12:34 p.m. PST

More like 90%. Under combat conditions how would they even see it?

You seem to be operating under the assumption that the square became vanishingly small and then disappeared from sight.
You are also assuming that all artillery operated only at 600 yards in full visibility.
Then you seem to be assuming that a battery fired at everything in sight, without orders.

That's far too many questions to beg.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP11 Jul 2018 3:31 p.m. PST

That's far too many questions to beg.

Beyond that, it also begs the question, if squares were so hard to hit, that going after squares with artillery was seen as a very advantageous activity…a combined arms method and one reason that horse artillery was attached to cavalry.

representing squares is a problem, particularly with small scale actions with multiple-based battalions. The size of a battalion varied greatly depending on the formation. A battalion column in open order had a depth equal to the battalion in line, while a battalion in closed order would have a depth of maybe thirty or forty yards, generally the depth of only one or two stands.

As suggested above, one way of looking at the footprint of a formation is how much room it needed to function… for instance, a square would not form up close to another friendly square [100+yards away] unless corner to corner…and that isn't something that can be done on the fly.

Lion in the Stars11 Jul 2018 4:30 p.m. PST

Smoothbore cannon aren't as accurate as rifles, no, but that doesn't mean *inaccurate*.

Let's assume that they're 10x worse than rifles (seems about right for small arms, I will defer to one of the re-enactors otherwise).

50 minutes of angle means hitting within 25" of point of aim (hitting within a 50" circle) at 100 yards. Ah, what the heck, let's make that accuracy even worse (but the math simpler evil grin ): Hitting within 1 yard of point of aim at 100yards range. That's a dispersion of 72 minutes of angle, or 10 mils.

Aim that cannon at the visual center of an infantry square at 600 yards and you're hitting within 6 yards of point of aim, if you're not skipping the shot off the ground. That's putting every shot through a square. On the shortest side.

Even if a smoothbore cannon is half that accurate (=twice the dispersion, 144 minutes of angle/20 mils, hitting within 12 yards of point of aim at 600y), that means a cannon aiming at the visual center of the formation should be able to put almost every shot through an infantry square from 600 yards, regardless of relative facings.

Gentlemen, I do believe that is referred to as 'sitting ducks' in the vernacular.

TMPWargamerabbit11 Jul 2018 5:19 p.m. PST

Having actually fired a full size period artillery piece….. loading, aiming, and firing….. hitting a square ranked face, on generally level ground would happen 9 out of 10 rounds under 500 yds based upon practice targeting a large screen (50x2.5 yards). With different elevations the hits would drop but still the square will sorely suffer in short time. This assumes the artillery cannon crew are trained and fired their piece under combative conditions, and not hampered by skirmishers. But once the rolling banks of smoke drift across the battlefield, the visibility of the square (lacking a breeze) itself would be the deciding factor.

Aethelflaeda was framed11 Jul 2018 8:32 p.m. PST

Since the target isn't moving, if accurate azimuth and elevation has been determined in the first shots, even smoke would not prevent further shots on the same lay.

Ifsmoke and visibility were so prohibitive, all the time, I doubt batteries would continue firing and armies would find no reason to haul these heavy things around in the first place. Yet paradoxically they sometimes ran out of ammunition.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP12 Jul 2018 1:27 a.m. PST

This has been a most thought provoking discussion. Always did strike me just how compact a square must have (indeed needed to have) been.

My abiding impression, though, is more of the space that must have opened up, when long adjacent lines suddenly moved into such small formations. I guess we instead think of Dan O'Herlihy cresting the ridge and what he faced courtesy of Sergei B. Squares, so closely packed that they would menace each other at every shot.

Units in square must have felt very isolated from any neighbours?

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP12 Jul 2018 2:16 a.m. PST

@ Lion in the stars

The trouble with that sort of calculation is that it's not borne out by events. It reminds me of those musketry experiments that "proved" one 500-man battalion would wipe out another with two or three volleys.

Similarly, if a gun can't miss at 600 yards, each discharge will plough through the square and kill or disable at least eight men, four from each face. So each 8-gun salvo kills 64 men. So nine salvoes about six minutes' leisurely fire at 40 seconds per round annihilates the square to the last man. Or, more likely, it breaks and runs when it's lost half its men in three minutes. When did that ever happen? Where are the accounts of squares disintegrating under the fire of one battery in three minutes, or even thirty? Something else was going on here.

@ Aethelflaeda
The trouble is the gun recoils. You have to run it back into position each time. How do you know it's still correctly laid on target if you can't see the target? How do you know the target hasn't moved?

I'm assuming none of those things. I've shown that a square presented a target 90% smaller in aspect than the same unit in line. Hence I propose that between that and smoke, it was a very difficult artillery target, even without considering a need to avoid hitting any of your own troops who might be near or along your line of fire. For example, suppose a line of your own troops is halfway between you and the square, all on level-ish ground. Can you even still see it? Can you fire over the heads of your own guys? What does this do to the hit rate?

Davout attacked in square at Auerstaedt. Was that a stupid tactical choice by a marshal who flat-out failed to understand squares' vulnerability to even distant artillery?

@ McLaddie
The advantage of going after squares with horse artillery is that you can open up with canister from close range. At Eylau, Wagram, Borodino and Waterloo the grand batteries were foot artillery, positioned around 600 yards from the enemy line. They didn't move throughout the battle. It is these that I suggest might have had a lot of trouble hitting a target the size of an infantry square at their usual range. Apart from anything else, the time required to lay the piece accurately on the smaller target between gaps in the smoke would have reduced rates of fire significantly.

Aethelflaeda was framed12 Jul 2018 4:00 a.m. PST

Marker stakes. We used them even in the 80s for our modern howitzers. As for knowing if ithe target moved? I expect that squares did not move all that often…the fact that they are in square means that they are also pinned by a cavalry threat.

As for lethality and misses. They still happened probabably on order of 80%+ of the time, but I expect the error was one of range as opposed to azimuth. Rates of fire were probably were not such that they could erode the target in minutes except if in canister range.

Smoke may well help the square, not so much as a column which is moving. (And moving obliquely will cause both range and azimuth to have to be corrected. But smoke does dissipate if the rate of fire is sufficiently slow. It surely could not completely silence a battery. Even an officer 50-100 meters away could ascertain the state of the target.

Most of those hours of artillery being endured probably not at the same rate of fire as the battery would produce if in defense of battery. And converged individual gun targeting of the whole battery at the same target was probably more rare in smokey situations, I too expect that half the battery would fire to the sides. Long range gunnery is attritional.

It is my belief, (pointed out by Rory Muir) that while accuracy may not have been perfect for any shot, the increased lethality of any hit which did occur more than compensated for the smaller target . Squares (and columns) when hit easily took out 8-10 men while a line target might be hit more often only took out 2-3. The line was not pinned and probably would expect to take fire from only 2-3 shots at most, while the square substantially much, much, more. If the calculation was based on only a single shot, a square might might be an advantage, but I doubt squares ever took just one, it might be the rate of one every 10-20 minutes

Lascaris12 Jul 2018 4:04 a.m. PST

How often would a square be standing in an open field in front of a battery? Wouldn't they typically be formed in response to a cavalry threat which would likely impede a battery's ability to get clean shots? Otherwise I think a battery would annihilate a square pretty quickly.

Aethelflaeda was framed12 Jul 2018 4:17 a.m. PST

The cavalry threat can exist in many places outside the line of fire to the target. It might even be behind the gun line!

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP12 Jul 2018 6:23 a.m. PST

The OP seems to be clinging to the belief that being in square was a safe formation around artillery.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP12 Jul 2018 9:46 a.m. PST

@ Aethelflaeda
Squares moved all the time. Their movement speed was no different to that of any other close-order formation.

Depends where the battery and the cavalry were. At Eylau, Wagram and Waterloo the infantry were on higher ground and / or the cavalry advanced across a dip, which would have allowed the artillery to fire over the cavalry's heads.

Square was not solely an anti-cavalry formation. The Old Guard attacked in squares at Waterloo and Davout attacked in squares at Auerstaedt.

22ndFoot12 Jul 2018 2:34 p.m. PST

Late in the day at Waterloo, some time after La Haye Sainte fell, the 3rd Battalion, 27th (Inniskilling) Regiment of Foot were deployed in square at the junction of the Ohain road and the main road to Brussels.

French artillery fired on them at 300 yards. They may have suffered casualties earlier in the day but by the end of it had suffered 105 killed and 373 wounded out of the 698 who stood to that morning (68% casualties). They did not break and when they marched off, reputedly it looked as if the regiment was "lying dead in a square."

Sounds like they were a pretty good target.

Brechtel19812 Jul 2018 2:53 p.m. PST

Infantry squares were ideal targets for artillery. They were compact and easy to take under fire.

If the artillery was supported by infantry in open order, as at Waterloo after the failure of the French cavalry charges, and had cavalry in the area to keep the infantry in squares, that was the ideal solution.

Major Snort12 Jul 2018 3:05 p.m. PST

The first post uses a British square as an example of the very narrow target presented to artillery.

It is true that a British anti-cavalry square of this era would normally only have the frontage of one company, so it was indeed only 10% as wide as a full battalion in line. The same applied to British columns, which were invariably formed on a one company frontage.

It is interesting to read what the British thought about the vulnerability of narrow, deep formations to artillery fire compared to a long and thin line.

Perhaps in contrast to most other armies of this era, the British were still capable of manoeuvring large bodies of troops in line over long distances. When attacking, this gave them the option of deploying at a considerable distance from the enemy.

As columns occupied the same narrow frontage as a square, the target presented to artillery was pretty much the same, so if these narrow formations were so difficult to hit, columns should have perhaps been the default formation if within range of artillery.

The British had different ideas however, and considered narrow, deep formations to be very vulnerable to artillery.

James Shaw Kennedy described the formation of the Third Division at Waterloo and why it was chosen. It was noted that the French had masses of cavalry and also a large concentration of artillery, so the formation was chosen to allow rapid formation of square, in case of cavalry attack, but also rapid formation into line to reduce the effect of the artillery fire.

The various regulations from 1792 until the end of the smoothbore era all stated the same thing: When attacking, except where there was a high risk from cavalry attack, or the columns could approach the enemy position under cover, line should be formed 1200-1500 paces from the enemy, the reason being that columns would suffer far more casualties from artillery fire.

In the introduction to Wellington's Despatches, John Gurwood stated that it was a principle in Wellington's army to never expose a column to the fire of artillery and form line at a considerable distance from the enemy.

In the manoeuvring prior to the battle of Salamanca, James Leith Hay describes the Fifth Division retiring under long range artillery fire and forming into line from columns to minimise the casualties.

At Vittoria, John Colville states that he deployed his advancing brigade from column into line at the earliest opportunity in order to minimise the effect of the French artillery.

Although only one of these examples specifically mentions squares, it is obvious that the view of authors of the British regulations, and also commanders of brigades, divisions and even armies, was that narrow and deep formations were far more vulnerable to artillery fire than lines, not just within canister range , but at ranges up to 1500paces.

thomalley12 Jul 2018 3:29 p.m. PST

The 6 gun battery will be wider than the square, but that also means the sides come into play. The end guns are going to have the squares front and one side. Artillery would try to "angle their shots, even against a line, often picking targets out of their direct are. This might give them a 4 or 5 deep target vs 3.

Aethelflaeda was framed12 Jul 2018 4:47 p.m. PST

4th, they moved but not often. The light division at Fuentes was famously notable because they did indeed pull off a rare move in square in the face of enemy cavalry, but even there they could only do so because of the sacrifice of friendly cavalry and the absence of much French artillery (there were only 5-6 guns with the French cav) or infantry in support of the French dragoons and there was decent terrain to impede the cav. It certainly was not routine. And it certainly was not as fast as moving in a column…they had to leap frog at best.

Aethelflaeda was framed12 Jul 2018 4:53 p.m. PST

Also the "squares" of the French guard might easily have beenmultiple close order columns, mislabeled by the witnesses. The guard might well use it to advance in out fear of cavalry, but they would deploy into line just as any other French battalion if they could before an assault. They certainly would not choose to attack wasting so much of their shock effect with a weaker formation.

I think they would have used a close order column to assault with, without any hollowness.

As always there is the problem of using battalion formation descriptions for what really might have been Brigade descriptions. Many a historian has been tripped up by off the cuff description for non-soldiers by a witnessing vet at a dinner table some 20 years after the fact. Ballroom descriptions and all that…

Stoppage12 Jul 2018 6:58 p.m. PST

Aetheflaeda – any relation to Aethelstan?

Also consider the Colonne Vuide – succeeding companies deployed in sections to elongate the flanks.

goragrad12 Jul 2018 10:31 p.m. PST

Not sure how appropriate comparing casualties from artillery at firing 300 yards is to those to be expected from artillery fire at 600.

Vertical and horizontal dispersion will be significantly less. A shorter time of flight will lessen the impact of atmospheric conditions as well.

Major Bloodnok13 Jul 2018 2:50 a.m. PST

While there are accounts of squares suffering greatly from artillery fire there are also accounts of the exact opposite occuring

Cuirassier13 Jul 2018 3:55 a.m. PST

I don't know if these photos are going to help in the debate, but…

British army… The photographs show the military camp at Camp Curragh, Co. Kildare, Ireland, which was established in 1855 at the time of the Crimean war. The Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) was posted there, and the camp was visited by Queen Victoria. These amazing photos were taken in 1861.


Square of the Queen's Company, 1st Battn. Grenadier Guards, HRH the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) in command, 11th Sept 1861.




The 36th Regiment of Foot, or part of the regiment, formed in square:



Unknown infantry unit:


Aethelflaeda was framed13 Jul 2018 5:04 a.m. PST

A single hit there will certainly take out significantly more than even 10 men. Think 3 times that or more.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP13 Jul 2018 5:46 a.m. PST

What superb finds. Brilliant

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP13 Jul 2018 7:36 a.m. PST

@ 22nd Foot
At 300 yards with canister, of course. How about at 600 yards, with ball, through smoke?

There's no doubt a square would take worse losses if it were hit. This is a statement of the bleedin' obvious. My question is around how simple it actually was to hit a square. If it was as trivially easy as some have claimed here, why didn't artillery simply wipe out the enemy army at the rate of one battalion per five minutes per firing battery?

@ Cuirassier
Very interesting. In your third photo the left-hand flank appears to me to be about 40 files wide. Any idea how many men this battalion had? I am having trouble counting the ranks deep.

Whirlwind13 Jul 2018 8:07 a.m. PST

Late in the day at Waterloo, some time after La Haye Sainte fell, the 3rd Battalion, 27th (Inniskilling) Regiment of Foot were deployed in square at the junction of the Ohain road and the main road to Brussels.

French artillery fired on them at 300 yards. They may have suffered casualties earlier in the day but by the end of it had suffered 105 killed and 373 wounded out of the 698 who stood to that morning (68% casualties). They did not break and when they marched off, reputedly it looked as if the regiment was "lying dead in a square."

Sounds like they were a pretty good target.

But what isn't known is how many became casualties from the musketry fire of the French skirmishers compared to the artillery fire. Siborne in particular attributes their casualties primarily to this second cause.

Garth in the Park Inactive Member13 Jul 2018 9:12 a.m. PST

Squares are not solitary beasts; they tend to gather in packs.

So if you shoot at one of them and miss, odds are decent that you'll hit another instead.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP13 Jul 2018 9:51 a.m. PST

AIUI all compact formations such as columns and squares formated with enough of a gap that they could shake back out into line again without running into another unit. Hence they were not so closely spaced that a miss against one would hit an adjacent square.

Brechtel19813 Jul 2018 11:51 a.m. PST

They most certainly would be vulnerable to ricochet fire as that could increase the range of both round shot and canister. And artillery rounds bouncing and continuing after hitting the ground were dangerous and deadly.

Jcfrog Supporting Member of TMP13 Jul 2018 12:28 p.m. PST

Most columns were not compact formations at all. Do I hear in the back round that idea they could even be pushing, like a latin queue trying to get through the doors at the ferry terminal?
Sucession of lines, one -2 company front, from 1/4 to one company length inbetween.
Other noted nice targets are closed columns, masses favored by Austrians for example. Noted as such in memoires.

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