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"Rewatching ‘Gettysburg’...artillery fire " Topic

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American Civil War

1,024 hits since 3 Aug 2018
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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Basha Felika03 Aug 2018 12:26 p.m. PST

Not qualified to pass comment on the historical authenticity of the film (I'm no way an expert on the subject, and a Brit) but I was impressed by the amount of smoke generated by the artillery prior to the final climactic advance…

BUT it got me thinking, has any film managed to properly represent the real effect of roundshot fired by black powder artillery, using CGI or whatever, rather than the miniature HE explosions so common in the films (Waterloo, Light Brigade et al) that have inspired me over the years?

6mmACW03 Aug 2018 1:05 p.m. PST

The best modern depiction I've seen of roundshot is actually in The Patriot with Mel Gibson. A fun movie, though terribly inaccurate as a historical work, but halfway through the film it shows a battle between the colonial regulars and the Brits. Gibson's character is watching the battle on a nearby porch with his son. In the battle, they show a British cannon fire roundshot that bounces off the ground and tears right through the colonial line. It rips one guy's leg clean off and keeps bouncing through, devastating the lines. Very good depiction of the historical impact in an otherwise not historically accurate movie.

Theoden103 Aug 2018 1:12 p.m. PST

Master and Commander gets black powder artillery (and everything else) right.

14Bore03 Aug 2018 1:41 p.m. PST

There is record of multiple general officers suggesting the Union artillery slow down as the smoke was covering the valley on Day 3.

Personal logo enfant perdus Supporting Member of TMP03 Aug 2018 1:44 p.m. PST

Most of the artillery in The Alamo (2004, ie.e the good one) is very well done. When the Texians fire a gun at an outbuilding, the effects guys use a small explosion to demo it, which is understandable. The canister and langrage effects are fantastic.

Tangental to the OP, I've long thought this is a great representation of being under fire in the mid-to-late 19thC. It takes place during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877, but would be analogous to some artillery in the ACW, FPW, etc.
YouTube link

Personal logo ColCampbell Supporting Member of TMP04 Aug 2018 6:37 a.m. PST

enfant, very interesting. Thanks,


EJNashIII04 Aug 2018 11:16 a.m. PST

Also, the explosions are more appropriate for the civil war period. Round shot existed but was not near as prevalent as in previous wars. Shells and canister were more typical.

Trajanus05 Aug 2018 5:55 a.m. PST

The smoke in Gettysburg was impressive. The absence of recoil not so much!

14Bore05 Aug 2018 9:34 a.m. PST

Looks very believable until the beginning of the Geico commercial at the end.

Kidding of course about the commercial.

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP05 Aug 2018 11:56 a.m. PST

The amount of smoke is probably pretty accurate. With no projectile there is less compression and combustion isn't as complete, producing more smoke, but reenactors generally use much smaller charges when firing, so it probably evens out.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP11 Aug 2018 11:49 p.m. PST

The Patriot got the smoke all wrong too. There should be less smoke from the artillery. The British in the movie were using very heavy guns in that scene. Actual artillery in the AWI was very light and would not have generated that much smoke. Round shot would not be nearly that size. So not a good historical depiction of artillery effects in the AWI.

Trajanus12 Aug 2018 2:19 a.m. PST

Not good historical depiction of the AWI, period.

138SquadronRAF Supporting Member of TMP15 Aug 2018 6:35 a.m. PST

The smoke in Gettysburg was impressive. The absence of recoil not so much!

To get recoil you actually need to fire a live round, not just fire off black powder.

Needless to say that's both expense and dangerous. A gun weighing a ton rolling back 6 to 8 feet is impressive.

Actually, the thing that bugged me more, was the limbers without horses, but again, that's a cost issue.

Trajanus15 Aug 2018 7:07 a.m. PST

To get recoil you actually need to fire a live round, not just fire off black powder.

Well like the man said: "Ye cannae change the laws of physics!"

Yeah fair enough. Still annoys the hell out of me though!

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP15 Aug 2018 6:33 p.m. PST

"Not good historical depiction of the AWI, period."


Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP16 Aug 2018 1:40 p.m. PST

But, as a passing through visitor from Napoleonic Fora, that truly daft film, The Patriot, is the only one I can recall showing anything remotely like the effect of roundshot, when it hits human flesh, however wrong for the period. It was very memorable and almost unique.

There was a sequence in the TV series The Borgias…by definition, much earlier and using an insanely massive shot…but the effect was superbly shown.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP16 Aug 2018 3:02 p.m. PST

Patriot employed every propaganda method in the book. It was shameful.

Notice how one of the fellows around the gun in the second video moved off about five+ yards to the right simply to see where the shot fell because of the smoke.

Personal logo Bowman Supporting Member of TMP20 Aug 2018 6:24 p.m. PST

To get recoil you actually need to fire a live round, not just fire off black powder.

Or have a special effects crew that can manage simple mechanical effects.

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