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"Why did Soldiers Fight in Lines? " Topic


11 Posts

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18th Century
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838 hits since 26 Feb 2019
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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP26 Feb 2019 9:26 p.m. PST

Of possible interest?

YouTube link

Amicalement
Armand

von Schwartz28 Feb 2019 6:42 p.m. PST

Yes, interesting, and I don't wanna be "Little Debbie Downer" but since this is an 18th Century Discussion Board isn't a discussion of the whys and wherefores of the basic premise of linear tactics a bit redundant?

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP28 Feb 2019 7:28 p.m. PST

It was a pretty good introduction. Although it did present the inaccurate statement that combat in the Civil War was more lethal than previously due to improved weapons and the old linear tactics. There is no evidence proving that Civil War combat was more lethal and quite a bit of evidence that the reverse was true.

John Edmundson01 Mar 2019 1:06 a.m. PST

I would have thought it may be of interest to people less familiar with the period. No one is compelled to watch the video or participate in the discussion. It's not like it's off topic.

Cheers,
John

42flanker Supporting Member of TMP01 Mar 2019 4:03 a.m. PST

"There is no evidence proving that Civil War combat was more lethal and quite a bit of evidence that the reverse was true."

I'd be interested to know more about that. Is it that the rifle persussion musket caused no more casualties than the smooth bore or that the essentially linear tactics did not expose troops to the rifle's increased lethality than commonly thought?

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP01 Mar 2019 4:46 a.m. PST

I'd be interested to know more about that. Is it that the rifle persussion musket caused no more casualties than the smooth bore or that the essentially linear tactics did not expose troops to the rifle's increased lethality than commonly thought?

There are probably many reasons.
The major reason being that what a weapon was theoretically capable of(like a range of 500 meters) doesn't matter much, when the training (practically the psychological) was the same as with the older weapon.

It doesn't help to have a superior weapon, when your soldiers are just as affected by fear, adrenaline and aversion to killing. As soldiers of 50 years earlier.

Then add to the fact you got the terrain. A weapon that is in theory accurate up to 500 meters is of little help with woods, crops, rivers stones and hills making it impossible to see the enemy until they are 150 meters from you.

This affected artillery even more so.

The average firefight distance might have been say 50 meters further away than a Napoleonic firefight but the avrsge hitrate was about the same.

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP01 Mar 2019 5:17 a.m. PST

Gunfreak +1

Also, the rate of fire of the rifle-musket was no greater than the smoothbore. Even today rate of fire is more important than the theoretical accuracy of the weapon.


Casualty figures from the major battles of the 18th century and the Napoleonic Wars are about the same (percentage) as battles in the Civil War. Maybe a little higher, actually, although that's probably due to artillery being able to get in closer.

Aethelflaeda was framed01 Mar 2019 8:15 a.m. PST

There also was a difference in the composition of the lines. The skirmish line and two rank lines became more often the choice formation. This dispersal would counter somewhat the increased depth of the beaten zone in terms of total lethality.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP01 Mar 2019 11:48 a.m. PST

Glad you enjoyed it my friend.

Amicalement
Armand

von Schwartz01 Mar 2019 5:41 p.m. PST

John Edmunson, never said it was off topic, my terms were that it was interesting but redundant.

MDavout20 Mar 2019 11:06 a.m. PST

Also, the muskets were generally percussion. As such, the relibility of fire would increase by at least 5% as well as being able to fire in the rain. I think the big things to consider are:

1 – How much emphasis was placed on target practice. We know that the rifled musket was far more lethal at range than a smooth bore musket. We have many cases in the civil war where units that were trained as marksmen were very lethal. Good example is the number of Union officers and men that were killed by aimed fire from Devil's Den to Roundtop at Gettysburg. There are a lot of other examples. I suspect, that for both sides, there was not a lot of training in marksmanship.

2 – As someone pointed out, many of the battles were fought in wooded terrain thus limiting the effectiveness of the rifled musket.

3 – There was limited light and no heavy cavalry in the Civil War. This meant that there was no need to use the massed formations (squares and masses) so common in the Napoleonic Wars. So, the overall density of targets were significantly less.

4 – Without battle cavalry, the ability to exploit advantages gained by infantry and artillery were limited. Imagine if Meade had a brigade of heavy cavalry that charged into the battered units of Longstreet's attack on the 3rd day at Gettysburg. The results would have been far more deadly.

Personally, I think the biggest things to consider in terms of lethality when comparing the Napoleonic Wars to the Civil War are numbers 3 and 4.

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