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"Ammo resupply in battle...how was it done?" Topic


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Blackhorse MP09 Oct 2021 12:31 p.m. PST

I use home-brewed rules for my 20mm ACW games, with the regiment and battery being the basic tactical units. A typical game usually includes 2-4 brigades with supporting artillery per side.

I recently decided to add a provision for units running out of ammunition to cut down on what I perceive to be too much long range infantry fire. What I'm wondering is how to structure the rule for resupply when a unit does go dry. All my reading over the years has given me any number of examples where units have fired off all their ammo and have had to withdraw to the rear for resupply, but I can't recall any descriptions of how or where that resupply took place.

The process seems simple enough; establish brigade ammo resupply points somewhere in each brigade's rear area where it's regiments and batteries must come to top-off. That location would represent the ammunition wagons and would be stationary and located outside the range of enemy fire, at least at the beginning of the game. The ammo-less units must return to those locations and spend a turn or two resupplying and are then eligible to resume firing.

Seemingly pretty simple. Just thought I'd run it by the TMP faithful and get some feedback. I'm always open to new ideas. Thanks in advance.

Wackmole9 Supporting Member of TMP09 Oct 2021 1:33 p.m. PST

HI

there was a famous Mule train charge at Gettysburg
. Three wagon loads of ammunition were distributed to the brigade at the front line by Ordnance Sergeant Jerome Watrous, in what Gen. Hancock referred to as a "mule train charge." (See link with Lance Herdegen's article from The Gettysburg Magazine)

link


SERVICE ON TIME
Ordnance Mule Train Charge,
Gettysburg, July 1 1863
Don Stivers, Artist
Lance Herdegen describes what would be called Gettysburg's "Mule Train Charge":
Then the wagons were out into the open field beyond the Seminary building under the fire of at least a dozen Confederate artillery pieces. But Watrous and his train soon reached the area behind the Union battle line where he found regiments of the Iron Brigade and other units. With the drivers rolling the wagons along the line, the extra men tumbled off one wooden box of ammunition after another. Running behind the wagons came Watrous, who used the blunt end of an axe to splinter open the boxes so the bundles of cartridges cold be rushed to the fighting men. Three wagonloads, almost 75,000 rounds, were distributed, O'Connor said. "All this time the rebels were shelling us to kill. Nearly every wagon cover was hit with a shell, slid shot or Minnie ball while we were there."

skipper John09 Oct 2021 1:33 p.m. PST

Wouldn't Corporal jones and a couple of privates be sent back to pick up ammo before the boys ran out?

Well there ya go!

Personal logo ColCampbell Supporting Member of TMP09 Oct 2021 1:34 p.m. PST

That's always been my impression as well. Here is a link that might help:

link

… to cut down on what I perceive to be too much long range infantry fire.

That is why I don't like infantry weapons fire broken into short and long range. You are either in "effective" range or you are not. And effective range should be much shorter than the maximum range of the particular weapon, especially the ACW rifled muzzle-loader.

Jim

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP09 Oct 2021 4:03 p.m. PST

Hate to swear to it. My impression was that normally ACW ammo was brought forward and that when troops were withdrawn for lack of ammunition it was some sort of admin failure--it wasn't there, or no one knew where it was. And of course, "withdrawn for lack of ammunition" sounds a lot better than "the division was a mess, and I had to get them off the front lines to get them sorted out again."

Brigade resupply points sounds reasonable. It can hardly have been lower. But it may not have been the same in all armies and theaters, or the same for artillery as for infantry. As I recall, at Gettysburg on the Third Day, ALL the Union batteries were drawing from Artillery Reserve stores, not even corps stores.

Always a question what constitutes an unreasonably long range. I generally like a two-range solution: there's a range at which you're taking losses, but it could go on for some time, especially if the numbers are about even, and a range at which things have to be resolved very quickly. You get one or maybe two volleys at that range before someone breaks or it comes down to bayonets. But the longer range is not the same as not being under fire.

rmaker09 Oct 2021 9:42 p.m. PST

Artillery would send back empty caissons before things got desperate. The guns would stay in action. Once at the park, the empty ammo chests would be swapped for full ones. The empties could then be refilled at leisure.

Martin Rapier09 Oct 2021 11:29 p.m. PST

As noted above, normal practice for artillery was to send wagons back to replenish. The guns stayed where they were.

No idea about small arms ammo.

Consul Paulus10 Oct 2021 3:24 a.m. PST

1 marker per brigade would seem too generous. The ammunition wagon was a divisional asset, not a brigade one as the example cited by Wackmole9 makes clear.

It also makes it clear that the "Mule train charge" was exceptional. In the article, a major remonstrates with Watrous, ordering him to stop the train because it would be captured (Watrous ignores him). Later, Hancock expresses the same fear, asking Watrous if he had lost the ammunition (presumably to the enemy) because he had been so close to the action.

Overall, the indication is that the wagons stayed where they were, and units moved towards them, not vice versa.

So I would make three changes:

1) Have 1 resupply marker per division, not per brigade

2) Require the marker to be at a minimum distance from any units in the division – so that every unit wishing to resupply must withdraw from its starting position

These will prevent players placing their resupply point close to their brigade's position so the regiments do not have to withdraw to their rear to resupply.

3) Allow units to resupply if they are within a certain distance of the marker and not require them to actually reach it. The requirement to have them reach it means you could a have a traffic jam form, as 2 or more regiments try to resupply from the same marker. This seems ahistorical – the general indication is that infantry units would withdraw from the action, move to within a certain distance of the ammunition wagons, and then send details back to get the ammunition. Each box weighed 100 pounds, so two men could carry one box of 1,000 cartridges on a makeshift stretcher or "requisition" a cart to carry more.

Blackhorse MP10 Oct 2021 1:19 p.m. PST

Hmmm, more info about the ammo coming forward than the unit going back.

Consul Paulus, I like your ideas. Very much in line with my own…

However, maybe units having to withdraw may be unnecessary. Perhaps when a unit goes dry they cannot fire again until they send a "detail" to the rear to bring up more ammo. This would be represented by a die roll. No resupply on turn one, on turn two a roll of 6 on a D6 to get back with the ammo. Turn three a 5,6. Turn four a 4,5,6 and so on until the roll is successful or you get to 1. Or maybe setting a limit of turns, say 4 or 5, that a unit can be out of ammo regardless of how badly you're rolling.

My view has changed on this I think. I like the idea of dicing for resupply rather than having units physically go to a resupply point. Gonna try that out.

As far as fire goes in my rules, I do have just two categories: effective and long range, with it being harder, obviously, to hit at long range. For artillery I added "canister/grapeshot" range for that point blank area where you really don't want to be if you're enemy infantry.

Thanks for the input guys. I hadn't thought of any alternative to the units withdrawing to resupply before reading your replies and now I think I have a better way.thumbs up

ps: Love the pic of the Mule Charge.

Col Durnford10 Oct 2021 3:20 p.m. PST

I allow any infantry unit a +1 first shot bonus. That seem to keep players holding their fire for maximum effect.

Tracking ammo usages is to much extra work for the pay off. I do have special action cards that can result in low ammo with a -1 to hit as well as cards for ammo re-supply.

Blackhorse MP10 Oct 2021 3:33 p.m. PST

Col D, I also allow a bonus for 1st shot for exactly that reason.

I don't track ammo for units, they just have to roll a die each time they fire after the first time and they then have a chance to "run low" on ammo on the first failure and then they run out with a second failed roll during a subsequent firing. I think it's more realistic to let them know they're running low on ammo as opposed to them suddenly just running out without anyone noticing. That is what NCO's are for after all.grin

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP10 Oct 2021 3:33 p.m. PST

The movie "Zulu Dawn" shows how it should not be done. But there are those who say that that long established story was a whitewash.

Blutarski10 Oct 2021 5:26 p.m. PST

Various regimental histories I have read, mention recovering ammunition from dead and wounded. I'd also suspect that a fair amount of enemy musket ammunition could be used as well; Union and Confederate infantry weapons shared a lot of similar and complementary calibers (.69 caliber smoothbore. ,577/.58 caliber rifled musket for example).

FWIW.

B

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP10 Oct 2021 7:23 p.m. PST

The French under Napoleon developed a sophisticated and simple procedure that moved ammunition, both infantry and artillery, forward to the troops. And the Grande Armee only came close to running out of ammunition once, and that was at Leipzig in 1813 because the army's trains were cut off and couldn't get close enough to resupply the units.

Bill N11 Oct 2021 9:30 a.m. PST

That is why I don't like infantry weapons fire broken into short and long range. You are either in "effective" range or you are not. And effective range should be much shorter than the maximum range of the particular weapon, especially the ACW rifled muzzle-loader.

So what exactly is the effective range for a weapon? Does it vary with the circumstances of the battlefield? Does troop training matter? What about the circumstances under which the firing is being done? Is fire which influences enemy actions effective even if few shots actually find human targets?

The above questions don't even take into consideration that the troops might have opened fire before their opponents got into so called effective range or continued it after their opponents had gotten beyond effective range. Both of these could chew up ammo causing a unit to need resupply.

The problem isn't that musket, rifle or artillery range in our games is too great. The problem is that in our games turns encompass too much time during which too much can happen. If I don't fire on you when you first come into range, I may not have the opportunity to fire on you before you come into contact with me.

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP12 Oct 2021 3:39 p.m. PST

The regulations called for one sergeant from each company to lead a detail to the rear to pick up ammunition and bring it back to be distributed. How often this actually happened is open to debate.

Another thing to consider is that firing over an extended period of time will see the muskets' barrels fouling and the men becoming fatigued. So even if there was an unlimited supply at hand, a regiment's effective fire would decrease as the action went on.

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