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"19th C. Transition to Minie Rifles" Topic

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©1994-2022 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Stalkey and Co16 Apr 2022 1:12 p.m. PST

I know that the minie was being implemented by around 1850 in some armies.

My understanding is that the Crimean War accelerated the British and French implementation of the minie but it was still incomplete during the war – one British division still had the old musket, and only certain French units had a minie?

What about Russia, Turkey, Sardinia?

And what about the Italian War of Unification in 1859? I _believe_ that the French had the minie by that time, but what about the Italian and Austrian units? I would think at least the Austrian Rifle Units would have had the new rifle.

Any firm data welcome!

mad monkey 116 Apr 2022 3:15 p.m. PST
Robert Burke16 Apr 2022 7:41 p.m. PST

"A Narrative of the Siege of Kars", by Humphry Sandwith, MD, 1856, London.

p 119: "The (infantry) Ottoman muskets were precisely such as were used in the Peninsular war, the old-fashioned flint and steel Brown Bess. "

p 120: "There was an elite corps of shishanajis, or riflemen, armed with the new French carabines a tige. These men had been recruited almost entirely from the Zebeks, or mountaineers inhabiting a tract of land south of Smyrna, a race of ready-made riflemen, trained from childhood to carry that formidable weapon."

Russ Haynes16 Apr 2022 7:55 p.m. PST

I think the only Italian units that had a minie in 1859 were the bersagliari. For the Crimea I would have to do some research but I would bet no Sardinian units were equipped with it but I'm not sure when the bersagliari began receiving it. I'll try to find some stuff on the Austrians, too.

Russ Haynes16 Apr 2022 8:12 p.m. PST

My limited resources indicate the Russians had a few units armed with rifles. If I was doing the period I would probably start off with 95% muskets for the Russians and as the war progressed increase this percentage to perhaps 15%.

As for Austrians in 1859 the only reference to how many Lorenz rifles had been received is that "many" units were still carrying the smoothbore Augustin weapons. Without more research I would probably give 75% of units in Italy smoothbores at the beginning and increase the percentage as the war moved forward to probably about 75% rifles by Solferino.

Stalkey and Co17 Apr 2022 5:15 a.m. PST

Wow, great stuff! Thanks guys.

The usual rush to prepare troops as they depart for a war seems to be in effect here in most of the armies.

I'm trying to figure out if there's a forum for the Crimean War Research Society, but doesn't look like there is.

Stalkey and Co17 Apr 2022 5:38 a.m. PST

The document by LTG Bogdanovich I've found translated from Russian into English by Mark Conrad here: link indicate that each battalion had a small company of 28 men [with another 28 men trained as replacements but serving in a line company] with a Liege rifle [Rifle battalions had rifled 7-line [0.70 caliber] Liège "shtutser" weapons.

In each infantry battalion there were 2 non-commissioned officers and 24 privates armed with these shtutser rifles, and they were called shtutsernye [riflemen] (14).], which seems to be an old-pattern rifle of the Napoleonic era, likely modified with the percussion cap – open to correction, here.

"These men formed up in the rear line of non-commissioned officers, three behind each platoon. They were called out into a skirmish line at a special signal. In addition to them, there were also 24 replacement riflemen in a battalion, trained to fire the shtutser but not equipped with one. They were numbered along with the ordinary majority of the unit's soldiers."

Interestingly, the Russian General states that the close order of the Russian infantry battalions is NOT because the Russian army was backwards and Napoleonic, but that the close order was necessitated by the tactics of the Turks, who used thousands of irregular bashi-bazooks and could easily envelope any small part of a Russian battalion that was operating independantly. Skirmishers were therefore used only in heavy terrain and with the battalion nearby in support.

"The headquarters of the commander of the 4th and 5th Infantry Corps prepared special instructions for operations against the Turks. These were titled Instructions for Battle Against Turks, and were approved by Highest Authority on 20 July, 1853. Copies were sent to all column commanders.

The basis of these instructions were rules observed by Prince Paskevich in his wars against the Persians and Turks. The main idea underlying all these rules was the desire to give all military formations the greatest possible cohesiveness and mass, in order to withstand the Turkish cavalry's headlong and disordered attacks and the infantry's huge, unorganized masses, which always moved forward to envelop the attacked units from both sides.

To achieve this, our side avoided movements in open order as much as possible. Even on ground that was uneven or covered with tall bushes, we covered a solid front not with a skirmish line, but with rifle platoons drawn up in close formation or with company columns. Riflemen were sent out in open order only in the mostly heavily wooded terrain. The cavalry was likewise not permitted to send out flankers, whose place was taken by close-order platoons or half-squadrons."

Mark Strachan23 Apr 2022 1:24 p.m. PST

An excellent article on rifle technology in the Crimea can be found here.


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