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Posted: 6/13/2001 12:01:16 PM EDT
Okay all you military history buffs, I have a simple question to ask. After watching both The Patriot and Glory, please explain to me the logic of standing shoulder to shoulder in a line and shooting at the enemy? Wouldn’t it make more sense to hid and take cover like they do now. Any insights or answers would be appreciated.
Link Posted: 6/13/2001 8:11:42 PM EDT
that was the "gentlemen's" way of fighting. that's why guerilla warfare was considered such an atrocity. but never fear, the world finally wised up and went to trench warfare [:\]
Link Posted: 6/13/2001 8:24:31 PM EDT
One other reason for this - and possibly a good one. The smooth bore muskets of the time were hideously inaccurate. However, when standing in rows and firing simultaneously, the effect was, quite literally "a wall of lead". The muskets also took some time to reload, so the more people you could kill with a single, first volley the better. Firing in an orderly way with these inaccurate slow firing weapons increased the effect - or so it was believed.
Originally Posted By felixcat: Okay all you military history buffs, I have a simple question to ask. After watching both The Patriot and Glory, please explain to me the logic of standing shoulder to shoulder in a line and shooting at the enemy? Wouldn’t it make more sense to hid and take cover like they do now. Any insights or answers would be appreciated.
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Link Posted: 6/13/2001 8:28:47 PM EDT
aggie_cox hit the nail on the head. That was the accepted doctrine for that period. It was the "Gentleman" way to warfare. You stood boldly before your enemy. Sounds like something the French would start...
Link Posted: 6/13/2001 9:25:38 PM EDT
found a good source of info. pretty interedting... [url]http://www.consimworld.com/newsroom/archives/morenews/inftactics/infreport.html[/url]
Link Posted: 6/14/2001 8:22:56 AM EDT
The reason for the shoulder-to-shoulder formation is technological. Pre-gunpowder, the battlefield was controlled by cavalry. Infantry caught in an open formation would be slaughtered by cavalry. The defense against cavalry was dense formations of infantry armed with spears or pikes. The first infantry gunpowder arms were very slow to reload and very inaccurate (about a 40 yard effective range for aimed fire by 1800). This made them easy targets for cavalry, so gun formations had to be protected by pike/spear formations. The bayonet allowed armies to get rid of the pike formations and go with musket armed infantry that could protect themselves from cavalry, but only if they maintained those close formations. The inaccuracy of smoothbore muskets meant you had to get real close to the enemy to be effective, more like using long range swords than anything else. Armies experimented with different formations and movements to come up with the ones they used. Infantry did on occasion fight from cover, but always lost. The slow rate of fire and the inaccuracy of the weapons meant that an enemy unit marching straight at you would only be under effective fire for two, maybe three shots, and then they'd be right on top of you. At that point it goes to an old-fashioned hand-to-hand fight, and the guys under cover would generally lose. By the 1860s, most US/CS infantry were armed with rifles that fired about 6 rpm with a range of over 400 yards, but no one had fought a war with weapons like that on both sides, so they started the war using 1800 tactics. Pretty quickly, the infantry discovered that getting behind cover and making the enemy come to you, something that was suicide 50 years earlier, with exactly what you wanted to do. Cavalry couldn't get close to rifle armed infantry, they were shot out of the saddle before they could close, so formations could open up. The article linked above describes this in detail.
Link Posted: 6/16/2001 12:26:07 PM EDT
Also alot of the firearms used by colonists weren't considered military arms but hunting arms and were designed with a certain amount of rifling and as such were a bit more accurate at extended ranges than the Brown Bess and allowed a degree of variation from regular military doctorine for the time period, IIRC.
Link Posted: 6/17/2001 2:28:30 PM EDT
also the common armys at the time really didnt give a sh*t about the common enlisted man since he was most likely pressed into servince that is why in Patriot there so shocked about the specific targeting of officers who were from the higher class then the average guy on the street
Link Posted: 6/18/2001 9:46:09 AM EDT
I love the Red Uniforms the Brits wore. They did it to be intimidating, and to not show blood... but it sure made them easy to pick off in the trees. I am also surprised how long it took camo to come about. Individual soldiers created their own in WW1, but it was the middle of WWII before it became USGI.
Link Posted: 6/18/2001 12:21:17 PM EDT
The camo field uniform had become so identified with the WW2 German soldier in Europe that the introduction of camo for US soldiers resulted in cases of fratricide.
Link Posted: 6/19/2001 10:37:18 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 6/19/2001 10:35:06 AM EDT by Golgo-13]
The shoulder-to-shoulder method was the best method of fighting with such weapons under battlefield conditions at that time. As has already been mentioned, infantry that did not hold formation was at the mercy of cavalry. Infantry that did not hold formation could not effectively deliver the firepower that their muskets had to offer, either. All the marching and drilling that the military does to this day, comes down to us from that time. The various drills were designed to allow a formation of infantrymen to maneuver as a group as quickly and effectively as possible. Instead of thinking of them as individual men with weapons, think of the formation itself, with its massed fire, as the weapon. The best troops, in those times, were the ones who had the discipline to retain their formations even under fire and successfully close with the enemy. Once an enemy formation had been broken, it ceased to function as an effective fighting unit. One guy with a musket isn't much of threat, militarily. Although we are brought up in this country cherishing the image of the rifle-armed Minuteman sniping at pompous British officers from behind the trees whist the British continue to stupidly stand in a group and get shot down, there was comparatively little of that activity. Did you know that the Brits had marksmen, too, btw? George Washington's great accomplishment was forging an armed rabble into something resembling a disciplined European-style army. Don't underestimate that style of fighting. The British and the French conquered huge territiories using it. Our own army practiced it. Disregard for the common soldier or not, no military knowingly chooses and uses suicidal/ineffectual methods for long. Occasionally, as in the American Civil War and WWI, there are lags when tactics are leap-frogged by weapons; but, the British et. al. used the formations you describe because they were the most effective way to fight using the weapons of the day.
Link Posted: 6/20/2001 7:31:40 PM EDT
Another reason they fought in packs back then was to make it easier to control the men. Often they would fight under threat of death from their own officers.
Link Posted: 7/1/2001 6:34:56 PM EDT
THe Brown Bess by being a smooth bore was quicker to load, 4 times faster than a rifled weapon. So they relied on mass fires as Europen wars were battlefield actions. Our citzen soldiers relied on tactics as stealth as taught to them by the British in the French and Indian wars.
Link Posted: 7/3/2001 3:15:07 PM EDT
BoweryBoy and Golgo-13, sounds like you have done your homework. As I understand it, another reason for the tight formations, in addition to concentrating firepower, was that it made your own company a smaller target to the enemy formation, who was doing the same to you.
Link Posted: 7/5/2001 7:49:56 AM EDT
Command and control factored in to the tight formations as well, which was also a factor in why most armies wore brightly colored uniforms. Thousands of men all firing black powder weapons generate a lot of smoke. Identifying friend from enemy was a big problem, uniforms were designed to be visible in a smoke screen. The basic idea for camoflauge has been around for hundreds of years, there just wasn't much use for it. The British did form a rifle regiment based on their experience with American riflemen in the Revolutionary War. These guys wore dark green uniforms with subdued markings, were trained to fight in open formations, to shoot officers and NCOs, and to use fire and movement tactics that were years ahead of general use. There's a book series (and a British TV series that occasionally shows up on PBS) about British riflemen in the Napoleonic Wars, "Sharpe's Rifles". The author, Bernard Cornwell, manages to explain a lot of the reasons for why armies did the things they did at the time. It's a lot more fun to read than most history books. -Steve
Link Posted: 7/5/2001 3:28:26 PM EDT
Originally Posted By BoweryBoy: There's a book series (and a British TV series that occasionally shows up on PBS) about British riflemen in the Napoleonic Wars, "Sharpe's Rifles". The author, Bernard Cornwell, manages to explain a lot of the reasons for why armies did the things they did at the time. It's a lot more fun to read than most history books. -Steve
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The History Channel also ran that whole series a couple of years back, but I haven't heard of it being on for a while. I never got to see the whole thing all the way through, but I got a lot out of what I saw.
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