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Old April 30th, 2013, 11:40 AM   #1
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Line versus column


The Napoleonic army was professional, officers raised on merit of fighting along with years of fighting.
I will say that the British at least at the officer level were not as professional(?_)
My question is why was the British line more effective then the French Column?
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Old April 30th, 2013, 12:51 PM   #2

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Port View Post
The Napoleonic army was professional, officers raised on merit of fighting along with years of fighting.
I will say that the British at least at the officer level were not as professional(?_)
My question is why was the British line more effective then the French Column?
Because a lot of the success of the column depended on its effect on the enemy. The sight of this mass of men advancing on your position was designed to break your morale before it even got close, but the well trained British troops knew that their firepower would break the column before it got too close.
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Old April 30th, 2013, 01:10 PM   #3
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Does the line have more firepower then the collumn?
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Old April 30th, 2013, 02:59 PM   #4

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Yes, because musket bullets have a rather flat trajectory, meaning that only the front two or three ranks of a formation can give fire (as opposed to a bow, where the rear ranks can just fire over the top of the men in front). Hence a greater proportion of men in a line formation can fire than in a column formation.
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Old April 30th, 2013, 10:08 PM   #5
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The development of Column tactics was based on nessicity rather than tactical advantage the early massed french revolutionary armies were pretty badly trained and their commanders thought them unable to form and move in lines effectively. With their successes they developed the tactic. But Infantry in this period very rarely fought hand to hand, one side signalled the other that it intended and was going to press to hand to hand the other signalled that it was ready to receive the attack, but generally one side blinked, and either the assault failed to contact or the defenders withdrew.

The French did build up a other innovations, mass use of skirmishers, that changed how battles were fought.

The successes and historical quality of British forces in this period is interesting. The Officers bought their commissions and really didnt see soldiering as a career, didnt really interact with their men, the army for a long time was basically run by NCOs. There was no staff college, or even much of an army high command structure. While British soldiers were paid about double those of other armies (who where conscripts) they hardly had the pick of British manpower (the Army was the last refuge of those who failed to find a place in society, generally speaking the dregs, I've read the theory that British army soldiers were loyal to the Army as it was the only place they had ever had three square meals in their lives) The Officers were poorly trained, the structure bad, the manpower quality on intake poor, their tactics not innovative, so why did the British Infantry pretty consistently perform very well?
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Old May 1st, 2013, 03:08 AM   #6

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Port View Post
Does the line have more firepower then the collumn?
If you think of a defensive line, the front man kneels, the second man stands and the third interlocks to tire between the shoulders of the second line.

In a line of 600 men thats every man firing, three rounds a minute, four if theyre good so average it and say 2,000 rounds a minute.

The British army trains with live ammunition day after day after day, theyre good at it and theyre disciplined with a combination of combat tested tactics using the old English volley fire system to weaken and halt an enemy then the bayonet and Highland charge to close in and smash them.

The column is an attacking formation, the enemy is ually made up of conscripts who are trained in drill but not live fore under european leaders, they are weakened and demoralised by artillery and skirmishers then the column attacks, its designed to look like an unstoppable force because even if you shoot the first few men the column reforms and keeps on coming, it can turn and manouver, it can form square instantly to stop a cavalry attack, it loud and its powerful and its scary and mostly the enemy takes one look at it and runs.

The downside is that only the first three lines can shoot, every man behind that is simply bulk to add intimidation and make up casualties. In a column of 600 men, lets say you make the frontage 60 men wide so you have 10 lines only the first 180 men can shoot so your outgunned 3:1

Secondly since your attacking and moving the chances or reloading a musket at the march are about nil so you have one or two good shots.

against early european forces with with old style line tactics that bulk and shock attack factor wins, against the more flexible, well trained and aggressive British its basically a big unmissable target.

Thats why the French began to move away from the column and into using line tactics although they hadnt quite got the hang of it by the time Waterloo ended Napoleons final european tour.
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Old May 1st, 2013, 03:16 AM   #7

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Originally Posted by pugsville View Post
While British soldiers were paid about double those of other armies (who where conscripts) they hardly had the pick of British manpower (the Army was the last refuge of those who failed to find a place in society, generally speaking the dregs, I've read the theory that British army soldiers were loyal to the Army as it was the only place they had ever had three square meals in their lives) The Officers were poorly trained, the structure bad, the manpower quality on intake poor, their tactics not innovative, so why did the British Infantry pretty consistently perform very well?
All very valid points but there isnt a British army at the time, there are Regiments, some of them are good, some are bad. Some are magical dressing up boxes where the London elite can parade at the weekends or militia where local landowners can wear scarlet jackets and dazzle the ladies.

And some of them are among the better and most combat experienced and innovative military units in existence, the British had developed their firepower and bayonet drills against the Scots then really began to innovate in small unit tactics during the American revolution.

They werent all like the stereotype.
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Old May 1st, 2013, 01:56 PM   #8

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Sorry, just had to change "Linr" to "Line" on the assumption it was a typo.
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Old May 1st, 2013, 02:16 PM   #9

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nemowork View Post
.......................


..................They werent all like the stereotype.
Its a bit of a myth the 'aristo fops' in command of regiment ---- although not entirely and purchase did exist ---- many officers were given or gained commisions and the worse 'fops' would not dream of fighting and would exchange with other officers if their regiment was about to be sent to an 'unfashionable' location. In battle and war zones dead mens shoes were free.
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Old May 1st, 2013, 06:07 PM   #10
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Purchase was the standard way that British Officers were recruited. The British Army did not have political clout, or social standing. British officers were generally less careerist than their equilivents. It's hard to say that the structure and recruitment of the British army gave it and edge if the quality of officers and men. But it's performance was very good, why then? What were the reasons behind it's success? (it's a but of mystery to me)
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