Did the Minie Ball really change warfare that much?

Menshevik

Ad Honorem
Dec 2012
9,418
here
Cool video, Millennium

A few questions: to start.....


"Average soldier=poor marksmanship"

Why was this so? Why did the average soldier have poor marksmanship?
 
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aggienation

Ad Honorem
Jul 2016
9,813
USA
Cool video, Millennium

A few questions: to start.....


"Average soldier=poor marksmanship"

Why was this so? Why did the average soldier have poor marksmanship?
Little training, especially live fire. No budget, no time, no inclination.

The fundamentals of marksmanship are exponentially harder to apply to firing in that sort of weapon in the manner done. Standing is the least stable position. While the percussion cap was much better than flintlock its still slow in terms of lock time, which is trigger pull to ignition, so weapon must be kept completely steady after trigger pull until it fires. Flinching is going to be increased by anticipation of volley fire and rush to pull trigger on command.

So take a smooth bore musket using flintlock to fire round ball only using a bead front sight, no rear. Rifle the barrel, add a more aerodynamic minie ball projectile, add a proper front sight and an adjustable rear, calibrated for distance. Huge improvement in capacity to be more accurate. But everything else in how it's used still works against it.

Breech loader really changed things, as it allowed shooters to easily reload from prone, kneeling and other supported positions that aid in stability, better cover or concealment.
 
Jul 2018
310
London
Cool video, Millennium

A few questions: to start.....


"Average soldier=poor marksmanship"

Why was this so? Why did the average soldier have poor marksmanship?
Marksmanship requires training and cold blood. Not everybody has it. I still remember the first time I fired an AR70, the first magazine went everywhere but into the target, and it is much easier and convoluted than a rifled musket.
 
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sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
5,388
Sydney
There are some uncertainties and contradiction about the whole subject

when the war started fire by volley was the standard , it still was at the Matoponi battle in 1864
with rifle fire ripping like an orange sheet of fire

in 1861 Hood launched his Texans at fair oaks in a bayonet headlong charge ,and did it again and again

at the battle of Gettysburg , Picket troops dressed their line ( under fire ) to keep their proper alignment

when the totally inexperienced Iron division troops collided by accident against Jackson veterans of the Stonewall brigade
both side stood at ten feet of each other blazing away until Jackson decided to withdraw

at Spotsylvania the Federals charged at a trot in compact formation to reach the trenches faster

Cleburne had a reputation for devastating defensive fire , because he trained his men in proper marksmanship
he made them aim low , firing too high and sending the bullets overhead is a common vice of stressed soldiers

someone commented that it took his own weight in lead to kill one soldier

So...I don't know
there were bayonet charges , line for volleys , column assaults
certainly things changed
Lee commented that in the first battles of the war , the commanders were very free with the live of their men

certainly the minie and artillery made entrenching a necessity
 
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Sep 2012
1,180
Tarkington, Texas
Sometimes people forget how long it took for the ACW units to convert to rifled firearms. At Fredericksburg, the Yankees kept charging a Confederate unit armed with Smothbores firing Buck and Ball. When they ran out of ammo they were
replaced on the firing line. A lot of people that were not trained to fire Rifled Firearms were used by both sides. Lots of firearms were found after battles that had been reloaded until the barrel was full! It seems the owner had neglected to put a cap on the weapon.

Pruitt
 

Ichon

Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
3,730
That part about smoke is just his personal opinion, of which I don't at all believe. Does a battlefield clogged with powder smoke make sighting harder? Sure. Was that the reason misses increased? Probably one reason (among too many to even really list). But there were numerous examples of various Civil War battlefields where faster firing breech loading Sharps or Spencer rifles, or Henry rifles, absolutely turned the tide. Or how ineffective and poorly rated the early "recipe" load out of "buck and ball" was compared to the Minie Ball. There were numerous examples of black powder Gatling Guns turned the tide of a battle. So which is it? It sounds like this individual 1) Never fired a rifle before or musket 2) and is just trying to sell books with wild and controversial theories. The academic version of click bait.

And the only evidence the individual had to support his theory was hit ratio vs rounds expended:

"Casualty estimates compared with expended ammunition from battles indicate 1 casualty for every 250–300 shots discharged, not a dramatic improvement over Napoleonic casualty rates."

This is a logical fallacy when used to describe a weapon's effectiveness. Or else 5.56 NATO, 7.62 NATO, 7.62x39mm, 30 Cal, 7.92 Mauser, 7.7 Arisaka, 7.62x54R were ALL less effective than a muzzle loading smooth bore from the year 1800, because all had massively higher casualty/ammo expended ratios. And nobody would ever argue they weren't as effective simply because it take 500,000 rounds fired in combat to achieve one casualty caused by small arms (according to a poorly analyzed but much repeated statistic).
Pretty much this- accuracy and range a weapon is capable of matters less than the training of the soldiers using that weapon and in the case of the CW the training was usually quite poor. Even sharpshooters units rarely attempted to engage beyond 200 yards and sustained skirmishes often came down to 100 yards or less depending on the terrain and if the sharpshooters were on the advance or defence.
 

aggienation

Ad Honorem
Jul 2016
9,813
USA
Marksmanship requires training and cold blood. Not everybody has it. I still remember the first time I fired an AR70, the first magazine went everywhere but into the target, and it is much easier and convoluted than a rifled musket.
I dont think being cold blooded or ruthless helps marksmanship. More discipline and attention to detail.

And those were taught to ACW soldiers on both sides, but usually not in relation to marksmanship but instead close order drill, which is what infantry largely emphasized at the time. Being able to rapidly and easily maneuver large groups of infantry on a fast manner was seen as more useful than marksmanship training. And cheaper, as there is no training expenditures for spending every day marching around the regimental grounds practicing formations and turning movements.
 

Menshevik

Ad Honorem
Dec 2012
9,418
here
Okay, guys; it sounds like there's a consensus of sorts.

ACW armies didn't take advantage of the technology (minie ball rifles) available to them. This was due to to a lack of training. If this is the case, it doesn't explain why the cavalry charge that was sometimes so decisive in earlier conflicts wasn't really seen in ACW battles.

Were ACW generals and leaders just really ignorant about the environments and battlefield conditions of the time/era?
 

Menshevik

Ad Honorem
Dec 2012
9,418
here
....there were numerous examples of various Civil War battlefields where faster firing breech loading Sharps or Spencer rifles, or Henry rifles, absolutely turned the tide.
I'm sorry aggie, but this sounds like it contradicts what you've said elsewhere. If training marksmanship wasn't high on anyone's list of priorities, then what difference does it make if they had repeaters?

Also, which battles were these that you speak of where repeaters won the day?
 
Feb 2019
905
Pennsylvania, US
I was just mentioning to another member how I wanted to know more about how the minie would have impacted battle tactics... so thank you, Menshevik, for the clairvoyance, I'm really enjoying reading this thread! :raise:

I'm wondering if anyone knows what played a larger part in the (somewhat shockingly) high casualty numbers in several CW battles, if not the war overall...

Was it that weapon advancements outpaced tactics (i.e. Hardee's tactics obsolete for weapons with better range and accuracy, or quicker breach loading)?

Or, was it a push for these large, decisive, “tide turning” battles at all costs (South running on commandeered arms without the ability to make more like the North could... North trying to slow the South's winning momentum)?