Did the Minie Ball really change warfare that much?

Jul 2016
9,544
USA
#21
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?
When accuracy is lacking, volume of fire makes up for inaccuracy. Example: machine guns. Furthermore, not being forced to stand straight up, or at best kneeling, in order to reload means troops do not have to be standing or kneeling, and exposed, to fire.

Battles where faster firing weapons were decisive, I'll just describe Gettysburg, as its the most fitting. Buford's cavalry division, armed with Sharps, Burnside, Merrill, Ballard, and Maynard breech loading rifles, were able to dismount, fight from cover, and delivery exceptional firepower to the point they repelled numerous concerted attacks by an entire corps.

The Henry Repeating Rifle: The Weapon of Choice! Usage of the Henry Repeating Rifle In the Civil War 1861-1865

Too Little Too Late? The Introduction of the Spencer Rifle

The biggest limitation to mass issue of repeated rifles during the Civil War, at least to the North, was institutional malaise, legitimate logistical problems regarding ammunition consumption, and production problems. However, they were exponentially more effective than a muzzle loading percussion cap rifle, all other things being equal (though they never are).
 
Likes: Niobe
Jul 2016
9,544
USA
#22
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?
Cavalry tactics had evolved.

Firepower rendered them less effective than previously. An infantry regiment in square, with bayonets and rifles, would chew a cavalry attack up. Rapid maneuvering "flying artillery" could deliver volley after volley of double or triple canister shot. Meanwhile, cavalry had access often had access to fast firing revolvers, carbines or even breach loaders or repeaters. They began fighting dismounted more and more, fighting as dragoons, fighting either as skirmishers or forming firing lines with either one of four troopers holding the horses' reins for the other three who were firing, or one of eight holding the reins while seven fired. They could and did charge with sword, but it was usually uncalled for, an overly audacious charge could be just as destructive to one's own unit as the enemy. Far riskier than riding to some good ground, and forming and firing on the enemy. Or better yet, in the mist of a battle they can guard flanks and screen deployments. In order to get into a position to conduct an attack, often numerous divisions would have to march there through some pretty nasty terrain or limited number of roads. Cavalry can easily block those movements by getting there first, and setting up defensive firing lines in terrain no sane infantry regimental commander wants to attack from. At that point the infantry regiment either has to cancel the attack, postpone it, try to maneuver another route and hope that doesn't get blocked too, or try to push aside the cavalry picket, which can result in numerous casualties (see Gettysburg).
 

Menshevik

Ad Honorem
Dec 2012
9,245
here
#23
Cavalry tactics had evolved.

Firepower rendered them less effective than previously. An infantry regiment in square, with bayonets and rifles, would chew a cavalry attack up.
That's nothing new. This was seen in Napoleonic Wars, if not before.

Meanwhile, cavalry had access often had access to fast firing revolvers, carbines or even breach loaders or repeaters. They began fighting dismounted more and more, fighting as dragoons,
Again, not new. Dragoons/mounted infantry had been around for quite a while.
 
May 2017
161
Monterrey
#24
If the entire premise of Guelzo's argument is correct, that the Minie ball didn't change anything beside casualty figures were similar to smooth bore muskets used in the Napoleonic War, then I guess modern repeated full auto firearms are even less effective than muskets, because with them a more rounds (about 1,500 x more) were fired to claim a casualty.

If that isn't true, then what it means is improperly analyzed statistics of casualty estimates and comparison don't tell the whole story. Especially when computed in ridiculous ways like number of rounds expended (a number provided by logistician reports) vs reports of number of enemy hit by bullets (supposedly gathered by enemy's own medical and strength reports).
Uh, you forgot completely about the tactics. The whole point was that using the same tactics with better weapons didn't yield any significant changes in casualty ratios. Of course, this probably only holds true for the first half of ACW.
 
Likes: Niobe
Jul 2016
9,544
USA
#25
That's nothing new. This was seen in Napoleonic Wars, if not before.
And people were firing muskets before, but that changed too as technology changed. A square's firepower, with rifles, was exponentially more effective than that done with smooth bore muskets. And while flying artillery was not new it was more efficient in the mid 19th century than the early.

Again, not new. Dragoons/mounted infantry had been around for quite a while.
And made more effective at the advent of rifled long arms vs smooth bore. Rifling meant more accuracy and longer range, and a more devastating projectile, so a single cavalry trooper was that much more effective than previously. They didn't need to rely on swords or lances, they better used their long arms, or rapid firing pistols that weren't available in the Napoleonic era.

You're not understanding that just because a tactic remains kind of the same as it had been long ago, that new technologies don't make it more effective, or outright suicidal.

Take a tenacious regimental infantry attack, done with fixed bayonets and elan. In the Napoleonic era it had a good chance to close with the enemy and drive them off. In the ACW, with the advent of rifled musketry, it became harder. Later, with rapid firing rifles, breach loading, true magazine fed with cartridges, fast reloads, black powder to cellulose, and the change became that much harder. Now add in barbed wire. Now add in machine guns. Now add in rapid firing indirect howitzer artillery. And you get WW1. Now add in even more machine guns and better artillery and landmines, and you get WW2. Now add in cluster munitions, directional mines (like an M18 Claymore), even more rapid firing rifles, even more machine guns, grenade launchers, more accurate precision supporting fires, etc., and you get the modern era. And yet bayonet charges have still be done in recent years. Not at the regimental level, and not planned, but still done.
 

Menshevik

Ad Honorem
Dec 2012
9,245
here
#26
And people were firing muskets before, but that changed too as technology changed. A square's firepower, with rifles, was exponentially more effective than that done with smooth bore muskets. And while flying artillery was not new it was more efficient in the mid 19th century than the early.



And made more effective at the advent of rifled long arms vs smooth bore. Rifling meant more accuracy and longer range, and a more devastating projectile, so a single cavalry trooper was that much more effective than previously. They didn't need to rely on swords or lances, they better used their long arms, or rapid firing pistols that weren't available in the Napoleonic era.

You're not understanding that just because a tactic remains kind of the same as it had been long ago, that new technologies don't make it more effective, or outright suicidal.

Take a tenacious regimental infantry attack, done with fixed bayonets and elan. In the Napoleonic era it had a good chance to close with the enemy and drive them off. In the ACW, with the advent of rifled musketry, it became harder. Later, with rapid firing rifles, breach loading, true magazine fed with cartridges, fast reloads, black powder to cellulose, and the change became that much harder. Now add in barbed wire. Now add in machine guns. Now add in rapid firing indirect howitzer artillery. And you get WW1. Now add in even more machine guns and better artillery and landmines, and you get WW2. Now add in cluster munitions, directional mines (like an M18 Claymore), even more rapid firing rifles, even more machine guns, grenade launchers, more accurate precision supporting fires, etc., and you get the modern era. And yet bayonet charges have still be done in recent years. Not at the regimental level, and not planned, but still done.
Haven't you been arguing this whole time that the new technology wasn't being taken advantage of due to lack of training?

Which is it? Did ACW armies effectively use the new technology or not?
 
Apr 2018
281
USA
#27
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?
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?
Training is a large part of it, but just to clarify, even troops who were supposedly experienced and well-trained would often have trouble remembering to actually aim while under fire. Here's how Du Picq described it:


"But in front of the enemy fire at will becomes in an instant haphazard fire. Each man fires as much as possible, that is to say, as badly as possible. There are physical and mental reasons why this is so.

Even at close range, in battle, the cannon can fire well. The gunner, protected in part by his piece, has an instant of coolness in which to lay accurately. That his pulse is racing does not derange his line of sight, if he has will power. The eye trembles little, and the piece once laid, remains so until fired.

The rifleman, like the gunner, only by will-power keeps his ability to aim. But the excitement in the blood, of the nervous system, opposes the immobility of the weapon in his hands. No matter how supported, a part of the weapon always shares the agitation of the man. He is instinctively in haste to fire his shot, which may stop the departure of the bullet destined for him. However lively the fire is, this vague reasoning, unformed as it is in his mind, controls with all the force of the instinct of self preservation. Even the bravest and most reliable soldiers then fire madly.

The greater number fire from the hip.

The theory of the range is that with continual pressure on the trigger the shot surprises the firer. But who practices it under fire?

However, the tendency in France to-day is to seek only accuracy. What good will it do when smoke, fog, darkness, long range, excitement, the lack of coolness, forbid clear sight?

It is hard to say, after the feats of fire at Sebastopol, in Italy, that accurate weapons have given us no more valuable service than a simple rifle. Just the same, to one who has seen, facts are facts. But—see how history is written. It has been set down that the Russians were beaten at Inkermann by the range and accuracy of weapons of the French troops. But the battle was fought in thickets and wooded country, in a dense fog. And when the weather cleared, our soldiers, our chasseurs were out of ammunition and borrowed from the Russian cartridge boxes, amply provided with cartridges for round, small calibered bullets. In either case there could have been no accurate fire. The facts are that the Russians were beaten by superior morale; that unaimed fire, at random, there perhaps more than elsewhere, had the only material effect.

When one fires and can only fire at random, who fires most hits most. Or perhaps it is better said that who fires least expects to be hit most."




Regarding cavalry and other issues during the war, though the technology did change again there's a strong argument to be made that armies on both sides were severely hampered by a lack of proper training and experience. Prior to the civil war breaking out the US regular army consisted of only around 16,000 officers and men, and within a very short time, that number had to swell into the hundreds of thousands. What cavalry the US did have at the beginning was mostly geared around skirmishing and protecting the frontier. They just didn't have a strong shock cavalry tradition or large, royal stables breeding warhorses like many european nations had had in the past. Similarly with the infantry, the rapid growth of the army generally meant that they still lacked many troops who were well-trained and disciplined enough to maintain cohesion and charge home with their bayonets in a determined manner without breaking up to shoot back or run for cover. And since even most officers at the time still lacked experience or formal education beyond what they could pick up from manuals, they would have had a harder time figuring out how to properly read terrain and enemy positions in order to estimate when a charge would be viable and when it wouldn't.

There still were quite a few successful bayonet charges during the us civil war, but they tend to be greatly overshadowed by all the failed ones where officers unfortunately misread the situation, or where the opportunity to drive the enemy off did occur but the troops themselves were in no condition to actually follow through.
 
Jul 2016
9,544
USA
#28
Haven't you been arguing this whole time that the new technology wasn't being taken advantage of due to lack of training?

Which is it? Did ACW armies effectively use the new technology or not?
Why does everything have to be black and white with this? Yes the new technology changed infantry and cavalry warfare. No they didn't exploit it to maximum effectiveness. Yes, it made open field maneuver harder to perform under fire. No, it wasn't advanced enough to render it nearly impossible, which would be nearly half a century later.
 

Menshevik

Ad Honorem
Dec 2012
9,245
here
#29
Why does everything have to be black and white with this? Yes the new technology changed infantry and cavalry warfare. No they didn't exploit it to maximum effectiveness. Yes, it made open field maneuver harder to perform under fire. No, it wasn't advanced enough to render it nearly impossible, which would be nearly half a century later.
Does it have to have to be black and white? No. But some clarity would be nice. You've been painting with some pretty broad brushes. And you've made some generalizations that are seemingly at odds with each other.
 

Menshevik

Ad Honorem
Dec 2012
9,245
here
#30
Regarding cavalry and other issues during the war, though the technology did change again there's a strong argument to be made that armies on both sides were severely hampered by a lack of proper training and experience. Prior to the civil war breaking out the US regular army consisted of only around 16,000 officers and men, and within a very short time, that number had to swell into the hundreds of thousands. What cavalry the US did have at the beginning was mostly geared around skirmishing and protecting the frontier. They just didn't have a strong shock cavalry tradition or large, royal stables breeding warhorses like many european nations had had in the past. Similarly with the infantry, the rapid growth of the army generally meant that they still lacked many troops who were well-trained and disciplined enough to maintain cohesion and charge home with their bayonets in a determined manner without breaking up to shoot back or run for cover. And since even most officers at the time still lacked experience or formal education beyond what they could pick up from manuals, they would have had a harder time figuring out how to properly read terrain and enemy positions in order to estimate when a charge would be viable and when it wouldn't.
This makes the most sense to me.

Would you say that ACW armies were inferior to their contemporary Europeans counterparts?