Napoleonic Wars Forum

The Napoleonic Wars 1792-1815

Clearing weapons. Morning drills

For all discussions relating to military weapons and tactics of the Napoleonic period.

Re: Clearing weapons. Morning drills

Postby jf42 » February 18th, 2015, 1:26 pm

Only too well!
User avatar
jf42
Senior Veteran Member
 
Posts: 1274
Joined: June 23rd, 2011, 10:17 am
Location: United Kingdom

Re: Clearing weapons. Morning drills

Postby Louis » February 18th, 2015, 6:08 pm

The pickets on duty would be rested and replaced so the actual number 'on duty' would be so much higher.
You cant ask someone to be posted for more than a couple of hours as boredom sets in.
So what your references are probably referring to is the assigned company or battalion standing down.

One of my Sgt's has the French regulations for guard duty etc.
If you can wait a couple of weeks I'll post them here. Quite thorough they are too.
User avatar
Louis
New Member
 
Posts: 29
Joined: January 7th, 2015, 11:31 pm

Re: Clearing weapons. Morning drills

Postby jf42 » February 18th, 2015, 6:14 pm

Thanks, Louis. I wondered about reliefs, but I suppose they could all wait till morning and then let fly. Not that any piquets or sentries on the night of 17th-18th June would have expected to be doing much firing anyway after the hours of torrential rain.

Re. the French regulations, I am specifically interested in British practice, but if it's not too much trouble it would be informative to see what the practice on 'the other side of the hill' might have been. I am sure other members would be interested.
User avatar
jf42
Senior Veteran Member
 
Posts: 1274
Joined: June 23rd, 2011, 10:17 am
Location: United Kingdom

Re: Clearing weapons. Morning drills

Postby Josh&Historyland » February 18th, 2015, 9:05 pm

Yes please Louis!
JF I've got a PDF of Kings Regulations, I'll check and see if there's anything there.

Josh.
Adventures In Historyland, Keeping History Real. http://adventuresinhistoryland.wordpress.com/
User avatar
Josh&Historyland
Senior Veteran Member
 
Posts: 1878
Joined: March 2nd, 2013, 1:14 pm

Re: Clearing weapons. Morning drills

Postby jf42 » April 14th, 2015, 6:35 am

A footnote to this topic from America fifty-odd years before Waterloo

June 9th 1759 "It is a standing order that no dropping shots are fired; whenever there are any firelocks that cannot be drawn, a report is to be made thereof, that they may be collected together, and fired off, when the camp is advertised of it, that there may be no unnecessary alarms; the Indians to be paticularly acquainted with this order, which if they disobey, they shall be severely punished."

"Historical journal of the campaigns in North America for the years 1757, 1758, 1759 and 1760" Captain John Knox, 43rd Regiment
( I, pp 367-68)
Last edited by jf42 on March 2nd, 2017, 8:47 am, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
jf42
Senior Veteran Member
 
Posts: 1274
Joined: June 23rd, 2011, 10:17 am
Location: United Kingdom

Re: Clearing weapons. Morning drills

Postby Josh&Historyland » March 1st, 2017, 10:34 pm

Funny how one runs across things that reference old topics but I read this in Houssaye and remembered we'd been wondering about Howarth's sources. The author is describing the awakening of the allied army at dawn.

"Instead of drawing the charges from their guns the greater number of the soldiers discharged them in the air. There was a continual fusillade giving the illusion of a combat. The outposts of Napoleon were either lacking in vigilance or well inured to war, for no French relation mentions the false alarm caused by this fusillade"

Josh,
Adventures In Historyland, Keeping History Real. http://adventuresinhistoryland.wordpress.com/
User avatar
Josh&Historyland
Senior Veteran Member
 
Posts: 1878
Joined: March 2nd, 2013, 1:14 pm

Re: Clearing weapons. Morning drills

Postby jf42 » March 2nd, 2017, 9:08 am

Thanks, Josh. That looks like it might well have been a source for Howarth.

A thought occurs to me, in relation to the morning of Waterloo. Setting aside for a moment the question of whether it was simply the night sentries or whole battalions firing off their muskets (as Houssaye seems to suggest)- I was wondering about the ratio of experienced battalions to untried 2nd Battalions in Welington's army.

Would it be more likely that the old sweats in the army resorted to such measure, rather than the Johnny Newcomes? Would the latter be more likely to be startled by hearing firing going off around them?

Thinking more broadly, given the circumstances on June 18th, with the enemy army in full view across the valley, both armies shaking themselves out after a miserably wet night, occupying a very soggy potential field of action already deep in mud, and without the sound of drums, bugles, or trumpets announcing imminent action, not to mention the sound of preliminary bombardment, it does not seem particularly likely that any serious alarm would be caused by the popping off of night loads by however many troops it was who might have taken this short cut. (Sentence ends. Breathe)
User avatar
jf42
Senior Veteran Member
 
Posts: 1274
Joined: June 23rd, 2011, 10:17 am
Location: United Kingdom

Re: Clearing weapons. Morning drills

Postby Iain » April 8th, 2017, 1:48 pm

Hi JF…

I didn’t want to post this before everyone had their say and you had your questions answered.
What’s more, my contribution here deals with Matthew Clay and as everyone is probably sick and tiered hearing the name…, I preferred to wait some time before intervening. ;)

The information we have of Clay on the day is taken principally from his 1854 narrative in which ‘he’ tells his story.
Of course; it only seems logical that everything he mentioned presented only a fraction of what he actually did and saw…, and as such; you’ve perhaps unintentionally added a little more information to his narrative.
'The fact that he never mentioned he had participated in any night patrols'!

I think your post has underlined the fact that firing off willy-nilly at Company level to eliminate wet cartridges was on the whole, a fallacy; especially for skirmishers who are usually isolated from the Battalion and as a result, cannot permit wastage.
As Louis said, it only takes 20 seconds to charge a musket so in rainy conditions, why create a situation of multiple stoppages that could mean disaster for the Company.

Clay’s narrative:
Captain Evelyn did several piquets on the night of the 17/18 with Lieutenant Standen plus Corporal Cadwallder and a number of Privates. According to Rottenburg, a patrol is about 10 soldiers depending on the ground. (Cadwallder was mentioned in the Courts Martial for something he did during one of the night patrols)

Anyway, according to your post, the SG Light Company during the night at Hougoumont would not have loaded for multiple reasons. (principally because of the rain)
If dew to drizzle or rain is enough to keep the barrels empty, then the torrential downpour ‘unlike any other storm’ would have certainly have eliminated loading.
Nonetheless, Clay fired his musket that morning.

Although ‘Waterloo Uncovered’ claimed that they had found Clay’s small shot (which I very much doubt) the important point is the fact that they only found a few rounds. Had the whole Company fired, their finds would have been much more important.
As such, we can only assume that he had loaded his weapon with 7 others during the night because he made up part of Evelyn’s patrol.

Of course, we also have Clay’s statement that everyone had their muskets charged since leaving Quatre Bras.
However, it seems totally illogical not to have cleaned the muskets upon their arrival on the ridge; while undercover following the erection of their 4-man bivouacs.
As such, I must contradict my Old Comrade in as much as there were surely no Quatre Bras loaded munitions at Hougoumont.
What’s more and as mentioned earlier, the evening (19h00) was an artillery battle…, no muskets.

Extremely amusing !
…, Iain.


PS - independent of Clay’s loaded musket:
Another theory indicating Clay’s participation in the night patrol is the fact that he was chosen to search for food the next morning. (when reading his text he gives the illusion that he was alone, but he was obviously told off with others)

Firstly, like today; mounting guard was probably a 24-hour affair and had he participated in the patrols, he would have known the area like the back of his hand. (available fruit, vegetables plus hearing the grunt of pigs etc)
Secondly…, if I had been CSM McGregor at the time and knowing that my rear reserve sub-division (Clay) would not be the first to go into battle, (Rottenburg) my choice for night patrols would have been 20 men from that reserve sub-division, in order to allow my attacking force (the front sub-division) to be alert with their wits about them following a reasonably ‘comfortable’ night.

Rottenburg quote :
“THE object of this branch of the duty of light troops is to scour a tract of country, by means of numerous and detached bodies, clearing the woods and enclosures of the enemy's posts, and in a word, to establish a complete chain of your own troops, by occupying as far as circumstances will permit, every advantageous spot; taking particular care, however, that your own posts are stationed as to have easy communication, and the power of mutually supporting each other.
When a company of light infantry is destined to form the chain without any other corps to support it, the commanding officer signifies that one fourth of it, i.e. one half platoon or section, will remain formed as a reserve :”
User avatar
Iain
Senior Member
 
Posts: 379
Joined: October 21st, 2014, 5:53 am
Location: Belgium.

Re: Clearing weapons. Morning drills

Postby Josh&Historyland » April 8th, 2017, 10:57 pm

Although not every soldier would have unloaded his musket to clear it, there is no doubt it occurred. We may presume most troops that had started the morning expecting to fight at Quatre Bras on the morning of the 17th would have loaded muskets. Siborne also mentions the fusillade, and his account is based on many first hand testimonies. The distance between skirmish lines and the nature of light infantry work when both armies are encamped before one another would make me think secrecy was not a huge concern, especially in front of the main line.
Adventures In Historyland, Keeping History Real. http://adventuresinhistoryland.wordpress.com/
User avatar
Josh&Historyland
Senior Veteran Member
 
Posts: 1878
Joined: March 2nd, 2013, 1:14 pm

Re: Clearing weapons. Morning drills

Postby jf42 » April 9th, 2017, 6:44 am

I think that is right, Josh, although I should be interested to know how what outpost/piquet line was set up in front of the Allied army on the night of 17th/18th. The placing of units seems to have been fairly haphazard. Was it simply a matter of each battalion,etc., post its own sentries while the rest weathered the storm as best they could?

I think the point Louis made about being loaded overnight, and the potential waste of a whole battalion with spoiled or suspect ammunition, is persuasive. However, as you suggest, if the infantry arrived on the position with weapons loaded and had not drawn their loads the previous evening, then the morning fusillade would be explained. It may even be that some battalions were ordered to fire off the loads of the day before to enable them to assemble promptly and move into their allotted position.
User avatar
jf42
Senior Veteran Member
 
Posts: 1274
Joined: June 23rd, 2011, 10:17 am
Location: United Kingdom

PreviousNext

Return to Weapons & Tactics

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

cron