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The Napoleonic Wars 1792-1815

A question on squares.

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Re: A question on squares.

Postby DaveH » April 30th, 2016, 11:03 am

You are much more likely to hit the horses, but even if you do aim at the riders, hen that is a high angle shot, in which case, it too will fall to earth more quickly under gravity. The longer ranges depended (like artillery) on smaller elevations.
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Re: A question on squares.

Postby TheBibliophile » April 30th, 2016, 11:35 am

I think the answer is that the risk was minimal and in the chaos of battle, who could tell how a casualty has been inflicted...
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Re: A question on squares.

Postby Josh&Historyland » May 1st, 2016, 8:35 pm

It's a good point, drawn by JF. Much of our information will be circumstantial, and depends to my knowledge entirley on first hand accounts of given actions, since manuals are so far silent on this topic. Had they not been, one might have presumed that Dundas would have specified length between squares.

Dave brings up Aspern, which is a useful example. And also brings up the point that a square would leave a space either side of it comparable to its length in line, plus the interval between it and the next batallion, which likewise when folding inwards would leave a considerable gap.

I have forgotten what an average Batallion frontage is, but we must now be dealing with a fairly large distance. Now if we factor into that what JF has noted about the behaviour of the French cavalry trying to spook the enemy into unloading their muskets (the constantky loaded front ranks making this a rather simplistic plan), I myself remember reading descriptions of the French being so tame as to walk their horses in between the squares at Waterloo.

It occurs to me that there must have been a discouragement of volley fire along the flanks of squares or masses, and a concentration on file firing perhaps, or maybe by platoons if the target was big enough. It seems that the chance of hitting friendly forces must have been a possibility, especially if the target was riding across a face rather than at it, and therefore a measure of anticipation would be required when firing, Dunas noted that enemy troops were to be fired on from all directions. But a mixture of distance and tight fire control might be the answer.

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Re: A question on squares.

Postby Iain » June 5th, 2016, 8:05 am

Hi Josh...

Firstly, I know absolutely nothing about this tactic nonetheless, I suppose the situation is not like the typical single-file Indian tribe circling the cowboys in a similar square while keeping their distance.

Following a load of cannon fire, these cavalry attacks had the intention of penetrating the square, so they were extremely close to the bayonets. (with the horses having more sense than their riders by keeping their distance)
Anyway, imagine a horse sideways and only a few meters from you..., you’d never be able to see any other square.
Now imagine dozens of cavalry horses blocking the view !

But as you say..., home goals were obviously one of the drawbacks.

Regards..., Iain.
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Re: A question on squares.

Postby Josh&Historyland » June 5th, 2016, 10:50 am

Interesting thought Ian.

American Indian warriors had a specific goal when riding around entrenched positions, (it was rarer that they'd do this than in the movies), which was to "empty the soldiers weapons" and leave them defenceless. The Indians also utilised open order when enacting this, and if I remember correctly, only a few would do it, those with special "medicine" that prevented them being shot". On some occasions some of the Sioux would ride the circle to prove their courage.

The French were not riding at any great speed, and were in much denser formations, but it is true that visibility would have been terrible due to the smoke.

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Re: A question on squares.

Postby Will M » June 8th, 2016, 4:04 pm

This link has averages velocity and trajectory. http://www.fairwarning.org/wp-content/u ... musket.pdf
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Re: A question on squares.

Postby 348 White » June 9th, 2016, 10:46 am

I imagine file firing quickly took over in an extended period. However, the last volley a unit of cavalry received from a square face would sometimes be from the previously kneeling front ranks who could, if time and orders permitted, stand up as the cavalry were retiring and deliver a round to ensure they kept going.

A greater volume of fire might come from a prepared square where the infantry had been ordered to load two balls, as recollected by a soldier in one of the KGL battalions at Waterloo.
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Re: A question on squares.

Postby DaveH » June 18th, 2016, 12:00 am

The Austrians had a multi-ball round, comprised of three small balls tied together. Called a Flintenkartasche (musket canister), like canister the balls would have have a shorter range, esp given IIRC momentum = mass x volume, so would be more useful in this situation.
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