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The Napoleonic Wars 1792-1815

Canister

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Canister

Postby DaveH » May 13th, 2016, 6:38 pm

Interesting video picked up on a TMP thread https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k86XhYS8GJI It is the firing of canister rounds from an ACW 12pdr, but the film is very instructive on just how tight the balls stayed together (contrary to the famous wargaming arc) and why many guns would be fired the last time with canister before moving off under cover of the smoke.
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Re: Canister

Postby TheBibliophile » May 13th, 2016, 6:51 pm

I wonder how the spread of canister and grapeshot differed...
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Re: Canister

Postby jf42 » May 13th, 2016, 8:54 pm

Ah, well, now you're asking. It depends on what your thinking of.

We danced round this topic a little while back:

viewtopic.php?f=20&t=1455&hilit=+grape

Given that 'grape' seems to be a generic term in English military usage that infantry and cavalry in our period, but gunners less so, tended to use to designate any projectile coming their way smaller than round shot and larger than a musket ball, quite often 'grape' and canister or caseshot were effectively the same thing.

However, in armies that used two sizes of canister round, one with fewer, larger projectiles- ('large canister'); the other with more projectiles and smaller- ('small canister'), projectiles in the former round (large canister)- corresponded more or less with the size of original grapeshot rounds (about 1.5 inches), so that 'grape' can used by some English speakers specifically to designate the larger submunition, but they would appear to be in the minority. It's a distinction we only find in English.

I learned only recently that the original 'grapeshot' round (obsolescent on land after the mid-C18th) derived its English name not only because the projectiles, wrapped in canvas and trussed with wire, resembled a bunch of (very large) grapes, but also because the French term was 'grappe de raisin'.

Confusingly, however, the word 'grappe' means 'a bunch' while 'raisin' is the French for 'grape'. So, 'grapeshot' really should really be 'bunch of grapes shot,' the first cluster munition.

Sorry, what was the question?
Last edited by jf42 on June 1st, 2016, 11:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Canister

Postby Senarmont198 » May 14th, 2016, 11:23 am

Perhaps the following information might be useful regarding canister of the period:

Grapeshot was generally outmoded by the period with canister being the preferred anti-personnel round as it was more efficient.
The French artillery arm had two types of canister for each of the ‘three calibers' (4-, 8-, and 12-pounders). The large canister round had 41 iron balls for each caliber. The small canister round had 63 iron balls for the 4-pounder, and 112 shot for the 8- and 12-pounders.

French grapeshot as of 1764 was composed of 36 iron balls. The diameter of the balls per caliber (4-, 8-, and 12-pounders) was .16, 1.31, and 1.5 inches respectively.

For the technical data see DeScheel's Treatise on Artillery, produced in 1777 on the Gribeauval System which includes narrative and data on the artillery rounds of the period as used by the French, including dimensions, weights, and description. Tousard's American Artillerist's Companion also has the information regarding canister in it.

The basic load for French artillery did not include grapeshot, but did include canister, usually for battery defense.
And French artillery was within 150 yards of the British line at least before the last attack of the Imperial Guard, so Uxbridge could definitely have been in range to be hit by canister, the large French canister had a range of at least 500 yards.
The diameter of French grapeshot has already been given. The diameter of French canister shot was:
Small canister (41 iron balls per canister): 4-, 8-, and 12-pounders: 1.05 in, 1.309 in, 1.509 in, respectively.
Large canister: 4-pounder: 63 iron balls per canister, .954 in; 8-pounder: 112 iron balls per canister, .932 in; 12-pounder: 112 iron balls, 1.509 in.

French grapeshot had 36 iron balls per round.

The largest iron ball used in grapeshot was 1.5 inches; in canister it was 1.509 inches.

The caisson loads for the following calibers of the Gribeauval System might be useful. There is no mention of grapeshot:
4-pounder: 100 roundshot, 50 canister.
8-pounder: 62 roundshot, 20 canister.
12-pounder: 48 roundshot, 20 canister.
6-inch howitzer: 49 common shell, 11 canister.

Test data for canister using cast iron shot is available in the French artillery manuals that have the testing included.
The French tested the older canister which had lead shot and they found they did not travel as far as the cast iron shot and likely as not the heat generated by firing melted the lead and it 'congealed' into a solid mass which only dented the target and didn't go as far as the canister with iron shot.

The target used was eighteen feet long and eight feet high.

12-pounders fired from 800 yards had 7-8 balls hit the target; at 700 yards 10-11 hits; 600 yards 25 hits; 500 yards 35 hits and at 400 yards 40 hits.

8-pounders fired from 700 yards had 8-9 hits; 600 yards 10-11 hits.

And the iron canister shot had the added advantage of being able to ricochet when it hit the ground if the ground was hard enough.

The information, of the above is a sample, can be found on page 78-79 of DeScheel's Artillery Treatise, translated by Jonathan Williams and edited by Don Graves. DeScheel in the original French can be found on Google Books.

https://books.google.com/books?id=lzUVA ... le&f=false

From Firepower by BP Hughes, 34-35:

‘Case or canister shot: The last type of projectile fired by guns and howitzers was case shot, which consisted of a tin case containing a number of loose bullets and of a size to fit the bore. The case merely held the bullets together during their passage up the bore. When it emerged at the muzzle, the bullets were released to continue their deadly passage over the immediate frontage of the gun position. The lethal range of the bullets was limited, however, to a maximum of 500 yards. Case shot was therefore purely a close-range projectile and was intended primarily for use in repelling the last stages of an assault. It was sometimes used offensively too, but the small quantity of case shot held (28 rounds per gun for the British 6-pounder and 16 per gun for the 9-pounder) naturally limited its employment for that purpose.'

‘Most artillerists used a heavy and a light version of case shot-the light case of the British 6-pounder gun holding 85 1.5 ounce bullets and the heavy case holding 41 of 3.25 ounces, other calibers being in proportion. The large bullets of heavy case ranged further than the light ones, and there are instances in war-and records of trials in peace-of fire being delivered with heavy case at ranges of up to 600 yards. The extreme range of light case bullets was normally taken to be 250 yards, and it was the British practice to limit the range of all case shot to about 350 yards. But the French artillery seems to have used it at rather longer ranges, particularly in attack.'

‘Grape shot: Many contemporary writers refer to the use of grape shot in the field. It consisted of nine very large bullets wired together, and could be regarded as an extreme form of heavy case. Although it was certainly used by light iron guns against ships' boats, for the holing of which it was very effective, its heavy bullets would not have been as destructive as lighter ones at normal fighting ranges in the field. No record of grape shot appears in the published scales of ammunition carried by field artillery in the British service, but there are several references to the undesirability if firing it from brass guns owing to the damage that it would cause to their bores. It is possible that it was used by the artilleries of other powers, but it seems likely that the word ‘grape' was used loosely and incorrectly when referring to case shot and may have been used to indicate heavy case as opposed to light case.'
Last edited by Senarmont198 on May 14th, 2016, 11:57 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Canister

Postby Senarmont198 » May 14th, 2016, 11:40 am

DaveH wrote:Interesting video picked up on a TMP thread https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k86XhYS8GJI ...and why many guns would be fired the last time with canister before moving off under cover of the smoke.


'The mutual protection that exists between the artillery and the infantry must be encouraged...and they must not retire too quickly. It is in the same way necessary for the infantry to stick closely and make it a point of honor to protect the guns. The artillery must, for its part, maneuver boldly and judge with skill the occasions on which it must stand firm; especially when its station and its effects are decisive and deadly. The gunners must not abandon their pieces when the enemy is about to seize them; then it is necessary to carry off or break their guns. It is necessary to make use of this critical moment, as it is these last shots at close range that do the greatest harm to the enemy, which blunt and halt their attack. it is not, moreover, essential for the gunners to defend their guns, it is rather for the infantry to retake them if they have been abandoned by the requirements of the situation.'-Jean Duteil.

Some examples during the period are Josef Smola's action at Neerwinden with a reinforced cavalry battery; the similar British artillery action at Talavera; Drouot's defense of his guns at Hanau; as well as Senarmont's artillery attack at Friedland, Lauriston's action at Wagram with a 102-gun battery, and Drouot's artillery attack at Lutzen.
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Re: Canister

Postby Senarmont198 » May 14th, 2016, 11:54 am

The following is information concerning canister tests as described by Jean Duteil in his Usage:

'We will not enter into great detail to demonstrate how greatly the old canister cartridges were deficient, and poorly constructed; we will say only that when they were compared with the new cartridges in the tests that were made at Strasbourg, it was shown that one had to choose to reject them, and to adopt the latter, which all regarded as being superior to the old ones, since their balls are not at all inconvenient to load, nor to form and to handle, as the old ones. On the contrary, they have a much larger range than the old style, and they also have the advantage of the ricochet when they touch the ground before arriving at the target. To give an accurate idea of the destructiveness of their fire, which has today become most decisive, we will report on some of the results of the tests done at Strasbourg. These results have proved many times that the large canister cartridges, from from the 12-pounder against a target with the frontage of a squadron, gave at a distance of 850 yards seven or eight hits per shot, and at 750 yards it gave ten or eleven hits per shot. This same piece, firing the smaller cartridge, at 650 yards gave twenty-five hits on the target, at 520 yards it gave thirty-five hits, and at 425 yards it gave forty hits. The 8-pounder, against the same frontage, gave at a distance of 750 yards a total of eight or nine hits per shot, and at 650 yards it gave ten or eleven. At the same distance with the smaller cartridge it had twenty-five hits, and at 530 yards it gave about 40 hits per shot.'

'With the large canister cartridge, the 4-pounder, fired at the same target at 650 yards gave eight or nine hits per shot, and at 530 yards it gave sixteen hits. The same piece, firing the smaller canister cartridge, against the same target at 425 yards gave twenty-one hits per shot.'*

'The canister cartridge of the howitzer contains sixty-eight balls of wrought iron, of the same size as those used in the canister of an 8-pounder. at an angle of four degrees, its range is about 425 yards. According to the tests that have been made on it, the first round against a target gives twelve firm hits and sixteen contusions. At an angle of five degrees, they carry 530 yards, and will give 26 solid hits and 12 contusions.'

*It should be noted that the large and small canister rounds were designated by the size of the iron shot inside the canister and not by the number of balls per cartridge/canister.
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Re: Canister

Postby TheBibliophile » May 14th, 2016, 12:15 pm

jf42 wrote:Ah, well, now you're asking. It depends on what your thinking of.

Sorry, what was the question?


Being a salty shellback, I'm not at all interested in the artillery you landbound lubbers are into.

Canister wasn't fired on board ship, but grape often was.
Obviously grape, as far as the navy was concerned, was a collection of small solid shot in a serge or canvas bag.
I wondered if the spread of shot was larger from shot in a canvas bag or from shot in a tin tube.
I suspected it would be greater from a canvas bag,but that the actual number of shot in the bag was probably less...would this be fair?
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Re: Canister

Postby TheBibliophile » May 14th, 2016, 12:33 pm

From the purely marine side, Falconers marine dictionary defines grape thus:
"small shot enclosed in a thick canvas bag, corded in a cylindrical form, equal in diameter to the ball for the size of cannon. Number of shot per bag depends on size of gun. He goes on to say:

for 32lb gun, 9 off 4lb shot
for 18lb 9 off 1.5lb shot
for 12lb, 10 off 1lb shot
for 9lb, 9 off 13oz shot
for 6lb, 9 off 8oz shot
for 4lb, 9 off 6 oz shot

So typically, 9 shot per round.

It does actually (I stand corrected) mention case too... but goes on to say that the size of shot in a case round was normally less than an ounce and a quarter in weight.

Ive not seen much reference to case shot being used on ship. Most anti-personnel stuff was grape.

One must assume the spread of shot be greater with canister, by virtue of there being a greater quantity of shot...
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Re: Canister

Postby Senarmont198 » May 14th, 2016, 12:41 pm

From Arming the Fleet: US Navy Ordnance in the Muzzle-Loading Era, 95-96:

'In 1800, bar shot might form 25 percent of the ammunition aboard ship, round shot 50 percent, and grapeshot 25 percent...'

'Case shot, known as canister or common case, was an improvement over what was variously called langrel, langridge, and langrage...that is, stones, nails, bolts, flints, or bits of scrap fired from cannon. Canister shot consisted of a cylinder or case or iron or tin with tops and bottoms of wood or iron. The cylinder was packed with pieces of small shot, bullets of different sizes, loose iron, or pebbles. William James, a contemporary British writer, complained in the War of 1812 the Chesapeake unfairly employed canister shot made up of jagged pieces if iron, broken gunlocks, and copper nails. The interstices were filled with shavings or sawdust. Canister shot produced a denser pattern than grape; it was intended for use against massed troops on land or in boats and to destroy the rigging of ships. It was effective only at short ranges, not exceeding 300 to 500 yares, owing to the rapid dispersion and lightness of the cylinder's contents. At short range, canister shot was more effective than any other projectile, including grape. Particularly favored for the carronade, it might comprise half of that gun's projectiles (the other half being round shot).'

'Grapeshot, which appeared as early as the 14th century, was also used at sea during the Revolution. At first it was merely a canvas cartridge, sack, or netting containing small balls. Later, it consisted of an iron plate through the center of which passed an iron spindle, the whole being known as a stool. Around the stool were placed nine small round shot enclosed in a canvas bag, which was closed with a strong line. These were later referred to as quilted shot. Individual shot varied according to the size of the gun and might be anything up to 3 or 4 pounds in weight. The whole, however, weighed about the same as a single round shot for the gun. The name grapeshot derived from the finished article, which resembled a bunch of grapes. The shock of the gun's discharge broke the cloth and the balls scattered, much like ammunition from a modern shotgun. Later grapeshot was formed as tier shot'*

'Grapeshot was not much used at sea except against boats or to sweep exposed decks or beaches, but it could be effective against rigging. although it carried farther than langridge or canister, grapeshot was employed only at short range, not more than 500 yards.'

*Tiered grapeshot was developed in France and consisted of nine iron balls placed on metal plates, the plates being placed one on top of the other. The iron shot was heavier than the older quilted grapeshot, much more steady in the round because of the plates and the spread in flight after firing was greater. It was much more efficient a round than the quilted grapeshot, but not as efficient as canister.
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Re: Canister

Postby TheBibliophile » May 14th, 2016, 1:00 pm

Senarmont198 wrote:
'Grapeshot was not much used at sea except against boats or to sweep exposed decks or beaches, but it could be effective against rigging. although it carried farther than langridge or canister, grapeshot was employed only at short range, not more than 500 yards.'


This is certainly true in the American and French case, as both the Americans and French tended to stand at a distance in an engagement and aim at an opponents rigging. Against rigging they would use a combination of solid shot, chain shot, bar shot and the aforementioned "langridge" (sic)

British tactics however, were different. The Royal Navy preferred to get up close and smash away with solid shot using long guns or carronades. Being close they also used grape to clear the decks.

One thing the British did not do as a rule was target the rigging. The reasons are obvious.

If you disable a ship by knackering the rigging, you still leave most of the crew and the guns intact. Boarding is therefore difficult.

The Royal Navy preferred to kill the crew and preserve the opposing ship. This made it easier to take as a prize. This was how naval officers supplemented their income and many became extremely wealthy by prize taking.
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