PDA

View Full Version : Artillery Rate of Fire, Safety, and Authenticity



RJSamp
08-04-2006, 03:20 PM
I'm not an artillerist so bear with me if I mess a few specifics up...

Light Field Artillery could fire 3 rounds a minute. (in an emergency).....and the slow deliberate fire of the Pickett's Charge 'Grand Battery' firing was about a round every minute plus or so. When enemy infantry threatened a battery and was danger close....you could fire without a primer (cook off rounds by not sponging and letting air into the breech through the vent)...and without knocking off the powder on your doubled or trebled canister.

Event rules slow this down to 3 or even 4 minutes per round.

over on the AC, artillerists are claiming that 40 seconds per round is 'machine gunning' and slower rates of fire are more 'authentic'. http://www.authentic-campaigner.com/forum/showthread.php?t=21230&page=2&pp=10

My guess is that 1 -2 rounds per minute in an intense combat situation with high probability of killing/destroying the enemy was NOT 'machine gunning' and in fact was the norm (i.e. it's Authentic). My guess is that 3 Minutes plus per round is Not Authentic modern safety regulations for reenactors.

I'm not advocating firing faster than a round every 3 minutes. (nor pulling rammers)...just want to make sure that it's a reenactor mentality, not authentic battlefield practice.


Back to bugling....

Eric Tipton
08-04-2006, 04:02 PM
I don't think that rammers should be pulled for artillery pieces. It is dangerous. ;) (If not read, sarcasm heavily implied)

Kimmel
08-04-2006, 04:47 PM
Back to bugling....

Indeed..... I can't get yelled at for playing to loud, or attaching my mouthpiece :-D

Forquer
08-04-2006, 06:04 PM
I'm not an artillerist so bear with me if I mess a few specifics up...

Light Field Artillery could fire 3 rounds a minute. (in an emergency).....and the slow deliberate fire of the Pickett's Charge 'Grand Battery' firing was about a round every minute plus or so. When enemy infantry threatened a battery and was danger close....you could fire without a primer (cook off rounds by not sponging and letting air into the breech through the vent)...and without knocking off the powder on your doubled or trebled canister.

Event rules slow this down to 3 or even 4 minutes per round.

over on the AC, artillerists are claiming that 40 seconds per round is 'machine gunning' and slower rates of fire are more 'authentic'. http://www.authentic-campaigner.com/forum/showthread.php?t=21230&page=2&pp=10

My guess is that 1 -2 rounds per minute in an intense combat situation with high probability of killing/destroying the enemy was NOT 'machine gunning' and in fact was the norm (i.e. it's Authentic). My guess is that 3 Minutes plus per round is Not Authentic modern safety regulations for reenactors.

I'm not advocating firing faster than a round every 3 minutes. (nor pulling rammers)...just want to make sure that it's a reenactor mentality, not authentic battlefield practice.


Back to bugling....

RJ -

The question is not whether high rates of fire are possible but, rather, is it feasible and right?

The detachment in question was in the second battalion of the Federal artillery. This was the rearmost element. Though I did not witness them actually firing at that that high of a rate, I can say that the scenario in which they were involved did not warrant such a high rate of fire. There is no doubt that an artillery unit with enemy infantry or cavalry within 300-400 yards and closing would have that unit's full attention. They would be firing as much and as often as they could to break up the formation coming at them. At that range, with cannister, a gunner doesn't have to worry so much about elevating the piece. Just point and shoot.

Dealing with targets at greater ranges, however, involves more work. With all the smoke, a gunner should be moving around to see the effects of the last fire. If #3 is tending the vent during the loading of the piece, the gunner should be checking the sight picture between #3's left arm and the barrel. If calling for fused rounds, #6 would be referring to the firing tables on the lid of the chest and cutting fuses. Theoretically, our pieces should be recoiling after almost every round. The piece would have to be rolled back to its firing point. All of this takes time.

If detachments carried a combat load of ammunition in their chests and fired at 1 round every 40 seconds, the ammunition in their limber chest would be expended in very short order. Chiefs of the piece would be monitoring what was being fired and adjusting ammunition between the limber and the caisson to ensure that there was enough of the proper type of projectile to complete the mission.

What a growing number of us in the hobby would like to see is a more correct use of artillery in the field, with more correct force ratios. It gets a little ridiculous to see 50-100 infantry troops per side at the local funnel cake festival and also have 1/2 dozen field pieces or more per side. The divide within the hobby is probably greater within the field artillery. A large number of people with an artillery impression have a knowledge of operating the piece and that's where it stops. Their sole purpose is to fire a big gun on weekends and wear funny clothes. They have no inkling about the life of an artilleryman in the field and even less desire to try and experience it. But, that's their hobby, and that's where they're content.

Off my soapbox.

jda3rd
08-04-2006, 08:07 PM
you could fire without a primer (cook off rounds by not sponging and letting air into the breech through the vent)...and without knocking off the powder on your doubled or trebled canister.



RJ, I can't think of a situation, even an emergency, that any cannoneer would want his tube to "cook off". Too dangerous to your own detachment, far too uncontrolled. You would have no idea just when the powder might ignite, if at all. It would certainly be more catastrophic than a musket cooking off.

In actual combat, high rates of fire would be more authentic in close quarters, when using cannister or such at rapidly approaching enemy troops. During a long range engagement, against troops or works, precision was called for. The piece would, as you pointed out, have to be put back in battery, possibly re-leveled, certainly re-aimed, all of which consume time, and are physically demanding. In an "intense combat situation" where an exceptionally high rate of fire would be called for, I would hope my infantry support was around, and I'd be thinking of limbering the pieces and t getting out of harms way, to let infantry deal with an infantry situation. Of course lots a pieces, sections, and batteries were taken, but I bet they did put a lot of iron into the opposing troops.

In re-enacting, Artillery tends to want to pound away with a high rate of fire all through the dance. I like to hold my fire until I have a target, and I go through the effort of sighting my piece. When my section chief or battery commander call for a higher rate of fire, we comply, but with independant fire, my rate is about 90 to 120 seconds per round (on average) sometimes slower, sometimes faster. If I don't have a target, I don't fire. We don't move a hot tube, and we cease fire when any troops are too close in front. When we work the piece mounted, it's not unusual to fire only 1 or 2 rounds from any position.

When live-firing, you learn how demanding artillery is, and how dangerous. It would be difficult to get off a well aimed shot in under 2 to 2 1/2 minutes.
Frank Brower
3rd Detachment
Jeff Davis Mounted Artillery/18th Indiana Light Artillery

Rob Weaver
08-04-2006, 08:07 PM
Weren't Federal batteries trained and ordered to maintain a rate of fire of 1 round in 2 minutes? I was under the impression that this directive was to ensure that the guns were aimed (the regular artillerists considered themselves highly skilled professionals trained in counter-battery fire, so accuracy was paramount) and to ensure that a battery commander didn't pull his guns out of line as quickly as he could by shooting up all his ordinance.

I don't know anything about reenacting artillery, so I don't feel competent to comment on whether the life of an artilleryman is being accurately presented or not. I do see gunners spending a lot of time training on, and cleaning their pieces. A darn good thing, given the earth-shattering kaboom that could result from a failure to maintain one of those popguns.

RJSamp
08-05-2006, 04:32 PM
Makes sense to not fire the guns when you have a limited supply of ammo and smoke is obscuring the target......

So ACW practice was in the 1 - 2 minutes per round range......unless the enemy was danger close...

Pickett's Charge and other battles did have non primer cook off firing....when you're desperate you resort to riskier firing procedures......

Eric: Artillery always draws rammers.....

Greg (and others): Thanks for the input! I've always chaffed at the bit while waiting for ACW artillery to pound away.....sort of suspected that I was expecting French 75's and a rolling barrage....or that British rolling barrage in a Movie Too Long (A Bridge Too Far).

And yep the limber runs out fairly quick....but you bring up the Caisson and two more chests of ammo.....or you run your battery out of there to resupply and run another battery in to replace you.....

My guess is that Federal Artillery fired at less than 60 second intervals once the CSA infantry began quick timing it across the Bliss Farm..... and that wouldn't be considered 'machine gunning'.

(and I have been trained as a number 2....time to spend some more time with the red legs!).

flattop32355
08-05-2006, 10:21 PM
The artillery branch in CW reenacting suffers from having to put safety above authenticity, for obvious reasons. (This is also true for the cavalry.)

You can't fire if anyone is too close. I doubt this was an excessive concern during the actual war unless friendly troops were directly in front of and within close range of the guns.

In most reenactments I've seen, either the guns open the action or are given a period of time early on to be the center piece of activity, while the infantry cools its heels before doing its part. Such actions would have been done in tandem in the real world, except for a prelim bombardment.

In reenacting, during a misfire, the main concern is to get the gun operational without getting anyone hurt. In the real world, it was to get the gun operational as fast as possible so it could go back to killing people, and crew safety took second place.

Often such compromises interfere with how it "really was". But our goal isn't to kill anyone, but to safely reenact. So how we do it is of necessity inaccurate. Some days I wish we could do it a good bit more correctly, but that desire would only last until someone got hurt, which would probably be inevitable.

jda3rd
08-06-2006, 02:26 PM
Pickett's Charge and other battles did have non primer cook off firing....when you're desperate you resort to riskier firing procedures......

RJ, Yes there were cook-offs (ie premature discharge of the piece due to sparks or embers lingering in the tube igniting the next charge introduced). I don't know of a single instance where this would have been resorted to as a method of firing the piece. If you do, please, share it with me. If the piece discharged at any point in the loading procedure, it could take off the hands of #2 as he introduces either the fixed ammunition or the charge and/or the projectile into the muzzle, or of #1 as he rams the round, or as he rams either the charge or the projectile. The recoil could take out Nos. 3, 4, and the gunner. Cook-offs, as I said before, are far too uncertain to rely on. There is absolutely no way to control a cook-off. There is no reason to rely on this as a firing method.

I think the stories of deliberate firing (although I've never heard of this) by cook-off are like the stories of cannons being loaded with nails, chains, broken glass, or rocks. It makes for truly a great story, not a true story.

However, accidents do happen, and there were instances of premature discharge. It happens with reenacting, also, and once is too often.


And yep the limber runs out fairly quick....but you bring up the Caisson and two more chests of ammo.....or you run your battery out of there to resupply and run another battery in to replace you.....

The caisson provides 2 ammunition chests, and its limber a 3rd, so with each piece there are 4 ammunition chests. The practice was to try to keep a full chest with the piece if possible, so usually, the piece was served out of the rear chest of the caisson. When that was depleted, the front chest was used, then the chest on the caisson limber. When the caisson was depleted the gun stayed in position, and was served from its limber, while the caisson returned to the reserve for resupply/replenishment.


Flattop, I disagree that reenacting artillery suffers from having having safety as our number one priority, with authenticity second. Every step in the process, from the moment a gun is unlimbered until ordered to "cease firing" is intended to ultimately result in death. It's our obligation to see that never happens. We must be as safe as possible. The original drills were designed as much for the safety of the cannoneers as the efficient handling of the piece to the detriment of the enemy. There is no reason for modern reinterpretation of 19th Century drill for so-called safety reasons. The only exception to this is worming the tube after firing. During loading and firing, there was no provision made for worming the tube. Sponging was sufficient. It's best that we worm, so that is a modification of the original drill that increases the safety without noticeably diminishing the authenticity. The other side of that coin is putting the sponge bucket on the ground. There is no provision for that that I can find in my manuals, but to live fire a piece with the bucket hanging would just bang the heck out of the bucket and the tube.

Frank

Eric Tipton
08-06-2006, 03:00 PM
Eric: Artillery always draws rammers.....

RJ:

Exactly.

flattop32355
08-06-2006, 10:48 PM
Flattop, I disagree that reenacting artillery suffers from having having safety as our number one priority, with authenticity second...

I'm not referring to the steps and procedure of actually firing the gun, but to when the gun may be fired. More specifically, to the "safety zone" in front of the gun, where it may not be fired if anyone strays into that zone. My point being that,during the actual war, I doubt that zone was as wide and deep as it is for our reenacting purposes.

Rob Weaver
08-07-2006, 06:04 AM
Real question: When a gun is fired live, with period style ammunition, is there a "fan" in front and to the sides of the gun where the sabot, bands, etc land, making that area unsafe for friendly troops to occupy?

Forquer
08-07-2006, 07:04 AM
Real question: When a gun is fired live, with period style ammunition, is there a "fan" in front and to the sides of the gun where the sabot, bands, etc land, making that area unsafe for friendly troops to occupy?

Rob -

The "fan" effect deals more with the effects of blast from the black powder, with the exception of firing canister. You will also find some spread with those rounds. Like your garden variety shotgun, the spread will increase as the range increases.

As far as where those parts of fixed ammunition (bands, sabot) go after the round leaves the piece, I have never seen that information documented. I would also be curious if anyone has run across that data.

3rdUSRedleg
08-07-2006, 12:29 PM
Greg;
Was'nt their something written around the battle of antietam or fredricksbug with the federal guns, that were causing casualties with the sabot while firing over the heads of our troops forming up into line? I recall such a story in a report or book, but can not for the life of me recall what it was, and if it was antietam or fredricksburg, but both the battles seems to stick in my mind for that after action report.

As for live firing.. I havent noticed any sabot going no more then 80% of the distance the round is fired and is no more then 10 deg. right or left of the desired target. As for lead bands, they usually wind up with the round or broken up just feet from the target. But thats only with our shooting alone and noticing some others at Nationals.

But then again this is not a full service load but a percentage regulated by the N-SSA. Btw, you must come down to fall nationals, were bringing down the 8" siege howitzer (original) to play with again this fall.. the full service load for this gun was a meer 4 pounds of powder (he he heeee)

Forquer
08-07-2006, 12:48 PM
Rick -

I don't recall seeing anything anything in print about it, but it's a given that what goes up must come down.

Wish I could make it to the N-SSA nationals. Unfortunately, that's the same weekend as Perryville.

C'est la Guerre.

theknapsack
08-07-2006, 02:54 PM
I don't think that rammers should be pulled for artillery pieces. It is dangerous. ;) (If not read, sarcasm heavily implied)
Eric,
Just you wait until they are all taking the barrels off to bang the bottom on the ground. Someone could shoot a sponge/rammer!

bob 125th nysvi
08-08-2006, 09:58 PM
of fire in war is dictated by the tactical situation, the guncrew's maximum rate of fire (which would vary), their ability to sustain that rate of fire and ammunition supply. Again the manual was a recommendation to sustain the maximum rate of fire over the maximum amount of time.

If the enemy is out of range the rate of fire is 0 rounds per minute.

If they are about to overrun the gun it is as fast as the guncrew can shove rounds down the barrel.

So wouldn't the rate of fire at a reenactment also be dictated by those considerations?

Yes they don't have to actually shove a round down the barrel but if they are worried about that affecting their rate of fire couldn't they carry a weight equivlent to the weight of the round and move it back and forth between the limber and the gun to simulate the movement of rounds?

Safety is a completely different issue and one that they really didn't worry about that much during the real war. They fired the gun every time they needed to when they thought they weren'y going to hit their own men. Today we have to be a little bit more careful than that.

Bob Sandusky
Co C 125th NYSVI
Esperance, NY

RJSamp
08-08-2006, 11:06 PM
Technically the event rules of 3 to 4 minutes per round govern the rate of fire.....doesn't do any good to move 'weight' back and forth and simulate firing at higher rates....the infantry rarely dies due to artillery fire every 3 to 4 minutes and won't react to yelling Bang, waving rammers around like you were firing, and moving fake cannon balls between chest and muzzle.

The comment Greg made was that 40 seconds per round was machine gunning....and it was implied that this was not authentic. I was of the opinion that the rate of fire was dictated by battlefield conditions as well Bill.... but that's only 1 consideration.

Your assertion that if the enemy was out of sight/range that the rate of fire was 0 rounds per minute. is wrong...there are some fairly well documented instances of recon by fire exposing the enemy as they shifted their bayonets in response to shell fire against no target. and their was some use of indirect fire as well (river boat and siege gun firing at Shiloh and Malvern Hill for examples).

Obviously orders, ammo supply, terrain, LOS, direction of your armies movement (retreat, stay still, forward), proximity of your troops and the enemy dictated the rate of fire.....also target type and priority of the target.

Anyway, the driver behind this post was that the artillery at Manassas at Cedar Creek was firing way too fast for modern safety rules and regulations.... it's ironic on the authentic's forum they were advocating pulling rifle musket rammers on the battlefield at the 'expense' of absolute safety....but weren't condoning the authentic higher firing rates of artillery when the enemy was exposed and vulnerable....

If pulling rammers is authentic ....
then so is firing artillery at historically accurate rates......
and historically artillery didn't fire at 1 round every 3 or 4 minutes when an infantry battle line was less than 500 yards away and advancing to close....
that's a reenactorism, for safety reasons....
Therefore firing artillery every 40 seconds is not 'machine gunning' when the infantry is close.

tompritchett
08-09-2006, 07:01 AM
Anyway, the driver behind this post was that the artillery at Manassas at Cedar Creek was firing way too fast for modern safety rules and regulations.... it's ironic on the authentic's forum they were advocating pulling rifle musket rammers on the battlefield at the 'expense' of absolute safety....but weren't condoning the authentic higher firing rates of artillery when the enemy was exposed and vulnerable....

If pulling rammers is authentic ....
then so is firing artillery at historically accurate rates......
and historically artillery didn't fire at 1 round every 3 or 4 minutes when an infantry battle line was less than 500 yards away and advancing to close....
that's a reenactorism, for safety reasons....
Therefore firing artillery every 40 seconds is not 'machine gunning' when the infantry is close.

I think that we can all agree that historically, safety rules about rates of fire went out the window when the enemy was close because at that time the greatest risk to life and limb was from the advancing foe and not premature firing of rounds during loading. However, at reenactments there is no risk to the artillery crew associated with the "enemy" rapidly advancing, threatening to overrun their position. But there is a very real risk to both the crew and the "enemy" from rounds firing prematurely because of too rapid rates of fire. Imagine a round going off as it is being initially rammed or when it is being tapped in place. Not only do you risk severe injury to the man doing the ramming (yes, I know that proper drill and use of gloves minimizes the potential injury from such accidents but it never totally eliminates the danger) but now you have a large wooden object, or more likely two of more large wooden objects, being fired directly at advancing reenactors. Frankly, I would rather have a ramrod from a musket coming my way than a broken rammer from a cannon.

Forquer
08-09-2006, 07:12 AM
The comment Greg made was that 40 seconds per round was machine gunning....and it was implied that this was not authentic. I was of the opinion that the rate of fire was dictated by battlefield conditions as well Bill.... but that's only 1 consideration.

RJ -

I did qualify my statement by adding that the unit in question had no target that would necessitate using such a high rate of fire. The conditions that you listed dictating rules of engagement were not, in my opinion, met to require such action on their part.

There is a time and a place for everything. This wasn't it.