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  1. #1
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    Default May as well talk about volley fire

    I'll start with some quick quotes for period reference points.

    On the 21st instant I had orders to erect a new line of works on the skirmish line, and at 10 o'clock p. M. I moved three regiments to the front line, the 4th Iowa on the right, connecting on the left of the first brigade, Brevet BrigadierGeneral Woods commanding, the 30th Iowa in the center, and the 9th Iowa on the left. The 25th Iowa and 31st Iowa were in the rear, held in reserve. We put up a temporary line of works under fire of the enemy, and at two o'clock I received orders to charge the enemy's skirmish line, one hundred and fifty yards in my front, in good skirmish-pits. We captured the pits with but slight loss, but the enemy evinced so much determination to regain them that the fighting became very sharp. The enemy's main line of battle, behind good works, was by actual measurement but one hundred yards from these skirmish-pits, and he fired from the works by volley. At three different times they followed up the fire by volley by an assault on my skirmishers. Their men swarmed over the works and charged gallantly, but I had re-enforced the line till I had nearly a line of battle, and our incessant firing prevented him from charging as a perfect organization, and every charge was repulsed. The order came to me so positively to hold the ground I had already gained, from Generals Howard and Logan, that I should have done so or ruined the brigade. At night I relieved the skirmishers' line with the 31st Iowa, Lieutenant-Colonel Jenkins commanding. Colonel Jenkins managed the new line admirably. It rained a good deal during the night, but his men worked faithfully, and he put up quite a strong line of works so near the enemy that the conversation had to be carried on in whispers. COLONEL G. A. STONE'S REPORT. Headquarters 80 Brigade, Ist Div. 15TH A. C., Near Goldsboro, N. C., March 26,1865.
    This would indicate a volley was proper before a charge. Also note the skirmishers pits were 100 yards in front of the main line.
    Boyd Miles

    I dream of a world where a chicken can cross a road without having its motives called into question.

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    On the 16th of October we recrossed the river and joined the main army on the 17th, when General Clark again took command of bis brigade. On the 18th, 19th, and 20th, I marched at the head of my regiment with the main column, moving westward toward Independence. On the morning of the 21st, the brigade being in advance, cannonading announced that the enemy whom General Shelby had driven from Lexington had made a stand, and about midday my regiment was turned from the main road to the right for the purpose of crossing Little Blue River below the bridge which was destroyed. I moved rapidly across the river, and had marched a short distance when it was ascertained that Lawther's regiment was routed. I dismounted about 150 men, formed across the road, and immediately engaged the enemy, who was right upon us. Williams' three-gun battery was unlimbered fifty yards behind my regiment. The enemy, who was in greatly superior force, vigorously pressed his advantage. He was twice repulsed, when he began to flank me both on the right and left. The moment was critical; no supports arrived. Directing my wings to fire by the right and left oblique I took charge of the battery, firing Nos. 1 and 3 on my flanks, and then ordered rapid volleys of blank cartridges to be fired (the position of my men prevented the use of missiles). It produced the desired effect. The enemy fell back and was charged by us. He now rallied and opened with artillery; again advanced and was again repulsed. The fight was thus continued between unequal numbers, my ammunition was exhausted, the fortitude of my men severely tried, when Kitchen's regiment reached the field. I put it into line and directed it to fire by volley. The enemy fled to return no more. Report of Col. Colton Greene, Third Missouri Cavalry, commanding Marmaduke's brigade. Headquarters Marmaduke's Brigade, Camp on Bed River, Ark., December 18, 1864.
    Indicates a volley well timed turned the battle also note the use of blanks used by artillery.
    Boyd Miles

    I dream of a world where a chicken can cross a road without having its motives called into question.

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    When the One Hundred and Twenty-fifth and Sixty-fourth Ohio advanced to the copse in the open field, I ordered Colonel Opdyke to line the southern side of the copse with skirmishers, with a view to annoying and delaying the progress of the enemy. As he advanced he inclined to his left, evidently with the intention of outflanking my line and turning my right. This movement of the enemy made it necessary I should gain a position in which I could form a shorter and more compact line, in which my right would be more protected by natural obstacles. I accordingly retired my little command to a narrow and short ridge which shoots out nearly at right angles as a spur from the general ridge, which is parallel to the Rossville and Lafayette road. The short and narrow ridge extends athwart the valley in nearly an east and west course. The abprutness of the declivity on either side of it almost gives to this ridge the quality of a natural parapet. Troops holding it could load and fire behind, out of reach of the enemy's fire, and then advance to the crest of it to deliver a plunging fire on the fore. In addition, there was a moral effect in its command over the ground south of it, which inspired the courage of the troops holding it. Here I determined to make an obstinate and determined stand. When General Brannan's right was turned, (by the opening of the gap in our lines, by the movement of my division to support General Reynolds,) he had been compelled to fall back to the general ridge in closing on the west, the valley in which the great battle was fought, which ridge, as already remarked, runs nearly parallel with the Rossville and Lafayette road. When I took position in the narrow ridge, extending partially across the valley, with Harker's brigade, General lirannan formed his command on my right, and higher up on the main ridge, thus giving to our united lines something of the shape of an irregular crescent, with the concavity towards the enemy. This disposition gave us a converging fire on the attacking columns. When my arrangements in this position were concluded, it was probably one P. M., or a little after. The enemy did not leave us long in the quiet possession of our new position. Soon a most obstinate and determined attack was made, which was handsomely repulsed. Similar attacks were continued at intervals throughout the entire afternoon. To describe each one in detail would be unnecessary, and only add useless prolixity to my report. But I deem it proper to signalize one of these attacks specially. It occurred about four o'clock, and lasted about thirty minutes. It was unquestionably the most terrific musketry duel I have ever witnessed. Harker's brigade was formed in two lines. The regiments were advanced to the crest of the ridge alternately, and delivered their fire by volley at the command, retiring a few paces behind it, after firing, to reload. The continued roar of the very fiercest musketry fire inspired a sentiment of grandeur, in which the awful and the sublime were intermingled. But the enemy were repulsed in this fierce attack, and the crest of the ridge was still in our possession.
    I am, very respectfully,
    Your obedient servant,
    Th. J. Wood,
    Brigadier-General U. S. Volunteers, commanding.
    (THE BATTLE OF CHICKAMAUGA)
    Indicates the use of volley fire from an exposed position for maximum effect in the shortest time then back to safer location to reload.
    Boyd Miles

    I dream of a world where a chicken can cross a road without having its motives called into question.

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    The aforesaid festivities were followed on November 25th by a sham battle between the two brigades of the Second Division; the First Brigade was assigned to a position behind the huge earthworks thrown up east of Savannah for the protection of the city at the time of Sherman's famous march to the sea; the works in question remain intact although overgrown to a considerable extent by forest trees and shrubbery and are a grim reminder of the fruits of war in the terrible strife of '61 to '65. To hold these works against the attack of the Second Brigade was the duty assigned to the First Brigade; previous to leaving camp both brigades were supplied liberally with blank cartridges; the Second Brigade was given one hour's start of the First in which to afford them ample time to reconnoiter and decide upon their mode of attack; the First Brigade, with band playing and banners unfurled to the breeze marched out and took possession of the earth works and awaited the report of the scouts sent out in all directions to locate, if possible, the enemy and their probable mode of attack; in the meantime the firing line was established and supports and reserves held in readiness, the One Hundred and Sixtyfirst Indiana being assigned to the firing line; in about one hour the sounds of occasional shots about one and one-half miles to our front indicated that our scouts had been discovered and were being driven in; shortly afterward they could be distinguished across the open country directly to our front through the undergrowth just beyond, hastily retreating, closely pressed by an under fire of the advance guard of the enemy; re-inforcements to cover their retreat were now sent out; the scouts having reached the edge of the open space between the enemy and the earthworks, took advantage of such protection as the country afforded firing as they came; having advanced to a sufficient distance to be no longer endangered by a fire from the earthworks, and a company of the enemy in close order formatoin having needlessly exposed itself about three-quarters of a mile directly to our front, Major Peterson, of the Third Battalion of the One Hundred and Sixty-first Indiana, which occupied the center of the works, with the Second Illinois on our extreme right, and the Carolinas on our left, ordered the squads of his battalion on the firing line to fire by volley on the company thus exposed and which must necessarily have been riddled in actual engagement, which opinion the commander of the company in question evidently shared, for he immediately changed his formation from a close to an open order; re-inforcements quickly came up and the enemy continued to advance under heavy fire which now became general on both sides; they were practically subdued even before the support was ordered to the firing line, and with the result that much of the reserve of the First Brigade did not fire a single shot, although the entire force of the enemy was hurled against the works; needless to assert that the enemy was called off the field by the judges of the occasion, competent officials of the regular army, and the battle awarded to the First Brigade as having thoroughly and effectively protected their entrenchments.
    History of the One hundred and sixty-first regiment, Indiana volunteer infantry
    By William Edward Biederwolf
    Indicates that officers of the time knew that a volley from 3/4 mile would be devastating to men in close order. Also note the use of a sham battle to instruct men and officers in the art of war.
    Boyd Miles

    I dream of a world where a chicken can cross a road without having its motives called into question.

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    "Will these men fight?" said Kearney. Stevens fairly yelled, with his eyes flashing, "By God, General Kearney, these are my Roundheads I" "Who commands them?" said Kearney. Stevens pointed to me, and Kearney at once rode to my side, describing the position of his own troops and also that of the enemy, and, dropping his rein, made a gesture with his only arm in the direction of the enemy's position, and exclaimed, "That is your line of advance, and sweep everything before you. Look out for your left; I'll take care of your right." Company A, of the One Hundredth, Captain Templeton, was ordered to strip for fight on the skirmish line, and I was about to send an order to Colonel Rosa, of the Forty-sixth New York, to send a company from his left, when General Stevens interrupted, saying, "Send none but Roundheads." So I sent Company B, Captain Oliver, and those two companies came rapidly to the front and centre. I instructed them to move very cautiously about fifty paces in front of my line of battle, not firing as they went, but keeping a sharp lookout till they unmasked the enemy, and then deliver fire by volley, and fall back to their places in line to assist in the charge. I did it so as not to warn the enemy of my approach till I was within striking distance. This took place in the presence of Kearney and Stevens; and then General Kearney turned to me, saying, "Sixty pieces of artillery are on the heights behind you, and as soon as you start they will open over your heads and play through the trees upon the heights in front of you, so as to prevent any reinforcements being sent against you till you clear the whole damned thing out." The ground in front of us had at first a gradual descent through an open space hidden from the view of the enemy, but after crossing that the ground ascended slightly, and then became level in a rather dense piece of forest, but not encumbered with underbrush. We soon came under the enemy's fire, and then the artillery in our rear opened its thunders, and the shot and shell shrieked over our heads, while the enemy's batteries on the Groveton Heights replied, also firing over our heads, and the noise of the hurtling missiles, and the bursting shells and the infantry fire in our front, gave grandeur to a scene that was as dangerous as it was sublime. Presently Captain Templeton, of Company A, was carried back mortally wounded, and my men were dropping down or out with fearful frequency, when all at once the skirmishers halted till the line came up, and, after reporting the position of the enemy, took their places in the line, and then, according to my teaching for such occasions, the front rank poured in a volley, and in an instant after the rear rank fired by volley, and then the enemy knew where to find us if they wanted us.
    PERSONAL OBSERVATIONS AND EXPERIENCES IN THE POPE CAMPAIGN m VIRGINIA.
    BY COLONEL DANIEL LEASUEE,
    ONE HUNDREDTH (" ROUNDHEADS") PENNSYLVANIA INFANTRY, U. S. VOLUNTEERS.
    Two volley items of note, the plan to use a volley as a shock weapon and the use of volley by rank as proper in a situation as taught. Note too that the main line caught up with the skirmishers who rejoined the line before volley fire was used.
    Boyd Miles

    I dream of a world where a chicken can cross a road without having its motives called into question.

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    BATTLE OF CROSS KEYS AND PORT REPUBLIC
    About ten o'clock a furious fire of artillery began on both sides, which was continued throughout the day with more or less animation. The front of Ewell was handsomely covered by sharp shooters and skirmishers, and Fremont seemed to approach the situation with timidity and distrust. After a protracted canonade he advanced Blenker's Division upon Ewell's right; after struggling for some time with the skirmish line, this body of troops came in contact with Trimble's Brigade, which was well posted and which poured such a destructive and deadly volley into the enemy that they broke and fled in confusion, and at the same time the Confederates advanced, sweeping everything before them at this point, and the enemy fell back to his original position. Fremont afterwards made some feeble demonstrations upon the Confederate left, which were promptly met and readily repulsed; the day closed with the sullen roar of artillery on both sides. The enemy had been roughly handled and repulsed at all points. The loss of General Ewell was forty-two killed and about two hundred and fifty wounded; the loss of the Yankees was truly heavy. Their killed alone was supposed to amount to four hundred, while the wounded could not have fallen short of sixteen hundred.
    On the morning of the 8th, while quiet reigned in Jackson's camps near Port Republic, and just as the general was mounting his horse to ride to Ewell's command, Carroll, who had learned from renegade spies the condition of affairs at Port Republic, and whom he had for guides, dashed forward with his cavalry and two pieces of artillery, drove in the Confederate pickets, and, rapidly crossing South river, took possession of the little village; and a portion of his force, turning to the right, with one gun, seized the south end of the bridge over which the road leading to Cross Keys crosses, and planted there a piece of artillery, while another portion of his force turned to the left to seize the trains parked to the southwest of the town. Providentially, Jackson had time to ride rapidly across the bridge before the street was occupied by the Federal cavalry, but a portion of his staff was captured and affairs were in a critical condition for a short time. Capt. S. J. C. Moore had a few men of his company on picket at the western end of the town. These he promptly rallied behind a fence and poured a checking volley into the Federal cavalry pushing in that direction. Carrington's not fully organized battery was in camp just beyond, near the wagon train; Maj. R. L. Dabney, Jackson's chief of staff, who was remaining at headquarters preparing to conduct religious services in Jackson's camps at a later hour, hastened to this battery, the guns of which were soon brought into position, and joined Captain Moore in a raking fire down the street, which forced the Federals to retreat toward the bridge and to the shelter of the houses in the cross streets. As soon as Jackson got across the bridge and gained the bluff beyond, he took in the situation of affairs and brought into action the forces which had encamped there ready for such an emergency. Three batteries were quickly brought into position, and fire was opened through the bridge, followed by volleys from the infantry of Taliaferro's brigade, which was promptly available as it was just then drawn up for inspection.
    Indicates the use of volley fire to stop the enemy and the destructive effect. Note too the mention of a brigade in an active campaign having been in formation for inspection.
    Boyd Miles

    I dream of a world where a chicken can cross a road without having its motives called into question.

  7. #7
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    Two from Shiloh:
    Shiloh

    Their position placed the enemy in front, the ground being unfavorable for a flank movement. Making a fallen tree their breastwork, these forty men—who had never before stood face to face with an enemy, who, for the first time were required to point a gun or pull a trigger—held in check, for hours, six hundred rebel cavalry, by emptying the saddles of the advance until, to their great relief, a volley in the rear of their enemy announced the arrival of part of the 72d regiment,, led by Colonel Buckland, who, becoming alarmed at their long absence, hastened to their rescue at a "double-quick," and just in time to defeat a charge the rebels had drawn sabre to make. Although Major Kawson was not in command of the detachment, yet, owing to the feeble health of Captain Raymond, the conduct of the defence devolved principally upon him. Under his direction, a volley of only ten guns were fired at one time, so that a sufficient reserve should remain to meet out, with steady aim, another and still another volley, if the dashing cavalry should choose to follow up their advance after receiving the first round.


    CHESTER A. BUCKLAND.Camp Shiloh, West Tennessee, 1 . Saturday, April 5, 1862. /
    Dear Mother:—You may glory in us now. Yesterday, while drilling, about a mile from here, our pickets were fired upon. In a very few moments the Seventy-second was on its way to battle at a double-quick step, Company B in the rear. When we arrived at a convenient place, we were deployed as skirmishers, and were to try and surround the rebels. We wandered along a couple of miles. Henry and I were near the end of the company. The company was in groups of four, each twenty paces apart. An order was given to rally on first group, when the front commenced to fire, but ceased before we could get up. We wandered in a body for nearly an hour, making frequent halts. Every ear was listening and every eye watching for sound or sight of the enemy. Nearly an hour from the first fire we got sight of them again, and nearly all got a chance to fire. We think one was killed or badly wounded. Here we found there were more than we thought, so we retreated to a pen built of rails and then to a big tree on the brow of a ravine. In a little time the rebel cavalry rode up in sight, and then the fight began. I could hear the balls go "whip" through the air and strike the trees around us. There were a hundred and fifty rebels against forty-four of us. Once in a while one would drop from his horse or, a horse would fall dead or wounded. We would load, run up where we could see, drop on our knees, take aim and fire, and then run back to load. In this manner we made them believe there were a great many more of us than there were. In this part of the fight two of our men were wounded, Charles H. Bennett in the right leg and James Titswood through the left breast above the heart. When we had fought about three fourths of an hour, it commenced to rain and hail, which made it difficult to load without wetting the powder. Then the rebels retreated. In a very little time it rained so hard we could not see more than a couple of rods, which was just exactly the time for them to ride on and cut us in pieces. We threw out guards to watch for them. I never knew it to rain so hard. When the rain had ceased, we saw them forming on a sort of prairie beyond the reach of our Enfields. In a short time they gave a great shout and advanced on us. As soon as they were in good reach, we commenced to drop them again. They had been reinforced to about four or five hundred, beside what may have been in reserve. We fought here about a quarter of an hour more, during which three more were wounded and several had holes shot in their clothes, one having a thumb broke, two shots in his arm, one through his clothes, and one in his boot. Now was the desperate time. The rebels fired a volley, drew sabres, and began to advance. They were on three sides of us. Our hearts began to sink. We rallied around the old white oak, each one firmly grasping his gun with its powder stained bayonet, and determined to give as good as we got. How fierce we felt. Our last chance seemed gone, when a volley sounded in the rear of the rebels. It was the Seventy-second. How loud the hurrahs sounded then. It was the sweetest music I ever heard. The rebels turned and fled. We were saved. We fired as long as we could reach them and then took Titswood in care, and then we went over to where part of the rebels had been.
    So here we have volley before a charge, volley as a shock breaking a line, and the very interesting of volley of 10 guns only to keep most loaded and ready. Bonus points for the use of the word "guns" referring to muskets which were called in this instance either Enfields or guns not muskets or rifles
    Boyd Miles

    I dream of a world where a chicken can cross a road without having its motives called into question.

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    So there is a starting point, how close are those reports to what is done at a re-enactment? In most cases there is one volley and it is decisive.
    Boyd Miles

    I dream of a world where a chicken can cross a road without having its motives called into question.

  9. #9

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    A definitional question: are you confident that the word "volley" in these instances means the strict military definition of "volley," and isn't shorthand for "a body of men firing individually but commencing with an order?" I suspect they are, but it's worth noting that 19th century documents were written with less-than-military precision.
    Rob Weaver
    Pine River Boys, Co I, 7th Wisconsin
    "We're... Christians, what read the Bible and foller what it says about lovin' your enemies and carin' for them what despitefully use you -- that is, after you've downed 'em good and hard."
    -Si Klegg and His Pard Shorty

  10. #10
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    I am pretty sure that every time they say "by volley" it is a classic everybody at once sort of affair. Read the accounts and look at the context, the mentions of volley I selected were all used in specific situations and with similar results. The use of a volley is an all or nothing gamble, you risk having nothing but unloaded guns at the chance of delivering a finishing blow. In the case of a charge you have hopefully softened the enemy and your men now have no choice but to carry the objective by bayonet and momentum with the added advantage of them not stopping to fire thus breaking their own momentum.
    As the day dawned we could hear the musketry, first in dropping shots, then volley after volley, as the battle grew hotter. (A Shiloh quote)
    May or may not be actual volley fire, it could be be any group firing method and is not in a military report but one for the general public to help set the stage for the the impending battle description. There is a difference in the style and purpose. Most of the above were written for other officers and they understood the use and effect of a well timed volley.
    Boyd Miles

    I dream of a world where a chicken can cross a road without having its motives called into question.

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