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1800s Warfare

Discussion in 'Research' started by Gandalf, Dec 14, 2012.

  1. Gandalf

    Gandalf Dreamer

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    What weaponry was used in the 1800s? Flintlocks, wheelocks, matchlocks? Kinds and power levels of cannons? Melee weapons?

    Any information would be welcome. Thanks.
     
  2. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

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    You'll want to start with the Napoleonic Wars. That's what was going on at the time. The British Army was of course a major player. What with winning and everything. The Brown Bess was the gun most British infantrymen carried.
     
  3. RHawkins

    RHawkins Dreamer

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    When your thinking about cannon, it is very easy to just think of the smooth, long barreled 24lb cannons, but don't forget this was a time of great technological advancement in the world. The Ottoman empire designed a gun that had six barrels that would fire simultaneously (although it was a bitch to reload), the russians designed a 64lb cannon that was ridiculously huge (became unreliable because it was impossible to transport over rough terrain), and then there were small 3lb cannons that were drawn by horse and cart, easily deployed multiple times on a battle field.

    Then there are the kinds of shots. Naturally you have normal cannon ball, but there was also cannister shot (scores of bullets packed into a tin cannister that exploded when the gun was fired, like a really big shot gun), explosive shots that had to be lit before firing and so could blow off your hands if the fuse was to short, shots filled with lime that sprayed across enemy troops burning them away. There were also chain shots which were two balls chained together, but they were primarily used in naval warfare to strike down the opposing ships masts.

    In terms of infantry, at first they used matchlock muskets which they had to light a small fuse on their gun to fire, then later the flintlock which just required reloading then firing. Bayonets originally had to be shoved down the barrel to clip them on, but later the barrel of the musket was designed so they could slide on underneath, therefore not impeding any chance of letting out another volley.

    Of course like everybody here your writing a fantasy so not everything has to be 100% accurate, in my world there is a character that has a flintlock pistol with two chambers. I believe they existed back then but would have been very rare.

    Hope this helps
     
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  4. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

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    Mind you, matchlocks and flintlocks weren't the whole of the 1800s. By midcentury the Colt revolvers were out, and its last quarter had repeating rifles to complete the Wild West options. (Though since you didn't ask about those, you're probably thinking more Napoleonic than later.)
     
  5. Butterfly

    Butterfly Auror

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    I'm sure I read somewhere that the first machine (type) gun was patented in 1724??? - springs to mind (not sure it's the exact date though), and was surprised to learn it was actually that early.
     
  6. Shockley

    Shockley Maester

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    Butterfly - The Puckle Gun was patented in 1718. Not quite a machine gun and it flopped, but it's the first use of the idea that I can think of.

    The important thing to remember about the 19th century is that it was one of the periods of greatest innovation in military history. You're ranging from flintlock muskets to the Gatling gun in the 1860s and the first mass-marketed repeating rifles near the close of the century. Within five years of the close of the century, such varied items as armored cars, pedrail wheels, airplanes, etc. had been developed, and tanks show up in 1916 (but had been conceptualized, more or less and to controversy, in the late 1890s). A lot of the little technological developments were also important - bolt action, ammo clips, etc.

    There was also some real innovation in military strategy. You're going, rapidly, from Napoleon ('non-geometric warfare', as Clausewitz termed it) to Jomini (focus on strategy, planning, intelligence - strategy more important than tactics) to von Moltke (envelopment as opposed to piercing), etc. You also see the first real formulation of guerrilla warfare as a strategy.
     
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  7. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

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    Just ask the British about the Boer or Afghanis in the 1880s and after... The American war of independence is often cited as the successful first guerrilla war.
     
  8. Shockley

    Shockley Maester

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    I'm drawing a line between the existence of something and a formalization of the idea - ie, why I attribute envelopment to Von Moltke and not to the countless other guys who wandered into it before.
     
  9. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

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    So, Gandalf, were you thinking Napoleonics, or some of the other stages in the curve? In weapons or strategies?
     
  10. TheDarkFrontier

    TheDarkFrontier Dreamer

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    It depends what era. The Napoleonic era / Pre-Crimean War, so 1800 - approx 1840 was largely dominated by what was seen throughout the 18th century. The standard issue weapon for a line infantryman was a muzzle-loaded musket, and a bayonet. Cavalrymen sometimes carried shorter barreled variants, called carbines, sometimes a pistol or a pair of pistols (one to fire before the charge is met, and one to fire to cover any retreats or pursuit) and a sabre. Cavalrymen armed in this fashion were often called dragoons, but there were other variants, such as lancers (who as their name suggests, carried lances). Some infantrymen carried carbines and acted as skirmishers to screen the advance of the slower-moving infantry battalions. By the Napoleonic era, riflemen were starting to appear in larger numbers - the 95th Regiment of the British Army is a very famous example (see the Sharpe series, also known as the 'Royal Green Jackets'). They carried powerful Baker rifles, the longest recorded kill of which was at over 800 yards, a hell of a feat for those days of inaccurate weapons. These troops also acted as skirmishers and snipers, and often targeted the officers of an enemy formation. In terms of artillery, they largely had smoothbore cannons in various calibres (3lb, 6lb, 12lb, 18lb were the most common mobile forms, named so because that was the weight of the shot they fired). Howitzers were starting to make an appearance on the European battlefields, and mortars became more common against fortifications.

    By the time the Crimean War came into full swing around 1854, rifled breech-loading weapons were now the common infantry weapon, however the basic formations and tactics had not been changed. By the time of the American Civil War 10 years later, rifled cannons were now much more commonplace than their smoothbore variants, and the Gatling gun, the world's first mass-produced and adopted automatic weapon had been introduced as field artillery. Like the Crimea, basic tactics and formations still had not changed, infantry regiments still fought in dense block-formations against the enemy. As a result of archaic formations and more powerful weapons, casualties during these wars were immensely high.

    Following the Civil War, weapons did not change much - they were just improved. Revolvers were now carried by officers, and breech-loading artillery started catching on, but other than that, there was not a great deal of change. Britain's succession of colonial wars in Afghanistan and Africa saw them using the same types of weapons used in the American Civil War. The first British Gatling gun battery went into action during the Zulu Wars, for instance. The use of dense formations against African natives, who had never fought an army with this level of equipment before, and armed largely with archaic muskets, a few captured or bought rifles and their spears, they lost thousands of their warriors. Due to the success rate of these tactics, when the British fought the Boer Wars with dense formations against soldiers armed with modern rifles and breech-loaded artillery in highly defensible positions in mountains and trenches, they lost a great many battles against them. It was the British colonial troops from Canada and Australasia that brought more imaginative formations to the field, which promoted small groups of infantrymen firing and moving, covering each other, as opposed to dense blocks. This was the beginning of the modern fire and maneuver tactics.
     
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  11. Gandalf

    Gandalf Dreamer

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    Ok. Right, I have a much better idea of what it was like now. Thanking you muchly.
     
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