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Excessive reload times for artillery in SP2?

Posted: Tue Jun 11, 2019 2:14 pm
by Contrarius
Was just reading the memoirs of the Waterloo campaign by Mercer, who served as captain in the RHA commanding a troop of 9pdr guns in the battle. He mentions two interesting statistics that really put the cat among the pigeons as far as gun vs musket firing rates are concerned.

First, he states that a British limber contained 50 rounds, enough to keep a gun firing only for a few minutes. Second, he calculates that during the 11 hours of the great battle each of his guns fired 700(!) rounds. Now, since his guns fired little during the early stages of the battle and only moved to a proper firing position in the mid afternoon, this would indicate a firing rate of at least 150 rounds per hour, and that with long pauses between bursts of activity.

Now, how many rounds did the average musketeer have in his cartridge box? About 24 if I remember correctly...

Re: Excessive reload times for artillery in SP2?

Posted: Tue Jun 11, 2019 2:29 pm
by Contrarius
While we’re here, Mercer seems to answer another question I had about SP2. Could a gun move while loaded?

Shortly moving off to join battle he states: “[we] lighted our slow matches, put shot in our leathern cartouches, loaded the guns with powder, and stuck priming wires into the vents to prevent the cartridges slipping forward, and, thus prepared for immediate action, again moved on.”

Now, it seems to me the gun is partly loaded, but without the shot, but perhaps someone more knowledgable on artillery matters can explain in more detail?

Re: Excessive reload times for artillery in SP2?

Posted: Tue Jun 11, 2019 8:59 pm
by BaronVonWreckedoften
I think either you mis-read or he mis-wrote - more likely that he meant his entire troop fired 700 rounds, so just over 100 per gun (possibly slightly more, as the howitzer's use was more specialised. A British soldier usually carried sixty rounds in his cartridge box/pouch; possibly Peninsula veterans who had retained their supplementary tins would have a few more secreted about their persons.

They wouldn't load with actual shot, as they wouldn't know until they got into action what sort of target they would have, or how immediate any threat to them (or the troops they were supporting) would be. There would be a enough rounds of each type in the limber to keep them going whilst the ammo carriers brought up more from the caissons.

Re: Excessive reload times for artillery in SP2?

Posted: Tue Jun 11, 2019 9:38 pm
by Contrarius
I couldn't believe the figure of 700 rounds per gun myself until reading Mercer's earlier bit about 50 rounds per gun being expended in a matter of minutes. Indeed, I think he's very clear on this point:

19 June 1815
“A return had been called for yesterday evening just as we were lying down to rest, but, fatigued as we all were, it was impossible to give this correctly. As near as I could ascertain, we must have fired nearly 700 rounds per gun.”
Mercer, Journal of the Waterloo Campaign, Edinburgh & London: Blackwood, 1870, I, p.339.

One thing I did forget to mention is that at the height of the action, when the French cavalry was threatening to overrun his guns he was firing double loads,"with a roundshot first and a case over it" (p.320). These were fired at 50-60 yards and had a devastating effect which he comments on in detail, suggesting this was not the normal mode of fire that he used most of the day.

I'm a little surprised the British soldier carried as many as 60 rounds in his cartridge pouch when a century and half earlier the norm had been closer to 24. But I guess the flintlock did speed things up dramatically compared to, say, a matchlock or wheellock.

Re: Excessive reload times for artillery in SP2?

Posted: Tue Jun 11, 2019 9:51 pm
by Contrarius
I'm sure B.P. Hughes must have written something about this in his seminal study, Firepower (1974). Unfortunately, I'm away from home for the next week or so, and can't check my copy.

I do, however, have a note that Napoleon used to issue his Guard artillery 8pdrs with 3 caissons per gun, and the 12pdrs with 5 caissons per gun. Each caisson contained 350 rounds. So, an expenditure of 700 rounds in a long hardfought battle is certainly not out of the question.

Re: Excessive reload times for artillery in SP2?

Posted: Wed Jun 12, 2019 12:25 am
by Captain Reid
Mercer's guns just used their Sharp Practice characteristic a lot, cutting their reload time to 0. . .