Musketry Tests at Fort Niagra.

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  • #9060
    Josh
    Participant

    An interesting video to preface my comments. Would love to hear other thoughts.

    It’s tempting to agree that some British officers would have their men fire at marks. Firing at the marks being a phrase I’ve heard of before, going back to the age of archery. However I’m not convinced they are considering everything that they should.
    Firstly one chap says that if Butler’s Rangers fire at marks then surely the regulars would too. This doesn’t tally at all with army practice of method of thought. Indeed it would be more likely that if the Rangers were doing it then the regulars would not be.
    Because the army functioned on specified troops enacting rôles best suited to them, the universal soldier has not yet come into being, it would be highly unlikely that a line regiment or centre company officer would be getting his men to practice their musketry in the manner they are suggesting.

    Now this of course brings us to the old Light company scenario. As we are aware light troops were in use during the 7 years war, and for some reason during the short lull between 1760 and 1775 this doctrine was left to stagnate. Yet we find at Lexington and Concord light companies acting as flankers, picking their shots while the regular blaze away.
    What is each individual soldier doing when he is firing in line? My bet would be that they were aiming simply as prescribed. Low. So in this sense I think the British regulars did fire at marks, but not like a skirmish line, IE they are aiming at the that part below the shoulders and specifically at the abdomen of the enemy but I doubt the army was doing anything particularly technical in terms of selection.
    Light companies of course would have to be able to shoot, and shoot straight at the main part of the body, yet light company procedure was a rather informal affair and really down to the commanding general’s prejudices. But both Howe and even Burgoyne used light battalions extensively.

    Again Wellington gets a frown for using the term scum of the earth, oddly the American in the black shirt explains it far better than the English web cam chap. The author in the suit forgets the recruit was not kept with the recruiting party to learn the “Military step” etc but was sent to a depot and from there to their battalion HQ’s.

    Many of the highly detailed comments raise the point that the marine marksman and others are not familiar with the gun, yet still we can see that the mark he aimed at for 200 yards he hit the neighbouring board, essentially killing the soldier standing next to the one he was aiming at. No line of regulars will open fire a 200 yards, but if advancing would hope to be fired upon at that or 100 yards. Take into account that the defender will want to put at least 2 volleys into the attacker before they halt, therefore unless he is supremely confident of his men, he will inevitably fire early.
    Funny therefore that the marksman was actually therefore much worse at 100, were all his shots hit the edges of the boards. Instinctive though is the fact that a skilled shootist aiming at a single man missed 9 times at a slowly advancing figure over 275 yards. Then he even misses at 50 which is optimum firing range. He’s aiming “centre mass” and generally low, this is essentially why an officer of a centre company is banging his head up against the wall by going through detailed marksmanship drills.

    Now the end scenario is I think admirable. And corresponds, pleasingly to my ego 😉 ,to what I saw in the single test. Given a wider target and a closing range hits will be scored. One must also wonder if some of those white space misses would hit men in the rear ranks, especially if they were locked up. Indeed their fire and advance scenario apes light infantry work quite nicely. And I must say the demonstrators did seem to know their business. I cannot help but wonder if that marked decrease of effectiveness at 75yds was them firing high with the excitement of knowing more hits are possible, or just misfire?

    Josh.

    #9071
    D
    Keymaster

    What a great video! Thank you for sharing it

    I have always been curious about the true effectiveness of Revolutionary War musketry and had some general thoughts about it though this really gives some specificity to things. Amazing. And the video quality is nice to watch too.

    I would imagine once the battle was underway, aiming would be varied as the stresses of the moments dictated the action. Interesting how from the tests, accuracy went down at 75 yards. Not sure what would lead to that, maybe as you mention, the excitement. And the once they get to 50 yards it’s so close that things are much easier to hit.

    Also very surprisingly high the rate at 50 yards is (66.7%), I would have thought it to be lower given all the variables in battle.

    What a great analysis/look into this specific element of battle.

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