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Wargames» Forums » General

Subject: Distances on a Napoleonic Battlefield rss

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Gerit Driessen
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Hi there!

For a game I am working on, I need to divide the Napoleonic battlefield in about 7 spaces, related to the proximity of the opponent.

If the starting point is "Reserves" and the space depicting distance 0 is "Melée", what would be good terms for the distances in between? Should I call the 100 yards space "Within Range", for example?

After that I could not come with anything else than "Far", "Pretty Far", "Medium", "Pretty Close", "Close" etc. My intention was to use words that someone who was in the battle would use to describe it. But I think I lack inspiration, or knowledge of the English language, here. So I thought it would be a good idea to ask my fellow BGGs ...

.............

As a side-note: does anybody know what the distances in yards would be? Like being within range is about 100 yards, the best distance for a first volley 50 yards. At what distance from the enemy front troops would the reserves be?

Thanks for your input!



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Alan Richbourg
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Pistol range, musket range, cannister range, artillery medium range, artillery long range.
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Norm Stewart
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Here are a few terms to stimulate your thinking:

Observation Range

(Cav) Charge Range

Skirmish Line

First Line

Second Line

Rear

You could also have some Flank concepts

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Michael McCalpin
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i think you’ll find some of these articles to be of interest:

https://kabinettskriege.blogspot.com/2018/01/how-close-range...
https://kabinettskriege.blogspot.com/2018/02/did-melee-comba...
https://kabinettskriege.blogspot.com/2018/03/reenactors-and-...
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Jason Cawley
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Melee range 2 yards or less
Close volley range around 50 yards
Long skirmish fire range 150 yards
Canister range 400 yards
(also a typical distance between front lime and second line forces)
Charge range 600 yards (roughly gallop distance one reload time)
Flat roundshot range 800-1000 yards
Long roundshot range and far reserves 1760 yards 1 mile
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Andy Daglish
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I'd use the Up Front system of relative range, thus 7 is closest, 0 furthest, so the number relating to range between any two units is given by adding their current range numbers. This gets part the great variations between different battlefields eg. Waterloo was small in total area for the men deployed, and very shallow in your dimension, which in this case was determined by line-of-sight. The Quatre Bras battlefield rather denies this type of range distribution due to a series of ridges parallel to opposing lines blocking lines-of-sight, and very high grain which did the same where it existed, thus French lancers planted lances as markers for Allied squares.

JasonC wrote:
Canister range 400 yards
or indeed 800 yards. The smaller cross-sectional area of the balls compared to roundshot allowed effective fire out to these ranges.

Read Brent Nosworthy's book.

Waterloo 1815: Fallen Eagles is accurate. If artillery is firing, any number of additional muskets is insignificant.

Battlefield practices, such as organisation, drill, linear warfare, systems of command like transmitting orders & so forth had steadily developed in the decades and centuries up to this period, but the lethality of Napoleonic infantry and cavalry weapons remained embarrassingly weak. These weapons couldn't stop charges in the 16th century and neither could they in the early 19th. The men wielding them knew their weapons offered little in personal protection, compared to running away.
Pointing a musket at a higher, upslope enemy unit often meant the ball would go over their heads, at a lower enemy and the ball strikes the ground just in front of them. Veteran soldiers might know how to level their muskets for each target.

Guilmartin's naval books describe Mediterranean galleys having one large bow-chaser [cannon], pointing forwards. Its accuracy had two states: 1. none at all, and 2. 100%, when almost or actually touching the enemy boat. It could miss across 15 metres of seawater.
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Gerit Driessen
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Wow, thank you guys!

Great responses and helping. Interesting blog you found there Michael, I am going to read it for sure.

This input will keep the grey cells busy for a while. Really appreciate your input.

thumbsup


PS: what is flat (it is the word flat that confuses me) roundshot exactly?
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Jason Cawley
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So, the muzzle velocity of an projectile determines how far it flies before it falls to the ground. Check. You can extend the range by elevating the barrel, maxing out a bit under 45 degrees (because of air resistence effects, not perfectly 45 degrees), where the shot will follow a high parabola before falling from its apex to intercept the ground the farthest distance away.

But when you need to elevate the barrel a ton like that to get the shot to go far enough, it means that said shot is way up in the air over most of the intervening path. Too high to hit anyone. You are “golfing” trying to get to the green, not “bowling” where you only need to be “in line” with the pins you are aiming at. This means you need a very accurate estimate of the *range* to the target, or the shot will go clear over it, or land short of it.

If on the other hand the shot never goes much higher than the height of a man, before falling to the earth, obviously it won’t go as far overall as when it is shot 30-40 degrees above the vertical. But you also don’t need to know the range, because you are “bowling”. At the worst the shot is 5-6 feet above the ground or it is 1-2 feet above the ground, but basically if you have the “left to right” (deflection in artillery speak) aim correct, you will hit the target. You don’t need the right “up and down” (quadrant in artillery speak) as well.

Flat roundshot range, then, is the distance a typical solid cannonball will fly firing from a cannon with the barrel level or nearly level, so that over practically all of its flight it is at or below the height of a standing man.

Ignoring aerodynamics for a second, the vertical part of the motion of the projectile follows the formula, height change from gravity is 16 feet times seconds of flight squared. A shot perfectly horizontal from a barrel 3 feet above the ground will follow 3 = 16 t squared which solves to t equals around 0.43 seconds.

But really the flat range is better than that because one fires at a slight angle above perfectly horizontal, the shot climbs for an initial portion of the trajectory - nearly half of it - and then falls from a max height of perhaps 8-12 feet. This put the flight time as twice the time to fall from that max height (roughly half rising and half falling instead of all falling), which is thus 2 x sqrt of 0.5 to 0.75 is about 1.4 to 1.75 seconds. If the cannonball comes out at 1200 feet per second the upper end of that works out to 700 yards.

The artillerist’s rule of thumb is that anything within 2 seconds of projectile flight time is approximately “flat” in the sense of bowling, and anything beyond that is going to have enough of an arc upward that the range estimate had better be good or you’ll miss long or short, and you are “golfing”. Really the transition between them is gradual, but it is not a misleading way of estimating where that transition happens.

I hope that helps.
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Gerit Driessen
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Live and Learn!

Thanks for explaining that Jason. The comparison with golfing and bowling is clarifying. By the way I often read about artillery trying to get to bounce the ball over the field to extend its range, which must done by flat roundshot.

Long range roundshot will be golfing if I understand you correctly. Chance of hitting is sacrificed to get a long range.

I also read that artillery was rather ineffective in the way of producing casualties, but very, very effective in boosting morale with your own troops and doing the opposite to enemy morale. It must have been devilishly impressive to be there when hundreds of guns were fired, especially when marching towards them ...

 
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Jason Cawley
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Yes on hard ground flat roundshot would ricochet, extending the range below head level, but you had to fire at horizontal or nearly so to “skip” them that way. Still around 800 yards max effective range for it. Longer shots start golfing and will bury if long or short, as the ground impact angle increases.

On effectiveness, it could be extremely deadly, but smoke and target adaptation tended to limit the firing time at max effectiveness. Men got out of the way, and gunners rapidly lost sight picture through the clouds of their own smoke. We can tell from quite high rounds fired and men walking off the field alive that the average round fire missed completely. But at the other extreme, we have reports of a single worst ball felling 25 men standing in a tight square to resist cavalry.

The guns carried 150-200 shot or case onto the field, so each didn’t need to hit even one man for a 6 or 8 gun battery to prove extremely effective over a whole day of firing.

But they caused disorder from that people getting out of the way effect even more than direct losses. You’d see a few ball go by and the horrors they did, and sidestep the lanes they seemed to be coming down.

The morale effect was more on the receiving end than a fireworks spectacle giving confidence or something. The stuff did utterly gruesome things and was terrifying because of it. PTSD stuff, not fun.
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Andy Daglish
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Gerit wrote:
By the way I often read about artillery trying to get to bounce the ball over the field to extend its range
actually impacts with the ground will decrease range.
There's a scene in a Hornblower book where Lt. Bush tries to stop a recently-discharged enemy cannonball rolling across the deck with his foot. The ball takes his foot off and continues on its way. It was presumably spinning a lot faster than it was moving, thus its angular momentum was a lot higher than it looked.

Quote:
which must done by flat roundshot.

No. Canister balls will do it too, along with everything else. There is a Wikipedia page on ricochet.

Quote:
I also read that artillery was rather ineffective in the way of producing casualties
Not compared to other weapons. Artillery had developed in many ways, increasing its lethality, even in times immediately prior to the Napoleonic era. Though Napoleon was an artillerist, and though some 12lber guns were known as 'Napoleons', he was not an innovator, and most of these improvements were underway before he came to power. At this time, with general ineffectiveness of weapons, commanders had to play to their strengths by grouping artillery in grand batteries for maximum effect.
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George Haberberger
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If you get a chance to read Keegan's The Face of Battle, about one third of the book is devoted to the battle of Waterloo, and how it would feel to experience it.

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Nick West
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GeorgeHa wrote:
If you get a chance to read Keegan's The Face of Battle, about one third of the book is devoted to the battle of Waterloo, and how it would feel to experience it.


+1

I would also recommend this old but very well written volume that has been recently reprinted: Waterloo: A Near Run Thing by the late David Howarth. It also concentrates more on the experiences of the battle (albeit largely from the Anglo-Allied viewpoint).



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