Home Forums Horse and Musket Napoleonic National differences in the position of gun crews?

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  • #82765
    General Slade
    Participant

    I was reading an article on Saxon Horse Artillery by Gerard Cronin and Stephen Summerfield and in it they note that Saxon guns were fired from the opposite side to the French, with the ammunition being run up the right hand side of the gun and it being fired from the left (there appears to be a typo in the article where it says the guns were fired from the right but this contradicts the diagram the text is describing). I believe the British also fired from the left.

    Can anyone help me with what the practice was in other nations?  I’d particularly like to know details about other Confederation of the Rhine armies and the Grand Duchy of Warsaw but it would also be handy to know what the Austrians, Russians and Prussians did.

    http://www.napoleon-series.org/military/OrdnanceJournal/Issue2/SOJ-0209.pdf

    #82770
    General Slade
    Participant

    In partial answer to my own question I have found this contemporary picture by Faber du Faur which shows Wurttemberg artillery in 1812 preparing to fire from the right:

    #82771
    Darkest Star Games
    Participant

    Interesting.  I have zero knowledge of the subject but I would be interested to hear the reasoning.  I would think that most soldiers would be right handed, thus someone loading the gun would want to do so in a way that would allow them easiest use of their dominant hand…?

    "I saw this in a cartoon once, but I'm pretty sure I can do it..."

    #82773
    Patrice
    Participant

    I’ve no much napoleonic knowledge either, but having loaded and fired replicas of small couleuvrines in medieval reenactments, I find it easier for a right-handed person to handle and push (using both hands) the ramrod from the right side of the gun (your left hand gives direction to the ramrod while your right hand pushes it stronger from behind).

    http://www.argad-bzh.fr/argad/en.html
    https://www.anargader.net/

    #82776
    General Slade
    Participant

    In the British army the guy using the ramrod stood on the right side of the gun (and the gun was fired from the left).  He also stood on the right side in the French army but the gun was then fired from the right. The Saxon practice appears to be a mirror image of the French practice but I have no idea why they would have chosen to do this because it does suggest that the gunner would be using his weaker hand to ram the round home.

    #82778
    Not Connard Sage
    Participant

    French crews had different numbers according to the weight of the piece.

    Looking from behind the gun, British crews had:

    loader; left front

    rammer/spongeman; right front

    porte-fire/matchman; left rear

    ventsman/pricker; right rear.

    ammunition carriers x3; bringing up rounds from limber boxes at rear of the piece

    the NCO commanding/sighting would stand behind the trail of the piece

    officer commanding division of troop (usually a lieutenant) between the two pieces

    troop commander commanding troop in the space between the six guns and the limbers with senior NCO

     

     

    "I go online sometimes, but everyone's spelling is really bad. It's... depressing."

    #82802
    Jonathan Gingerich
    Participant

    In Russian practice, the rammer and matchman were on the right, the ventsman on the left. I would think you would want the ammo to be run up the side opposite the match, but maybe that’s not a real issue.

    #82813
    Patrice
    Participant

    The powder and cannon ball do not need to be brought from the side where the rammer is. I would say it’s more efficient and quick if they are brought by the loaders on the opposite side, and then the rammer can ram then in. It’s still a long way from the matchman.

    http://www.argad-bzh.fr/argad/en.html
    https://www.anargader.net/

    #82824
    Jonathan Gingerich
    Participant

    Yes, quite, you don’t want the ammo handler crossing the muzzle!-) so it would surely come up the side opposite the rammer(?)

    I was referring to those nations with the match and rammer on opposite sides – puzzling.

    #82835
    General Slade
    Participant

    Looking in Franklin’s British Napoleonic Field Artillery it seems that the British practice was to carry the ammunition along the left side of the gun, passing the guy holding the portfire, so presumably they didn’t regard the proximity of the slow match and the ammunition as a major worry?

    I don’t know why the British put the portfire holder on the left rather than the right (presumably cannon of the period were cylindrical so it wouldn’t have made a difference one way or the other?)  The one advantage of being on the left could be that if you are right-handed you can face the way the gun is firing and so be sure that you are clear of the wheels of the carriage when it recoils. If you stand on the right of the gun you might be tempted to look back over your shoulder as you fire the gun and I imagine this could lead to accidents.  Of course, the guy holding the portfire isn’t responsible for aiming so it doesn’t actually make any difference which way he is facing but I would have thought human nature would make you want to turn your head to see where the cannonballs were flying.

    #82843
    Not Connard Sage
    Participant

    Rough and ready chemistry.

    Gunpowder tends not to go *BANG!*, it just burns very quickly.  It’s the burning very quickly that produces rapidly expanding gases that makes the *BANG!* when those gases have nowhere to go.

    Of course if you ignite the gunpowder at the bottom of a gun barrel…

    "I go online sometimes, but everyone's spelling is really bad. It's... depressing."

    #83532
    General Slade
    Participant

    I’ve found another contemporary picture, this time from the Augsburg series of uniform plates on the Napoleon Online site, that shows Bavarian artillery following the French practice of having the match and the rammer on the right of the gun: Napoleon Online

     

     

    #86573
    General Slade
    Participant

    A  few more pictures from the Ausburger Bilder

    Austrians, with the portfire man on the right and the rammer on the left (and the guy fetching the ammunition about to be killed by the recoil of the gun):

    Prussians with the rammer on the left (and a few people about to be crushed by the recoil):

    Saxons with the rammer on the left and the ammunition apparently on the right:

     

    Wurttemberg with the rammer, portfire  and ammunition carrier on the right:

    To be honest I am not sure how much faith to put in these pictures (especially since some of the crews appear to be in danger of being killed by their own guns) but it does give me an excuse to add a bit of variety to the positioning of my artillery crews when I am basing them.

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