Home Forums Horse and Musket Napoleonic What makes a grand battery so grand?

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  • #9547
    Bandit
    Participant

    What are the characteristics of a grand battery?

    What advantages does a grand battery give?

    What is the difference between a grand battery and a similar number of guns gathered in one place?

    #9549
    grizzlymc
    Participant

    Size and central control.

    #9555
    Bandit
    Participant

    Size and central control.

    That was what I came to too, but then I pondered just what that specifically meant and I was less certain.

    If a French corps commander commits his two reserve batteries to a division and that division commits its two batteries, there’s something like 30 guns operating on the frontage of that division.

    That’s enough guns to be considered grand battery, is it one? I supposed that went to the question of ‘control’ right? But what does control mean in this circumstance. If the corps’s artillery chief is overseeing it, what are the benefits of that control:
    • Is the ammunition and pace of fire better managed to prevent depletion?
    • Is the fire more effective at damaging the enemy?

    #9556
    Secret Squirrel
    Participant

    A central control means that targeting for all guns comes from one source, thus the concentrated effect is greater. Once ranged in then guns canFire for effect. From a logistics sense ammunition and supplies can be pooled and shared going to the most urgent point of need.

    Distributed batteries that are not part of a Grand Battery will still hit but the effect is dispersed coming from different angles and locations thus each battery is doing its own ranging and not benefitting from shared targeting data.

    It's me

    #9565
    grizzlymc
    Participant

    Almost all the wargames artillery I have seen is fired under cventral control.  The result can be the focus of a corps worth of artillery focusing on a Bn.  Reality seems to have been different.  Targetting seems to have been:

    Those buggers charging at us

    Those really obvious buggers (Horse grenadiers forming up to charge 1200m away)

    Those buggers in front of us.

     

    A grand battery should be under the control of a senior officer who is familiar with the battle plan and who is in immediate contact with the Marshal who is about to execute the guts of it.  This enables him to focus on what the 20th C Germans might call the schwerpunkt, just like most wargame artillery, but as few real life artillery, could do.

     

    I think this is why continentals took the 12pdr on board.  This is a very modern approach to artillery and range becomes important, not for hitting the enemy from far away, but for hitting him at the best point, which may not be in front of you.  The Brits, who rarely massed their guns thus, found the 9pdr ample and the 6 pdr adequate.

    #9567
    McLaddie
    Participant

    ? I am not sure what the question is about.  Are there situations when large numbers of guns were grouped together and weren’t called a ‘grand battery’?  Would the label make a difference.

    Any large concentration of guns would require central control.  What sizes do you feel constitute a ‘Grand Battery.’

     

     

     

    #9568
    Bandit
    Participant

    A central control means that targeting for all guns comes from one source, thus the concentrated effect is greater… From a logistics sense ammunition and supplies can be pooled and shared going to the most urgent point of need.

    1st – Awesome name.
    2nd – Well articulated.
    3rd – Now the question becomes what do those things look like in a game…

    Almost all the wargames artillery I have seen is fired under cventral control.  The result can be the focus of a corps worth of artillery focusing on a Bn.  Reality seems to have been different.

    This is exactly my experience as well. Which makes me ask – what is the difference between a grand battery and a bunch of guns that are not a ‘grand battery’. It seems mostly in games the difference is nothing or some random modifiers are added to give the grand battery an advantage.

    Are there situations when large numbers of guns were grouped together and weren’t called a ‘grand battery’?

    I don’t know of examples. I’m just positing that logically a corps reserve could be operating in the same general vicinity as divisional batteries and not be under the central command of anyone. In a wargame there is generally no difference between that and a grand battery but in history there does appear to have been a great difference.

    Would the label make a difference.

    Would the label make a difference is exactly where my question originated from. Obviously it shouldn’t, which led to the questions about defining its characteristics.

    Any large concentration of guns would require central control.

    Begs the question of what constitutes a concentration. I think that you are right, but as I’ve mentioned, a bunch of guns committed across the frontage of a division *seems* like it could be done without organizing a grand battery but if it couldn’t be, what were the conditions that prevented a bunch of guns from operating independently in the same area?

    #9583
    Patrice
    Participant

    A simple way to designate a grouping of different batteries that will concentrate their fire on the same objective/target?

    This grouping is occasional, so it doesn’t have a name on its own, and units need a name on the battlefield.

    It probably does not depends on its exact size, but on the fact that it’s convenient for the general: he just has to say “the Grand Battery will do this” and everyone understands who he is talking about (as a native French speaker it seems logical to me).

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

    #9592
    Bandit
    Participant

    A simple way to designate a grouping of different batteries that will concentrate their fire on the same objective/target?
    This grouping is occasional, so it doesn’t have a name on its own, and units need a name on the battlefield.

    I agree with this but as it relates to games what I ponder is: “What is a legitimate target?” I know this sounds like an overly simplistic statement, but at 1,000 yards a grand battery was not targeting all the fire of all its guns at a single battalion standing in line with the rest of its division. The men aiming the guns couldn’t differentiate the boundaries of a single battalion anchored against two of its compatriots at that range. Thus, what the wargamer thinks of as fire “concentrated against a targeted” and what the gunners and grand battery commander thought of as fire “concentrated against a target” appear very different.

    If one were to dictate that hits scored must normally be spread across all targets within a battery’s arc (whatever that may be) then I’m thinking the benefit of a grand battery is that the arc is actually smaller, i.e. the hits scored are more clustered and less spread. The question then becomes what is an appropriate smaller arc.

    #9594
    Patrice
    Participant

    at 1,000 yards a grand battery was not targeting all the fire of all its guns at a single battalion standing in line with the rest of its division. The men aiming the guns couldn’t differentiate the boundaries of a single battalion anchored against two of its compatriots at that range.

    Yes, that’s a problem in game terms. The wargamers want to know the casualties inflicted on any single battalion, but on the battlefield it could be a broader target.

    The general would order “the Grand Battery will fire on the enemy battalion(s) on this ridge”, and not “the Grand Battery will fire on the Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen-Anspach’s Merther-Tydfilshire battalion but not on the other battalion which is just near it”.

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

    #9600
    grizzlymc
    Participant

    A bn in line is about 8 degrees of arc at 1000 yards, that is a reasonable target.  I dont think that the grand battery commander is going to call out a unit by its facing colour, but I could see him defining the aiming point by the second set of colours to the right of the big tree.  If he is massing the fire of a corps and say an equal force from the arty reserve, I would imagine that a target might be a brigade, with fire moving to the brigades on the flanks once the guns are masked by the attack.  If the guns are just going to fire into the brown without concentration, then there is little point in central control.

    #9605
    Bandit
    Participant

    A bn in line is about 8 degrees of arc at 1000 yards, that is a reasonable target.

    Well, to clarify, when I said, “…a single battalion standing in line with the rest of its division.” I was speaking to the orientation of the battalion in its division arrayed for battle, who knows what formation the battalion is in. That said, your point it well taken, sure if there was a battalion in the open at 1,000 yards, artillery could pick it out and hit it. But to your quip about facing colors – part of where I’m going with this is that there isn’t really a way at 1,000 yards for a bunch of guns to identify the boarders of a specific unit when it is lined up roughly flank-to-flank with its peers. As you say, they could likely pick out a brigade and place their fire along its front but a wargamer is going to say, “I want to shoot that battalion right there,” and they will do it until the battalion is removed, then pick the next one over and work their way down the line – if they are allowed to do so. And that of course did not happen with the historically regularity that most wargaming rules would allow the player to perform.

    #9615
    grizzlymc
    Participant

    I would say that the reason for picking on a brigade is more because a rupture on a lesser scale has little value.

     

    I suspect that part of the problem is that wargames rules are too lethal.  As with musketry, if you take a practical rate of fire and multiply it by minutes, most batteries are going to run out of ammo far to early.  The answer is that in action the ROF was much lower than you might imagine from watching re enactors on youtube.

     

    What artillery should do is attrit the enemy, unsettle them and prep them for an attack by other arms.  Now you are going to ask me how to represent that ona  6X4 tabletop representing Leipzig!

    #9617
    Bandit
    Participant

    I suspect that part of the problem is that wargames rules are too lethal.  As with musketry, if you take a practical rate of fire and multiply it by minutes, most batteries are going to run out of ammo far to early.  The answer is that in action the ROF was much lower than you might imagine from watching re enactors on youtube.

    I concur with this. My understanding is that ROF for smoothbore artillery firing a paced bombardment is what most people would consider, “really slow!”

    What artillery should do is attrit the enemy, unsettle them and prep them for an attack by other arms.

    Agreed and that is the big wargaming problem of bombardment. Longstreet wanted Alexander to drive off some of the opposing infantry (as well as the guns) from Cemetery Ridge. Driving off the guns was possible, driving off the infantry was a forgone conclusion. Yet, in wargaming rules you generally can do it.

    Now you are going to ask me how to represent that ona  6X4 tabletop representing Leipzig!

    Ahahah!

    #9622
    McLaddie
    Participant

    At Talavera, Robe, a British artillery major, 2nd to Hoge [IIRC] collected three brigades [ne batteries] of guns and pushed them out on the flank of an on-coming attack of a French division. 18 guns in configuration something like this:

     

    French front lines————————–   attack column

    ||||||

    \                                           ||||||

    guns     \                                          V

    \

    British front line—————————————————

     

    This was reported with a diagram in Ayde’s Artillery handbook 1813  drawn by Erickson who was there and edited that Ayde edition.

    Would this be considered a grand battery?  It has multiple batteries from different commands with a central artillery oversight targeting a single formation.

    #9628
    grizzlymc
    Participant

    I would say that the concept seems very French and Grand Battery to me.  The scale was significant in the Peninsular, but was small by the standards of Central Europe.  Then so was everything in the Peninsular.

    #9630
    McLaddie
    Participant

    That diagram was all screwed up.  The diagram from Adye’s   [not Ayde] Bombardier and Pocket Gunner  1813  page 18    It was Eliot [not Erickson] who drew the diagram and edited the 1813 edition.  I was too busy trying to figure out how to keep the diagram from being skewed and trying to insert the diagram from the book that I misspelled both names.

    http://books.google.com/books?id=YbE6AAAAcAAJ&pg=PA364&dq=adye&hl=en&sa=X&ei=QpMoVOuTNMH_yQSwhoLQBQ&ved=0CB0Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=talavera&f=false

    The dotted line L to E is the gun line.  The same letter E in the British line denote where the three batteries were before the gun line was formed.

    Needless to say, the gun line was at a 45 degree angle to the Attacking Column and between the two battlelines.

    If that fits the ‘grand battery’ description, then there is a much larger number of events that constitute a ‘Grand Battery.’   Marmont’s 18 gun action against a line of 20 Austrian guns at the Battle of Castiglione or Seramont’s 30 guns at Friedland.  The Russian gun line at Eylau also fits that description.   Just ideas at this point.

     

     

     

     

    #9637
    grizzlymc
    Participant

    I think that there is an element of scale in all this.  In the Peninsular three batteries was serious arty, in Central eUrope, perhaps not so much.

     

    A parrallel could be Wellington boasting over dinner of his use of massed heavy cavalry at Waterloo.  I am sure that Kellerman and Milhaud would smile politely.

    #9641
    repiqueone
    Participant

    The massing of a Grand Battery must have looked a lot like rush hour in any major city.  Think of the tail on that dog!  Multiple limbers, caissons,wagons ,horses, intervals laterally, and the depth of the support equipment!  Not to be assembled or broken up on a whim!  The traffic control had to require the highest skills and only done on the highest authority.  It probabbly didn’t take more than a few batteries to be called GRAND…a grand headache for the artillery command, to be sure!

    Sounds to me that it would be enough of a challenge that it was only considered prior to battle, and seldom dispersed (except in defeat) until the battle closed.

    #9642
    Bandit
    Participant

    The massing of a Grand Battery must have looked a lot like rush hour in any major city.  Think of the tail on that dog!  Multiple limbers, caissons,wagons ,horses, intervals laterally, and the depth of the support equipment!  Not to be assembled or broken up on a whim!  The traffic control had to require the highest skills and only done on the highest authority.

    Well to put things in perspective, a single Russian battery would have 12 guns, 12 limbers and several caissons right? Plus supporting vehicles carrying supplies and spare parts for the guns, limbers and caissons… So compared to how we normally treat artillery on the wargaming table, I’d say even a single battery would look like rush hour.

    Also I’d say that whatever skills Russian artillery officers possessed, they were famously disenfranchised of authority compared to the other arms and suffered from a distinct lack of unified command. Yet, the Russians had two grand batteries at Eylau, they had them at Borodino too. During one instance I believe the appointed commander was knocked out of action resulting in a lack of rotating the reserve batteries into action so I do concur that proper execution required someone centrally controlling the effort, but even with that loss, the battery wasn’t ineffective.

    Sounds to me that it would be enough of a challenge that it was only considered prior to battle

    Wasn’t the French grand battery at Wagram formed in the face of an Austrian artillery bombardment as a response to Napoleon’s desire to gain fire superiority?

    #9681
    rob shackleton
    Participant

    My two penny worth.

    1) Only the commander of the army can realistically order a GB to be formed.

    Only he knows what the available limit of guns/ammunition are/is. A corps commander is unlikely to have time to see opportunity if he is managing his corps properly. That does not mean to say that he cannot supplement or enhance the artillery at divisional level. But that enhancement will only give advantage at a local level and that advantage will be temporary. It is likely that the sole purpose of this enhance artillery power is to enable his divisional commanders to enact their orders effectively. Such positioning of Corps artillery is ought not to be seen as a GB. It also requires professional officers of general rank to be able to oversee it’s operation. Only the Army Commander has access both to competant officers and spare artillery

    2) The GB ‘has’ to have a ‘Grand Tactical’, battle winning purpose

    GB cannot be formed on a ‘whim’. Some thought has to be put into where its position will be, how it might get there, who needs to move out of the way, how much space it needs, how is it best supplied, what its target is and effect on that target can it be expected to have. And importantly, once it completes its mission, how and who exploits the advantage. So a grand battery is an integral part of a plan OR all the operations above have to be realistically achievable as the battle unfolds. Once again only an Army commander can do this -only he has access to the expertise and authority to ensure the operation  is carried out effectively

    3) it is not simply a killing machine what was its real purpose?

    We ‘assume’ that the cumulative effect of 60 (example) guns shooting on a narrow (ish) frontage against a defined target or area is going cause a whole heap of dead and wounded. There is no evidence to back up that assumption. If we take the example of the ACW (which was ‘essentially’ a Naploleonic type battle experience and has reports all in English) we see that the effect was ‘bloody hell get your head down or lets get out of the way of this’ (Official Records of the War of the Rebellion  – Gettysburg reports for example) There appear to be no excess casualties among Union regiments as a result. For the union artillery it was a bit like p*****ng into the wind – their material was being damaged and their fire was having no ‘appreciable effect’ (important phrase that). There were quite a lot of unexpected casualties among regiments posted behind the lines unable to understand why so many cannon balls were whizzing merrily down the hill at them after seemingly doing little damage among the troops they were aimed at. This is even before we consider if the Confederate artillery was up to the task it was asked to do. For all practical purposes it was giant pyrotechnic failure. Now that being said were the Union lines shocked enough to fall victim to the attack. history shows us no, But imagine if the confederate attack had been supported by two brigades of light horse?

    Imagine (even if the artillery could be classed as French on a bad day) the smoke clears and you find yourself concussed and confused facing a French infantry division fresh as daisies supported by 8 regiments of light horse was approaching in a determined manner, the chances are you would scarper. After enduring the rough and tumble of all those balls, your nerves would be shot and you would be off. And history would record the grand bombardment of the lines as a masterstroke. The failure of Bobby Lee’s GB was its poor professional performance (not a critical issue at first) and the timing and confusion of Picket’s charge and the lack of a decent cavalry force on the battlefield. (this is not a red rag for you ACW buffs)

    So the purpose of a GB is to alarm and confuse an enemy, to break the nerve of any troops in front of it and crucially to be timed with a well led combined arms attack at the point of weakness. Not an issue of casualties as such – but for gaming purposes loss of casualties may well be a good way of modelling loss of effectiveness.

    In these respects I don’t think GB were as common as supposed. The example of Russian organisation at Borodino as a good case why not. The artillery was in large formations for organisational purposes, it may have been used in relatively large groups of batteries- but these were local responses in moments of crisis  organised by local artillery commanders -Kutuzov not having much of a clue as to what was going on. His purpose was to avoid being defeated. He personally seems to have exercised no control on the way the battle was fought.

    Good examples are the GB at Wagram and Waterloo- organised by N using experienced troops. I am not sure about Senarmont. did he just gather all his artillery in one place to engageand advance at close range on his own accord. Or was it something thought about at length lest such an occasion avail itself. I don’t believe it can be classed as a classic GB. It was more like a GB of opportunity .I would be intrigued to learn (and understand) how, in the midst of battle he on his own initiative sought out all the batteries of his Corps and got them to move to exactly the correct position (from that point on the gunners merely did their jobs). How did he ‘see’ the opportunity, were most of his batteries unengaged at the time? I imagine the divisional general’s complaining if an a battery was taken out of line on the whim of a General de Brigade. All the maps show Serarmont’s GB fully deployed at the start of the battle which suggests the hand of the master.

     

    I’ll get my coat now…

    #9698
    Bandit
    Participant

    rob shackleton,

    That was a seemingly excellent post.

    Thanks.

    A lot to consider.

    PS – Serarmont formed up his artillery group – whatever one would call it – well after the start of the battle as the battle started before Victor’s corps arrived which is what Serarmont was apart of. He requested permission from Napoleon & Victor to pull the guns he did but it was on his initiative based on what I’ve read, that said, his corps commander and army commander were obviously in the loop as resources were requested through them.

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