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History, Tradition, Heritage As related to the subjects of piping, drumming and pipe bands.

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Old 07-14-2008, 11:43 AM   #1
Thomas Grotrian
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Default Waterloo

I was just reading the threads about piping in the Napoleonic era and about the Battle of the Somme, and epecially the latter one, reminded me of some figures that never ceased to amaze me about the Battle of Waterloo. Out of a total of 141,000 troops present at Waterloo on all sides, 47,000 were killed or injured (one in three). This puts it right up there in the Battle of the Somme league, but 101 years earlier, without machine guns and far less efficient artillery. This all took place in the space of a single day. Mario, you know a lot more about that period than I do, but I was just reminded of it by the other two threads.
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Old 07-14-2008, 01:12 PM   #2
Brian Kittel
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Default Re: Waterloo

Had the European armies moved to the rifeled musket by this time, or were they still using the smoothbore? That might explain the large numbers.

In the American Civil War you saw such large casualty numbers because of the Armies shift from smoothbores to rifeled musket and cannon. It is a lesson of what happens when technologies progess faster than tactics.

The Nepolionic tactics were developed because of the horrendous accuracy of the smoothbore. In essense the resulting tactics was to creat a wall of lead that flew down field, that way your bound to hit something. Hunters call this the golden bb theory.

The closed ranks also had the effect of disgusing your losses as the smoke would temporarily blind the enemy. During this masking effect the dead and wounded fell, the ranks closed and when the smoke screen cleared it could appear as if no one was hit. This could be extreamly demoralizing, especially to raw recruits or green units. Generally, it wasn't until the retreat that a unit could really see what damage they had been inflicting upon the opposing force.

If I recall correctly, during the ACW more casualties were inflicted with artilery than with musket fire and at an alarming rate when you figgure how close these units would get to one another with thier muskets.

Another intersting factor that can impact casualty rates are the coposition of the armies. For example, the Confederates were comprised mostly of farmers who often hunted for food and sport, whereas the Union army was comprised of City folk with much less exposure to fire arms. In nearly every ACW battle you'll find the Union army suffered more casulaties regardless of outcome of the battle, largely due to this factor.

I believe it was the Battles of Shiloh where more Americans died in the first day of battle then all casualties in the US up to that point in time. (of corse both sides were Americans, so everyone counts)
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Old 07-14-2008, 01:22 PM   #3
Chris Hamilton
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Default Re: Waterloo

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thomas Grotrian
... Battle of Waterloo. Out of a total of 141,000 troops present at Waterloo on all sides, 47,000 were killed or injured (one in three).
I'd think that this figure includes "Missing", of which a fair number eventually return to their units.

Still a staggering number, though.

Chris
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Old 07-14-2008, 01:27 PM   #4
Chris Hamilton
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Default Re: Waterloo

Quote:
Originally Posted by briankittel
Had the European armies moved to the rifeled musket by this time, or were they still using the smoothbore? That might explain the large numbers.
...
Another intersting factor that can impact casualty rates are the coposition of the armies. For example, the Confederates were comprised mostly of farmers who often hunted for food and sport, whereas the Union army was comprised of City folk with much less exposure to fire arms. In nearly every ACW battle you'll find the Union army suffered more casulaties regardless of outcome of the battle, largely due to this factor.

I believe it was the Battles of Shiloh where more Americans died in the first day of battle then all casualties in the US up to that point in time. (of corse both sides were Americans, so everyone counts)
That is correct re: Shiloh. And Shiloh paled in comparison to what came later.

At Waterloo, smoothbore muskets were the standard equipment. I think there was one "British" unit with rifles (was it the King's German Legion?), but that was an oddity. Rifled muskets were not widely deployed till much later.

I doubt the city/country demographics was of terribly significant impact. More likely that the Confederate armies had better leadership, and even more likely, the Federal armies had a much greater pool of manpower and could afford to be more reckless and aggressive with the troops. And the Confederates were on the defensive more often than not.

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Old 07-14-2008, 01:58 PM   #5
Brian Kittel
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Default Re: Waterloo

[quote=Chris Hamilton
I doubt the city/country demographics was of terribly significant impact. More likely that the Confederate armies had better leadership, and even more likely, the Federal armies had a much greater pool of manpower and could afford to be more reckless and aggressive with the troops. And the Confederates were on the defensive more often than not.

Chris [/quote]

There's no doubt that the Confederate's had much better leadership than the North. Even when Grant took command his basic tactic was just as you said. He knew he had more to draw on, in fact only 1 out of 4 soldiers who served during the ACW actually served in combat, where as the South deployed everone they had. Grant realized this and took the fight to the enemy, which by this point the Confederates were fighting a defensive campaign, Gettysburg being their last offesnive (if memory serves me right). Defensive position always take less casualties than the attacking force. I believe they say you sould out number the defensive position by 3-1 to be successful, though it's been done with less.

However, many text I have read sight the difference between farmers and city folk as a contributing factor. Not that it proves the point, but there was a confederate sharp shooter who had a confirmed kill of a Union Officer, who was shaving, at a distance of one mile! With a blackpowder musket!! The story says after the sharpshooter fired the shot an aid steped infront of the bullets path, made a coment to the officer, who then turned to continue shaving when the bullet struck. Eat your heart out Carlos.
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Old 07-14-2008, 02:12 PM   #6
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Default Re: Waterloo

Quote:
Originally Posted by briankittel
... by this point the Confederates were fighting a defensive campaign, Gettysburg being their last offesnive (if memory serves me right).
Hood launched one last offensive in 1864, into Tennessee, in order to distract Sherman's attention away from his Georgia campaign. It was an unmitigated disaster for the South, ending in crushing defeat at Franklin. A plan as desperate, with similar result for the initiator, as the Ardennes in 1944 ...

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Old 07-14-2008, 03:59 PM   #7
Brian Kittel
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Default Re: Waterloo

See, this is why this site is so good. You'll always find someone who can teach you something, even when it's not related to pipeing.

Chris, looks like you may enjoy CW history. There is a book by William Mark MacKnigh called "Blue Bonnets Over the Border" that gives the history of the 79th NY Cameron Highlanders, a Regiment comprised largely of ex-patriot scots, during the ACW. A facinating history of one of the Union's better Vol. Regiments. One of only two Reg. that held at the 1st battle of Bull Run, they fought in every major engagment excepting Gettysburg as they had been requested by Grant for the Seige of Vicksburg during that engagement. I really enjoyed reading it.
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Old 07-14-2008, 04:50 PM   #8
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Default Re: Waterloo

The 27th (later Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers) was deployed to cover the Brussels road and was forced to spend most/all of the battle in a square because of the presence of French cavalry. This made them a perfect target for French artillery. By the end of the day, of the 750 rank & file who had taken the field in the morning, 105 were dead and 373 were wounded. Every officer was killed or wounded. The 27th sustained the heaviest casualties among the British battalions at Waterloo. At the end of the day, what was left of the 27th formed line and, with the rest of Lambert's Brigade (4th Foot and 40th Foot), retook the La Haye Saint position with the bayonet and did not stop their advance until they reached Napoleon's headquarters at La Belle Alliance, where they camped for the night.

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Old 07-14-2008, 05:59 PM   #9
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Default Re: Waterloo

It is a curious/interesting fact that the muskets used at Waterloo, The Brown Bess and Charleville, were nowhere near as accurate or lethal as the Longbow used hundreds of years earlier at Agincourt. The weapons used in the American Civil War- the Springfield and Enfield muzzle loading rifles were the principle weapons- Were Light years advanced over the waterloo weaponry. The percussion cap ignition and the minie ball projectle increased the dependability, range, and lethality many times over. It could be argued that the shouder arms of that era(CW) were just about as effective, except for the slow rate of fire, as those of the 20th century. Unfortunately the tactics had hardly changed at all since Waterloo.
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Old 07-14-2008, 06:37 PM   #10
Brian Kittel
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Default Re: Waterloo

Quote:
Originally Posted by Col C
The weapons used in the American Civil War- the Springfield and Enfield muzzle loading rifles were the principle weapons- Were Light years advanced over the waterloo weaponry. The percussion cap ignition and the minie ball projectle increased the dependability, range, and lethality many times over.
Not only that, but it also increase the rapidity of reloading. The advent of the minie ball rid the soldier of fussing with a patch, and the cap replaced fussin with charging the frizzen. A well trained CW soldier could load, aim and fire his weapon 3 times per minute! May not sound to impressive to some, but try it sometime. I've hunted with these things, and I don't know that I can get a second shot off in three minutes, let alone 3 in one.
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