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How was napolionic/revolutionary line warfare ever efficient??

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posted on Dec, 14 2016 @ 08:15 PM
Ok, so why was warfare where everyone dressed up in bright colors and lined up across from each other, Before lobbing volly after volly into each other's lines at short range , ever a thing??

Was it ever really the most efficeint way? Or are the military geniuses of the day over rated? Lol

I just can't wrap my head around a good answer why that was a good idea...

It couldn't be because of old school guns lack of accuracy, because those guns were heavy and being prone or propped up on some cover would have added loads of stability.

Also people were using them to hunt, and if you can shoot a deer without a dozen buddies lined up beside you,then you can shoot a person.

The only real answer that works IMHO is that the commanders of the day were so used to line fighting, that they never realized that guns meant they should rethink all their military strategies.

Maybe it was the last remnants of the chivalric age, and tradition said that was the honorable way to do no matter how out dated, damn it that's how they were gonna do it.


edit on 14-12-2016 by JoshuaCox because: (no reason given)

posted on Dec, 14 2016 @ 08:23 PM
a reply to: JoshuaCox

good question , never occurred to me ...

knee - jerk answer from me is - lack of communications , long supply lines and huge potential for confusion . remember that the ' red baron ' risked his own life even moreso than the others by painting his plane red ... all so that his men could group on him . ww2 pathfinder bombers did this also . avoid confusion is my guess .

but- don't forget sex and the brightly colored roosters .

posted on Dec, 14 2016 @ 08:24 PM
That's always driven me up a wall too.

Not So Fun Fact: Iran was the last nation to utilize "human wave" formation combat tactics, in the Iran-Iraq War.

edit on 14-12-2016 by IgnoranceIsntBlisss because: (no reason given)

posted on Dec, 14 2016 @ 08:25 PM
a reply to: JoshuaCox

I think the colors were for easy management of the troops(they didn't have radio or anything for quick communication of position etc) and the line tactic I imagine was due to centuries of use of that tactic and guns being relatively new. Takes time I suppose to develop new strategies.

posted on Dec, 14 2016 @ 08:33 PM
a reply to: JoshuaCox

You are correct it was never the right way to fight but you have to remember the tactic's, the weapon's and the time.

Battlefields in musket country could become so obscurred by the powder smoke that telling an enemy from a friend became problematic, bright coloured uniform's helped but not much.

This smoke would also obscure the battlefield from the general in charge of his army's whom would usually overlook the battle from a rise or promontory, in some cases a tower, shooting the general was regarded as not correct so either side seldom did so and the block's of troop's would be moved like pieces on a chess board, at least untill all hell broke loose and the two side's got close enough for it to break down into vicious hand to hand combat.

Putting the men in a line allowed concentration of fire and if done correctly was surprising effective, due to the slow loading of a musket (those lad's got pretty fast but it still took an interminable time compared to later cartridge rifles) once one volley had been fired the line in front (usually three deep) would drop (kneel low enough for the line behind them to shoot over there head's) then reload while in turn the second and then third line would release there volley's at there enemy by which time the first line was expected to have reloaded for there next shot, this way they could put down a sustained and withering barrage accross the field which would mow the field of man and plant, also factor in the fact that most early musket's had limited range and there accuracy left a lot to be desired since most musket ball's were crudely shaped lead droplet's and the black powder could be less than reliable especially in damp condition's.

The pinnacle of this tactic working (though with much more modern cartridge rifle's in play) could be seen at the battle of Rourke's drift in south africa were a small contingent of British soldiers (Welsh soldiers) held there own against a vastly superior Zulu force, that battle could though be argued to be better training and discipline vs the Zulu's almost suicidal and fanatical attack's but either way it stand's as one of the great battles of relatively modern history.

But would they last against modern tactic's even if we gave the modern soldiers the same weapon's, No is my best guess and remember how the US was born, militia whom often fought more guerilla and therefore closer to modern tactic's overthrew the best trained soldiers in the world and earned there independence thoroughly and decisively.

edit on 14-12-2016 by LABTECH767 because: (no reason given)

posted on Dec, 14 2016 @ 08:35 PM
Muskets were inaccurate, you really need to be close to the target to hit it, there were usually 3 lines so while one fired the other reload, low rate of fire of muskets were an issue too.

Basically you needed to get in the face of the other side, when you got men beside you it's less likely you chicken out staring a musket to your face, firing all at once give them more chance to do damage to the center of the other line, the first line was a good meat shield for the other lines. Being packed like that worked.

Then rifled guns with higher accuracy and fire rate were introduced, and you didn't need to be right next to your target to hit it, so line infantry became obsolete.
edit on 14-12-2016 by Indigent because: (no reason given)

posted on Dec, 14 2016 @ 08:41 PM

originally posted by: JoshuaCox

It couldn't be because of old school guns lack of accuracy, because those guns were heavy and being prone or propped up on some cover would have added loads of stability.

Also people were using them to hunt, and if you can shoot a deer without a dozen buddies lined up beside you,then you can shoot a person.

You actually have touched upon it here. It really was the weaponry.

During the Napoleonic era, the main sidearm of virtually every military was the muzzle loading smooth-bore musket. This was a non-rifled, shoulder fired weapon that fired a round lead ball. The outside range of accurate fire for this was about 50 meters. Being prone or stabilizing the weapon physically has minimal effect on accuracy as this type of firearm is inherently inaccurate.

Weapons of later era's would incorporate spiraled grooves in the barrel, known as rifling, which would impart a spin to the projectile, which was made ovoid in shape, greatly stabilizing it's ballistic path, and increasing it's accuracy and effective range tenfold. You can think of it like throwing an NFL football, with it's inherent spin, vs throwing a baseball.

Further, being a muzzle loader, these Napoleonic muskets were slow to fire. A trained soldier could get off two, perhaps three rounds per minute. When you are within a hundred yards of the enemy with this sort of weapon, if you are one on one and miss, which was just as likely as not, your opponent might just jog over and bayonet your sorry self before you can get another shot off. In this context, tight ranks of infantry firing in volley's has significant advantages. Namely, by firing as a group, you can put a lot of lead in the air all at once, greatly increasing your odds of doing real damage to your opponent; you can also fire by ranks, with the second row of men firing while the front row kneels and reloads; also, when the fighting closes to hand to hand range, and it usually would, being in a group is obviously more advantageous than being spread out, as at that point the fighting devolves into something ancient people would immediately recognize.

The limitations of the weapons dictated the tactics, plain and simple. Hope that was helpful.

edit on 14-12-2016 by Orwells Ghost because: (no reason given)

posted on Dec, 14 2016 @ 08:42 PM
It was because human life was cheap. That's really all you need to know. In the absence of weapons that could kill hundreds at once, what would you propose? Until canons were invented, warfare was one on one: one sword, one musket. What do you mean, "efficient"? WMD are efficient.
edit on 12/14/2016 by schuyler because: (no reason given)

posted on Dec, 14 2016 @ 08:48 PM
a reply to: Orwells Ghost

obscured battlefields predate gunfire . dust from cavalry and infantry ... so forth . people need to be able to recognize each other ( bright colors ) and stay close... phalanx and musket lines , etc.

posted on Dec, 14 2016 @ 08:49 PM
a reply to: Slakecontagia

Correct and that is the purpose of Battle Standard's be they roman eagle's or cavalry flag's.

posted on Dec, 14 2016 @ 09:54 PM
I think this has been answered if you combine a couple of posts.
It was a very efficient way of having "rapid fire" (i.e. continuous fire) on the opposition
You take 3 lines. The first line fires , then moves back to reload (reloading was a hell of a task) . The new front line fires.
Wash , rinse , repeat.

posted on Dec, 14 2016 @ 10:27 PM
Yeah, as others have mentioned it was mainly down to the weapons in use.

Tactics never really changed much under the musket despite cannons and horses.

Horses or cavalry were overrated, they are naturally skittish animals and under the circumstances in battle can be pretty useless, they hate to trample. You'd literally had to blind the horse of it's senses to even get use out of it on a battlefield.

It's why throughout history shooting from horseback was preferred over hand to hand combat, this includes the dragoons of the early days of the rifle.

There is a lot more to it than groups of people standing together to die as it would appear too. Fortifications played a major part too. Short of meeting the enemy on the battle field, an army would be used to siege a fortification. For that you need sheer numbers, cannons and other siege units. Plus armies need people to repair equipment, prepare food etc... The numbers add up.

All in all, meeting the enemy on the battlefield demanded close formations of troops to do any damage. Not meeting on a battlefield (a siege) demanded heavy numbers.

Pike formations were very effective till the rifle was invented, usually when utilized effectively the enemy would simply run away... Nothing says oh crap like a wall of long spikes, muskets were poor against them due to reloading issues and accuracy, a horse will not charge a pike formation.

Cannons, were simply expensive. Preferably reserved for sieges or used for the sheer shock factor. They were not exactly accurate and tend to have been used in numbers just like muskets. Same as at sea, ships of the line were named as such due to the way they engaged the enemy. Ships would line up, one behind the other and sail past the enemy and release a volley of shot/cannon not unlike musket use on land.

It looks and sounds silly but the tactics used were the most effective, ideally a siege is the aim of the game. Hence why the US revolution was a lot different. There simply wasn't the fortifications on par with what militaries in Europe had.

Two things changed how war was done. Rifling and ready made ammunition (I'll put them together) and explosives. Explosives negated the use of a fort (look up the sheer size of forts in the 18th and 19th century) and rifling and ready to load ammunition negated the need for close knit formations.

It's how I've come to understand it anyways.

posted on Dec, 15 2016 @ 01:36 AM
It should be said we still here in the UK use troop colours as every year the Queen does trooping the colour which had a practical purpose that in those days people didn't really read or have much of an education so it was easier just to show the soldier the different flags so they would know if told to join up with a group they'd be able to know who it was.

With all the smoke and other battlefield drama you need to be able to quickly determine friend from foe as the last thing you want is to have a battle where you can't tell friend from foe.

posted on Dec, 15 2016 @ 02:06 AM
a reply to: JoshuaCox
Putting your guns in a line has the effect of maximising your fire-power, bringing every single gun to bear on the enemy.
Generals used that formation because it worked, at least in European warfare.
Read detailed accounts of the battle of Waterloo, and see how the massed marching columns that Napoleon liked to use got slaughtered by the fire-power of the British line, hitting them on their flanks, before they ever got to the top of the ridge.
"Le Garde recule! Sauve qui peut! Nous sommes trahis!"
This was still effective in the Crimean war half a century later. It was the "thin red line, tipped with steel" that held off the Russian cavalry at Balaclava. Fire-power.
As long as the soldiers in the line were killing men faster than they were being killed themselves, the tactic was working, and that's why it lasted so long.

Exactly the same principle, for the same reason, was applied in naval warfare, where ships in a battle-fleet made a point of facing the enemy in opposing lines. This was still happening at Jutland, when Jellicoe twice made a point of "crossing the T" of the advancing German line, bringing every gun in his own line to bear on the leading German ships.

edit on 15-12-2016 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)

posted on Dec, 15 2016 @ 02:49 AM
a reply to: JoshuaCox

simples answer - it was as efficient as it could be - and it advanced the goals of the victorious actor

like all forms of warfare it :

1 - put the blue force in contact with the red force

2 - led to an outcome wherein one force died , surrendured or retreated

thats basaically it

the range of engagement , weapons used , methods of communication and distance of effective control may have changed over the years

but it all comes down to the 2 points above

posted on Dec, 15 2016 @ 02:59 AM
As opposed to over the top charges into machine gun fire of the 20th century?

It's a meat grinder no matter what era you look at, and they did have cannons in Napoleon's day, he was a master at using them.

posted on Dec, 15 2016 @ 04:19 AM
a reply to: JoshuaCox

The Napoleonic era was one which could be considered something of a transitional phase, where war is concerned.

Thinking about war as a broader historical topic, it seems to have gone through many phases over the course of history. One can easily surmise, from the behaviour of some of the more complex apes living on the world today, that war fought amongst proto-human populations in pre-history, probably involved long periods of chest thumping, scat flinging, and eventually short, brutal conflict, fought with lumps of rock, bone, and bare hands. Social groups would line up against other social groups, essentially rap battle for a time, and then go at it.

After a while, as tools developed, tactics changed. Armour became preferable. Shields would be carried, swords used. This changed warfare a great deal, because now, with tactical accumen, a canny commander could see to the death of his enemies and the protection of his forces, by keeping his battle line in good shape, by forming shield walls to draw the enemy in, where their numbers would count for less than they might otherwise. This particular facet formed the basis of the hundreds and hundreds of years of combat to follow. The Vikings, Romans, Celts, even the Picts took a page from that book, when forming close in battle strategy, to varying degrees. Little wonder then, that tactics at the unit level involved men in a group, moving forward in ranks.

You see, war used to be fought in such a way, that in many cases two opposing sides would have full view of the other sides entire force, before the battle commenced. They would line up, they would form up, and only once the battle was joined proper, would the possibility of a random melee come up.

And so it was right up until the development of the musket. Things changed quite a bit at that point. But not too terribly much. The low fire rate of muskets and flintlocks, meant that it was still a legitimate tactic, to try and approach a firing line to get to proper grips with it, using sabres, or bayonets. Those trying to suggest that muskets and other early firearms cannot have been all that inaccurate, because they were used for hunting, may have forgotten a couple of key points. First, hunting is not war. If you miss game in the woods, it does not try to shoot you back. Second, hunting with a bow was actually much easier at the time, because the speed at which one could loose a second arrow was greater, than the speed with which one could loose a second ball round. Third, hunters with muskets approached their prey EXTREMELY closely, when compared to modern hunters using more advanced equipment.

For example, it is said that at one point, during some sort of training routine, two companies of Prussian Grenadiers lined up to fire at a target ten paces across, by ten feet high. At a distance of three hundred paces away, they only managed an accuracy of 12.5%. French Infantry also provide an example of firing tests which show the weakness of the smoothbore musket (the more prevalent weapon at the time). 720 of them lined up to fire at a three meter target, at a distance of about one hundred meters. 52 out of 720 of them hit the target. When the target was further out, at two hundred meters, only 18 shots hit it. Because of their slow rate of fire, and by modern standards, appalling low accuracy, it was important to have ranks of men, operating in cycles, firing, moving to the rear to reload, being covered by the man behind, who would fire, then move to the rear to reload, and so on and so forth. The ideal circumstance would be, that your firing line would be deep enough that there need be no extensive gap between one man firing and moving to the rear of the line, and another man firing right afterward. This tactic meant that fire could be sustained, providing a given firing line with both the attack power to potentially devastate an opposing force by weight of fire, and offer suppressing fire in the event of an assault on a held position, allowing more mobile elements to flank a pinned opponent.

The outfits worn at the time were largely irrelevant, because units did not move quickly, bogged down as they were by the necessities of musket combat, the constant need to reload, stay in some sort of formation, and so on. They did not use asymmetric warfare tactics, rarely was camo used to the greatest possible effect, war simply did not require it. You have to remember, that during this era, there were still certain cadres of officer who would actually meet an opponent and duel them with sabres or rapiers in some cases, men who fought according to the duelists code for the most part. It was a different business back then entirely, although many aspects were alike, the death, the fatigue, the traumatic stress, and so on. But the actual motivation and methodology could not have been more different.

It was only during the first world war that many of the things we find familiar about warfare today, first really came into being. The tendency to wear muted colours to make it difficult to be seen, advances in firearms, advances in artillery, armour and tactics to keep up with the improvements in accuracy and efficiency of weaponry...

These days one serviceperson can carry enough ammunition, weaponry accurate enough, to do the work of ten men of the Napoleonic era, in terms of their ability to lay down fire into an enemy position. For that reason, combat tactics have developed, units have to be hyper mobile, ready to move under fire while returning it... Put another way, with the long guns of yesteryear, four rounds in six minutes could be fired, inaccurately over distances of up to three hundred paces. Nowadays there are long guns which can unload ten rounds in ten seconds or less, with such accuracy that a man might kill reliably at distances in excess of a thousand yards.

Tactics change as technology does.

posted on Dec, 15 2016 @ 08:39 AM
I am sorry to do this but I have to correct you on a very common misconception that is in no way your fault. The soldiers at Rourke's Drift were mostly from the 24th of Foot (The Shropshire Light Infantry). Like many British Army regiments of the time it contained a percentage of Welshman but it was not an entirely Welsh regiment. The Hollywood interpretation where the soldiers sang Men of Harlech like a Welsh male voice choir is a heavily romanticised one. reply to: LABTECH767

posted on Dec, 15 2016 @ 10:17 AM
a reply to: JoshuaCox

I think that it used to be considered the 'gentleman's way' of fighting--guerrilla-style warfare and secretive attacks was considered a cowardly way to fight.

At least, that's what I understand as the reasoning behind it...kind of like they were dueling, but en masse.

posted on Dec, 15 2016 @ 01:04 PM

originally posted by: CulturalResilience
I am sorry to do this but I have to correct you on a very common misconception that is in no way your fault. The soldiers at Rourke's Drift were mostly from the 24th of Foot (The Shropshire Light Infantry). Like many British Army regiments of the time it contained a percentage of Welshman but it was not an entirely Welsh regiment. The Hollywood interpretation where the soldiers sang Men of Harlech like a Welsh male voice choir is a heavily romanticised one. reply to: LABTECH767

That's fine, my mistake and one that is flavoured by the movie more than anything else so spot on observation there (made me chuckle at your insight you read me like a book), thank's for the information and to be honest regimental history is definitely not my thing, shame on me as I have a great many ancestor's in the british army as far back as I can go from the Maori war's to the second world war on both ancestral line's and actually on both side's of some of the conflict's (not WW2 or WW1 though definitely British on them.

There are a lot of people whom read thread's like this to broaden there knowledge so you have done a duty to correct an error and one that enriches the thread and fixes the mistake's for those that take it on board so that they then will not reciprocate them so thank you and it is much appreciated.

edit on 15-12-2016 by LABTECH767 because: (no reason given)

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