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Two balls in the musket

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  • Two balls in the musket

    I've been reading about the Battle of the Plains of Abraham and have learnt that Wolfe ordered his men to charge two balls in their muskets for the battle. As you know, the British volley in that battle was devastating, and I was wondering if this tactic was ever used again during the era.

    Thank you.

  • #2
    Plains of Abraham

    I think I remember reading about a prolonged firefight on the right side of the French line.
    And the British suffered about the same number of casualties, so I suspect the devastating volley may not have been quite what happened.

    Cliff

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    • #3
      Thanks for replying.

      The French did rout though after the British volley, didn't they?

      I think the relatively same number of casualties on both sides wasn't due to the volleys they exchanged on the actual battlefield. I think it was due to the disproportionate number of Britons (mainly the Scots, if I recall correctly) getting hit by the French and Indian militia units covering the French retreat into Quebec as they pursued the retreating French. I may be wrong, though, since I must admit I haven't read much on this battle or the French and Indian War except on wikipedia.

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      • #4
        American troops in both the Revolution and War of 1812 commonly used the highly effective "buck and ball" load of a single musket ball along with several buckshot of about .38 caliber size against British troops.
        "Profanity is but a linguistic crutch for illiterate motherbleepers"

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        • #5
          Originally posted by johnbryan View Post
          American troops in both the Revolution and War of 1812 commonly used the highly effective "buck and ball" load of a single musket ball along with several buckshot of about .38 caliber size against British troops.
          Russian troops also used similar "buck and ball" in 18th, 19th century.

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          • #6
            Certainly both the British and American navies of the period routinely "double-shotted" their cannon for the first broadside. It would make sense that it was applied to the smooth-bored Brown Bess.
            Will no one tell me what she sings?--
            Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
            For old, unhappy, far-off things,
            And battles long ago:
            -William Wordsworth, "The Solitary Reaper"

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            • #7
              Here is something that may be of interest.



              Mike Chappell goes on to say that "no evidence exists of multiple-shot ammunition being tested or used within the British army other than that of the Royal Artillery". This pertains to the Napoleonic war.

              Paul
              Last edited by Dibble201Bty; 06 Dec 12, 02:47.
              ‘Tis said his form is tiny, yet
              All human ills he can subdue,
              Or with a bauble or medal
              Can win mans heart for you;
              And many a blessing know to stew
              To make a megloamaniac bright;
              Give honour to the dainty Corse,
              The Pixie is a little shite.

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              • #8
                It was used again, but probably not on purpose.

                Recovery parties that collected the weapons of dead and wounded soldiers of the American Civil War discovered that many weapons had three, four or more loads of balls and powder in their chambers

                This was because some soldiers were in such a state of panic they would repeatedly load their weapons but forget the caps. When the command to fire was given, they would pull the trigger but, in the chaos and noise of platoon firing, not realize their own weapons wasn't firing. They would go through the automatic motions again and again. The real danger was of course that if they finally got it right, a weapon with 3 or 4 loads of powder and ammo in the barrel would explode with devastating results.

                "Artillery adds dignity to what would otherwise be a ugly brawl."
                --Frederick II, King of Prussia

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                • #9
                  There are lots of accounts, as MZ notes, of multiple loadings, particularly by non-professional troops (like in the ACW).

                  As for doubleshotting a musket, I see no reason for or against it, other than it takes more time, and you have to have loose balls or special cartridges made....or throw away the powder of one cartridge to do it.

                  As for the buck-n-ball loads, again, at the start of a battle it really makes no difference since you had time before to load it. However, one of the reasons that it might not have caught on with the Brits is that it is a more complex (hence expensive) cartridge to make, it takes up more space in the cartridge box (hence fewer carried), and it takes more time to load than a normal cartridge. All of that combined really does make it more efficient to use normal ball cartridges. The US fielded much smaller formations than did the Brits, and typically in looser formations due to terrain concerns or their smaller size. Therefore buck-n-ball could have been seen as a way for a thinner line of men to give a similar effectiveness of fire as a thicker line, making up somewhat for the smaller number of pieces by a heavier weight per piece. If you look at battles the US had pre ACW, you also see that they were typically short and sharp affairs, with a small number of volleys. Until the ACW you rarely see US units (Mexican war, 1812, etc.) going ball for ball in battalion lines of battle for an extended period of time. The smaller and less professional armed forces were more of a fire a volley or two and then either they run or you do or we go to close combat sort of group. Buckshot would be devastating in that type of warfare, where it would inordinately slow down the classic Napoleonic style of platoon and company volleys crashing back and forth until a unit breaks.
                  Tacitos, Satrap of Kyrene

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by TacCovert4 View Post
                    There are lots of accounts, as MZ notes, of multiple loadings, particularly by non-professional troops (like in the ACW).

                    As for doubleshotting a musket, I see no reason for or against it, other than it takes more time, and you have to have loose balls or special cartridges made....or throw away the powder of one cartridge to do it.

                    As for the buck-n-ball loads, again, at the start of a battle it really makes no difference since you had time before to load it. However, one of the reasons that it might not have caught on with the Brits is that it is a more complex (hence expensive) cartridge to make, it takes up more space in the cartridge box (hence fewer carried), and it takes more time to load than a normal cartridge. All of that combined really does make it more efficient to use normal ball cartridges. The US fielded much smaller formations than did the Brits, and typically in looser formations due to terrain concerns or their smaller size. Therefore buck-n-ball could have been seen as a way for a thinner line of men to give a similar effectiveness of fire as a thicker line, making up somewhat for the smaller number of pieces by a heavier weight per piece. If you look at battles the US had pre ACW, you also see that they were typically short and sharp affairs, with a small number of volleys. Until the ACW you rarely see US units (Mexican war, 1812, etc.) going ball for ball in battalion lines of battle for an extended period of time. The smaller and less professional armed forces were more of a fire a volley or two and then either they run or you do or we go to close combat sort of group. Buckshot would be devastating in that type of warfare, where it would inordinately slow down the classic Napoleonic style of platoon and company volleys crashing back and forth until a unit breaks.
                    Actual preparation and construction of a buck and ball cartridge takes no more time than using a single ball, nor does it take up much additional space in a cartridge box, as the diagram shows. Likewise, loading time would be the same, because you never remove the ball or buck shot from the paper cartridge during the loading process. As soon as the musket's pan is primed and the barrel loaded with gunpowder, the cartridge paper, ball and buckshot are rammed down the barrel and seated with the ram rod. Buck and ball loads proved devestatingly effective against tight, marching formations of British soldiers using linear tactics. As many as three enemy soldiers could potentially be killed or wounded by the discharge of a single musket. Granted, .38 caliber sized buckshot would not have the same terminal shock and wound value as a .69 caliber ball, but they could still make a post-battle trip to the surgeon a virtual certainty.
                    "Profanity is but a linguistic crutch for illiterate motherbleepers"

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by johnbryan View Post
                      American troops in both the Revolution and War of 1812 commonly used the highly effective "buck and ball" load of a single musket ball along with several buckshot of about .38 caliber size against British troops.
                      The British did not consider "buck and ball" to be that effective, any ammo of this type captured was normally given to their Native Indian allies.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by redcoat View Post
                        The British did not consider "buck and ball" to be that effective, any ammo of this type captured was normally given to their Native Indian allies.
                        If using a "buck and ball" load wasn't considered to be effective by the Americans, it wouldn't have been used, nor continued. Besides, an American 69 caliber ball didn't fit tightly into a British 75 caliber, India Pattern Brown Bess musket if it originated from captured US ammunition stores.
                        "Profanity is but a linguistic crutch for illiterate motherbleepers"

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by johnbryan View Post
                          If using a "buck and ball" load wasn't considered to be effective by the Americans, it wouldn't have been used, nor continued.

                          By that same logic rifles were not effective as the US army discontinued there rifle regiments after the war of 1812.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by johnbryan View Post
                            If using a "buck and ball" load wasn't considered to be effective by the Americans, it wouldn't have been used, nor continued. .
                            I didn't say that the Americans didn't consider it effective. As Donald R. Hickey points out in in his book, Don't Give Up The Ship ! Myths Of The War Of 1812, it was the British who didn't consider it effective, as it greatly reduced the accuracy of aimed fire and the lethality of the projectiles, most British soldiers regarded buckshot as a mere annoyance.

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