Friday, December 21, 2012

Musketry Effectiveness on the Early Nineteenth Century Battlefield - Part 3



Battle of Maida in 28mm

Simulation I: Firing Begins at 300 Yards
Input Parameters for Simulation: Table 2
Exceptions: None. 

As a baseline scenario, the defender will begin firing upon the advancing attacker at 300 yards and continue firing until either the attacker is destroyed or the attacker reaches the defender. The distance of 300 yards was selected since officers rarely advocated beginning volley fire beyond this range. Simulation using the input parameters listed in Table 2 with 10,000 trials yielded the following results in Table 3: Simulation I Summary Statistics
Table 3: Simulation I Summary Statistics 

With the defender commencing volley fire at 300 yards, in no case was the attacker destroyed before reaching the defender. At the 50th percentile, the defender fired 7 volleys into the oncoming attacker inflicting about 50 casualties. In half of the trials, the defender was firing a volley roughly every 30 seconds with, on average, 14 misfires per volley. For the defenders, smoke reduced visibility by roughly 50%. Distribution graphs for select simulation results follow.






Simulation II: Firing Begins at 100 Yards
Input Parameters for Simulation: Table 2
Exceptions: Distance At First Volley = 100 yards. 

For Simulation II, the initial volley was delivered at 100 yards rather than at 300 yards. All input parameters remain as in Simulation I with this exception. Simulation with 10,000 trials yielded the results in Table 4: Simulation II Summary Statistics

Table 4: Simulation II Summary Statistics 

With the defender withholding fire until the attacker approaches within 100 yards, simulation produced no trial where the attacker was completely eliminated in the advance. The casualties, on average were higher in Simulation II even though firing began much later and the number of volleys delivered was less than half the number of volleys delivered in Simulation I. Again, the defender managed to sustain a fire rate of one volley every 30 seconds but in the simulation, only two or three volleys were fired before contact. At the 50th percentile, the defender's three volleys produced about 62 casualties. These 62 casualties equate to a 24% increase in casualties over Simulation I. In one-half of the trials, smoke reduced visibility 38% rather than the near 50% from the baseline simulation.

Examining the casualties per volley data more closely reveals that Simulation I requires five volleys before exceeding the average number of casualties produced by the initial volley in Simulation II. Distribution graphs for select simulation results follow.








Simulation III: First Volley Distance – Sensitivity Analysis 
Input Parameters for Simulation: Table 2 
Exceptions: Distance At First Volley varies between 50-300 yards. 

To study the sensitivity of the defender's ability to inflict casualties, the distance of the initial (first) volley was varied. In Simulation III, the initial volley distances were parameterized to take on values of between 50 and 300 yards at 25 yard increments. All input parameters remain as in Simulation I with this exception. Simulation with 10,000 trials at each initial volley range yielded the 50th and 90th percentile results as show in Figure 14: Attacker Casualties by First Volley Distance

Figure 14: Attacker Casualties By First Volley Distance 

The results of Simulation III clearly illustrate that an optimal firing doctrine can be identified. From Figure 14, if the defender begins firing too soon, the accumulation of smoke and misfires decrease the overall casualty rates. Casualties levels at both the 50th and 90th percentile demonstrate a marked drop in total casualties when firing begins beyond 225 yards.

If the first volley is withheld until the attacker is within 100 yards, fewer casualties are inflicted upon the attacker. Given the assumptions of this study, simulation results identify that the first volley should be delivered between 125-200 yards to maximize casualties. This analysis is supported by Clausewitz who placed the effective range of musketry at 150-200 yards.(1) 

Simulation IV: Battle of Maida

Input Parameters for Simulation: Table 2 
Exceptions: Distance At First Volley 100 yards. 
Number of Firing Muskets = 730 
Number of Attackers = 1680 

The final simulation examines results from the Battle of Maida in 1806 as a validation of the Musketry Effectiveness Model. The Battle of Maida was fought between the British and French in southern Italy between two relatively small forces. Of interest to the simulation is the crucial portion of the battle pitting the attack of the French 1st Legere Regiment (1,680 men) against Kempt's British Light Infantry battalion (730 men). Kempt's Light Infantry were supported by two British four-pound cannons. As the French advanced, they came under fire from the British guns at about 650 yards. This artillery fire was maintained until the Light Infantry fired its first volley as the French reached about 100 yards distance. During the artillery bombardment, French casualties could be expected to total 200-220 men.(2) 

At 100 yards, Kempt opened fire delivering a withering volley. As the French continued, Kempt delivered a second volley at close range. The second volley caused the French to break-off their attack and retreat. As the French broke, Kempt's Light Infantry charged the now panic-stricken 1st Legere. In the ensuing pursuit, British claim inflicting an additional 300 casualties.(3) British estimates suggest that the 1st Legere may have suffered as many as 900 casualties in the attack. The French claim far fewer. If the 200 casualties from artillery fire and the 300 casualties in pursuit are subtracted from the British claim of 900 French casualties then roughly 400 casualties were sustained due to musket fire. Simulation IV takes the parameters from this action to validate the model.

Results of Simulation IV show that on average about 450 casualties can be expected as illustrated in Figure 15: Attacker Casualties Maida – Freitag II Curve



Figure 15: Attacker Casualties Maida – Freitag II Curve 

The 400 French musket casualties derived from anecdotal accounts represent roughly the 30th percentile of casualties simulated by the model. While the model produces a mean casualty count greater than the reported 400 musket casualties, the simulation results contain casualty-counts for more than the two volleys reportedly delivered by Kempt. Still, the simulation can produce historical results. Figure 16: Number of Volleys – Freitag II Curve illustrates the average number of volleys fired in the Maida simulation.




From these four simulations, three conclusions can be inferred. One, an attacker is not likely to be destroyed by musketry fire when advancing upon an enemy that is of equal size. Two, the distance at which a defender chooses to begin firing upon an advancing attacker matters. And, three, the modeled, Musketry Effectiveness Curves produce historically plausible results. 

Battlefield smoke, musket misfires, rates of volley fire, and confusion on the battlefield, all contribute to the assertion that the first volley was the most deadly when delivered at medium range and should be withheld until the most opportune moment. While this empirical study points toward optimal battlefield doctrine, historical and anecdotal evidence shows that maintaining the discipline necessary to withhold fire until the most advantageous moment was difficult at best and impossible at worst.

Psychology on the battlefield likely played an important (and difficult to quantify) role to maintaining this discipline. Several of the intangible factors that increase the difficulty of choosing the optimal moment to begin firing not included in this analysis are: Training and experience of the defenders, leadership of the officers, the ability to execute the firing routine under chaotic conditions, and the anxiety and tension of watching an attacker bear down on the defender's position.



Lights skirmish in scrub
Footnotes:

  1. Muir, p. 81. 
  2. Hopton, The Battle of Maida 1806, Fifteen Minutes of Glory, p. 133. 
  3. Hopton, p. 122.


Select Bibliography:
Hopton, Richard, The Battle of Maida 1806, Fifteen Minutes of Glory, Leo Cooper, South Yorkshire, 2002.
Muir, Rory, Tactics and the Experience of Battle in the Age of Napoleon, Yale University Press, London, 1998.
Nafziger, G.F., A Guide to Napoleonic Warfare, Privately published.
Nosworthy, Brent, Battle Tactics of Napoleon and His Enemies, Constable, London, 1995.
Rothenberg, Gunter E., The Art of Warfare in the Age of Napoleon, Indian University Press, Bloomington, 1980.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...