Open-Field Tactics in the American Revolution
An interesting fact that I had taken from Chuck Dixon
One quick primer on the importance of guns in American history—
Lots of folks talk about how the colonists won out against the Brits by hiding behind trees and rocks and such. Not so. There were lots of set piece European style battles. The kind the Brits were trained for.But the Americans had two advantages in open field, rank and file fighting.
The first was the rifled barrel. American’ firearms had a groove inside the barrel that would spin the ball when fired and give it greater range and accuracy. The Brits had smoothbore muskets that were inferior in accuracy and range. They actually relied more on the bayonet for the real work if killing. The trick for the Americans was to drop as many Brits as they could in the first two volleys and then withdraw out of bayonet range while reloading.
The other major difference is the one hardly anyone talks about. The standard British firing line was three ranks of men. This was to keep up a steady stream of fire to make up for the lack of accuracy. A volley every ten seconds as each rank took twenty to thirty seconds to load a Brown Bess.
The Americans had less men and were forced to form only two ranks so as to spread their front line out and prevent flanking.
This actually provided the rebels with an advantage. Firing into a dense formation of three rows of men made misses nearly impossible. The side of a barn indeed. And with the more powerful Lancaster rifle many balls took out more than one Brit. The British never figured this one out and continued the three rank firing line until, years later, the Duke of Wellington, in studying the tactics of American rebels, decided to try the two rank firing line against Napoleon whose Grand Armee was still on the three rank model. We all know how that turned out.
I had never imagined George Washington ducking around trees and under and over rocks and such. In fact I never heard of him engaging in guerilla tactics or leading such a battle.
source IP: 22.214.171.124 Posted on July 11, 2004 at 11:41:05 AM