[extropy-chat] Century City cancelled

Stephen J. Van Sickle sjvans at ameritech.net
Mon Apr 5 22:13:15 UTC 2004

On Sun, 2004-04-04 at 23:39, Adrian Tymes wrote:

> Kind of like a
> British armchair general of ~1750 reading military
> fiction, totally uninterested in soldiers who shoot
> from cover instead of marching and firing in
> gentlemanly exposed ranks.

Ah.  Pushed on of my buttons.

18th century generals did not fight in marching ranks because it was
"gentlemanly", but because it worked.  Given the hideous accuracy and
slow firing rate of muzzle loading muskets, the massed fire and rapid
rate of fire as ranks moved forward would eat alive anyone who tried to
fire from cover, as the massed formation breaks through to their rear,
encircles and slaughters them in detail.  The massed formations also had
another important advantage:  it was much, *much* more difficult for the
men to cut and run when the firing started.  The old saying was quite
true, a rational army *would* run, which is why a rational general
arranged things so as to make it more dangerous to run than to fight. 
Hence the invention of military police to patrol the rear area and shoot
deserters, and the origin of the expression "burning your bridges behind

These tactics were developed by Maurice of Nassau:
and were extremely effective until the development of breach loading
rifles (i.e. roughly towards the end of the American Civil War).  It
certainly took from then until the end of the First World War to work
out the implications of rapid and accurate fire.

Much is made of rifles and firing from cover in the American Revolution,
but the muzzle loading rifles of the day had a much lower rate of fire
than the conventional muskets and their acvantages are much overrated. 
Low rate of fire is fine for hunting (where accuracy counts as well),
but death on the battle field.  When Washington took over the
Continental army, he made sure everyone got Brown Bess muskets instead
of rifles, and with good reason.  The Revolution was won (barely) by
conventional tactics taught by French "military advisers".


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