Famous last stands/defences of the 19th century using black powder arms


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elhombreconnonombre
August 1, 2014, 05:34 AM
I have been doing some research on this topic and have a few obvious ones to get the ball rolling:
1. The Battle of the Alamo-1836
1800-4000 Mexican troops-Brown Bess muskets, Baker Rifles and Carbines, and British dragoon pistols from Napoleanic War British war surplus

150-250 Texian volunteers-Brown Bess muskets and Baker Rifles liberated from the Mexicans at the Alamo arsenal in 1835, various flintlock Kentucky/Pennslyvania rifles, sxs shotguns, and single shot pistols.

2. The Battle of Blood River-1838 in Natal, Africa
500 Wagon and horse mounted Boer commando Trekkers-various flintlock European muskets and single shot pistols, cannon in a heavily defended Trekker wagon laggar

10000 Zulus-not likely armed with firearms but white traders did sell arms during this time period.

3. The Battle of Cameron Hacienda-1863
62 French Foreign Legionaires-1853/1857 French muskets, the 3 officers likely had cb pistols
purchased privately.

2000 Mexican troops-likely arms left over from the Mexican War; Brown Bess muskets, smoothbore escopetas, etc.

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Carl N. Brown
August 1, 2014, 07:20 AM
Do we stick with muzzleloading black powder arms or include black powder cartridge arms? Black powder cartridge would include Custer's Last Stand and the defense of the mission at Rourke's Drift in the Zulu war.

Crawdad1
August 1, 2014, 09:18 AM
The Alamo, what IF, a few Patersons were there???

elhombreconnonombre
August 1, 2014, 09:20 AM
Black powder of course, including cartidge arms. Im no expert on either of these two engagements. Care to try for numbers of defenders and opponents and their arms?
You could also add the British disaster at Islanwhanda (sic) the same day as RD.

elhombreconnonombre
August 1, 2014, 09:36 AM
Forget the Patterson's. Travis had the Mexicans outgunned big time with artillery, but not enough of proper sized shot or shell. There was plenty of shot and nails for grape loads for take care of a direct assault at close range, but the defenders were asleep when the Mexicans attacked. The early warning sentries were killed early and couldn't sound the alarm. The 18 pounder was being turned around and loaded with grape to take out the Mexicans that had come over the north wall when Morales's Cazadores climbed the sw wall and took out the 18 pounder gun crew. The Texians then abandoned their other cannons within the walls, only to have their cannon used on them by the Mexicans, when they took refuge in the low barracks. Dickensons battery was the last battery to fall where it was firing in support of the 100-150 defenders that went over the south wall trying to make it to the Gonzales Road to the south. Sesmas lancers cut these defenders down to a man just a hundred or so yards from the walls. I guess all the horses in Travis's cavalry unit and the horses of the Gonzales Rangers had all been killed in the daily cannonade of the Mexican guns, but I've never seen any mention of this in the Alamo histories.

zimmerstutzen
August 1, 2014, 10:26 AM
The Anglo-Zulu war had several interesting battles. At Islandwana most of a British command was wiped out by a surprise attack, while the Commander Lord Chelmsford was out looking for Zulus. 4,000 Zulus attacked Rourkes Drift later that morning and were held off by 128 British soldiers under the command of an Engineer, John R S Chard, and his junior, by one month, Gonville Bromhead.

Adobe Walls

The Wagon Box fight First US Army engagement with 50-70 Trapdoor cartridge guns. (But the scouts had lever guns)

Khartoum

The Battle of Balaclava (Charge of the Light Brigade) A comedy of errors that led to snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Kings Mountain, Ferguson's last stand

Fort Necessity

Mountain Meadows

I can't remember the name, but there was a Mexican Military installation/citadel manned by cadets that was attacked by the US army during the Mexican-American war. IIRC correctly, the cadets were slaughtered to the last.

elhombreconnonombre
August 1, 2014, 10:47 AM
Los Ninos at Chapultapec Military Academy decided to jump from the walls committing suicide rather than surrender to Scotts forces. That must have been some moral delimma for those Catholic lads.

zimmerstutzen
August 1, 2014, 02:23 PM
Thanks, I could not remember the facts about the Mexican citadel. Hadn't read about it since I was in High School. It was one of those "haunted history" stories that only sort of stuck with me.,

In the Mexican American war there was this military thing about flying flags that meant "no quarter." And of course flying the flag was intended as giving no quarter and expecting none if defeated. There was something about those flags in several battles in Mexico.

Malamute
August 1, 2014, 03:28 PM
The Wagon Box fight First US Army engagement with 50-70 Trapdoor cartridge guns. (But the scouts had lever guns)


Did they have 50-70's, or did they have the 58 rimfires?

There was an interesting account of that fight in the book "Firearms of the American West" by Garavaglia and Worman. The two civilian scouts that were present with their Henry rifles were discussed in some detail. If I recall correctly, they had 1000 rds of ammo between them, and kept up a fairly constant fire for several hours. I believe it was commented by others (either present or contemporaries of them) that those two men had likely killed more Indians in that short of time period than had ever happened in the West.

Beechers Island was another interesting fight, if I missed it being mentioned.

elhombreconnonombre
August 1, 2014, 03:54 PM
It staggers the mind regarding casualties suffered by attackers during these engagements.e.g at the Alamo perhaps 1,000 Mexicans were killed and wounded. At Blood River, 3000 Zulu were dead on the battlefield. At the Drift 400 Zulu were found dead, likely hundreds were carried from the battlefield with devestating mortal wounds from the massive Martini Henry round.

4v50 Gary
August 1, 2014, 04:33 PM
Beecher's Island in Colorado doesn't count. They survived.

Waterloo - to cover the retreat, a French Imperial guard formation formed a square. They were surrounded by British who brought in cannon. When called upon to surrender, the "romantic" version is the French gallantly replied, "The Guard dies, but never surrenders." The real version has the reply, "Merde!" Also check out some of the sieges in Spain. The sacking of Badajoz comes to mind. Tradition is that if the defender refuses to surrender, then the victor cannot be held responsible for the unnecessary effusion of blood; which meant they could slaughter the defenders and sack the city.
No Love for Little Big Horn? (Two scoped rifles were there among Reno/Benteen's battalinos).
Fetterman's Massacre (Chap. 14 of my book).
Khartom - Gen. "China" Gordon gets wiped out. Opps.
Cawnpore Massacre. During a Sepoy Mutiny, the British at Cawnpore surrendered on the promise of safe passage. That didn't happen.
British Retreat from Afghanistan. Huge British column annihilated. Only a surgeon survived the trip back to India.
Massacre of defenders of Fort St. Elmo. Siege of Malta in 1565. Fort St. Elmo falls and the survivors were massacred afterward.

Less relevant because of the time frame but there are plenty of examples during the French & Indian Wars.

During the 19th Cent. frontier era (Sand Creek Massacre, Massacre at Wounded Knee, etc.) of this nation. Also look up all the frontier forts that fell during Pontiac's Rebellion.

zimmerstutzen
August 1, 2014, 04:37 PM
Malamute. Intersting. An account I read indicated it was the 50-70, but it may well have been the rim fire given the time. One of the things in common between the Wagon Box fight and Rourkes drift was the tendency of the cartridges to jam in the dirty chambers after 5 or 6 rounds. The soldiers were troubled by trying to clean the chambers every few shots.

zimmerstutzen
August 1, 2014, 04:47 PM
According to the Wikipedia article it was newly issued model 1866 Springfield's. The 1866 would have been 50-70 centerfire.

Malamute
August 1, 2014, 05:10 PM
Beecher's Island in Colorado doesn't count. They survived.


The Wagon Box defenders survived also, for the most part, as did 2/3 of the forces at the Little Big Horn.


One of the things in common between the Wagon Box fight and Rourkes drift was the tendency of the cartridges to jam in the dirty chambers after 5 or 6 rounds. The soldiers were troubled by trying to clean the chambers every few shots.

Yes, the early cartridges they were using were folded head cases with inside primers. The rims weren't solid like modern cases, or even some commercial cases of the period, they were like rimfire cases. I believe that once they abandoned the folded head copper cases, the shells extractors tearing through rims and leaving shells in the chambers pretty well stopped.

4v50 Gary
August 1, 2014, 05:16 PM
Major Dade's Massacre in Florida by the Seminoles (chap 4). OK, there were two survivors who snuck away.

BTW, I know the Italians had their arses handed to them when they tried to take Ethiopia in the 19th Century. Some did get away, but what an embarrassment for a European power to be defeated by spear armed soldiers.

Jim K
August 1, 2014, 09:43 PM
Patersons at the Alamo? Not likely; the patent was not issued until two days after the battle began.

But Brown Bess muskets at the Alamo are also unlikely. "Brown Bess" is not a generic term for a flintlock musket; it is a specific name for a series of .75 caliber British flintlock muskets which would have been scarce in the U.S. in any case and thoroughly obsolete by 1836. U.S. Model 1808, 1812 or 1816 muskets and clones made for use by the militia would have been more likely. Model 1795's were available but would have been hard used and considered old fashioned. Hall rifles could have been around, but the odd caliber would have made them less desirable for a military force.

Jim

4v50 Gary
August 2, 2014, 06:12 AM
The Mexican Army at the Alamo was equipped with Brown Bess as well as Baker rifles. Post-Napoleonic wars England had a surplus of guns. What better way to dispose of them but to sell them to a foreign power? I also found out the Mexican Baker armed riflemen had only four bullets each and were detailed to carry the ladders.

zimmerstutzen
August 2, 2014, 11:34 AM
Re the brown bess's. Remember that some units at the start of the ACW were so hard up for arms that they were issued flintlocks. Not much stretch to believe bess's were still in use in the 1830's.

Shanghai McCoy
August 2, 2014, 02:05 PM
How about the Fetterman massacre ?
(Bet ya can't guess who lost..?)

WestKentucky
August 2, 2014, 02:29 PM
Surprising that basically nothing has come up of the ACW or early wars of the US as they seem to be fairly well documented. I'm no historian but I seem to remember a few slaughters from the history books.

4v50 Gary
August 2, 2014, 03:20 PM
Since the Civil War was mentioned, perhaps the most famous "massacre" is the Fort Pillow massacre. There were survivors and the issue isn't whether it happened but the culpability of the commanding general. Of course, there's always Bloody Kansas and the burning of Lawrence. Both these are distasteful as they were Americans killing their fellow Americans.

Let's not stray off topic and this is better covered at http://www.civilwartalk.com That's a good forum for Civil War related topics (and I'm a member there too).

elhombreconnonombre
August 2, 2014, 03:26 PM
Plus there is the story that the Mexican soldiers, if they could not let their officers see, would not load a full charge of powder due to the recoil of the Bessies. If they fired a full charge from the shoulder some would flinch, missing their mark completely. Also Mexican bp was reportly of very poor quality, particularly during the Mexican War.
To the vanquished I guess we could add the Mexican unit that came up against Jeff Davis's Mississippi Rifles at Buena Vista, I believe.

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