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Brown Bess vs Charleville Musket

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by Mikee Loxxer, May 11, 2006.

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  1. Mikee Loxxer

    Mikee Loxxer Member

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    Which one would you carry into battle and why?:neener:
     
  2. Vern Humphrey

    Vern Humphrey Member

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    Charleville.

    The Brown Bess had a gooseneck cock, while the Charleville had a double-throated cock. The Charleville was much stronger in this regard -- breaking the cock means the flint parts company with the gun.

    The Brown Bess had a pinned barrel -- the barrel was held to the stock with tabs dovetailed into the bottom of the barrel, and a hole was drilled through stock and tabs and pins inserted. Not a very strong method for weapon designed for hand-to-hand fighting. The Charleville had a banded barrel -- the barrel was held to the stock with steel bands passing around barrel and stock.

    The Charleville also had a friction ring on the bayonet, which made it a more secure attachment.

    The American Army, with combat experience with both Brown Besses and Charlevilles chose to copy the Charleville for our first official musket, the M1795.
     
  3. BigG

    BigG Member

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    I guess Vern said it, but the Brown Bess is a mean club and throws a 0.75" hunk o' lead that is just plain scary to look at. :eek:
     
  4. Jim K

    Jim K Member

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    The .69 caliber French and U.S. muskets weren't exactly small bore.

    I agree with Vern that, overall, the Charleville was better than the Brown Bess.

    Jim
     
  5. mustanger98

    mustanger98 Member

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    And regarding a .75" and .69" ball in a musket, I recall reading that some soldiers and militiamen molding their own ball would put a nail through the ball to inflict a nastier wound on top of the already large diameter ball's energy transfer on impact.

    Regarding the Charleville/M1795's barrel being banded to the stock, I take it that was before they knew about free-floating barrels and the better accuracy of a rifle in the infantry role. They had the most unsound tactics at the time lining up and firing volleys from close range as they did. From what I can tell, the idea was to whittle down both sides with volley fire and then fix bayonets. All this while "gentlemen" officers would play the war like a game with the men under their command thought of as expendable pawns.:barf: But the Charleville would certainly be suited to the problems it faced. And if the individual soldier ran out of ammo and/or last is bayonet, he could always swing his musket as a club and since he didn't have ammo, he wouldn't be worried about breaking the stock which could be replaced later.

    Slightly different direction with this discussion, but I recall reading some about the Brown Bess once... they said there was a force of Redcoats that engaged a force of Virginia riflemen (armed with Pennsylvania long rifles and equivalent). I understood the Brits shredded the Virginians that day on volume of fire alone. The long rifles just took too long to reload compared to a musket. But other than that, in some respects like how barrels and stocks were fitted and fastened together, the Virginia rifles and Brown Bess muskets seem to me to be about even. But the rifles were better suited to guerrilla tactics and their equivelent of the sniper role.

    I'd be interested to know whether the long rifles of the Appalachians had the Brown Bess type cock or the Charleville type. Or maybe a mix of both depending on the experience of a rifle's maker.
     
  6. JNewell

    JNewell Member

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    Not so. The tactics were dictated by the weapons and in fact exploited the strengths of the weapons. Tactics became unsound later when rifled muskets (not rifles, btw) extended the range of the infantry shoulder weapon several-fold. Smoothbore muskets are generally not reliably or usefully accurate beyond ~75 yards. I can make them shoot better by using a tighter ball and a patch, but it's well documented that the infantry were issued substantially undersized balls to avoid hindering reloads after fouling had built up in the bore.

    As far as free floating barrels went, that's never been a military focus. The 1903 was fully bedded, generally with a pressure pad in the forearm IIRC. Look at things like bayonet lugs, etc. There are too many things attached to or in contact with the barrel to get much mileage out of free-floating the barrel.
     
  7. hillbilly

    hillbilly Member

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    Previous post is spot on.

    The tactics were not unsound at all.

    Remember, this is before radio communications, or even bullhorns.

    You cannot control and manuever a body of men back in those days unless you have them all in a tight bunch or single rank.

    Especially once loud shooting and thick clouds of blackpowder smoke fills the air. If the men aren't all together, they can't hear or see commands and instructions.

    Also, the muskets are so wildly inaccurate that only volley fire is effective at all. One musket man is essentially useless by himself. But a rank of 50, with two more ranks of 50 behind them...now you can do something with that force.

    These tactics did not become unsound until the muskets were exchanged for rifled muskets in the 1850s and 1860s.

    hillbilly
     
  8. Diomed

    Diomed Member

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    Brown Bess. Faster reloading, better craftsmanship. Plus, if you capture crappy Frog ammo, you can still use it, whereas the reverse is not so.

    Accuracy in a musket is pretty much impossible, so there's no real advantage in having a free-floating barrel or whatever. What decides how good a musket is is rate of fire, and the Bess wins easily.

    The ring-neck cock was introduced in 1809, virtually eliminating the risk of a broken neck. Use of barrel bands is good for ease of repair, but field stripping simply wasn't done back then. If a barrel needed to get taken out of the stock, an armorer would be doing it.

    The main practical advantage of the Charleville was the bayonet locking ring. That the British didn't adopt it isn't really comprehensible, they knew the bayonet as issued was inadequate but refused to remedy it until the 1840s (the East India Company excepted). I guess maybe it was pride.
     
  9. mustanger98

    mustanger98 Member

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    I tried to reply to this a few minutes ago and it didn't go through for whatever reason.

    NJewell, I know the difference between a rifle and rifled musket and their periods of use. IIRC, the Virginia outfit I mentioned was a backwoods militia unit armed with long rifles. As I said, they didn't do well against the up-close and personal tactics of volley fire from close formations. But take a long rifle outfit using accurate aimed fire and guerilla tactics- case in point may well be the Battle of King's Mountain, South Carolina- and volley fire from close formations instantly becomes obsolete. But I have no doubt the Charleville musket was well suited to the problems of combat in its time and place.

    Have you ever disassembled a Enfield No.4 Mk1/2 or K98k? Neither of those is bedded. Both are very accurate.

    Perhaps you'd like to re-read my previous post and understand what I said instead of disagreeing just to be disagreeing.

    hillbilly:
    Then how come the Brits lost? Not all American units fought the way they did as I've mentioned above.

    These tactics became unsound in engagements such as King's Mountain. The Brits did it there way. Nine hundred Scots-Irish deer hunters from the Southern Appalachians wiped out the British officers and, IIRC, won the battle in about 45minutes of the unsueing confusion. A body of men with muskets wouldn't have known which end was up without their officers saying "turn this way".

    Diomed has a point here, but IIRC, at that time, each man also had a bullet mold. I mentioned I read somewhere about the men molding their own bullets (and some putting a nail through the bullet to inflict a nastier wound).
     
  10. Diomed

    Diomed Member

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    The British loss in America had more to do with strategy than tactics. They beat Napoleon quite handily - that was a full-on Brown Bess vs. Charleville war, very standardized, very civilized. (Of course, their tactics had also improved markedly, with the two-rank line and rifle-armed skirmishers.)

    I'm not up on the Revolution (Napoleonica all the way!), but I would think the Brits used precast bullets, or at the most used molds on a unit level, not individual. If nothing else, they definitely weren't doing it by 1800.

    I've never heard of the nail thing before. I have heard of an order (possibly Washington's) to load buckshot with ball to improve the odds of hitting something.
     
  11. goon

    goon Member

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    I remember reading somewhere that with a musket the odds that you would actually have your ball centered for windage and elevation were pretty bad. This was compounded by the fact that balls were undersized to help speed reloading. One advantage was that the odds that you would at least have your ball hit at the right elevation was pretty good. As long as most of the lead from your volley was sailing into the enemy ranks between the ankles and the forehead you were doing OK.
    One thing I always wondered is why they didn't specify loading with a tightly patched and carefully loaded ball for the first volley. I would think that it would have given more accuracy and range and allowed your side to engage the enemy while they were farther away. How could that have been a bad thing? IIRC, the fowlers of the day were able to keep decent accuracy with a tightly patched ball out to about 70 yards or so.

    As for the musket, most likely whatever one I could have gotten my hands on. While I was pilfering a Bess from a dead redcoat I probably would have taken his shoes too.
     
  12. Kaylee

    Kaylee Moderator

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    Bullet molds were for rifles. Back when most everything was handmade, there just wasn't the consistency of manufacture that there is today. Add to that the fact that sometimes a barrel was recycled by reboring it out a little bigger, and the odds of your finding an "off the shelf" batch of balls were pretty low. So the guy who made your rifle also gave you a mold.

    In contrast, military muskets were typically issued with pre-assembled cartridges IIRC. Lots of ladies were sitting at home prepping bandages and cartridges for their sons and husbands.

    So far as the cock, most every civilian longrifle I've seen was of an open pattern. The only exception now that I think about it was the 1803 Harper's Ferry pattern. Come to think of it.. I also can't recall hearing of a broken hammer ever. Maybe it happened... but I can't imagine it was very common at all. Also.. the lock of a Bess is just massive compared with those of rifles of the time. It'd take some doing to break one. :)

    So far as our adopting the Charville pattern, I'd speculate that was more a function of our alliance with France at the time than any inherent superiority of the design. I have no evidence one way or the other, so I could easily be wrong there.

    Finally.. the tactics of the time. In our romantization of the Revolutionary period, we tend to forget that engagements like King's Mountain and of course Concord were exceptions, not the rule. The Continental Army used weapons and tactics similar to those of the Redcoats. Of course, we got our butts handed to us more often than not when we tried playing their game. :p

    But as already noted.. the tactics of the time were dictated to a large degree by the technological limitations of the time.
     
  13. Ash

    Ash Member

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    Our modern thoughts and experiences tend to give us a severly biased view, and a condescending one at that, towards those who came before us. The military commanders of the 18th century were not idiots or ignorant of tactics. They were very well educated, very intelligent, vigorous, and capable military leaders. Sure, there were bad ones then, but can anyone remember Montgomery's Market Garden? How about the Vietnam war of attrition?

    We are no more intellegent than military leaders of the 18th century. And their tactics need not be considered idiotic based on what we can do today. If Napoleon were a general in the Civil War or WWI, he would have butchered many of his troops. By that time, his tactics were useless (and caused many a dead man needlessly later). Yet, when he empolyed them, and his concept of decisive battle, were at the right time and with the right weapons.

    Yet, take a well trained Marine Colonel from today, and put him in a bright uniform (necessary for all the powder on the field of battle), give him a company of smooth-bore musket infantry, and have him face an equal-sized army against a period trained officer. Who would win? It is arrogant to say the Marine would.

    If you read about actions, tactics, and the men of battle of the time, you discover heroism on par with anything we know of today, acts of utter amazement, and endured hardship that make the Battle of the Bulge look less cold.

    Ash
     
  14. Vern Humphrey

    Vern Humphrey Member

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    Neither the Brown Bess nor the Charleville were rifles. They were smoothbore muskets.

    Neither is true. There is nothing about the Brown Bess that makes it faster to reload than the Charleville. Nor is there an appreciable difference in craftsmanship between the two.

    The last battle of the American Revolution was 1781 (Yorktown), and the American Army adopted its copy of the Charleville in 1795 -- so 1809 was a bit late for any fixes.
    The barrel bands are a combat advantage -- they keep the barrel from separating from the stock in hand-to-hand fighting.

    The British at Kings Mountain were actually Americans, and were armed with rifles -- and breechloading rifles, at that.
     
  15. BigG

    BigG Member

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    The Charleville band method of bbl stock interface was so highly thought of it was used on US rifles clear through the M1 carbine, IIRC.
     
  16. Trebor

    Trebor Member

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    Not this old chestnut again? How come this argument gets dragged out on every single gun boad I've ever been on...
     
  17. mustanger98

    mustanger98 Member

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    Vern Humphrey:
    My point was that with the musket's inferior accuracy- especially given the undersized ball issued as noted by other's- would make free floating the barrel useless, but the weapon would be tougher when it came time to use it for a club.

    I've read some about Americans loyal to Britain and I've also read some about the Ferguson rifles. The article I read is about 35 years old, but it said the British has 50K Fergusons stored in their arsenal in Boston and that they were mostly un-issued. I'll have to find the article and I know I have it around here somewhere. However, there's also the chance that somebody wound up with faulty info and passed it on. But I don't doubt that about some Ferguson rifles being present at King's Mountain because Major Patrick Ferguson (British Army) was killed at King's Mountain.

    Diomed:
    I was just watching "World's Deadliest Snipers" on the History Channel last night- they talked about the Brits issueing Baker rifles (95th Rifles, IIRC, with elements of the 95th attached to most units) during the Napoleonic wars with a good rate of success.

    IIRC, they were using "buck and ball" from the Revolution up through the "un-Civil War". I'm not sure who gave the order during the Revolution, but I recall reading that the 69th New York loaded buck and ball and that it caused a whole lot of the carnage at Antietam.

    Kaylee:
    Both of these facts having been noted, I got some of my info from some reading I did on an archeological dig once, but I don't recall which one. It had to do with American encampments as opposed to British. I recall that about recycling barrels by boring them out and that would also require the mold's cavity to be enlarged.

    Whether or not pre-assembled cartridges were available or not would depend on the situation in the area of operations. Therefore, a mold of the appropriate size for a musket ball (as well as a rifle ball) would be handy if available.

    Ash:
    I never said they were idiots, but I did say they played war like a gentleman's game and expended lives needlessly. I noticed you didn't deny that part either. They just didn't seem to me to try and reduce their casualty rate. I agree that engagements like Market Garden were bad ideas too.
     
  18. Vern Humphrey

    Vern Humphrey Member

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    The Brown Bess, having a pinned barrel, could not be free-floated (and in fact, no muzzle loader can -- because there is no receiver to bed.) The pinned barrel was a great weakness.
     
  19. Ash

    Ash Member

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    Actually, avoiding needless losses was what the Austrians did, the largest power on the continent. Napoleon recognized this, and determined that, like the Japs did in WWII at Midway, that luring the enemy out to decisive battle, rather than maintain and protect the army by avoiding large battle, was the way to win. Napoleon beat the Austrians this way. When the Russians refused to fight that way, he lost due to weather and an extremely long supply line (hampered by the great difficulty in foraging by his soldiers along the way).

    War was not so much a "Gentleman's Game", apart from feelings about the Marquis of Queensberry, but the concept was to maintain an army. Now, as then, an army that breaks down into melee has lost its way. The bar room brawl is chaos that is difficult to win with tactics (and becomes a test of brute force). Because of this, an army had to be guided and regulated. That was the goal then, and is the goal now. That was the goal.

    War was just as serious an affair then as now, and winning just as important. Generals did not wish to lose troops, and avoiding needless losses was important. It seems a prancing affair, with gaudy uniforms, silly hats, and tall feather plumes, yet it wasn't a ballet.

    That was more a problem with our own War Between the States, less with the Napoleonic Wars.

    Ash
     
  20. Ash

    Ash Member

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    Most of our opinions come from the needless charges of WWI, and of the cavalier waging of war in the US in the Civil War. A real study of warfare in the Napoleonic Wars reveals something far different. The vast expendatures of life came on the Western and Eastern fronts and at Gettysburg, not Waterloo.

    Ash
     
  21. Vern Humphrey

    Vern Humphrey Member

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    I recommend reading "At Napoleon's Side in Russia" by Armand de Caulaincourt. De Caulaincourt was Napoleon's Master of the Horse (in charge of the headquarters) and had also served as Napoleon's ambassador to Russia prior to the war. He went through the entire campaign with Napoleon, and his book was not written for publication -- it was printed over a century after his death.

    His insights are quite good -- all the more so because as Master of the Horse he was not only privy to all the plans, arguments and discussions, but also spent a lot of time alone with Napoleon. In addition, his duties made him very conscious of the logistics problems the Army faced.
     
  22. Ash

    Ash Member

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    I'll do that. The Russians became masters at defending in depth, something Hitler should have learned (and something you should learn if ever you play Risk). The French retreat, or rout as it really was, showed that while bold and capable, Napoleon wasn't perfect.

    I recommend "Frigates", a collection of stories about Frigates and their crews during the Napoleonic Wars. Captain Pellew and the Indefatigable (of Horatio Hornblower fame) were real, and their exploits were often more interesting than Hollywood.

    Ash
     
  23. Vern Humphrey

    Vern Humphrey Member

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    De Caulaincourt, who admittedly had the advantage of hindsight, made the point that the French logistics system was badly adapted to the task -- the wagons, for example, were designed for European style roads, not the swamps and marshes they encountered. The allocation of draft horses was made on the assumption Russian roads would be as easily travelled as European roads, and the whole system was overloaded -- on the assumption that "as we eat into the load, it will get lighter."

    There was no provision for ice and snow conditions -- like calked horseshoes -- and so on.
     
  24. mustanger98

    mustanger98 Member

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    Can you believe a Hawken owner can look at this picture and not realize that?:uhoh: But in this respect, I'm saying the Brown Bess and Charleville had the same problems accuracywise, but the Charleville appears more sturdy.

    I do agree with the post that said in effect "while I'm taking a Brown Bess of a dead Brit, I'm taking his shoes too." In a guerrila war, as much of the Revolution was depending on what part of the country, you take anything and everything you can get and use.

    That brings to mind using a French .69caliber ball in a .75caliber musket... I wonder how much thickness of patch it'd take to make it halfway accurate at 75yds.

    True, but... Have you ever noticed how in the European wars of the late 1600's through the late 1700's, they tended to go to war every spring and summer over little things like divisions in Christianity and what member of the nobility was mad at another member of nobility? Personal differences and family squabbles are a hell of a thing to send men to their deaths over.

    Hitler's tanks do come readily to mind. I was just watching a show about the Panzers in Russia in the last couple of days. German Tiger II's couldn't navigate the mud in Russia well at all. Russian T-34's had wider treads which IIRC were copied on the Panther. Napoleon's supply wagons... they would've been better served by pack animals, but basically, Hitler and Napoleon both effectively out-distanced their supply lines. Patton about did the same thing in the rush to Bastogne... (my Grandpa drove heavy trucks on the Red Ball Express out of Antwerp Belgium, BTW)... that was another winter campaign that could've turned into a much bigger disaster.
     
  25. Vern Humphrey

    Vern Humphrey Member

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    The American Army, fortunately, was able to extemporize a supply system that kept up with Patton -- something the Germans and French failed to do.

    But Patton had learned a lot about logistics in North Africa, and picked the best men to run his system.
     
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