restricted access Appendix I. Memorandum on Infantry Battle
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131 Appendix I Memorandum on Infantry Fire1 1. Introduction It seems that the history of infantry fire is not so very clear, even though in Europe today firepower is almost the only means of destruction employed by that arm. Napoleon said, “The only practicable fire in war is fire at will.” And yet, after a declaration by one who knew, there is still a tendency to employ fire at command as the foundation of infantry battle tactics. Is this correct? Is it not? Only experience can reply. Experience may be acquired, but nothing in the profession of war is forgotten as quickly as experience. So many things could be done, beautiful maneuvers executed, ingenious combat methods conceived in the offices or in training camps! Nevertheless, let us hold on to the facts. 2. Succinct History of the Evolution of Firearms, from the Arquebus to Our Rifle The arquebus used before the advent of powder produced the idea for the model of our firearms. Thus the arquebus marked the transition from the ancient weapons firing missiles to the new weapons firing bullets. The barrel was retained to direct the projectile, and the bow and string were replaced by a powder chamber and means of ignition. This made a simple, light weapon, easy to load, but the small-caliber ball fired from a very short barrel, and the small charge allowed for a penetration only at a very short distance. 1. Written in 1869. 132 Appendix I The barrel was lengthened, the caliber increased, and a more efficient but less convenient weapon was the result. It was impossible to fire the weapon from the aiming position and withstand the recoil. To reduce the recoil a hook was attached to the barrel to anchor on some fixed object at the moment of discharge. This was called the hook arquebus. But using the hook was possible only in certain circumstances. To give the weapon a resting point on the body, the stock was lengthened and inclined in order to sight while standing or kneeling. The soldier also had a fork for support of the barrel. In the musket that followed, the stock was again modified and rested against the shoulder, and the firing mechanism was improved as well. In the original, the weapon was fired by a lighted match, but with the musket the weapon became lighter and lighter, from the serpentine lock, the matchlock, the wheel lock, and finally the Spanish lock and the flintlock . The adoption of the lock and the bayonet made the rifle, which Napoleon regarded as the most powerful weapon that man possessed. But the rifle, in its primitive state, had defects: it was slow to load, it was inaccurate, and under some conditions it would not fire. How were these defects remedied? To correct the weakness in loading, Gustavus Adolphus,2 understanding the influence on morale of rapid loading and the greater destruction of rapid fire, invented the cartridge for muskets. Frederick, or someone in his time, replaced wooden ramrods with cylindrical iron ramrods. A conical funnel permitted quicker priming by allowing the powder to pass from the barrel into the firing pan. These last two refinements saved time in two ways, priming and loading. But it was the adoption of the breech loader that increased the rate of fire the greatest. These modifications in weapons, all of which tended to increase the rate of fire, corresponded with the most remarkable military period in modern times: Cartridges—Gustavus Adolphus Iron ramrod—Frederick 2. Gustavus Adolphus (1594–1632), King of Sweden, founder of the modern Swedish state, and the greatest general and military innovator of the age. His intervention in the Thirty Years War forestalled the ambitions of the Hapsburg Empire for imperial authority over Europe and ensured the survival of German Protestantism. He was killed leading a cavalry charge against the forces of Wallenstein at the battle of Lützen. Appendix I 133 Improved vent (by the soldiers), if not prescribed by competent orders—wars of the Republic and of the Empire. Breech loading—Sadowa Accuracy appeared to be less important than rate of fire for a long time (later we will see why). It is only today that the general use of rifling and of elongated projectiles has brought accuracy to a point that can hardly be surpassed. Also, the use of fulminate allows firing in any weather. We have succinctly described the successive improvements in the perfection of firearms from the arquebus to the rifle. Has...


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