British Artillery Train

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Description

Number of Horses

The weight of a mounted gun plus limber should not be underestimated, neither should the number of horses needed to draw those weights. Fortune (1778) provides guidance on the number of horses needed to transport both cannon and howitzers. These pieces would have been double-bracketed carriages. However, the notes to this table state that each horse can typically draw only 300 pounds for an extended period, some 350 pounds over a short duration. On the surface, the math simply will not align, but the number of horses shown maybe correct over good ground. Apparently, the weight of the carriage or wagon itself is not included, but there is no mention of this in the text. Over poor ground, more horses would be needed. In 1755, during his advance on Fort Duquesne, Braddock was critically short of horses, he still had to assign seven horses to pull each of his 8-inch howitzers and five horses for each light 12-pdr (pounder) ― 1,430 and 990 pound barrel weights, respectively. If available, Braddock would have certainly added more horses to each of the teams.

Ordnance and Horses
Fortune (1778, Page 6)
Ordnance Number of Horses
Light 6-pdr 2
Light 12-pdr 3
Light 24-pdr 5
Heavy 3-pdr 3
Heavy 6-pdr 5
Heavy 9-pdr 9
Heavy 12-pdr 11
Heavy 24-pdr 19
4 2/5-inch Howitzer 2
5½-inch Howitzer 3
8-inch Howitzer 5

A better representation can be found in Adye (1801, Page 16). With these numbers, the full weight of gun, carriage, and limber are included. There is considerable efficiency lost when adding horses to a team.

Horse Team Draw Weights (Adye 1801, Page 16)
Number of Horse Total Weight Drawn
(in lbs)
Four horses can draw 672 lbs. each (6 cwt.) 2,668
Six horses can draw 560 lbs. each (5 cwt.) 3,360
Eight horses can draw 504 lbs. Each (4.5 cwt.) 4,032
Twelve horses can draw 448 lbs. each (4 cwt.) 5,376

For field artillery, Adye (1801) has all 6-pdrs being teamed with a minimum of 4 horses, not two horses. As illustration, a horse-drawn 12-pdr with gun, carriage, two men, their appointments on a limber, and 16 rounds of ammunition would weigh some 5,050 pounds; a similarly equipped 6-pdr, some 3,860 pounds (Adye 1801, Page 55). These guns would have been drawn by a minimum of six horses each. But here Adye's descriptions are for block trail gun carriages (1792), the double-tail carriages of the mid-1700s would have weighed substantially more. Many countries used eight-horse teams to transport 12-pdrs. In close support, between two and three supplementary wagons were needed per piece of artillery.

Artillery Crews

With mobile guns, the total gun crew needed was around 15 men. Using ropes, methods were developed that would allow most of the crew to very quickly and continuously "horse assist" ordnance when moving over difficult ground. Fixed guns would still require some 9 men to crew. Crews were heavily drilled and each man had very specific duties.

Guns were often organized in batteries of four guns each. Ideally, the guns were identical or closely related, greatly simplifying the logistics around ammunition, tools, spare parts, and wagon loading.

Men Needed to Service British Light Cannon in the 1760s (Fortune 1778, Page 5)
Men Light 24-pdr Light 12-pdr Light 9-pdr Light 6-pdr Light 3-pdr
NCO Superintendent 1 1 1 1 1
NCO Steer 1 1 1 1 1
Prime and Fire 2 2 2 2 2
Load and Set Home 2 2 2 2 2
Drag Ropes 12 10 8 6 4
Unload Wagon 4 3 3 2 1
Total 22 19 17 14 11
Men Needed to Service British Howitzers in the 1760s (Fortune 1778, Page 5)
Men 8-inch Light 5½-inch 4 2/5-in
NCO Superintendent 1 1 1
NCO Steer 1 1 1
Prime and Fire 2 2 2
Load and Set Home 2 2 2
Drag Ropes 8 4 4
Unload Wagon 3 2 2
Total 17 12 12

Typical Field Battery

A typical field battery of 4 pieces would consist of:

  • 4 cannon or howitzers with limbers (same type)
  • 4 - 8 ammunition wagons
  • 1 wheel wagon (spare wheels - fore and hind)
  • 1 traveling forge cart with bellows (blacksmith)
  • 1 or 2 store wagons
  • 1 food wagon
  • 2 wagons of muskets and small-arms ammunition
  • 1 spare wagon

Typical Artillery Train

In 1747, Colonel Muller of the Royal Artillery enumerated the equipment and train of artillery. He provides a realistic representation of the true needs of an artillery train. Here, some 54 pieces of ordnance were being transported, half of which were heavy 3-pdrs (barrel ≈ 1,200 lbs). Assuming all ordnance needs including spare limbers and carriages, each piece of artillery required some 25 horses and 5 wagons in support. The column included only 20 spare horses. In a second example in Muller (1768, Page 192), 30 horses and 6 wagons were needed in support of each gun or royal mortar (Flanders, 1747). Seemingly, these estimates do not include foodstuffs, small arms or support for the enlisted men, but do include officer and clerk wagon needs.

Often additional wagons and more horses were required to haul fodder to feed the horses that were hauling the artillery and their stores. The number of horses needed even for a limited campaign can quickly reach several thousand.

Type of equipment Number
of equipment
Number
of horses
Total horses
Kettle drum wagon 1 4 4
Tumbrils 2 2 4
12-pdr guns 6 15 90
9-pdr guns 6 11 66
6-pdr guns 14 7 98
3-pdr guns 26 4 104
Ammunition carts 20 3 60
Forges 2 2 4
Pontoon wagons 30 7 210
Spare pontoon wagons 3 7 21
Spare 12-pdr gun carriages 1 7 7
Spare 9-pdr gun carriages 1 5 5
Spare 6-pdr gun carriages 2 5 10
Spare 3-pdr gun carriages 4 3 12
Spare 12-pdr limbers 3 2 6
Spare 9-pdr limbers 3 2 6
Spare 6-pdr limbers 2 1 2
Spare 3-pdr limbers 3 1 3
Spare horses - 20 20
Colonel baggage wagons 3 3 10 (sic)
Comptroller baggage wagons 3 3 11 (sic)
Major baggage wagons 2 3 7 (sic)
Captains baggage wagons 4 4 16
Captain-lieutenants (5) baggage wagons 5 3 15
Lieutenants and colonel's clerk (16) baggage wagons 6 3 18
Quartermaster baggage wagons 1 3 3
Surgeon baggage wagons 1 3 3
Paymaster baggage wagons 1 3 3
Assistant paymaster and surgeon's mate baggage wagons 1 3 3
Chaplain and comptroller's clerk baggage wagons 1 3 3
Commissary and wagon master baggage wagons 1 4 4
Assistants (2) baggage wagons 1 3 3
Commissaries of stores (2) baggage wagons 2 3 6
Officers of 5 coys baggage wagons 5 3 15
Contractors and artificers baggage wagons 6 3 18
Army artillery flag wagon 1 3 3
Guard picket and provost store wagon 1 3 3
12-pdr guns stores wagons 9 3 27
9-pdr guns stores wagons 7 3 21
6-pdr guns stores wagons 12 3 36
3-pdr guns stores wagons 10 3 30
40 rounds for howitzer and petards store wagon 4 3 12
90 Rounds Royal stores wagons 2 3 6
Ammunition for 35,000 men stores wagons 122 3 360
Entrenching tools store wagons 24 3 72
Laboratory stores wagon 1 3 3
Gun wagon 1 3 3
Small stores and artificers' tools 20 3 60
Spare wagons 10 3 30
Total - - 1,509 horses

Arsenals

No information available yet

References

Adye, Ralph Willet. 1802. The Bombardier and Pocket Gunner. Printed for T. Egerton, Military Library, Whitehall. By W. Blackader, Took's Court, London. Online.

Dawson, Dawson and Summerfield, Napoleonic Artillery, Crowood Press, 2007.

Fortune, T. 1778. The Artilleriʃt's Companion, containing the Diʃcipline, Returns, Pay, Proviʃion, &c. of the Corps, in Field, in Forts, at Sea, &c. Forward by Adrian Caruana. Museum Restoration Service, 1992. Bloomfield, Ontario.

Kinard, Jeff, Artillery: An Illustrated History of its Impact, ABC Clio, 2007.

Lawson, Cecil C P; A History of the Uniforms of the British Army, Vol IV, Norman Military Publications, 2006.

Muller, John. 1768. A Treatise of Artillery. John Millan, Whitehall, London. Online. (First edition is 1757, available online as well. Not identical, notable in the Introduction).

Scharnhorst, Gerhard Johann David, Handbuch für Offiziere in den Andwendbaren Theilen der Kriegeswissenschaft, Hanover, 1787.

Acknowledgments

Digby Smith for the initial version of this article and Ken Dunne for information on horses, aagons, and artillery crews