As the 232nd anniversary of the battle of Cowpens approaches, I picked up a copy of A Devil of a Whipping, the Battle of Cowpens. It was an easy read with some interesting info. Here are a few points:
- During the Revolution, muskets were called firelocks because they generated their own fire, hence the later term firearm.
- Both sides increased musket lethality, if not accuracy, by issuing buck and ball cartridges containing one large ball and at least three smaller (.30 caliber) balls.
- By 1871 both sides deployed rapidly, (abandoning the slow, steady approach march) by closing the distance as quickly as possible, often with sizable gaps between men. This change in tactics was a response to American rifle fire and British artillery.
- British artillerist John Muller recommended ricochet firing because it saved powder and was more dangerous. After the first ricochet, a ball might bounce another 400 yards and still injure men waiting in reserve.
- American General Daniel Morgan issued a password and countersign ‘Who are you?’ Answer ‘Fire.’ Reply, ‘Sword.’ Similarly, D-Day’s password and countersign was ‘Flash.’ Reply, ‘Thunder.’
- Sentries on horseback were called ‘videttes’
Next week I’ll post some tidbits about the battle itself. After that I’ll post photos and video from the anniversary celebration. I hope to make a few contacts that would be willing to guest post.
Wesley Freeman said:
I am curious to know Muller’s thinking behind the recommendation of ricochet firing – not questioning his theory – just interested in the mechanics of it. I know that during the American Civil War – when faced with close in infantry (and in some close in naval engagements) cannoneers would double the load of canister or grape shot – and use only a single charge of powder. And with land engagements, the artillery piece would be angled so that the shot would hit the ground several yards in front – causing the shot pattern to spread wider and quicker than if it were fired level. This technique was used to devastating effect, specifically, in the fight at the cornfield in the Battle of Antietam/Sharpsburg in September of 1862.
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