Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
I am always astounded by the severe damage done by low velocity shot and material, as my limited exposure to understanding ballistics always assumes that the high velocity was essential to carry out the end result. To see an object moving at a speed it could actually be seen moving through the air is surprising that it could sever bodies and so on. Obviously, that was the case, except perhaps when the projectile was well spent.
i've read many accounts of battles where the writer described seeing the 'low' velocity roundshot cannon balls destroying a whole file of troops, removing limbs, cutting them in half, etc., and even descriptions of new recruits thinking they could catch one as it seemed to be going slow (and losing an arm or a hand) and people losing legs when they tried to stop a slow ball with their foot. i seem to recall a crimean description of similar instances where troops were warned not to try this foolishness, and photos of hundreds of cannon balls that had rolled back down the hill. at waterloo wellington lost a few generals, one lost a leg next to wellington to a cannonball, and said 'excuse me sir, i seem to have lost my leg'. another had his horse cut in half by one.
roundshot was deliberately aimed to strike before advancing troops so it would skip and take out the whole file. troops prayed for soft ground that would absorb the shot without skipping.
along with grape, cannister, and langridge, as well as the thousands of musket balls flying about, i'm surprised at how few actually were wounded or killed, even tho it was in the thousands at such battles, many more made it, and in most cases disease actually killed more than firearms.