EAA Research Consultant
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Originally Posted by kronckew
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.
Michael thank you for that stunning photo and shown with the open book to set wonderful context, its great to see this thread revived and on such a fascinating topic.
Kronckew, thank you for this dynamic perspective and it is great to get a more realistic picture, though gruesome, of how warfare was in those times. I think one of the best books I ever read on the subject was "The Face of Battle" by the late John Keegan of Sandhurst. He truly showed the nature of human reaction in terrible combat situations, and it is so interesting to better understand how people thought and responded in these circumstances.
I think I mentioned before in this thread or elsewhere, my great grandfather who was a Civil War veteran in reading one of his accounts in a newspaper article recounting his memoirs, when asked if he was ever wounded responded, "..nah, got hit by a cannonball at St.Petersburg but didn't hurt me none!". Naturally thoughts were was this simply embellished hyperbole of an extremely old soldier? or might this have been an extraordinarily 'spent' ball bouncing along as described. I always thought it was a curious tale
Much better perspective on it now .
All very best,