Musket vs. Rifle - Glengarry "crack-shots" - 1814

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Musket vs. Rifle - Glengarry "crack-shots" - 1814

Post by pud » Thu Apr 12, 2007 10:06 pm

Source: Recollections of the American War 1812-14. Dr.[Tiger] Dunlop. Toronto: Historical Publishing Co. 1905. pp. 67-70.

"During the whole time we lay before Fort Erie, bush-skirmishing was an every day's occurrence, that though the numbers lost in each of these affairs may seem but trifling, yet the aggregate of men put hors de combat in a force so small as ours became very serious in the long run. They generally commenced with some accidental recontre of videttes - they're firing brought out the picquet, then the Brigade on duty, and then, not unfrequently, the Brigade next for duty. I think, on a fair average of three months, I enjoyed this amusement about three times a week.

Excepting only a melee of cavalry, a Bush skirmish is the only aspect in which modern warfare appears in anything picturesque. Look at all attempts at painting a modern battle, and unless the painter takes such a distance as to render everything indistinct, you have nothing but a series of stiff, hard, regular, straight lines, that might represent a mathematical diagram in uniform. Not so with light infantry in a wood. There a man ceases to be merely a part of a machine, or a point in a long line. Both his personal safety and his efficiency depend on his own knowledge and tact. To stand straight upright and be shot at is no part of his duty; his great object is to annoy the enemy, and keep himself safe; and so far was this carried by the tacticians of the Prussian school, that in a German Contingent, which served on this continent during the Revolutionary war, a yager has been flogged for getting himself wounded.

Perhaps there can be no military scene more fit for the pencil than a body of light infantry awaiting an attack. The variety of attitude necessary to obtain cover - the breathless silence - the men attentive by eye and ear - every glance (furtively lowered) directed to the point - some kneeling, some lying down, and some standing straight behind a tree - the officer with his silver whistle in his hand, ready to give the signal to commence firing, and the bugle boy looking earnestly in his officers face waiting for the next order.,…

This species of warfare necessarily draws forth the individual talents of the soldier. I once saw a soldier,… take two American sentries prisoners, by placing his hat and greatcoat on a bush, and while they were busy firing at his image and superscription, he fetched a circuit, got behind them, waited until both of their firelocks were discharged, and then drove them before him into the picquet guard.

The Glengarry Regiment being provincials, possessed many excellent shots. They were not armed with the rifle, but with what I greatly prefer to that arm, the double-sighted light infantry musket. A rifle is by no means suited for a day's fighting; when it gets foul from repeated firing it is difficult even to hammer the ball down, and the same foulness which clogs the barrel must injure the precision of the ball. The well-made smooth barrel on the contrary, is to a certain degree scoured by every discharge, and it can stand sixty rounds without the necessity of cleaning. Nor is it in the precision of its aim for any useful purpose inferior to the rifle, that is to say in the hands of a man who knows how to use it. I have seen a Sergeant of the Glengarries who would allow you to pick out a musket from any of the corps, and let him load it, when he would knock the head off a pigeon on the top of the highest tree in the forest.”

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