War of the Rebellion: Serial 088 Page 0579 Chapter LIV. CORRESPONDENCE, ETC. - UNION.

Search Civil War Official Records

only be reached at critical moments, when the distance, numbers, and formation of the enemy are such that the fire is sure to be effective. At all other times one round in four to six minutes is as rapid firing as should be permitted. The value of the rifled cannon consists principally in its accuracy. Accuracy requires careful pointing, with close observation of the effect, and these require time. Twelve shots in an hour at an object over 1,000 yards distant, the time being spent in careful loading and pointing, will produce better results that fifty shots will ordinarily produce from the same gun in the same time. If a heavy artillery fire is required it should be obtained, not by rapid firing, but by bringing a large number of guns into action, and firing each with the greatest accuracy attainable. The campaign allowance is calculated to suffice for a general action and the combats which usually precede it; and, under ordinary circumstances, an officer who expends all his ammunition in a few hours renders himself liable to the suspicion that his reckless expenditure was prompted by a desire to quit the field. In future, batteries will not be permitted to leave their positions under this plea. The guns and cannoneers will remain on the ground until ammunition is furnished them. As soon as one caisson from each section has been emptied the empty caissons will be sent to the rear, under charge of a non-commissioned officer, to replenish at the ammunition train. At a time when all the resources of the country are taxed to the utmost to provide the army and navy with munitions of war, the non-effective expenditure of ammunition, in addition to other evils, diminishes greatly the efficiency of fire to which the artillery might attain; for the consequent excessive demand gives us, in many instances, imperfectly made and hastily inspected projectiles, instead of carefully manufactured and approved ones.

5. The custom which obtains in some batteries of bringing from the ammunition-chests a number of rounds and placing them near the gun on the ground is a bad one, and is positively prohibited. It not only leads to too rapid firing, but in case of a sudden movement of the battery this ammunition is apt to be left on the ground, as it requires time properly to repack it.

6. Opening fire: That the enemy is within range is not a sufficient reason for firing upon him. The fire is not to be commenced until the enemy is within effective range - that is, so near that at least one-quarter of the shots are hits. Firing at too great a distance wastes ammunition which will be wanted at the critical moments of the battle, and emboldens the enemy's troops by giving them a contemptuous idea of the effects of our fire. Frederick the Great, in his instructions on this subject, says:

It sometimes happens that the general in command, or some other general, is himself forgetful, and orders the fire to be opened too soon, without considering what injurious consequences may result from it. In such a case the artillery officer must certainly obey, but he should fire as slowly as possible and point the pieces with the utmost accuracy, in order that his shots may not be thrown away. Such a fire is only pardonable when the general wishes to attract the enemy's attention to one point so as to make movements in another.

But in such a case as this the object of the fire should be explained to the artillery officer. Accuracy of fire is of more importance than quickness. The fire should be slow while the enemy is at a distance, is to be quicker as the distance diminishes, and is to become rapid when canister shot is being fired at effective ranges. There are moments in which we should not fire, or only very slowly, and others of a critical nature in which there should be no question of saving of ammunition;