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 Posted: Fri Dec 2nd, 2011 02:13 am
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csamillerp
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I read some years ago that artillery only accounted for 6% of the casualties during the war. But from what I have read canister seemed to be the 1860's equivalant of a WMD. According to
http://www.civilwarartillery.com/projectiles/halfshells/IIA19.htm

there was 27 .43 pound balls that measured 1.49 inches in diameter in each shot of canister. Many times artillery was loaded with double canister. Also i found out that a good artillery man would aim at the ground in front of an approaching line of infantry so as to bounce the canister into the enemies faces while also kicking up rocks. Learning this i cant help but feel that canister should have caused more then 6% of the casualties during the war.

Another thing if the 6% thing was true then it would mean that only about 350-400 confederates were killed or wounded by artillery during Picketts charge.



 Posted: Fri Dec 2nd, 2011 02:29 am
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Mark
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I think part of the problem is that its hard to tell the difference between a canister wound and a gunshot wound. Canister is incredibly effective. We still use a canister round on tanks that is virtually identical to the Civil War round and I've fired several. I've watched one round take down an entire squad.

Mark



 Posted: Fri Dec 2nd, 2011 03:11 am
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csamillerp
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I think the canister was far more destructive then the minie ball. here's a pic of a confederate soldier that had been hit by canister. notice the hand laying beside him also the enormous gash

cw-dead-03.jpg




cwcrossroads.wordpress.com



 Posted: Fri Dec 2nd, 2011 05:54 am
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Hellcat
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Canister was close in meant to put up what could probably be called a virtual wall of lead to take down anyone approaching a field piece. I'd probably equate it more to a CIWS than a WMD. The Civil War Artillery page (http://www.civilwarartillery.com/) gives the follow descriptions in it's glossary

CANISTER: A metal cylinder made of tin, iron, or lead, with a removable thin iron top. A heavy iron plate is usually located between the canister balls and the wooden sabot at the bottom. The cylinder contains iron or lead balls which are arranged in rows with sawdust packed between them. The top edge of the vertical cylinder wall is bent over the iron top plate to help keep the canister contents in place and the bottom edge is nailed to the wooden sabot. Canister was designed to be used close range against enemy troops with the desired effect being that of a huge shotgun blast. It was recommended for use at ranges under 350 yards. A 12-pounder canister for the Napoleon smoothbore contained twenty-seven iron balls while the 12-pounder howitzer contained forty-eight iron balls. Canister was used in field, mountain, siege, and seacoast weapons.

CANISTER-SHOT: A canister-shot is a metallic cylinder about one caliber in length, filled with balls and closed at both ends with wooden or metal disks. They are supplied for all guns. For 8-inch canister, and all those of less caliber, the envelope is made of tin, while canister for the larger calibers have an envelope of iron. The bottom of 15-inch canister is made of two thicknesses of 1-inch hard wood, crossing each other, and put together with wrought-iron nails clinched. A spindle, with a wrought-iron handle passing through the center of the canister, is riveted on the bottom through a square plate. All other canister have bottom-heads of one thickness of hard wood. Top-heads are all made of white pine. The case is notched, turned over the heads, and tacked down. The balls for all canister are 1.3 inch diameter, and the number used varies with the caliber. To give more solidity to the mass, and prevent the balls from crowding upon each other when the piece is fired, the interstices are closely packed with sawdust. See Case-shot, Projectiles, Rifle-canister, and Siege and Garrison Ammunition.

 



 Posted: Fri Dec 2nd, 2011 07:49 am
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csamillerp
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nasty buisness thats for sure. I dont see how those soldiers walked straight into them.



 Posted: Fri Dec 2nd, 2011 10:57 am
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Hellcat
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Probably not too willingly. Of course the thing to also consider is the time it takes to load and fire a cannon. Don't know how long it is myself, but I do know it wouldn't have been as rapidly as a CIWS (which loading that isn't as rapid as it's rate of fire). So if you didn't get hit you'd have so long before the next round to keep going.

And if you think of canister as turning a cannon into a shotgun, then the closer you get the better your chances of not getting hit. You know, it's like taking ten 18'x18' boards and setting them up one at a time at five foot incraments from a shotgun then taking ten shots to see how much the buckshot spreads out over a hundred feet. The spray pattern at five feet isn't gonna be the same as at fifty feet. So the further out the more likely you are to get hit if you're not directly in front of the barrel.

Last edited on Mon Jan 23rd, 2012 12:44 am by Hellcat



 Posted: Fri Dec 2nd, 2011 11:53 am
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Albert Sailhorst
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A good gun crew can fire 3 times a minute....Canister was used for short-range targets......Any target at short range posed a threat to the safety of the guns (ie, getting over-run due to the close distance) so it would be prudent to spend the time limbering up and retreating (especially if unsupported by infantry).



 Posted: Fri Dec 2nd, 2011 08:13 pm
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csamillerp
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so even at a full run it would take at least 2 mins to cover 350 yards, at double canister thats about 350 half pound balls flying at you



 Posted: Fri Dec 2nd, 2011 08:55 pm
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Mark
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I think you are right Albert. That is why a smart commander always gave his batteries support from infantry. The best use of artillery during the Civil War was to bolster a defensive position.

Mark



 Posted: Fri May 11th, 2012 12:46 am
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Double Canister
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Canister...in the Civil War they were not overly obsessed with what killed a man. If you were dead on the field then you were dead on the field...just dead...be it a bullet, a bayonet, canister, heat exhaustion, or anything else.  Men died years after the war from wounds that were not, nor ever, counted as deaths in the Civil War. There was nothing like "The Graves Registration" that emerged in the 20th century. Possibly bayonet deaths are underestimated also, possibly, cause if you are already dead from a bayonet u dont get to a surgeon and ya dont get counted as a "bayonet death". Interesting debate but there is no doubt that the rifle musket was the big killer. Canister was surely a big killer, but only in battles where things got pretty close.  The big ones, Gettysburg, Antietam, Cold Harbor, etc. We will never know the truth.

Last edited on Fri May 11th, 2012 12:52 am by Double Canister



 Posted: Fri May 11th, 2012 01:52 am
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CleburneFan
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I don't know where the 6% figure came from. If I'd have to guess, I would have put the figure higher, but when one stops to think about it, more casualties were actually
from illness rather than bullets, bayonets, swords and artillery fire.

Also the term "casualties" is rather broad. It can include killed, wounded, captured and missing in action.

If one assumes that somehow the 6% figure is correct, plus more than fifty percent died from illness such as measles, malaria and cholera, for example, then what killed all the others? I can only think that there were many skirmishes and small engagements in which artillery was never used or was barely a factor.

I tend to think of major use of artillery at battles such as Malvern Hill, Gettysburg, Antietam and the like. But battles that took place in heavily wooded areas where arty was less effective, some cavalry engagements and numerous close-in hand-to-hand combat scenarios may well have produced the balance of non-illness casualties.

But who kept accurate enough records to support any such suppositions? As was said above, how could you know for sure if a minie ball or cannister schrapnel caused a wound or death? Also, some men died of multiple wounds, perhaps arty and minie balls in combination, even bayonet. Or they died of freak injuries such as falling off a horse or drowning. Who kept accurate track of such details, especially in the heat of battle or a fighting retreat?



 Posted: Sat Apr 13th, 2013 02:41 pm
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Paulson
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I've always considered that 6% figure dodgy, as should anyone who understands statistics. It's never wise to take a stat at face value if you can't look at how the stat was arrived at. I've tried to find out how that 6% figure was derived, and have NEVER seen a source that explained how artillery wounds were determined to be as such.

As Mark implied, if a guy has a ghastly through-and-through, it's anyone's guess as to what might have caused it.

Even so, it's important to remember that there were a lot battles where the damage done by artillery was minor, and a lot of engagements where artillery played no role whatsoever. Properly used artillery with good fields of fire was devastating, but many Civil War battlefields had poor fields of fire, and even when they didn't the artillery wasn't always used to best effect.



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