The 95th Rifles at Waterloo

Discussion in '1800-1914' started by Hobilar, Nov 7, 2007.

  1. Hobilar

    Hobilar Member

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2007
    Messages:
    86
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    6
    Location:
    Lincoln
    Home Page:
    Of all the regiments present at Waterloo, none was more respected at the time than the Green-jacketed 95th Rifles. A highly-trained regiment of expert marksmen and skirmishers, the 95th drew a grudging respect and generated great fear amongst their French enemies.

    The men of the 95th were armed with the 'Baker' rifle and sword bayonet; the standard of marksmanship in the regiment was phenomenal. Officers were armed with a sword humourously describd by John Kincaid (the Adjutant of the 1st Battalion) as 'Our small regulation half-moon sabre... better calculated to shave a lady's maid than a Frenchman's head'. In Kincaid's case at Wateroo, the effeciveness of the sword was of little consequence; His sword had rusted solid in its scabbard due to the heavy rain!

    Present at Waterloo were the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 95th, plus two companies from the 3rd Battalion, a total of 1,322 Officers and Men. By the end of this day of battle they had suffered 35 officers and 482 men as casualties.
     
    • Informative Informative x 1
  2. Hobilar

    Hobilar Member

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2007
    Messages:
    86
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    6
    Location:
    Lincoln
    Home Page:
    Following Napoleons abdication in 1814, five companies of the 3rd Battalion 95th Rifles were despatched to take part in the ill-fated New Orleans operation.

    At Waterloo the 1st Battalion served in the 8th Brigade (Major General Sir John Kempt) of the 5th Division (Lt. Gen Sir T Picton) in Wellington's 'Reserve' Corp.

    The 2nd Battalion and the two companies of the 3rd Battalion present served in the 3rd Brigade ( Maj Gen. Adams) of 2nd Division ( Lt. Gen. Sir H. Clinton) of Lord Hill's 2nd Corps.
     
  3. fer-de-lance

    fer-de-lance Member

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2007
    Messages:
    64
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    6
    After the Napoleonic Wars, Baker rifles were supplied to Mexico, particularly the early models that accepted the same sized ball as the 0.69 "Brown Bess" smooth-bore muskets. Some of the Mexican Cazadores light infantry were equipped with these rifles as well as second-hand kit from the British Army (likely from the 95th).

    Mexican Cazadores and British made Baker rifles (probably some used previously by the 95th) saw action at the Alamo.
     
  4. renrich

    renrich Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2007
    Messages:
    4,542
    Likes Received:
    6
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Occupation:
    real estate
    Location:
    Montrose, Colorado
    Interesting posts about the rifle units in the British army. The novels written by Bernard Cornwell whose main character is Richard Sharpe are mainly about the Rifle Companies. He talks of when the action became hot and close the rifleman not using the patched ball in order to speed up loading. The Baker rifles, if they were used by Santa Anna's troops at the San Jacinto, did not seem to do them much good.
     
  5. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2008
    Messages:
    11,102
    Likes Received:
    773
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    Urban Design/Strategic Studies Tutor
    Location:
    Orange NSW
    #5 parsifal, Apr 11, 2017
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2017
    A long time since this thread was last added to, but worth some comment just the same. The baker's design range was a mere 183m , which was about twice that of the brown bess muskets. at 100 yds, the brown bess was calculated to have a 1 in 3 chance of hitting aman sized target. A the design range for the baker was found to have better than 80% chance of hitting a man sized target. For its day (it was first designed in 1800) it was an accurate weapon and operational experience revealed its effective range to be much greater than the published design ranges for the weapon. During Moore’s retreat in 1809 to Corunna, the action by rifleman Thomas Plunkett of the 1st bn, 95th rifles, was seen as exceptional, but not uncommon, when he brought down French General General Colbert, and then his aide de camp Latour Mauberg, at a range of approximately 600 yds. Two hits in a row suggests that the success of the first shot was not due to luck. That rifleman Plunkett and others were able to regularly hit targets at ranges considered to be beyond the rifle's effective range speaks for both their Marksmanship and the capabilities of the rifle.

    French musket equipped battalions, like their british counterparts were generally assigned a sharpshooter company within the bn with the idea of bringing down their opponents officers and colour bearers. However the French sharpshooters were equipped with a musket rather than a rifle, allowing the sharpshooter companies assigned to the british musket bns to simply pin and often destroy their French counterparts well before the latter could get into effective range
     
    • Informative Informative x 1
  6. Wayne Little

    Wayne Little Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2006
    Messages:
    53,011
    Likes Received:
    949
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Adelaide Sth. Aust.
    Interesting info...
     
  7. yulzari

    yulzari Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 24, 2010
    Messages:
    803
    Likes Received:
    79
    Trophy Points:
    28
    Occupation:
    Gentleman
    Location:
    Limousin
    As an actual user of period guns I feel that I should point out that Rifleman Plunkett's two shots were at an unknown distance and the sights were set for up to 200 yards although the best men in best conditions might have some accuracy at 300 yards which is a more plausible distance. Without going into tedious detail the spherical ball's speed degrades markedly and becomes unstable when it drops into the transonic zone. This is why East India Company percussion muskets were sighted for up to 140 yards at which point the ball becomes unstable.

    The rare 'musket bore' (actually about .70" to take the 0.685" standard musket ball cartridge) Baker had an uncertain use in very few numbers. I would be grateful for any information of the 'musket bore' Bakers being used by the Mexican Army in defence of their territory. The vast majority of Baker rifles were in 0.62" to take the standard 0.615" carbine cartridge or a smaller patched ball and loose powder. They had a very slow twist to minimise fouling rather than to maximise accuracy, this being a militarily practical virtue if not a target shooting one.

    My 1843 10 bore (0.76") HEIC musket can hit a man sized target every time at 50 metres, usually at 100 metres and still has 15% hits at 150 metres. Within their limited range they can be surprisingly accurate even with the 0.685" service paper cartridge in a 0.76" smooth bore.

    For a good example of the Baker rifle (properly the King's Rifle) call up youtube and enter 'britishmuzzleloaders' and view his videos.
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
    • Informative Informative x 1
  8. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2008
    Messages:
    11,102
    Likes Received:
    773
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    Urban Design/Strategic Studies Tutor
    Location:
    Orange NSW
    Its quite true that the actual range at which the shot was taken is problematic

    The exact details of this shot have always been rather sketchy. The distances involved, either of Plunkett's advance or of his shot, and Plunkett's motivations are vague. The main problem is with the unreliability or absence of eyewitness accounts. Three Riflemen left accounts, Captain Kincaid, Quarter Master Surtees and Rifleman Costello, yet none of these men were present and base their accounts upon regimental legend. Of those who were in the retreat, Lieutenant Smith and Rifleman Harris both leave comprehensive memoirs that give no mention of Plunkett. Harris, excusably, as he was with the 2nd/95th on the road to Vigo. Similarly, William Napier does not mention him in his history of the war, despite his family's heavy involvement in the Light Division. Basically, the only information available, although from apparently primary sources, is from secondary accounts and hearsay. Some secondary research by the re-enactment society for the 95th suggest they have a fair idea of where the shot was taken, and it does seem to be less than the 600 yds claimed 9certainly less than the 800 yds some of the more outlandish claims) but also certainly considerable more than 300 yds French sources often try and claim.

    The main area of argument is the range at which Plunkett made the shot. Oman, in stating that it was 'from a range that seemed extraordinary to the riflemen of that day', but giving neither an exact figure, nor any sources, seems to have started to establish the myth of Plunkett making an impossible shot, a myth frequently repeated by modern authors as proof of the prowess of the Baker Rifle and those who used them. Some popular literature even puts the range at 800 yards as suggested above. Other accounts are less emphatic about the range. Kincaid records only that Plunkett took up an 'advanced position', and Costello that he ran 'about a hundred yards nearer to the enemy'. As no record is left of how far the distance between the lines was at that moment, this does not help much. The most intriguing account is Surtees'. He says that Plunkett 'got sufficiently nigh to make sure of his mark', insinuating that the range was quite normal.

    All of these seem to put the emphasis on Plunkett's bravery in advancing so far forward as to make sure of his shot, rather than the range at which the shot was made. The debate probably began much later than the time of the diarists' writings, possibly brought about by the complete lack of evidence on this point. Even Rutherford-Moore, after close analysis of both sources and the ground at Cacabellos concludes that the range could have been 'anywhere between 200 and 600 metres'. This covers the difficulties in balancing the various factors involved in the shot. Plunkett would need to be at a close enough range to hit a moving target despite his breathless and frozen state, yet still be able to beat the speeding cavalry to make good his escape. Another factor needs consideration if the story of his then downing a second Frenchman is to be believed

    Based on reloading times, the need to be able to get back to friendly lines ahead of the french cavalry, and the claim that plunkett brought down a second frenchman, the best estimate is that the shot was probably taken at somewhere in the vicinity of 450m (my estimate)
     
  9. yulzari

    yulzari Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 24, 2010
    Messages:
    803
    Likes Received:
    79
    Trophy Points:
    28
    Occupation:
    Gentleman
    Location:
    Limousin
    I have the utmost respect for Rifleman Thomas Plunkett's irrefutable bravery and competence but there are fundamental issues that are involved when the distance is given.

    One is the distance at which even a spun ball of probably a 0.595" in a greased patch will become unstable. The spinning of a rifle barrel will extend this over that of a smooth bore but not indefinitely. Another is wind and then there is the issue of sights. With the maximum setting of 200 yards and with the relative drop of the ball with distance increasing, then the target will need to be set a long way over the top of the rear sight. The key here is that Thomas hit the same size target twice. A lucky shot might hit at 400+ yards but two hits in a row implies ideal still conditions, a steady rest (on the Chaco?) and a very skilled marksman. With all of these I would doubt if it could be carried off much over 300 yards and would be worthy of the utmost respect at that range with the weapon. I suspect that Thomas worked himself well forward of the Company position so observers may have assumed the distance to be that from the Company position and the targets which would account for some of the period secondary reports. The distance from the Company position to the targets would indeed be 'from a range that seemed extraordinary to the riflemen of that day', So I am inclined to agree with the French at @300 yards which is hugely impressive enough.
     
    • Informative Informative x 1
  10. soulezoo

    soulezoo Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2014
    Messages:
    204
    Likes Received:
    66
    Trophy Points:
    28
    Location:
    Left coast
    I am inclined to agree with yulzari and his observations. The baker rifle, using the black powder of the day, loaded to a muzzle velocity just barely over the speed of sound and would go sub-sonic by about 150 yards. Even with the 200 yard sights, testing has shown this rifle to have about a 5% chance of hitting a 2 ft. diameter plate at 300 yards with a perfectly aimed rifle. Add to that the expected drop of the projectile to be between 17 to 20 feet at 600 yards depending on conditions and wind and the actual load involved and the odds of hitting a man at 600 yards twice are about the same as winning the lottery. Anyone ever try to plant iron sights of a rifle on a man sized target at 600 yards? That target is awfully small and hard to see. Although Billy Dixon did shoot an Indian off his horse at a distance of about one mile using a Sharps buffalo gun at the battle of Adobe Walls in 1874, so anything may be possible.
     
  11. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2009
    Messages:
    10,308
    Likes Received:
    972
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    retired Firefighter
    Location:
    Central Florida Highlands
    Billy Dixon was shooting at a group of four or more Indians all sitting on horses (stationary) talking to each other. The probability of hitting something was probably pretty good. Picking one individual out of the group and hitting that individual is a whole lot less likely.
     
Loading...
Similar Threads
  1. Marcel
    Replies:
    18
    Views:
    140
  2. Kai Stemm
    Replies:
    11
    Views:
    279
  3. The Basket
    Replies:
    29
    Views:
    611
  4. loomaluftwaffe
    Replies:
    42
    Views:
    4,930
  5. elmilitaro
    Replies:
    19
    Views:
    3,242

Share This Page