Monday, November 26, 2012

Dutch Bronze 6-pdr Field Gun

Field guns were increasingly used throughout much of the modern world by the time of Napoleon. The Emperor made frequent use of batteries after realizing their effect on the battlefield. Beforehand, the field artillery system was used as more of an auxiliary set piece to supplement advancing cavalry and infantry. Napoleon began fielding large quantities of artillery that would advance before the infantry and cavalry themselves. His tactic was to soften up the enemy that was usually grouped en masse, then lunge forward with his infantry or proceed with a massive cavalry charge to break the troops.

This particular 6-pdr Field Gun was captured from Napoleon at Waterloo by the Duke of Wellington.

Field guns can in various calibers - 4-pounder, 6-pounder and 12-pounder - with the "pounder" designation directly reflecting the weight of the projectile that the system used. The weapon was usually fielded on a portable two-wheel carriage that could be draw by horse. When unhinged, the system was manned by at least six personnel in various capacities from gunner, commander and loader. The system was portable enough that the crew could turn the barrel towards a new target or even advance the weapon by pushing / pulling it to a new position.

A weapon's carriage, often referred to as a caison, would normally sit about 30 yards behind with roughly 200 rounds of ammunition along with fuses and gunpowder. The favorite projectile type during this time would have been the "solid shot".

Artillery particularly failed Napoleon at Waterloo, as the rain-soaked ground became too muddy to effectively weild his artillery to his liking. A soft ground also kept the solid shot (or round shot) from successfully ricocheting into the masses of armed infantrymen advancing on his positions. Roundshot could easily decapitate a man, or relieve him of his legs, as the cannonball could effectively bounce 2 to 3 times before coming at rest. This, in itself, was a demoralizing weapon as well as a devastating one. Crews would have to take great care as to firing the round over the heads of their own advancing infantrymen.

This particular Dutch Bronze 6-pdr Field Gun (pictured above) was constructed by L.E. Marits in the Hague when it was still under French control roughly around 1813. The gun bears the name of 'Le Achille' ('the Achilles') and was part of a captured set by the Duke of Wellington from Napoleon's forces in Waterloo in 1815. The cannon sits on a more contemporary carriage design and is available for public viewing at the Tower of London in London, England.



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