Battle Focused Training – 1780 Style!

I mentioned John Muller’s Treatise of Artillery in yesterday’s post in regard to the work’s influence upon early American gun-makers.  The Treatise also provided a guide to the service of the guns, both in the field and garrison.  While outdated by the time of the Civil War, the manuals in use by 1861 owed much to Muller’s.

Regarding the service of the guns, one passage stands out in reference to training the crew.  Under a section titled “Practice at Home” (page 150-1 of the 1768 edition) is a rather direct suggestion by Muller concerning the practice with guns and fortifications.  I’ll recite it here, exchanging Muller’s ‘f’s for ‘s’s where appropriate:

As the intention of the exercises in time of peace, is to render the young artillerist skilful in all the different branches of his business, I think, that if fascine batteries were frequently raised, and platforms laid, that they may know how to do it in time of war, and at the same time accustom the men to fire through embrasures, it would conduce very much their perfection : for the manner the exercise is carried on at present upon a stone platform, without any declivity, and without breastwork, can give no true idea of the firing in a siege; the most it can do is to represent a faint notion of firing in a battle, where no battery or platform is made, except in some cases where a post is to be defended.

A round about way of saying what my friend XBradTC would consider good old “train as you fight.”   But Muller continues:

I know an excuse is made, that it is the duty of the engineers, and not that of the artillery offices to make batteries, and they have hitherto made them accordingly, as far as I know : yet as this custom is ground upon very erroneous principles, as we shall prove, it ought to be abolished.  For how seldom does it happen that an engineer in this country has an opportunity to make a battery?  and when he has, how shall he know whether the embrasures are rightly made, or what declivity the platform should have, except he is well acquainted with the artillery, or is instructed by the officers of artillery?  It may be said, he ought to be acquainted with what has been done by former engineers; but as the length and weight of pieces is changed almost every day, and of course the making f the embrasures and platforms must change likewise, it is impossible he should know how to make a battery in a proper manner, unless he was ordered to make experiments every time that pieces are changed, which is never done.

So Muller now touches upon not only the training of artillerists, but also the engineers.  He presented good reasons for training with the guns “in fascine batteries” and for hands on construction of such batteries in peacetime.   Having done so, Muller then recommended the detailed specifications of the batteries be under the control of artillery officers, since “they are on the spot, and, by firing these guns, have all the opportunity they can wish to determine these things….

So more than 200 years before the publication of FM 25-101, someone was thinking about “Battle Focused Training.”  And certainly I don’t see Muller’s Treatise as a singular example here.  The training manuals of yore are full of rather frank suggestions calling for practical drill and service based upon field experience.  The technology might change, but the methodology, at its lowest denominator, remains the same.