First off, yesterday’s exercise went over better than I expected. Thanks to everyone who commented and voted. I’ll have to do more of such exercises.
Now what about the placement of those guns?
Of the responses, about a third preferred to put cannons on the flanks (positions 4 and 7). Of the reset, the second most favored was alined, but within, the main infantry line (positions 5 and 6). But massed to the front (position 2) and “Other” received their share of votes.
That “other” was perhaps a flaw in the exercise. I didn’t build any way to provide a description of what “other” was supposed to be. From the comments on the post, many folks were looking to mix and match approaches and positions. Part of that is due to the incomplete description I provided. Not enough information on the enemy, the nature of the friendly force, or even the overall situation. Just a stack of playing pieces on the chess board.
That leads to the real solution to the exercise – no “right” answer exists. Rather there are preferences, alternatives and options. So what would what were a good battery commander’s preferences 150 years ago? Well billiard table flat chessboards aside, I would offer John Gibbon’s answer:
Batteries are usually placed at least 60 yards in front of the intervals between regiments and brigades, and upon their flanks, so as not to offer two marks for the fire of the enemy, or subject the troops placed in rear to a fire directed against the artillery….
I would translate Gibbon’s preferences to be positions 1, 3, 4 or 7. But to be sure, Gibbon was not merely positioning guns where the supporting infantry were safe from enemy counter-battery fire. The other part his selection was to “clear” the guns to allow the best possible field of fire. He recognized that long before the infantry begins to engage, the artillery must bring fire upon the advancing enemy. “The greatest cannonading takes place at from 800 to 900 yards.” So placing the guns out in front of, or to the side of, the infantry line would clear the batteries for that long range fire. It is line of sight the battery commander needs. And in this unnaturally flat terrain offered in the scenario, we didn’t have to account for terrain.
Personally, I’m not much into armchair generalship. I wasn’t there 150 years ago, so how can I contend to have a better vantage over those who were. However, what I get out of contemplating gun placement, in hypothetical exercises like this, is a template to lay across time and space. It becomes a tool to help interpret the actions on the battlefield. What was done and why was it done? What were the factors driving decisions? What turned those decisions into success … or failure?
Oh, but for a artillery version of Gray’s Cavalry Tactics!