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Old February 4, 2013, 12:27 PM   #26
Mike Irwin
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"You know, the world did not begin the day you ignoramouses were born."

Dial it down right now, Mr. Terry.
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Old February 4, 2013, 01:01 PM   #27
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Are you suggesting that some of us are unaware that General Sedgwick misunderstood the size of an elephant?
I'm surprised no one cites Billy Dixon's shot at Adobe Walls, even if it did come after the war.
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Old February 4, 2013, 01:02 PM   #28
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Same thing for small arms fire. I believe John Huff could have hit Jeb Stuart, using a fence as a rest, with his pistol, at 80 rods (about 400 yards). Given how many years and battles John Huff had fought, and that he was an exceptional marksman, sometime exceptional shots are made.
Actually, Jeb Stuart was shot at fairly close range, apprx 15-30 yards. He had just overseen the repulse of a dismounted Union cavalry charge and was doing some shooting himself. As the Union troopers retreated Huff turned and nailed Stuart with a 44. Probably an Army Colt. Huff was known to be a very good shot, but this particular shot was nothing jaw-dropping.
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Old February 4, 2013, 03:28 PM   #29
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I must admit it was a surprising and interesting read the day I learned that riflemen were able to suppress and sometime wipe out artillery positions during the civil war. Shots of a mile happened often enough that they were not entirely uncommon.
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Old February 4, 2013, 04:04 PM   #30
shafter
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Heavy artillery in siege positions and such would have known the precise distance to any point within range.

Field artillery was a different matter. Civil War battles were massively chaotic. More often than not field pieces would arrive on the field and swing into position with the horses in a lather. The captain would make a quick guestimate of the range based on experience and shout a command. He would sit on his horse and watch through field glasses and make adjustments as needed. Most shots were inside a mile with the target more or less in sight so fancy estimations weren't needed even if there was time to use them.

Captain Dilger comes to mind as an example of an excellent gunner. His battery raced onto the field at Gettysburg and rapidly began firing at the confederates. Dilger personally aimed a shot that disabled a confederate cannon. Or so the story goes.
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Old February 4, 2013, 04:15 PM   #31
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Jack Henson guestimated, and was good enough at it that he killed over 30 men with his 50 cal muzzle loader. Many a Yankee officers died on the deck of a boat going against the current of the Cumberland river. He had a place he laid in wait that was ranged to be over 800 yards from where the ships would be.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Hinson

I read a book about him a few years ago.
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Old February 4, 2013, 04:43 PM   #32
Shep
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"I believe John Huff could have hit Jeb Stuart, using a fence as a rest, with his pistol, at 80 rods (about 400 yards)."

Since 80 rods = 1,320 ft / 1/4 mile / 440 yds. (16.5 ft = 1 rod) that'd be a good shot for a rifle. Revolver? I kind of doubt it.
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Old February 4, 2013, 07:38 PM   #33
4V50 Gary
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Have you not ever read of the Confederate General picked off standing in front of his tent with a picked, planned shot ?? At a mile.......
Pure fiction. See William Edwards' book, Civil War Guns, where Mr. Edwards debunks that myth.

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The ignorance of the new whippersnapper generation is appalling.
You know, the world did not begin the day you ignoramouses were born.
Res ipsa loquitur.
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Old February 4, 2013, 09:26 PM   #34
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Their used to be a formula that I don't remember completely but if you could see his legs he was X yards away, if you could see his head he was Y yards, if you could see the face he was Z yards away.
It was a good estimate.
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Old February 5, 2013, 07:23 AM   #35
Mike Irwin
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"THEY USED TRIANGULATION."

Triangulation is good if you have the time and equipment needed to take the measurements.

You need at a minimum a measuring device (if it is of a known length, even a piece of rope will work) and a device to measure the angles.

Then you need to be able to run the computation which, while relatively simple mathematics, still was likely beyond most of the infantry soldiers of the time.

Triangulation would have been a tool used primarily by artillery and engineers, and would probably be most useful when estimating the distance to a fixed point, and less useful on a fluidly moving battlefield.

As others have noted, most soldiers would have simply guessed at the range based on personal experience.
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Old February 5, 2013, 11:36 PM   #36
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Range estimation? Practice. Hunt varmints. Practice. I don't so much any more, but in the past, I saw a deer or whatever and I immediately was thinking "how far is that?" It starts with a football field and looking at the size of things at that distance and going from there.

Things have changed since laser range finders have become common place.
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Old February 6, 2013, 01:22 PM   #37
Double J
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Field maps helped a great deal. As often as possible the distances to reference points were known. This made it easier on the big gun crews. When it came to direct rifle fire the variables got greater. The great volume of smoke would have made well aimed shots all but impossible at times. Was not uncommon to have friendly fire because of no visability. Often scimishes were so close that bayonets and buttstocks was the deciding factor. They hadn't gotten past the European style of warfare yet and still faced each other enmass often at close ranges under 100 yards. Had to be suicidal and brutal."The firstest with the mostest" was the way. After the first volley, there could be no distance.
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Old February 6, 2013, 10:05 PM   #38
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I must admit it was a surprising and interesting read the day I learned that riflemen were able to suppress and sometime wipe out artillery positions during the civil war. Shots of a mile happened often enough that they were not entirely uncommon.
That's why artillery evolved from direct fire to indirect. The Civil War changed a lot of the ways we fight.
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Old February 7, 2013, 08:07 PM   #39
4V50 Gary
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From a British Musketry Manual circa 1859

Regulations for Conducting Musketry Instruction of the Army

Here's a partial excerpt of the drill.

Quote:
"...for this purpose men should be placed in front of the squad at measured distances of 50 yards apart, from 50 to 300 yards for the first practice, and afterwards from 300 to 900 yards. The attention of each volunteer should be directed to the appearance of these men, and of their features, accoutrements, &c., at the different distances; they must remember the distance at which the smaller objects become indistinct or invisible. Each volunteer should be called upon to explain to the instructor what he sees; the explanation should be in a low tone of voice, in order that the rest of the squad may not hear."
I have another book that describes a similar drill. For instance, making out the facial features, seeing the buttons, seeing certain accoutrements, etc.

Artillerymen and other trained people could also use sound to estimate distance.
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