Sunday, June 26, 2011
Throughout the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, when smoothbore muskets were slow to load and inaccurate, short-range volley firing was an essential tactic. A trained soldier could fire a shot about every twenty seconds but could not expect to hit a human target beyond 73m/80yd. To accommodate this limitation, infantry soldiers fired in closely disciplined volleys, in which one rank would fire while the second reloaded. The firing rank might take place from the standing or kneeling position, while reloading was conducted from a standing position. A variation of this drill had a row of kneeling men with muskets and bayonets at a 45-degree angle, presenting a formidable barrier to enemy infantry or cavalry. A volley could also be fired by all the soldiers simultaneously, producing a crushing weight of fire which would then be followed up with a bayonet charge.