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I appreciate what Bill is saying here, but a counter point is that at Borodino, nearly all of those 285,000 on the field became engaged, on a battlefield that was MUCH more compressed, and wasnt a meeting engagement. The Russians threw in all of their reserves, the French only held back the guard.
At Gravelotte-St. Privat there were huge numbers of troops that saw little action, but those that did suffered absolutely staggering losses, such as the attack of the Prussian guards on St. Privat where they lost some 7,000 men in 15 minutes. Being a meeting engagement similar to the first day of Gettysburg, the battle developed over the course of the day. It wasnt a series of frontal assaults on fortified positions like Borodino.
Solferino was a battle that was similar in size to Borodino numbers wise, on a battlefield twice as large, with much more maneuver room and the French-Sardinians and Austrians still managed to grind 50,000 casualties in a day.
FYI - posting by Col. Grey on the Age of Eagles list...............
|Re: Fire and Melee Table Statistics |
From: Colonel Bill
Date: Sun, 13 Sep 2020 09:32:47 MST
From discussions with my main squeeze, Bruce Weigle of 1870 fame, think lobster in a pot full of water. Turn the heat up gradually, the lobster stays put until it's too late. Drop the lobster into a pot already boiling, and it goes bat shit crazy to escape. With smoothbore muskets the casualties build up gradually over time, so there is no immediate impact, so troops stick around and thus take more casualties. With Chassepot vs Zundnadelgewehr, significant casualties hit immediately over a short period of time, the troops immediately notice and often, without orders, take measures to protect themselves by taking cover, backing off, going to ground. Thus, while the unit might become combat ineffective quicker, the overall casualty count drops. Now add in longer range and greater accuracy with rifles vs Brown Bess.
Similar for artillery.
VERY generic example:
a. Gravelotte, 301,332 on the field for both sides, 32,435 casualties total, or 10.7 %.
b. Borodino, 285,000 on the field for both sides (Bezonotzky, 2004), 72,000 casualties, or 25.3 %.
Exceptions, to be sure, but other examples are similar.
Wilbur E Gray
Colonel, US Army (Retired)
"Sophisticated, charming and humble" - all down to his club shirt!