Napoleonic militia musket practice

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Wigeon
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Napoleonic militia musket practice

Post by Wigeon » Sun Feb 10, 2019 5:36 pm

We are in the latter stages of preparing a report for the Historic Environment Record, relating to our local militia musket range associated with Norman Cross depot for prisoners of war (1797-1814).

I have managed to trace some militia day books, for their time at Norman Cross, however the musket firing practice has been referred to as 'in accordance with King's regulations' or similar wording.

Whilst I know where the targets were located, I am trying to establish the likely firing positions.

Any ideas where I may find a copy of those regulations or even better, what firing procedures they specify please ?


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Re: Napoleonic militia musket practice

Post by Dave The Slave » Sun Feb 10, 2019 6:23 pm

Firing positions should be: 100,200,400,600 and 800yds and you may still be able to see them on Aerial images.
Find your range on this website, should show up on at least one map and compare to the present day, on the side by side maps.
https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/
Good Luck ::g
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Re: Napoleonic militia musket practice

Post by Wigeon » Sun Feb 10, 2019 8:02 pm

Dave The Slave wrote:
Sun Feb 10, 2019 6:23 pm
Firing positions should be: 100,200,400,600 and 800yds and you may still be able to see them on Aerial images.
Find your range on this website, should show up on at least one map and compare to the present day, on the side by side maps.
https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/
Good Luck ::g
Dave.
Thanks Dave, but doesn't apply to this site unfortunately. This is a fenland field used by Napoleonic period militia firing the 'Brown Bess' flint-lock musket. 100 yards maximum I would have expected. The field was clearly returned to agricultural use. There is no evidence of the use of other than smoothbore muskets, i.e. no rifled weapons.

Other than ancient drainage channels, there is no visible feature on Google Earth or Lidar.
NLS is an excellent resource but doesn't help either. I have access to some much older maps too.

If I could establish the firing details used, it may (or may not) help explain some of the clusters of musket balls found.
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Re: Napoleonic militia musket practice

Post by fred » Sun Feb 10, 2019 8:14 pm

Dave The Slave wrote:
Sun Feb 10, 2019 6:23 pm
Firing positions should be: 100,200,400,600 and 800yds and you may still be able to see them on Aerial images.
Find your range on this website, should show up on at least one map and compare to the present day, on the side by side maps.
https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/
Good Luck ::g
Dave.
I thought early ranges tended to be much shorter? The standard weapon of the period was the Brown Bess and it was only accurate to about 75 yards and effective to 300. An 800 yard range would have been a bit of an overkill. ::g

Unfortunately it is difficult to tell the difference between shot rounds and drops unless they actually hit something. Also such a small site would probably have activities spread all over it when the range wasn't actually in use anyway. :D
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Re: Napoleonic militia musket practice

Post by Wigeon » Mon Feb 11, 2019 8:21 am

What we have is effectively two fields involved. The first field (8 acres) was where the actual activity took place, whilst the second field was open, wet fen where the extreme range balls fell in a very thick cluster (approx. 100+yds wide x 50 yards deep). They are likely to be the overshoots.

They were shooting to the south with targets against an old fen bank. The bank was demolished in 1856/7 and another thick cluster lies where the soil was spread. There were clearly two groups of targets.

I am sure of where the targets were located and the direction of fire. However as you say Fred, balls and other finds eg buttons, coins, fore-end protectors from Brown Bess stock, have been found, spread all over the rest of the main field. Clearly some considerable amount of spread would be caused by cultivation.

We also have clear evidence that they were actually casting balls on site, which must have been an economy measure as Brown Bess was usaully loaded with a ball cartridge. This was clearly a well used range as I have more than 1,000 musket balls and more come up each year following ploughing.

I am keen to get it recorded on the Historic Environment Record, with as much detail as possible.
It would be good to be able to include the practice details that they would have been firing.
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Re: Napoleonic militia musket practice

Post by Dave The Slave » Mon Feb 11, 2019 8:53 am

Apologies for misinformation, was thinking of Victorian ranges I have looked at.
1000 musket balls is impressive, always happy to find those.
Good Luck ::g
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Re: Napoleonic militia musket practice

Post by razzle » Mon Feb 11, 2019 9:24 am

I'd be really interested in reading the report when it's complete - would it be available online at some point?

I only live about 3 miles from Norman Cross. I don't suppose the firing range is on the south side of Whittlesey is it? I've seen a rifle range on the old maps when searching for places that might be of interest.

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Re: Napoleonic militia musket practice

Post by Wigeon » Mon Feb 11, 2019 11:27 am

razzle wrote:
Mon Feb 11, 2019 9:24 am
I'd be really interested in reading the report when it's complete - would it be available online at some point?

I only live about 3 miles from Norman Cross. I don't suppose the firing range is on the south side of Whittlesey is it? I've seen a rifle range on the old maps when searching for places that might be of interest.
We have a few hoops to jump through before getting it recorded on the Historic Environment Record. Once recorded I think it will be available on line. However we will place printed copies with the Peterborough and Huntingdon archives.

The site is not marked on any maps and to the best of current knowledge, not recorded in writing anywhere. Its existence was only known because of a verbal tradition handed down through five or six generations of a local family. We have proved the story to be true.

It is not near Whittlesey.
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