Page:EB1911 - Volume 02.djvu/728

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ARTILLERY

VIII., Louis XII. and Francis I. of France, artillery played a most conspicuous part, both in siege and field warfare. Indeed, cannon did excellent service in the field before hand firearms attained any considerable importance. At Ravenna (1512) and Marignan (1515) field artillery did great execution, and at the latter battle “the French artillery played a new and distinguished part, not only by protecting the centre of the army from the charges of the Swiss phalanxes, and causing them excessive loss, but also by rapidly taking up such positions from time to time ... as enabled the guns to play upon the flanks of the attacking columns” (Chesney, Observations on Firearms, 1852). In this connexion it must, however, be observed that, when the arquebus and other small arms became really efficient (about 1525), less is heard of this small and handy field artillery, which had hitherto been the only means of breaking up the heavy masses of the hostile pikemen. We have seen that artillery was not ignored in England; but, in view of the splendid and unique efficiency of the archers, there was no great opportunity of developing the new arm. In the time of Henry VIII., the ordnance in use in the field consisted in the main of heavy culverins and other guns of position, and of lighter field pieces, termed sakers, falcons, &c. It is to be noticed that already the lightest pieces had disappeared, the smallest of the above being a 2-pounder. In the earlier days of field artillery, the artillery train was a miscellaneous congeries of pontoon, supply, baggage and tool wagons, heavy ordnance and light guns in carts. With the development of infantry fire the use of the last-named weapons died out, and it is largely due to this fact that “artillery” came to imply cumbrous and immobile guns of position. Little is, therefore, heard of smart manoeuvring, such as that at Marignan, during the latter part of the 16th century. The guns now usually come into action in advance of the troops, but, from their want of mobility, could neither accompany a farther advance nor protect a retreat, and they were generally captured and recaptured with every changing phase of the fight. Great progress was in the meanwhile made in the adaptation of ordnance to the attack and defence of fortresses and, in particular, vertical fire came into vogue. A great Turkish gun, carrying a 600-℔ stone shot, was used in the siege of Constantinople, apparently in this way, since Gibbon records that at the range of a mile the shot buried itself a fathom deep in earth, a fact which implies that a high angle of elevation was given. In the celebrated siege of Malta in 1565 artillery played a conspicuous part.

4. The Thirty Years’ War.—Such, in its broadest outlines, is the history of artillery work during the first three centuries of its existence. Whilst the material had undergone a very considerable improvement, the organization remained almost unchanged, and the tactical employment of guns had become restricted, owing to their slowness and difficulty of movement on the march and immobility in action. In wars of the type of the War of Dutch Independence and the earlier part of the Thirty Years’ War, this heavy artillery naturally remained useful enough, and the Wagenburg had given place to the musketry initiated by the Spaniards at Bicocca and Pavia, which since 1525 had steadily improved and developed. It is not, therefore, until the appearance of a captain whose secret of success was vigour and mobility that the first serious attempt was made to produce field artillery in the proper sense of the word, that is, a gun of good power, and at the same time so mounted as to be capable of rapid movement. The “carte with gonnes” had been, as is the modern machine gun, a mechanical concentration of musketry rather than a piece of artillery. Maurice of Nassau, indeed, helped to develop the field gun, and the French had invented the limber, but Gustavus Adolphus was the first to give artillery its true position on the battlefield. At the first battle of Breitenfeld (1631) Gustavus had twelve heavy and forty-two light guns engaged, as against Tilly’s heavy 24-pounders, which were naturally far too cumbrous for field work. At the Lech (1632) Gustavus seems to have obtained a local superiority over his opponent owing to the handiness of his field artillery even more than by its fire-power. At Lützen (1632) he had sixty guns to Wallenstein’s twenty-one. His field pieces were not the celebrated “leather” guns (which were indeed a mere makeshift used in Gustavus’ Polish wars) but iron 4-pounders. These were distributed amongst the infantry units, and thus began the system of “battalion guns” which survived in the armies of Europe long after the conditions requiring it had vanished. The object of thus dispersing the guns was doubtless to ensure in the first place more certain co-operation between the two arms, and in the second to exercise a military supervision over the lighter and more useful field pieces which it was as yet impossible to exercise over the personnel of the heavy artillery.

5. Personnel and Classification.—More than 300 years after the first employment of ordnance, the men working the guns and the transport drivers were still civilians. The actual commander of the artillery was indeed, both in Germany and in England, usually a soldier, and Lennart Torstensson, the commander of Gustavus’ artillery, became a brilliant and successful general. But the transport and the drivers were still hired, and even the gunners were chiefly concerned for the safety of their pieces, the latter being often the property, not of the king waging war, but of some “master gunner” whose services he had secured, and the latter’s apprentices were usually in entire charge of the material. These civilian “artists,” as they were termed, owed no more duty to the prince than any other employés, and even Gustavus, it would appear, made no great improvement in the matter of the reorganization of artillery trains. Soldiers as drivers do not appear until 150 years later, and in the meanwhile companies of “firelocks” and “fusiliers” (q.v.) came into existence, as much to prevent the gunners and drivers from running away as to protect them from the enemy. A further cause of difficulties, in England at any rate, was the age of the “gunners.” In the reign of Elizabeth, some of the Tower gunners were over ninety years of age. Complaints as to the inefficiency of these men are frequent in the years preceding the English Civil War. Gustavus, however, has the merit of being the first to make the broad classification of artillery, as mobile or non-mobile, which has since been almost universally in force. In his time the 12-pounder was the heaviest gun classed as mobile, and the “feildpeece” par excellence was the 9-pounder or demi-culverin. After the death of Gustavus at Lützen (1632), his principles came universally into practice, and amongst them were those of the employment of field artillery.

6. The English Civil War.—Even in the English Civil War (Great Rebellion), in which artillery was hampered by the previous neglect of a century, its field work was not often contemptible, and on occasion the arm did excellent service. But in the campaigns of this war, fought out by men whose most ardent desire was to decide the quarrel swiftly, the marching and manoeuvring were unusually rapid. The consequence of this was that the guns were sometimes either late in arriving, as at Edgehill, or absent altogether, as at Preston. The rôle of guns was further reduced by the fact that there were few fortresses to be reduced, and country houses, however strong, rarely required to be battered by a siege train. The New Model army usually sent for siege guns only when they were needed for particular service. On such occasions, indeed, the heavy ordnance did its work so quickly and effectually that the assault often took place one or two days after the guns had opened fire. Cromwell in his sieges made great use of shells, 12-inch and even larger mortars being employed. The castle of Devizes, which had successfully resisted the Parliamentary battering guns, succumbed at once to vertical fire. It does not, however, appear certain that there was any separation of field from siege ordnance, although the Swedish system was followed in almost all military matters.

7. Artillery Progress, 1660-1740.—Cromwell’s practice of relegating heavy guns to the rear, except when a serious siege operation was in view, and in very rapid movements leaving even the field pieces far behind, was followed to some extent in the campaigns of the age of Louis XIV. The number of ammunition wagons, and above all of horses, required for each gun was four or five times as great as that required even for a modern quick-firer. In the days of Turenne heavy guns were much employed,