I understand the nine step sequence to load and fire a rifle/musket and that it is usually written that an experienced soldier could complete this three times a minute, (although I find it hard to believe that many could keep that up for long in the heat of battle). I was in a military model shop in London today and all the ACW soldiers, both sides, were modelled aiming and firing with fixed bayonets, it looked strange, and my question is, how would the bayonet affect the loading of the weapon timewise and the aiming of the weapon weightwise? I have looked at Don Trioani's paintings where there are several instances of soldiers loading rifles with fixed bayonets, looks easy but I bet it wasn't. Any of you shooters out there know?
Fedreb, that's a good question that you pose and military historians are still very much debating it on both sides of the pond. My own take comes more from reading contemporary accounts rather than actual experience. First off, I think you are quite right about firing three rounds a minute. It's possible, but if you do that and you have are carrying the standard 60 rounds, you are out of the battle in 20 minutes if my math is correct and at the mercy of the battlefield logistics system. As to the loading and aiming, the bayonet that was generally affixed to a Enfield or a Springfield rifle was called a socket bayonet. As you ram the bullet, the bayonet would be offset to the left of the barrel and angled slightly outward so that it would not impede right handed loading. Even with these precautions, I have seen a few a few accounts of men scraping up the back of their hands while loading. In regards to firing, a socket bayonet adds about a pound to a 9 pound weapon. That may affect your aim if you are shooting at a picket 300 yards away, but if you are shooting at a line of battle 100 yards away, you are still likely to hit somebody on the other side.
To sum up, as far as I can tell, bayonets were indeed fixed when preparing for significant action, because, if nothing else, its a powerful psychological weapon for your own Soldiers as well as your enemies. The benefits you gain from that alone are worth the slight detriments you incur. Hope that helps!
Thanks Mark. As I said, looks easy. I have held Springfield and Enfield rifles but never have had the experience of loading or firing one and,as in so many things,knowing what to do and actually doing it are two totally different things.
I like the point you make about the psychological aspect. I think that were I in line of battle with no time to load because the enemy were charging down on me that bit of pointed metal on the end of my rifle would be quite comforting.
Last edited on Mon Jan 4th, 2010 07:11 pm by fedreb
I can do three rounds a minute, providing I start w/ a round loaded. In Earl Hess recent book he analyzes quite a few ACW engagements and IIRC found only two that approached that 3 rounds a minute rate of fire. I have only ever found one, Allatoona in Oct 1864.
I do shoot a lot (used to not so much right now), I have shot w/ bayonets fixed, both a standard triangular and a sabre. Loading w/ the triangular was really no more difficult than w/out the sabre was another matter altogether. In both cases the balance and accuracy was dramaticly decreased as it did significantly change the balance of the weapon.
In the case of the triangular I was using a very accurate repop. The Sabre was actually a third again heavier than an original but I can't see it making much of a difference.
It is important to understand it takes no time at all to fix bayonet. I've never timed myself but I can say the sabre goes on faster than the triangular but in both cases I can put that bayonet on in well under 6 seconds... about the time it takes to draw, chamber & fire the first round in a modern semi auto pistol.