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 Posted: Fri Jan 27th, 2012 04:13 am
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Hellcat
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Morale. Hodge, in discussing the heavy batteries, states:


 

Not the least of the benefits of such a weapon at that time was its psychological impact. Rail batteries provided a real boost to morale of troops accompanying them; soldiers would write home to their wives and families extolling the merits of these heavy guns, which could advance with them and strike fear into the enemy.


 

The previous paragraph does hit on the problems of weight and limited field of fire with the heavy batteries. Even without armor your still talking using naval guns or guns likely to be found in costal fortifications rahter than the field pieces used by artillery unitson the battlefield. The guns were heavier than the field pieces and apparently had more recoil. Their weight alone mean that if the tracks weren't strong enough to handle them either they had to be replaced or the gun couldn't move over the track. They were difficult to move even when the track could support their weight. And because of their recoil they could only fire in one direction, straight ahead. So unless you wanted to damage the tracks, you either drove the train up to a curve you you made sure there was a curve ahead of where you were firing that was still going to be short of where the shot would land.

And yet both sides were still willing to build the heavy batteries because of more than their effects on morale. According to what Hodge writes:


 

Despite these drawbacks, however, a 32-pdr rail battery could still move into position and open fire faster than a typical horse-drawn field battery, and with a single shot from it's longer range it could deliver 64lb of explosive ordnance directly into an enemy position - a considerable threat.

 

The light batteries were a different story. They were field artillery mounted on platform cars, or, as we call them today, flatcars. Because they were lighter more could be mounted on a car. Some light battery cars might carry two or three guns. There was less need to worry about whether or not the tracks were strong enough to support the weight. And because they apparently had less recoil they could then be turned to face one of three basic directions (the fourth would have been firing on the train itself). So there was no worrying about if there was a curve ahead or not. Like the heavy batteries the light batteries could still be moved "into position and open fire faster that a typical horse-drawn field battery." After all the pieces were already unlimbered on the platform car so no time would be spent in unlimbering the pieces and then moving them into a firing position.

Last edited on Fri Jan 27th, 2012 04:13 am by Hellcat

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