Field guns were increasingly used throughout much of the modern world by the time of Napoleon's conquests. The Emperor made frequent use of batteries after realizing their effect on the battlefield. Beforehand, the field artillery system was used as more of an auxiliary set-piece to supplement advancing cavalry and infantry tactics. Napoleon began fielding large quantities of artillery that would advance before the infantry and cavalry themselves. His tactic was to soften up the enemy that was usually grouped en masse, then lunge forward with his infantry or proceed with a massive cavalry charge to break the formations - hopefully routing the enemy forces from the field.
Field guns eventually developed into various calibers - 4-pounder, 6-pounder and 12-pounder - with the "pounder" designation directly reflecting the weight of the projectile that the system fired. The weapon was usually fielded on a portable two-wheel carriage that could be drawn by horse and moved short distances by the gunnery crew - typically numbering six to eight men. When unhinged from its carrier, the gun crew surround the weapon and was made up of the gunner, commander, loader, ammunition handlers and barrel managers. The weapon was portable enough that the crew could turn the barrel towards a new target or even advance the weapon by pushing / pulling it to a new position with some effort. As this was the period before adequate recoil mechanisms, all fired guns had to be reset in their place, their barrels retrained on a target area.
A field gun's carriage, often referred to as a "caison", would normally sit about thirty yards behind the gun's position with roughly two-hundred rounds of ammunition along with requisite fuses and gunpowder. The favorite projectile type during this time would have been the "solid shot" though their also proved fragmentation projectiles for seriously disastrous effects to uncovered individuals.
Artillery particularly failed Napoleon at Waterloo, as the rain-soaked ground became too muddy to effectively weild his artillery to his liking. A soft ground also kept the solid shot (or roundshot )from successfully ricocheting into the masses of armed infantrymen advancing on his positions. Roundshot could easily decapitate a man, or relieve him of his legs, as the cannonball could effectively bounce 2 to 3 times before coming at rest. This, in itself, was a demoralizing weapon as well as a devastating one. Crews would have to take great care as to firing the round over the heads of their own advancing infantrymen.
This particular Dutch Bronze 6-pdr Field Gun (pictured above) was constructed by L.E. Marits in the Hague when it was still under French control roughly around 1813. The gun bears the name of 'Le Achille' ("the Achilles") and was part of a captured set by the Duke of Wellington from Napoleon's forces in Waterloo in 1815. The cannon sits on a more contemporary carriage design and is available for public viewing at the Tower of London in London, England.
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