Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Skirmishing With Light Arms 3 - The long Shot

To complete our example of the Native Americans we will again use (some of ) the examples from Alexander Rose’s “ American Rifle "'
Starting in the German Mountains:

…The plain muskets could be produced without anywhere near as much  care, they were simply much cheaper than rifles.
Hunters, however found rifling a boon, for in the rugged and echoey Alps they could use rifles to stalk bears, stags, and chamois from as far as two-hundred yards away-a range at which a musket was virtually ineffective.  While amid the chasms and atop the peaks, swirling wind eddies wreaked havoc with regular bullet’s trajectory and velocity, with a rifle an experienced hunter could achieve a one-shot kill by compensating for the wind.  As early as 1487 shooters were competing in target competitions (p15).

Then after lengthy explanation of the German rifle makers coming to Pennsylvania and the eventual dispersion of the rifle to the Indians; by the British to get their help against the French.
Indians admired the rifles as ideal hunting weapons and objects of status, but they also quickly recognized that rifles represented their best shot at freedom. In his report of 1764 discussing British Indian policy Colonel John Bradstreet astutely divined the native Americans’ desire for rifles: “ All the Shawanese and Delawar Indians are furnished with rifled barrel guns, of an excellent king, and that the upper Nations are getting into them fast, by which, they will be less dependent upon us, as account of the great saving of powder, this gun taking much less, and the shot much more certain, than any other gun, and in their way of carrying on war, by far more prejudicial to us, than any other sort”…
Frontiersmen popularized the term “skulking” to describe the Indian reliance on “ambushments, sudden surprises, or overmatching some of our small companies with greater numbers, having had many times six or seven to one”….the Indians subjected them to nighttime and dawn raids, as well as surprise attacks during thunderstorms and fog.
Wilderness fighting favored the fleety, camouflaged, loosely organized bands of men traveling light and adeptly using trees, ravines, and rocks to pick their targets and snipe at the enemy before scuttling to another hiding place.   The Indians’ favored strategy was to dispatch scouts to detect approaching enemies, then ambush them in a vulnerable position, such as alongside a river or along a path  passing  through a ravine. Upon deducing the enemies weaknesses, Indian bands executed a complicated series of tactical maneuvers to deploy into a “half-moon” formation that would flank the unfortunates and pick them off.
Such attacks nearly always occurred from a distance, using rifles or bows, for it was a rash chief who engaged trained soldiers in hand-to-hand fighting (p27).

Native American warfare avoided pitched battles in favor of low-level insurgencies that inflicted relatively few casualties but dragged on for years, tiring out nervous settlers, wearying militiamen with constant call-outs, and exhausting government treasuries unable to afford the cost of maintaining a permanent professional force for protection (p26).

As an aside, the Indians were adept at close in fighting, but were wise to avoid bayonet-armed infantry when they met them. 
I think the author also is missing the fact that the typical fighting between settlers and Indians only involved a few thousand people on each side.  Thus the Indians consistently fought in a manner that would cause them the least amount of causalities.  It is probably the type of warfare they wagged between themselves, and so any wearing affect on their enemy’s treasury was incidental.
They are using effective long knives, and tomahawks at close range, and rifles to keep a distance when they have no advantage.

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