Military Subjects: Organization, Strategy & Tactics


The Artillery of System An XI

By Paul Dawson

Since the second half of the 16th Century, the French artillery had only used guns firing shot at 4, 8, 12, 24 or 32 pounds. The drawings of these guns, fixed for the first time in 1668, were modified by the order of  7 October 1732, which only preserved the 5 first calibres.  After the Seven Years War, a series of comparative trials carried out by Gribeauval at Strasbourg in 1764. The War Minister decided, on 19 December 1764, that the only guns, which in future should accompany an army in the field, should be 12, 8, and 4 pounders, and a few 6-inch howitzers of a new construction. The other guns were reserved for sieges and for the armament of fortified places. Additionally, tables of dimensions were standardized that would make the construction of gun and other carriages uniform for the whole Kingdom.

Gribeauval’s Drawings for the 12 Pound Gun

 

The idea of placing on a wheeled carriage a short piece firing almost horizontally hollow bombs or projectiles appears to have had its birth in England or in Holland. The piece received the name of “howitzer, haubitze, obus.” It had been adopted by nearly all European armies before the French paid them any attention, although they had captured two of them at the battle of Fleurus.  In 1740, Field Marshal de Belle-Isle, then Governor of Metz, ordered experiments to be made with this invention which had been presented to him as absolutely new. For the campaign in Bohemia,  Bavaria supplied the French army with some of these pieces. They served as models for those which were constructed at Donay in 1743, and after that howitzers regularly formed a part of all field artillery equipments.

Gribeauval 12 Pound Gun with Limber and Barrel in Traveling Position

 

Gribeauval Limber for 12 Pound Gun

 

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: September 2004

 

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