1
The Shadow of Sedan

The artillery of Europe entered the twentieth century under the shadow of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871. For the tacticians, the battles of that conflict were rich in lessons for the employment of modern cannons. For the armorers, the fact that the victors had been a full generation ahead in field gun technology spurred an arms race that was to last for half a century. While this arms race certainly brought profit to the merchants of death, it made life difficult for the tacticians. For before they had completely digested the tactical implications of the artillery technology used in the Franco-Prussian War, that technology changed radically. And, although some clues to the impact of the new field guns were provided in wars fought on the periphery of the civilized world, no consensus on their proper use was reached before the outbreak of World War I.

From the vantage point of the late twentieth century, the salient characteristic of the artillery battles of the Franco-Prussian War was technological asymmetry. The German breech-loading guns were vastly superior--in terms of range, accuracy, and, perhaps most important, reliability of fuses--to their mostly muzzle-loading French counterparts. The crew of a standard German field gun, a four-pounder of 80mm caliber, could throw an explosive shell 3,800 meters and be reasonably sure that it would explode at the end of its journey. Their French counterparts, armed with their 86.5mm four-pounder, could send a projectile 3,150 meters. However, only at ranges of 1,400 to 1,600 meters and 2,650 to 2,950 meters did the fuse of the explosive shell work. At other ranges, it was simply an inert projectile, an overpriced but underweight piece of hollow solid shot. 1

-1-

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On Artillery
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Note ix
  • 1 - The Shadow of Sedan 1
  • 2 - The Quick-Firing Revolution 17
  • Notes 26
  • 3 - Howitzers 29
  • Notes 39
  • 4 - Artillery Conquers, Infantry Occupies 43
  • Notes 63
  • 5 - The Great Divorce 69
  • Notes 84
  • 6 - Bruchmüller 87
  • Notes 103
  • 7 - From One War to Another 107
  • Notes 120
  • 8 - Artillery Alone 125
  • Notes 140
  • 9 - Postwar Developments 143
  • Notes 160
  • 10 - Conclusion: The Future of Artillery 163
  • Bibliography 165
  • Index 171
  • About the Author 177
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