Old weapon, new weapon

HBS Guy

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Reading a book by Harry Turtledove, seafarers from Rhodes in the time about 100 years after the battle for Troy. Their merchant ship has a ram—a big spike meant to be, errr, rammed into the side of a ship it was fighting so making a big hole and so sinking the ship.

Oars gave way to sails, couldn’t use a ram on a sailing ship, Yet ramming and rams came back—in the fleets of the Union and Confederacy! Steam power made ramming a valid technique again!

The Merrimac had a ram—and huge cannon. The Monitor did not have a ram, plenty of armor tho—I guess sort of a Middle Ages weapon, armor for defence. The Mississippi river fleets of the Union and Confederacy had rams and they were used.

Can’t think of any other classic or Middle Ages techniques or weapons came back. Slings, arrows, spears, catapults never came back. The phalanx never came back either—the Romans easily defeated Greek phalanxes.

I suppose things like Iron Age hill forts came back in Civil War and WWI entrenchments.

Booby’s mythical “King” Arthur would have been a fifth century Briton chief, from a century or so after the Romans had left Britain and the Vikings were invading and looting England. Makes Merlin, a shaman, more likely—Druidic rituals etc. Tintagel a likely place for “Arthur” to be born and raised in, a fort. Forts yes, castles no, they needed the Norman invasion in 1099 to become real.

Castles never came back, except perhaps as battle tanks but tho armored they are very much offensive weapons not defensive. Not really a return of the chariot. British and US tanks were not much of a match for the German panzers, maybe the Sherman Firefly was? British Churchill tank had a longer life—made an ideal flamethrower tanks (crews from Centurion tank flamethrower were not treated very kindly by their German captors. Was this “Greek fire” returned? Not really I think.

Rams are the only one of the Classic Era weapons unambiguously to come back to active use in modern times and their comeback didn’t last long, less than 4 years. Maybe submarines and their torpedoes are an extension of the ram?
 
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SethBullock

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@HBS Guy In the Civil War where the soldiers had those single shot rifles that took around 30 seconds to reload (if they were really fast), I could see where it might have been advantageous to have a bow and a quiver of arrows slung over your back. If the enemy was charging your position you could fire the rifle and then shoot an arrow almost every 5 seconds.
 

HBS Guy

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Soldiers were very close—Napoleon tactics with much more modern—more accurate and more powerful—weapons. Took a long time for new tactics to appear but entrenchments and breastworks were dug by soldiers as a matter of course after a couple of years of the war. The Union should have made many many more Henri repeating rifles: several times a small unit of Union soldiers equipped with them held off a much bigger confederate unit just with the high rate of fire. Better still for the union—the confederates could not make the ammunition.

Confederates only chance was to do a Gettysburgh very early in the war (without losing the battle that is) and so get recognition from England and/or France.) But States Rights queered that. There was no point the Confederates continuing the struggle after Atlanta fell and with it so much of the Southerners’ industry, already depleted by losses at Jackson, Vicksburg and Meridien not to mention Corinth.
 

HBS Guy

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Have not come across it in any of the books I have read.

I would not have liked the food, esp the Confederate army food: hard tack and rancid bacon. After the fall of Vicksburg the transMissisippi salt was no longer available and seawater and saline springs in Virginia were a poor replacement.
 

HBS Guy

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Ha! Not a weapon, a technique: German Army in Russia once the rain turned roads to deep seas of mud “corduroyed the roads.”

In the Civil War, Sherman’s March Through the Carolinas, his armies were so good at corduroying roads and crossing swamps that opposing general JE Johnston claimed admiringly that there had been no such Army since the legions of Julius Ceasar!

They had to drag supply wagons, ambulances and guns through the swamps (LOTS of those in S Carolina) and deep mud of the roads.

The men invented a grim joke: on the rivers the paddleboats transporting troops had a lead going, sailor calling out all the depths, “No Bottom!” when the lead did not reach the bottom. When the roads were especially deep mud some joker in the ranks would call out “No Bottom!”
 
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HBS Guy

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Oh yes, Stonewall Jackson had ordered hundreds of pikes made. He was killed by friendly fire before they could be used and they just rusted in the Richmond arsenal. Not a weapon of classic times—spears were the weapons of the phalanx—they had been used, with smoothbore muskets in the English Civil War and other wars from the late Middle Ages to the early 1700s. What Jackson had in mind for them I don’t know. In the era of rifled muskets with a lot more power, range and accuracy pikemen would likely not get close enough to use their pikes.

Sieges with saps using gabions and fascines did happen in the Civil War—Vicksburg for one. Again not a classic era technique tho.
 

HBS Guy

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One piece of classic equipment not in use in the Civil War that should have been was the helmet. By 1863 a Civil War army would entrench as a matter of course wherever and whenever they were halted. Sharpshooters would shoot at any enemy head sticking out above a parapet or breastworks and so helmets would have saved lives. Head logs sort of performed that function but could be shot away by solid cannon shot.

The weight of a helmet was too much for infantry to carry in their marches tho.
 

HBS Guy

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Actually, if the pikes had been used they would have been a classic weapon—pikes are basically very long spears and phalanxes used pikes (spears so long they had to be operated using two hands.)

Rams, pikes, helmets, three classic weapons that came back (or almost came back.)
 
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