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tv   Paul Lockhart Firepower  CSPAN  January 29, 2022 11:02pm-12:15am EST

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paul lockhart. welcome everyone. my name is crystal lake and i'm a professor here in the department of english language and literatures at wright state. it's my pleasure to introduce professor paul lockhart to you today. but before i tell you a little bit more about paul, i want to thank both professor, alpena sharma and the department of
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english for hosting this event and the college of liberal arts and university libraries for sponsoring it. be sure to stop by the friends of the library today table today, too. hi. i likewise want to thank nick warrington and becca webb from cola for the work. they've done to help make this event happen and give a shout out to seth bogus and jim hannah and wright state's communications for the help. they provide it to promote today's talk, and i also want to welcome c-span and book tv to write state's campus. we're thrilled that you're here and we hope to have the chance to see you again. finally. i want to acknowledge that we are located on the homelands of the sessian hopewell, edina, miami and shawnee peoples. we acknowledge the sufferings these indigenous tribes experience at the hands of settler colonialist, and we pay homage to the struggles as well as the hopes and dreams this land represents additionally, please let me know if you would like an accessibility copy of professor lockhart's talk and i'll make sure that you get one.
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professor paul douglas lockhart has been a member of the history faculty at wright state university since 1989. in addition to teaching popular classes on topics such as the history of the gun and history's kings and queens. paul has published seven books and military history and on the history of scandinavia. paul is also had fellowships from the american council of learning societies and the american scandinavian foundation. he has been a visiting lecturer at the university of southern denmark and he has been the national endowment for the humanities visiting distinguished professor at suny potsdam and 2014. paul was named a bravesh golding distinguished professor of research here at wright state and in 2020. he was named ohio distinguished historian by the ohio academy of history paul lives in centerville with mary his wife alex their teenage son one poodle and three according to paul dimwitted cats. paul's most recent book which will be hearing about today is
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firepower a magisterial history of how changes in weapons technologies have not only shaped forms of warfare, but also impacted almost every aspect of modern human society and especially the structure of power in the west from the renaissance to the dawn of the atomic era as one recent review. has put it paul's firepower is a fascinating rip roaring ride. written in paul's enviably elegant style and published by basic books firepower is primed to be a widely read and widely discussed title. here at wright state. we're lucky not only to get the chance to hear more about firepower while it's still hot off the presses but also to get to learn from paul every day of the year. so, please join me in welcoming professor paul lockhart to the podium. thank you for that crystal very generous introduction.
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a second here. there we have. firepower is the most difficult book i've ever written most challenging book i've ever written. now if you have to figure out already and know chris gave a brief introduction to it fire powers a survey history of a fairly large topic namely of the the history of weapons technology in what i like to call the age of the gun in other words from the introduction of of gunpowder weapons in the west and the late middle ages until roughly the end of the second world war a period in which not only are firearms the center of tactics and of the military art, but really all so the primary focus of military technology after the second world war is not as if firearms go away clearly, but they're not quite the same priority that they once had so it's compared to things like studying like writing about the foreign policy of denmark over a 40-year period it's a large topic for me.
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and and that's one of the reasons that was that was that was so challenging. it's a big book and since i'm as a reviewer told me a very early reviewer lockhart's book is really large. i mean, i like i like the pros it reads really well, but it's big. i think it would probably keep up six times in a review. it made me feel kind of self-conscious about the thing, but the theme itself is big obviously, it's also the first book i've written that wasn't about a person or a group of people and and that in itself was kind of was kind of weird for me. in fact, it's about things about things that hill or main people and after a while they got oddly kind of worrying. i mean i've done dealt with military history almost my entire adult life and certainly my entire professional life, and i'm used to writing about those things, but it still, you know took its toll after every now and then i i remember in fact reading a a german book written by written by military surgeon about the effect of high
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velocity small arms projectiles over adopted in the 1890s replete with lots of photographs and diagrams and i spent about an hour with the book and i just couldn't touch the topic for probably three or four days after that. it was at it was that draining and that you'll give us a high experience for me. not that historians are not used to dealing with unpleasant things. of course, they are i mean history history wouldn't be history if it weren't unpleasant much at the time. um, but but that was i a different experience. and also it's a book that evolved as i wrote it now anybody who's written a book or he's an article for that matter? knows that they don't start they don't end the way you expect them to right. i mean always go in a slightly different direction. sometimes this entirely unanticipated and with this book in particular because it although i've been writing it. it's roughly 2016-2017. i've been writing it in my head. probably for about the time. i was 18 or 19. in fact, it was kind of an odd moment. i was going through some stuff.
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i retrieved for my parents house a few years ago, and it was a blackboard that used to be in my bedroom when i was a kid with notes for some reason. my parents had kept on i thought i wrote in 1983 about about the parabolic trajectory of rifle musket projectiles and what this means about civil war tactics. well, that was that was really odd and that was a really odd 19 year old too for that matter. so i've been kind of working this out in my head for a long time. just never actually putting it to paper until the past few years and and during that time the book went in different directions. i've been asking fact. i've done a couple of podcasts so far about the book and one of the questions that comes up is it was a research process like you're in a story and you probably spent a lot of time in archives a little well. yeah, but not for this. um because it is a big book and it's based primarily on secondary sources. there's that's an issue, but you over the past. no, yeah, roughly over the past
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30 years as i worked in other archives. every now that i find a little tidbit and the national archives in copenhagen, for example, i find a little tidbit or two and i put them away for later use and so the book was had kind of a weird journey in coming together. and it definitely did not end up exactly the way i expected to and i think i learned more oddly from the process of this book then that i very often do when i'm when i'm writing anything. my purpose in writing this book. was really twofold first of all. it's been stuck up here for a long time. i had to get rid of it, and i'm really relieved now that i have i'm hoping that i can i can think about other things for a while and and second because well there is a lakota or several laguna where it comes to the the academic study of weaponry academics. generally don't write a great deal about firearms and i'll get
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back to that in a few moments but i wanted to say something about why i decided to do this. first of all kind of a disclaimer. i am a gun owner for since i was 18. i've been collecting antique guns, although i must confess within a past decade of divested myself a bunch of that collection. collecting weapons. it turns out takes a fair amount of work, and i'm lazy. they also take a lot of room and people visit your house and see a whole bunch of guns. they automatically questions come up right so, but i don't come from a gun family. my father brought home a couple of japanese arasaka rifles from the second world war and most of those were thrown up on my grandfather who hated guns and my parents were never we're neither warm or cold. on guns. i wasn't allowed to buy a musket until i was 18 and then only because it was a musket --, you know, no modern weapons, but my connection comes, you know, kind
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of oddly and i'm glad to finally i can i can make an homage to her my paternal grandmother my dad's mom. um my my grandma lockhart, i was very close with she broke her when i was eight. and so for most of my childhood i helped take care of her. and grandma lockhart just seemed a historic. she first of all probably the only person i knew in my peer group growing up who had grandparents born in the 19th century. and that was that was her. she in spending time with her she demanded some really unusual things with me like memorizing a whole bunch of long fellow poems until about 15 years ago. like it's still recite rick of the hesperus. i can't anymore probably just as well make room for other more important things because she came from whaling stock and yearn for the sea. she made me memorize a whole bunch of different shipwrecks. and so as a 10 year old, i could tell a brig from a brigantine
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from a snow and a bark from a barkantine from a topsailor from a shipwreck. it did really hasn't really done me that much good over the years, but i do remember those things. she was my window to history. and in that time that i spent with her. i mean, i'm sure her many of her stories were heavily embellished. but she remembered seeing american troops coming home for the spanish-american war. he remembered seeing taft on a campaign stop in 1912. she remembered and this was kind of my introduction to the the horrors of the industrial revolution if you remembered a friend of hers getting crushed by a load of scrap metal that had been dumped of a second story window in the aimed sword shop in chicopee in massachusetts. she herself was a middle girl growing up in central, massachusetts first in a textile mills there until she started working at springfield armory invent her life revolved around guns. after springfield, she went to
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remington arms in their factory in bridgeport, connecticut where she was an inspector and she talked about this a lot as i think probably about the age of 10. she had taught me verbally. how to strip and reassemble a russian mosinagant rifle which i thought was really odd until i realized that what is really on no matter how you slice it that that remington manufactured mozena got rifles for the zaras government and beginning of world war one if you do them intimately used to tell me in fact that she assumed russians were really horrible people because the bayonet was really gruesome. she had the test-fired browning water cool machine guns and to be that you know meteor about the coolest grandmother in the world. it's actually smuggled one home. is by peace my grandfather wouldn't say separated my grandfather. threw the ball out. thanks, grandpa. hey, that's probably worth about fifty thousand dollars right now. the she all these things she
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imparted to me and and part of it was that it was a connection i had with her part of it was firearms became to me kind of a tangible. a connection to a kind of history that's fascinated me which was the only the history of war. but i digress here. i wrote firepower to fill the kunas i'd said and it's not that historians don't write about weapons they do. sometimes quite frequently in fact recently. there's been a greater degree of interest and he academic study of weapons. which kind of faded away after the first world war. there's a new journal called vulcan for example an academic journal devoted to the history military technology. there is a whole flew of books by academics dealing with culture and cultural and political implications of weapons technology preasantia. for example empire of guns a
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book about the involvement of the british small arms industry in early british imperialism in india, david silverman thundersticks a book about the the implications of the european small arms trade with indigenous american peoples and how that affected indigenous society really up to the end of the 19th century. but they're really kind of exceptions and in general historians. who want to read about weapons? or for whom weaponry is part of their work are really kind of poorly served. they really have a limited number of options for this. although there are some very broad studies of gun of firearms and weapons technology generally speaking. they have to rely on a couple of kinds of literature that well art conventional. i think for for academically trained historians namely coffee table books. in collector's books um, i was
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in the all position of once of counseling a really talented which automite student but a really talented history honor student who is doing in fact a an honors thesis that revolved around german use of captured soviet armor in a second world war. and having to tell her that you're the with all these scholarship that's been done on the eastern front in the second world war and the number of really excellent books on the great patriotic war. none of the really would tell her what she needed to know. about the the actual physical capabilities of the tanks that you needed to know about and that she actually be better served by going to the bargain shells at barnes & noble and finding a great tanks of world war ii types of books which had the information that she needed and that's again a symptom. of the fact that historians just generally. our house to put a historians don't do guns.
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by and large collectors literature which i used heavily for this. of course. i have a fair collection of collectors literature. um is mostly aimed at yes, it collectors and they're and they're intended mostly to help people identify weapons. i've got probably four or five four or five or six maybe six volumes actually dealing with american military flintlocks. from 1795 to 1842 and almost all of them deal with markings or the finials on the end of a prison spring. it said a really small details so that collectors can figure out exactly what it is that they have but that's the sometimes those are extraordinarily useful books, but again for detailed weapons information. it's very often. you have to very often you have to focus on on buff literature and collectors literature. so that's not terribly satisfactory.
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i think for the vast majority of historians who may need to deal with, you know with weapons and passing but who aren't necessarily interested in the same thing that collectors are it's hard to say why historians i think stay away from the history weapons and part of it. of course is i think and kind of natural. mostly repugnance there might be a little bit too strong. on natural dividends about weapons, especially in the united states, especially with the very complicated relationship that americans have with firearms or americans have with each other over firearms. which which does make dealing with weapons or you know for the point of view of the teaching professor dealing with for example with with students who are might have a different viewpoint than you do about weapons kind of unusual. it doesn't help too that i've encountered this a lot when dealing with other faculty over the past. 32 years that have been teaching is that for those of us who
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teach courses that involve war even if it's only parenthetically? we've always got that student. who shows up and wants to talk about something? really minor something that seems like ephemera in a world war ii class somebody wants to debate. whether you know whether the later later forms of sherman tanks are better than panthers for example, and why and and usually they have their fingertips all sorts of statistics and and it can seem it can seem irrelevant. you know that they're not they're not they're not catching on to the big points. you're trying to make i've i remember in fact a former colleague who was bothered by the fact that as she was talking about the origin to the first world war. i specifically the russo-japanese war. had a student who just couldn't get past talking about the size of the guns on russian and japanese ships it'sushiva straight and to her it seemed like you know the essentially the hobbyism of a wargamer.
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and not a not a serious attempt at doing history. granted you could make the argument. that there are very serious implications there. it's the in fact what is found out at sushima straight without getting in too much detail about the about the relative performance of different sized guns. that fuels perhaps one of the most dramatic unveilings of a weapon system ever named with the launching of the hms dreadnought in 1906, which reinvigorates the german the anglo-german naval naval arms race after that point. but in short those kinds of details certainly from a viewpoint of a teaching historian um can be be can be irritating? but there is this a certain danger to ignoring those details and the things that i wanted to. emphasize today because there's no way that i'm going to try to summarize or give you a 30
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minute written synopsis of a 640 page book. yeah, i would not subject you to that and that's object myself to that, but that some of the important things that we can glean from a closer attention to the history of weapons technology. first of all there's there's a number of established narratives. that we talk about in history all the time that center around weapons. and because we've gotten some of the details of the weapons wrong, and i might seem like really tiny details. um, we end up getting the narrative wrong. a couple of examples several spring of mine, but two in particular um, and i think if for those of you and your and your audience who have taught a history or have been a student in a history class. you may well may will recognize this for american it's the civil war. um part of the narrative of the civil war and we see this not
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just in not just an established textbook say like jim mcpherson's a book on a survey history the civil war. that battle cry freedom of member correctly that the the war is uniquely bloody when you get this in american historianography all the time. it's also in high school and middle school curricula. it's in documentaries. it's just kind of assumed the civil war is uniquely bloody. why is he how is it uniquely bloody? well, there's more americans killed in the american civil war that it all american combats combined up to that point. well, then itself is kind of a questionable statistic because when we count casualties in the civil war we see both sides as americans can't do that with 1812 again do that with a mexican-american war you get obviously someone skewed statistics. it also takes into account doesn't take into account the much larger number of people fight in the american civil war on either side.
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um that the first of all the wars preceding the american civil war in american history european standards are puny. i mean war of 1812 compared to what's going on in europe at the same time. it's it looks it pretty pretty ridiculously small. and then finally that those statistics are absolute numbers. they're not proportional. in other words american civil war battles tend to involve proportionately about the same percentage of casualties. that we see in european wars of the same time. are we see in european wars at the 18th century? when as military historians used to tell us all the time wars were practically harmless? um, and at least at to being bloodless. but what nonetheless this is an established part of the narrative we talk about with the american civil war. so why? is the american civil war so bloody besides the fact that as a student of mine put it? more americans die in american
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civil war because war americans fight in the civil war. i mean pretty much explains it all the the narrative that it's a technology, right? it shall be foot put it in the ken burns documentary, which is a pretty good benchmark. i think for this kind of thing in 1990 the weapons were way ahead of the tactics. that the civil war being fought in the midst of the industrial revolution introduced a lot of new weapons a lot of new technology in general and a lot of firsts the first extensive use of railroads. strategically and logistically first combat between iron class first submarine to take down a was not really a summary but at first submarine to take down an enemy warship the first heavy use of rifled artillery, which is longer range harder hitting than contemporary smoothbore artillery and the one that tends to get all the attention. the rifle musket the new infantry rifle that had just come into use in the west in the
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1850s and the 1860s and it's pretty much gone by about 1865. it combined the relatively high rate of fire. three rounds a minute. of the of the foot lock smoothbore musket with the accuracy the range and the penetrating power of a rifle now. liberal side here three rounds a minute. you know, like entirely forgot all about the slides there crystal if you get advanced a little bit here. by the way, that's that's the remington works. i have a photo of my grandmother actually sitting outside the remington works for their best friend, but i couldn't find that today you go on there. yeah. okay good. but the rifle musket relatively new innovation combined these combined the merits of these two weapons. now again, three rounds a minute doesn't sound very impressive given given comparison with modern weapons, but considering that the average military rifle before the before the introduction of the rifle musket
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was capable of fire about one round a minute. we're talking about an effective tripling of fire right tripling a rate and volume of firepower. is not an insignificant thing. so the argument is that because the rifle musket is is longer ranged. because it is greater power because it is more accurate. all of a sudden infantry combat, which is the if the heart and soul of warfare the 19th century anyway. becomes bloody it becomes impossible to launch a frontal attack with the bayonet. the problem with this is almost all of its demonstrably wrong. one of them for one of the points for example is really not until least halfway into the war that both sides are armed armed pretty thoroughly with rifle muskets. one of the one of the battles is commonly used as an example of the deadliness of the rifle musket the section of the battle of shiloh and april of 1862 that we call the hornets nest a series of confederate assaults
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on a relatively well manned federal position. it ends up being the consent of taking the position but losing heavy casualties. a couple of scholars pointed out. this is a sign of the power of the rifle musket. do we actually go to the national archives? look at the weapons inventories for the union regimen station there and find out later almost all are the smooth bores. the the weapon argument just doesn't apply. but perhaps most important. um, the the rifle musket argument ignores a number of other issues. one of them is that is extremely quirky advance the slide there. um the rifle musket by the way is able to achieve this high rate of fire because of a relatively recent innovation in ammunition design. so called minier off of pronounce mispronounced as many bullet an expanding bullet. you see one there in the upper right a bullet that some caliber is smaller than the board. i diameter of the weapon. but because it is hollow in the
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base the expanding gases from the deflation to the black powder go into the skirt and flare the skirts of the bullet into the rifle and engages the rifling, you know the tight fit that you need between bullet and rifling. um, but because it is a loose fit it loads relatively quickly, but what we found what actually what others the french found. with with the rifle musket was that it had this. almost ridiculously parabolic trajectory, which you see illustrated in the diagram to the left now. it's it's kind of hard to make all that out. let me put it this way. to hit a man at a greater than 100 yard distance. which is essentially point blank when the bullet starts to descend to the ground you have to elevate the rifle considerably. if you're aiming at the chest of a man 400 yards away. you have to elevate the weapons so much that a man standing
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exactly halfway between you and that target a man at 200 yards. standing right? what should be the path? the bullets going to fly six feet over his head completely safe. what this illustrates of the so-called limited dangers zones? you see where all the lions converge? those are the dangers zones. the space in between them the safe zones the french figured out. all we have to do is move really fast. the enemy is not going to be able to recalculate the distance of a well if that they have a hard time calculating the distance at all. and so occasionally we will meet up with fire and those last 100 yards. where we don't have where the trajectories that an issue will be difficult. but if we move really fast and don't stop and go in straight with the bayonet. we can take the enemy and you know, what the french do it 1859 the franco austrian war in italy the french are defeating the austrians who are armed with rifle muskets and entrenched in many cases and better trained in american civil war troops.
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they're taking their positions again and again and again. the battle of magenta the french managed to cross a river in the face of hostile enemy fire and climb a hill and still take the austrian possession. so what the french demonstrated is that no, the rifle musket doesn't really change things all that much. why is it why is it not work with in the american civil war because americans haven't figured out the it's largely a matter of french training versus american training. but it's not a matter of the weapons. being ahead of the being ahead perhaps of the tactics. now i also i very often bring up when i teach about this in class the question usually arises what isn't the bayonet obsolete. and you know this wassues i address in the book. in fact, the bayonet knows it's not obsolete. the bayonet is in fact. one of those weapons that can be
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effective with just simply by its appearance as a moral weapon. it does not have to kill remain to actually be effective and in the in the case of the american in the case of the well american civil war very often statistics are cited that come from the official us medical and surgical history of the war then indicate that very few men injured with bayonets actually make it to division hospitals. well the issue with that of course, is that men with bayonet wounds generally would not make it to the division hospitals. if we didn't extremities they might but if we did not torso over the head they generally will not live long enough to actually make it that far. so as i point out to a student once bayonet wounds don't show up in civil war and civil war hospital records that much for the same reason that decapitated people don't often, you know, they can't make it actually in the hospitals after three or four stops. now parallel to the american
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civil war the one that european historians that people would teach world history courses in america. that's too i think right into most often. is is the first world war? first world war after all is as we're often taught. is definitely perhaps the epitome of a senseless conflict in which officers simply did not understand the new technology into not how it will know how to apply it. in british historiography the notion of you know lions led by donkeys. brave soldiers led by ignorant criminally incompetent officers now there's there's some truth to that. then maybe not so much to the criminal incompetence. but to the fact that yes, the civil the first world war is exceptionally bloody. but again, like with the civil war a lot of it has to do with the fact. that the armies are unusually large. um, well we know for example with the first world war, is
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that huge advances in weaponry? that happened between roughly 1871 and 1914. are not unfamiliar to professional soldiers. it's not a matter of ignorance of what machine guns can do. i remember a boy watching a a job candidate give a lecture for a position in history of a lecture on on the first world war to a western civ class and made the argument. the first world wars and usually bloody why is it bloody? well because back before the first world war i had muskets he had a load in the end and now they have rifles they load in the side and they shoot really far and there's machine guns that shoot really fast. there's poison gas and therefore the civil the referral war is a a it's something like a massacre. that's of course, that's an overly simplified way of looking at it, but the fact of the matter is european officers had already seen machine guns in
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action naruto japanese war in fact both the russians of the japanese explored what you can do with a machine gun including the fact that machine guns can be used like the bayonet to achieve your objectives without hurting anybody. um the in the russo japanese war we see, you know experimentation with hanger grenades. we see basically almost all except for air except for military aviation of innovations of the first world war we see near russo japanese war what's different with the first world war as the scale? if one thing we have reasonably mod, it must sizes armies of highly trained men. in the first world war armies of millions of half-trained civilians armed with the latest technology. so the notion of being criminally negligent. i think is kind of misplaced and it particularly so. when when the one example that historians like to use when they want to show the senselessness of the first world war, especially on the western front
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is the first day of the battle of the song. we do the black day in british military history. so the largest number of british soldiers wounded are killed in a single given day was only 52,000 over 58,000 overall casualties in 26,000 between 19 and 26,000 dead in a single day. now, it's gargantuan. of course. it doesn't take into account the fact that the british force itself is quite large. so the the proportionate casualties are not quite a severe as you might expect. what has brought up as an example of officers commanding generals not understanding of the technology. that or that the artillery barrage a proceeds. it doesn't actually subdue german resistance. and so the british soldiers advance. into into heavy small arms fire and heavy artillery fire but that's not exactly an example of incompetence. the psalm rather like like many of the early battles of the first world war as it
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experiment. in fact, there's an experiment based on earlier earlier experiences. using preparatory bombardment that worked reasonably well. and after the after the disaster the first day of the somme. what are british generals do they go back to the drawing board? it didn't work. let's find a different way of doing it. the sad fact of that is in the first world war is that there is a great deal of experimentation with tactics to try to restore mobility to warfare that seemed to have been lost. in the trenches that ultimately of course these experiments are done at the cost of many tens of thousands of human lives, but ultimately bring results by 1917. nineteen eighteen all the major armies have found successful and successfully found ways of of taking ground of assaulting the that don't involve. the kind of senseless slaughter that we've seen to see at the psalm in 1960.
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again, the first world war as as one of story and put it. we look at the tactics of the first world war we shouldn't try to do so from the perspective of wilfred owen or secret session which are of course very evocative views of the war but not necessarily reflective of the tactical reality. um, indeed, you know one of the things of course that that owen and cecil bring up all the time in there in their poetry is the use of poison gas is one of the great horrors of the war as a result. there's this general assumption i think in with first world war historiography that that poison gas is one of the great takers of lives of the war and it's not not even close. we artillery is the great reaper of lives in the first world war probably two-thirds close to two thirds of all casualty battle casualties in the war from
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artillery, but poison gas is one of those things that i know going to get some flak from it because i wrote this in a book poison gas is one of those things you could take out of the first world war and essentially within the same way. um, it doesn't of course makes the war nastier. it makes the the experience at the individual soldier that much more unpleasant but it doesn't ultimately change anything. it's not a particularly this it's not a decisive weapon in any way shape or form. i do a few minutes left. i i don't want to overstain my welcome, but there's a couple other things i did want to. and did want to mention with regard to firepower and why it is. that i think historians need to pay a closer attention to the to the history of weapons. and not simply write it off as ephemera the past two things. we've looked at are really correctives are correctives to narratives in which weapons play a role. but i think too.
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you see perhaps more than any with other species of technology. or any other family of technology in in the war in the west certainly before 1945 that in and of themselves. weapons technical weapons have a tremendous role in terms of transforming the structures of western society. historians very often talk about the military revolution when they look at the military political history of european states from the late middle ages. to roughly the enlightenment. especially the 16th early 18th centuries and in that period we do see as the swedish historian michael roberts rather british historian of sweden, michael roberts pointed out a long time ago. that weapons are one of the most important factors in bringing about a remarkable transformation of the european state system. if you advance a slide there.
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so actually go past that. very okay the very first gunpowder weapons to to be used in combat in the west are not hand are not smaller not handheld individual or personal weapons, but really large guns that really large artillery pieces. we referred to generically as bombards. if you ever been to edinburgh castle in in scotland and seen mons meg one of the few surviving bombards with massive caliber, they are not particularly sophisticated weapons, especially those that were built before casting iron or bronze and in this at the scale was possible. they burst they're not very accurate. the relatively limited range but they're perfectly suited for bashing down castles. and that's exactly what bombards are for the the popularity of the bombard in late medieval europe helps to tip the
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political balance away from the landed warrior aristocracy and towards a more restricted number of greater lords, and we might refer to for convenience for convenience to sake as as kings artillery spent spelled the end of the castle and with the end with the end of the castle the autonomy of the warrior aristocracy seeding more power to kings and kings coincidentally were those who are more in a position to purchase and maintain the kind of heavy siege artillery that the heavy bombards that were necessary for besieging castles and so beginning of a constant refrain in the history of the west. there's military technology becomes more sophisticated. and costlier to produce the expense incurred by by investing in it excludes those who those states those political actors who just simply can't afford to participate and the rift only deeper as as weaponry becomes
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more and more sophisticated a success of artillery in castle bashing occasions the creation of new artillery proof fortifications in particular design you refer to as atrocityan or italian trace bastion forts that are designed to absorb heavy artillery by barbet and now canon of their own there's a diagram of one, but if you ever been the same augustine, you may well have seen in italian trace fortress. the castillo de san marcos is probably one of the best preserved italian trace fortresses in the world. most of them were retro-fitted to later a fortification systems after the 17th century, but the concealed based on marcos is a pretty pure italian phrase fortress. the marriage of artillery to to new types of sailing ships like the karak in the galleon make it possible to create what we know now know is the as the ship killing ship the basis of all modern navies and with it therefore, of course the creation of royal fleets now. you start thinking about the
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financial of the fiscal implications as you can imagine. they're kind of daunting. this is a reason that by the 16th 17th centuries european states are devoting the vast majority of their expenditures to to weapon systems the fortifications of navies in particular and in land warfare the introduction. of smaller the muskets in archibuses in into infantry tactics necessitates not only investing in those weapons, but also investing in larger more professional better trained armies that can carry out the relatively complicated tactics necessary to coordinate. um for example muskets with shock weapons like pikes. in short arby's are increasing in size and longevity and professionalism. navies are our major and continual investments as our fortifications. so as these things happen.
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as the bills pile up in this relatively compact period of time roughly between 1500 and 1700. it pushes the evolution of what we've come to known as the tax state. is a strong centralized european state with a growing and complex bureaucracy necessary infrastructure necessary to maintain these military forces with a standing army in a permanent navy. for example and with with that the it's lifeblood becomes really the partially complicated wealth of its subjects in other words taxes. the tax-fueled centralized bureaucratic state is at least in a very large part the product of the adoption of new weapons systems. military technology. you can't claim it to be the only factor, but it's certainly one of the most important ones. his trend doesn't end with the renaissance of the enlightenment or or the age of the age of revolution to the cusp of the
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19th century and in fact it intensifies, especially with the industrial revolution, which sees a flood of new innovations. and increasing complexity in weapon systems. um the innovation also a different attitude towards innovation. innovation of the early modern world in a pre-modern world is seen as a mixed blessing or even as a curse in addition costs money. creating new new of weapons is expensive. replacing perfectly serviceable old weapons seems to be not especially, you know, not especially a frugal or well-advised policy. on in politics, of course innovation has seen as an evil. that's another matter altogether, but as the industrial revolution makes it possible to manufacture. um increasingly complicated technology and larger numbers and with greater precision and as the european states become more competitive after 1815 both
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in the realm of imperial expansion and and within the continent because make no mistake about it. with the fall of napoleon in 1815. it doesn't mean the european states stop. jockeying with one another for position um, it means that innovation becomes not just a good thing in weaponry innovation becomes an existential thing in weaponry. to allow your potential enemies to be able to pull one over on you in any area of weapons technology is to risk certain defeat and and so we see this in particular after the franco oppression war in 1871 that there become their emerges a new arms race a newly intensified arms race centering around france and germany. but not restricted entirely to them. one thing i highlight where it comes to that in firepower is a very we don't see we don't see
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written about a lot. we talk about historians talk a lot about the naval arms race at the end of the 19th century, but not so much. about the the race to the superior battle rifle. the 1870s 80s and 90s um new models are coming up continually during this period of time implementing what appear to us to relatively minor changes. a tubular magazine a box magazine the the creation of clip loading for example all things that make the previous generation of infantry rifle that it's that much more obsolete. and as as this happens because the perception is that innovation is necessary to maintain existence and as a state we see this we're almost ridiculous turnover weapon systems in a very short period of time between 1871 and 1888.
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germany and france changed their battle rifle no less than four times each. and while perhaps compared to modern weapons, it doesn't seem all that shocking in comparison to the 19th century. it's huge one particular memorable instances. it happens in 1884 when a french chemist. employed by the french army increasingly by the way with the industrial revolution the competition between european states. we begin to see the emergence of something. that's very much like a military-industrial complex with governments mobilizing academia. as well as engineers and working directly with industrialists to to create new and more sophisticated weapons systems and 1884 a french chemist named paul levier invents. what becomes known as as white powder poudre blanche? the very first smokeless rifle propellant. and with it completely makes every other every other and every other kind of ammunition
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in the world entirely. obsolete the white powder not only produced no smoke unlike black powder which produced a lot of smoke it also produced when combined with a smaller caliber bullet muzzle velocities are easily twice of what could be achieved with black powder ranges that were close to 10 times. greater than what could be achieved with black powder and greater penetrating power. um when the french unveiled this an 1886 with a new rifle with new ammunition using the smokeless powder the reaction in germany was abject terror. that one german general said at the french attack us now are infantry will be shot down like a nation of partridges. and immediately the friend that german war machine takes into high gear drafting its own chemists to produce the reverse engineer. the french discoveries once a couple of french deserters essentially cross the border into germany and sell their rifles in their ammunition to
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the first people they can find once the germans reverse engineer this they come up with a slightly better rifle two years later. now i bring this up among other things because it shows not only a different attitude. towards towards technology and innovation. but also a significant transformation in in european and european state system. the arms race is incredibly profligated. it requires tremendous wastage. of perfectly serviceable weapons because we're talking about armies that number in the millions. and every four years or so scrapping the current surface rifle and then adopting a new one costs a lot of money. and they were just talking here about rifles not about artillery not about warships. new weapons are being made obsolete within two or three years of their appearance.
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and that exclusionary property. that only those nations that have the wherewithal. um and and the in the will to continually innovate and continually spend vast amounts of cash on a new weapon systems let alone. supply their armies with with what they need in wartime shrinks considerably but by the time world war i breaks out in 1914. this means that really only a small handful of european states. have the ability to act as major players. we're only a half a century before. a state like denmark or sweden could maintain a respectable fleet. respectable enough to defend their their home waters or respectable enough army to prevent the incursion of an enemy by 1914. secondary states can't do that. they live in indifference to the
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larger powers they exist in deference to the larger powers. they really have come down in the world and it largely has to do with the advance of weapons technology. there's other things i'd like to cover a course, but i've already gone up farther than i like to have gone. i was hoping to be done in 45 minutes. i didn't do that obviously, but but anyway what i what i would like to say is that what i hope to achieve with firepower and hopefully with at least a little bit of my talk here today. is is that hope for a new appreciation perhaps for the power no pun intended of weapons. in the development not just of western civilization but a bit of global civilization and that hopefully there's this trend of academics touching something that i think they've seen large ways untouchable over the years that that perhaps that will that will improve as it seems to be well, thank you for your time. and any questions, i'd be more
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than happy to feel them. thank you. yeah, crystal. you very much for that. wonderful talk. it's just a pleasure to hear more about the research behind your books one of the things that i kept thinking about are reading a book was teacher talk is there's this joke by the comedian eddie. is there a where he says like, you know, it makes me he starts by saying people say that people don't kill people guns kill people or guns don't kill people people kill people but thenettias are kind of pauses, but i think the guns right and just like go up to somebody and chop bang and they happen and it's kind of a joke that depends on determinism right like technological determinism. you said i've always thought the joke was really funny because it sounds exactly right to me that you can't just walk up as a human and go bang and kill somebody the god helps but then as like a person who does some research on items objects to
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myself i start to get a little antsy about the ways in which turning to the kind of secret lives of objects. it seems to also like maybe excuse living humans from having to take responsibility. and i guess i just wanted to know sort of how you feel firepower sort of maneuvers between this kind of idea between you know, we have a responsibility for how our systems of power set up and then also the technologies we make sort of tend to control us or have more control than we mean for them to so, how do you kind of balance do you see that as a problem or is it and it's how do you sort of work with those kinds of the question of technological determinisms versus and sort of human responsibility, right? well, you know, especially in the in the in the last two examples that i gave and i rushed through the more than i would have liked to have. i i very much see those as as not technologically determinist, although it's easy to move in
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that direction obviously, but but then in particular for example in the in the post 1871 arms race combined with you know, scramble for africa combined with you know, your choice of a number of different points of contention that definitely there's a lot of human choice the for example, i mean just dealing with the france with the france and germany dynamic which is probably the most dangerous of all going on in europe. you can see why why bismarck thought that this is the thing that really need to be taken care of was to keep france from from being able to attack and it's not that it's it's not that the the the firepower determines the rivalry, but there's clearly a conscious choice on the part of of a french politicians to play upon. the play upon the the fears and a latent hatred of germany that the within the ranks of the within the high command of the
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french army who obviously since he sees some advantage in in cultivating that fear that those things are driving. those things are driving the arms race. and granted innovations propel other innovations, just like with the the smokeless powder propelling the germans to move in same direction, but but they're all the result. of conscious choices the maintain a maintain a rivalry based on a kind of an irrational hatred so so yeah, i i never really worried about lapsing into technological determinism with this. and the same thing goes i think for for europe in the early modern period this is clearly an arms race at work there. although it's much lower intensity and it's as much longer but so much of the the impetus. to build larger navies the bill larger navies with bigger ships and bigger guns guns and more of those guns.
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comes from the fact that i mean, yes, there is a there is a there's a very real fear. that if you don't that not only your current enemies but potential enemies who might be friends right now could get the drop on you. but again, it's all it's all propelled by primarily by by monarchical ego. there's that i mean prestige is a big part of it and the the various fears and paranoids that come from the reformation and fear of the the confessional other if you will. so so yeah, i to me. it's a there's the balance is kind of already there and i didn't really have to struggle with it that makes any sense. yeah, yeah. party when you said that. the arms race is a race to build bigger and more lethal and more powerful weapons. but at the same time you're still leaving lots of serviceable weapons behind. oh, yeah, and that's all still
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in society. how does that affect social system? that's a really good question. i was like you obviously a huge social cost to this now first of all. get upon something interesting the problem of military surplus really doesn't emerge till the very end of the 19th century. and it's specifically because of this of this trend towards innovating and scrapping innovating new weapons systems and scrapping old ones and and for the not surprisingly i think for in the short term the the response of that was dumping weapons and markets that at least it was possibly get some money from south america for example, or dumping them in africa sometimes by the way, sometimes altering weapons. so they were quite as what is deadly? smooth boring out for rifles for example and make them smooth more. but the the cost is something else entirely and especially and this is you know, where i one
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reason i emphasize the the notion of not everybody can afford this the the costs are in issue too because you understand at the same time. after 1871 um, we're beginning to see in in the west and in the european states. a drift maybe not towards social democracy but something that emulates social democracy, you know bismarck for example, implementing all sorts of social welfare reforms like unemployment insurance. mostly to steal the socialists funder um all the european states that the to one extent or another are moving closer to representative constitutional governments and and they're putting more money into into social welfare. well for things at the same time that they're trying to support armies of millions. and rearing them on a regular basis and you know, the result is well, one of the results is certainly by the time of the
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first world war. i know significant financial problems. france for example which is a president's experiencing some some definite fiscal. welles on the eve of the first world war france it actually come up with a rifle design superior to the one they had implemented in 1886 which ultimately is what they go to war with in 1914. but they simply did not have the wherewithal. at that point the scrap the old design and come up with something new so they kept manufacturing the old one because retooling would have been too expensive. so yeah that that process is a it's a difficult one to handle and not everybody can. um, russia austria-hungary can't really keep up with france and britain and germany and the united states and it really russia doesn't doesn't able to isn't able to keep up with that obviously until you get closer
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to the second world war. um, so so yeah, the not something that's sustainable. that's for sure. yes. eric how do you expect that trajectory of the influence of weapons? to change now you've mentioned four weapons and one year and they middle to late 19th for since 19 yeah, the m16 since 1964 has that. that influences it changed. different to other technologies or where do you see this history kind of? i don't know and if one of the reasons that i hesitated the venture by young 1945, is that much as i've tried to keep up with for example small arms. developments and you know, especially since vietnam that i'm always confounded by and i'm really surprised when there was a new debate as there has been about, you know, getting back the pistols again. i thought that was all settled in 1982, but you know, i i
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honestly don't know how to answer that eric and i'm sorry, i the small arms clearly don't have the priority that they once had. in certainly not the the same kind of worldwide thing kind of government support that they once had but clearly clearly the the notion of improving small arms. hasn't you know hasn't gone away, but i don't know, you know, i don't know where to where to see where is going. change oh, yeah. yeah, i would say well, it's not certainly no longer the priority. and and i don't think we've seen a period in the history of
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weapons technology that has the kind of the cundity that we see between 1871 and 1918. i mean even after 19 18, although obviously there are advances in small arms and artillery between 1918 and 1939 or 1945. they don't reach the same. they don't reach the same pitch. of constant change that we see, you know in the late 19th century. so i mean it clearly there's a the whatever whatever trajectory there is to this is kind of sporadic. yeah. yeah. piggyback if not about the small arms, but if weapons are shaping warfare and warfare shapes political structures, did you see that process continuing in the same way that it did before years leading up to this point where we moved as societies and cultures beyond they just guys
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are just hammering me with these future questions. you understand until recently. i think i told you this until recently i had a hard time thinking of world war two is history because my dad was in it. yeah, so there of our compositely be history. i i honestly can't i don't even know where to begin with that and i'll admit my limitations on this. i mean i there's a reason that several reasons that i chose 1945 for eternal point and one of them was that there's clearly is a change in this in the in the pace of of weapons design and the direction and arms just aren't the thing that they were in in the 1880s or 1890s when this although although we'll have to small arms. firearms in general including artillery aren't don't attract the same kind of funding or the same kind of design genius. you know, we don't don't have any at least i don't know any more kalashnikovs or brownings, you know.
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but that also after 1945 i just don't know. i mean it's something i have entirely wrapped my head around so so i'm sorry if i'm coming with a blank for you chad. i just don't i don't know. yeah, matthew. anything that surprised you that you discovered that you can kind of expect to see coming or you know, i did not expect to see and this is a small thing, but it really surprised me. i did not expect to see. the the sophistication of the observations that come out of the russo japanese war. i mean it always saw the russo japanese war to a certain extent as a dress rehearsal just like tactically speaking. just like the spanish civil war is for the second world war. although with the second world war. we see some even more profound discoveries like, you know, hey, it's a good idea to have your air forces and your armor
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communicate with one another somehow. he was the work better, you know, of course the french hadn't figured that out unfortunately in 1940. but with the russo japanese war in particular the the fact that the russians of the japanese. and primarily through improvisation and this is not much direction from above. are figuring out some really profound things about about machine guns and now machine guns granted seemed to be a really kind of unsophisticated weapon right as a garden hose or just sprays and neglecting the fact that machine guns generally tend to especially those are the first world war war tend to be very accurate. if they stable firing platforms you can you can sharpshoot with the machine gunner reasonably. well. but that the russians and the japanese are figuring. hey, just don't put them in a line and shoot at people in the attack. you know having them in desolate having them on a flank. so the sweep diagonally makes a big difference a japanese. we're learning that because they have a hotchkiss gun, which was
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a lot lighter than the maximum that they could send the machine gun troops up with their infantry on the assault. and have the machine gunners fire from behind. after you train the rest of the infantry, not the freak out when when their machine gutters fired over their heads behind them, you know, there's a but by the time the first world war breaks out some of the very basics of how you implement this terrifying new weapon. in the infantry tactics are already known now the first world war, of course just as much much richer experience, obviously and and the the notion of using machine guns as a substitute for artillery for example, or the the importance of having more portable machine guns instead of you know, maxim guns that way close to 200 pounds if you put everything together, but but the russo japanese war surprised me in that way. i i never thought of it. i mean, i i role in.
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advancing the technology of naval warfare. i didn't fully understand expect that with with land warfare. that's a binder relatively minor thing. most of the other things were really surprises again because i've been thinking about this for a while and every time i've taught one of my military technology in the art of war class is something else would click that hadn't before whether the advantages of being able to teach this on a regular basis is being able to work out my thoughts at students and and and and and therefore the course regularly. but yeah. one more question. yeah. yeah, sorry, so this is kind of a broad thing. so i'm kind of one of the students you mentioned who's nitpicky and ask those. oh, yeah. i've been kind of assembling research and focusing in on on civil war stuff. i shoot civil war weapons and competition or get ssa. you're okay. i was too long. so and in seeing that i always kind of question historians accounts.
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i'm thinking and i know what the training manuals were for the civil war and saying, you know soldiers are trying to fire, you know, three rounds a minute, right? and it's i have a hard time sort of believing some of this stuff when i can see fairly new recruits, you know, some of them firing as fast as nine seconds, you know getting off five almost six shots in a minute and then just the level of accuracy with that being so much higher than what you read about in in some of the books and the trying to kind of look at, you know, ballistics in some of those weapons and all of those types of things and assembling it and i've got numerous civil war diaries where people writing about you know rates of fire and things like that and kind of doing the same thing, but i guess the question is what type of more in-depth research. would you like to see done for like civil war weaponry? well world has made a start anything familiar with the earl has his book rifle instant civil war combat. yeah or incidentally earl was my next door office neighbor and i was at purdue we grunted each other a few times. i never got to know my wish i
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had but you know earl's earl's book did a great job. although earl clearly is not a gun person. and there are few things explanations of parabolic trajectory. for example that are there that don't really entirely hold water. i would like to see see and surprises hasn't been done. more of civil war weapons and tactics in a broader western contest context in other words what are what are what are american officers? i'm here. i'm talking about people like mcclellan and hallockin and ethan allen hitchcock. what are they getting out of the franco austrian law? what are they getting into the crimea? because they're clearly are i mean the us army sent what seven observers in the italy in 1859 plus kearney who was actually there fighting as a french cavalry, but that to me that's that's to me. that's one of the big issues with civil war. historiographies is so insular. it's so it's so amerisentric and i think it does kind of does a disservice actually the civil war civil war generals people
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like mcclellan and hallock who knew was going on in europe and read the journals and french in german and in english, we're quite sophisticated. so to me, that's the main thing. i know what you mean about the by the way, you're observations about seeing new guys in the firing line, and i remember it was shocking to me the first i was in the nssa, i think or maybe one to 84 or so. and to see some of the old hands. you know easily getting out six rounds a minute. but understand civil war issue bullets aren't sized their diameter is not predictable. they're not particularly when you look at the range of in here. i'm talking about not excavated bullets, but bullets that have have survived with without a patina on them. they're diameters are all over the place. and the quality of powder is definitely different than that. it was now in other words. i think it fouling is the worst problem. so that's what we get. i've had this issue myself think trying to compare what i've
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observed about the modern firing of antique weapons. with what we have in terms of accounts of actual combat, but where you know, we were comes to accuracy. i'm sure you've read all the various accounts that involve recruits who are still absolutely petrified of their weapons. you know loading aiming then squeezing their eyes shut tight moving your heads away when they fire which doesn't make for especially, you know accurate fire, but a good question well, thank you professor copies of firepower for sale, and i'm sure that professor lockhart would also be happy to sign one of your services. yes. i could do paypal or venmo or cash?
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i'm elise adler the director of events for parnassus books.


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