Battle Tactics

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HANDOUT: “Battle Tactics

Both sides used similar tactics in fighting a battle. The soldiers would form rows of long lines. They would approach the enemy to get within a range of 50 yards. Then each row would fire a volley at the enemy in unison. The first row would fire and then start to reload. Then, while the first row was reloading, the second row would fire and so on. Fighting in lines like this is called "linear tactics." 

The idea of lining up like this to shoot at the enemy may seem silly at first, but it made some sense. Muskets were horribly inaccurate, so instead they would shoot together and send a wall of musket balls flying at the enemy. By firing in rows, each row had to time to reload while the others were firing. This kept up a constant barrage on the enemy. 

In many cases, after each side fired a number of volleys, one side would charge the other side with their bayonets and the battle would turn into hand-to-hand combat.
Did the Americans hide behind trees? 

A lot of modern movies show the American soldiers using different tactics than described above. They would hide behind trees and walls, picking off British soldiers who stood out in the open. However, this only happened in a few battles early on in the war. Most battles were fought with both sides lining up in long lines using the "linear tactics" described above. 

Interesting Facts about Weapons and Battle Tactics

  • The Brown Bess muskets used during the war weighed around 10 pounds and had a 46-inch long barrel.

  • Since muskets were not accurate, being able to reload and fire quickly was more important than aiming.

  • There were few advancements in either weapons or battle tactics as a result of the Revolutionary War.

  • Sometimes slow-loading, but more accurate, long rifles were used to pick off enemy officers.

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