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 Grape Shot 
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Post Grape Shot
Ever since I didn't see any significant discussion on this anywhere else in the forums through a search, I thought I would ask here.

Doing some research lately on weaponry and for some reason on the topic of the ammunition types of cannon on land and sea, brings to my mind a odd thought. In my readings, it seems on land that the term grape shot is used a lot, but in the back of my mind I remember reading somewhere that primarily the guns of European navies used grape shot, and not that often. I remember that people of the period kept on confusing grape shot with canister due to canister has over a score of small balls that to an non-military type might think was grape shot due to the small balls looked more like grape than the proportionally larger balls of true grape used in the navy. In my mind that logically makes sence. Why would anyone on land want to use grape shot? I think canister would be more effective against the ranks of infantry used during the period than grape. Can anyone verify my claims here? Does what I say make sence? I am trying to find the resource I read but cannot find it.
Also, what was the true advantage of grape? It could be used for anti personell, but canister was better for that, so what other uses were there?


Tue May 08, 2007 10:22 pm
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Post Re: Grape Shot
Brit.Privateer wrote:
... might think was grape shot due to the small balls looked more like grape than the proportionally larger balls of true grape used in the navy...
I think canister would be more effective against the ranks of infantry used during the period than grape.

I think the comments you made about canister (case) and grape being easily confused in contemporary reports is the clue. I think I read this same comment somewhere else. Therefore, when reading an actual account of a battle on land or sea, I guess caution is the word in accepting the expertise of the writer.

Both are anti-personnel. In my mind, the larger shot (grape) would be more effective slightly further away (like a decently close ship-to-ship battle) and the smaller shot (canister) would be more effective very, very close. This "might" apply to both land warfare and sea battles.

I suspect that, as you noted, canister was more widely used when a land canon was in danger of being over-run and grape was used to spray the deck of an enemy ship, crowded with boarders. But maybe, both would be effective, to some degree.

Wikipedia has some information that kind of dances around your question without being definitive but that might be a place to start checking for sources.

In "The arming and Fitting of English Ships of War 1600-1815" by Brian Lavery, both grape and canister (case) are discussed as being used by the RN. Lavery hints that canister (case) may have been used earlier than grape by the navy but both had their day. This might just add to the confusion.

I'm sure that other books discuss naval ammunition and still other books discuss army ammunition but is there a book that compares & contrasts both? I would be interested in that also.

And then... there is the similar type of anti-personnel shot called "langrage" which seems to be similar to canister (case) but consisting of scrap metal pieces instead of small round balls.

In "Naval Cannon," a booklet by John Munday, drawings of case, grape, and langridge [sic] are shown.

Note: modern anti-personnel rounds are "flechette" rounds similar to canister (case) but consisting of hundreds of small "nails" with the heads formed into metal "feathers" creating a small metal dart or arrow. I've seen such rounds fired in demonstration. Ouch!

Don


Tue May 08, 2007 11:42 pm
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IIRC, Grape was a good compromise between solid shot and cannister, as the one pound balls could do substantial damage to spars, masts, and light scantlings while also being effective against groups of men, both from the balls themselves and from splinters.

-clash

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Wed May 09, 2007 11:23 pm
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Can I just add that given the ranges that either grape or canister would be fired from would obviously be closer than that of ball and especially the various chain and bar shots that were used to wreck spars, rigging etc. These last two rounds would of required a certain range to assume the spin required to do their damage. Grape may have done a similar job at the shorter ranges as well as awful carnage on deck. This is just a suggestion, as, I'm not an authority on this of course, just my experience from wargaming the era.

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Thu May 10, 2007 6:17 pm
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Very interesting. The note from clash on grape possibly being a balance between solid shot and canister actually sounds like it could be a good reason for use aboard ships. Also, I think timoneer found the source I had read before that I could not remember, that being Brian Lavery's "The Arming and Fitting of English Ships of War 1600-1815." I will also have to find "Naval Cannon" by John Munday due to it sounds like a good source that I do not think I have it in my collection.

Now two more related questions come to mind after the replies I have recieved here:
1. Are there any resources that say what range true grape shot was used at most commonly? This can give us a clue probably to what the intent of using true grape was.
2. Are there any contemporary sources that note the use and damage done by true grape shot? What contemporary sources even note the use of true grape shot with significance?


Fri May 11, 2007 3:10 am
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Brit.Privateer wrote:
Very interesting. The note from clash on grape possibly being a balance between solid shot and canister actually sounds like it could be a good reason for use aboard ships. Also, I think timoneer found the source I had read before that I could not remember, that being Brian Lavery's "The Arming and Fitting of English Ships of War 1600-1815." I will also have to find "Naval Cannon" by John Munday due to it sounds like a good source that I do not think I have it in my collection.

Now two more related questions come to mind after the replies I have recieved here:
1. Are there any resources that say what range true grape shot was used at most commonly? This can give us a clue probably to what the intent of using true grape was.
2. Are there any contemporary sources that note the use and damage done by true grape shot? What contemporary sources even note the use of true grape shot with significance?


I have nothing evidential, but I wouldn't be surprised if the typical range escalated as so:

Langridge
Cannister
Grape
Bar/Chain/Star Shot.

This would be for purely practical reasons of air resistance vs mass for Langridge-to-Grape and time to deploy for the others. Solid shot could, of course, be used at any range up to it's maximum, but that maximum should be far longer than any of the others.

-clash

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Fri May 11, 2007 5:19 pm
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