View unanswered posts | View active topics It is currently Sat Jun 24, 2017 7:11 pm



Reply to topic  [ 15 posts ] 
 Battle Deaths 
Author Message
Moderator
User avatar

Joined: Tue Apr 12, 2005 9:34 am
Posts: 1471
Location: Virginia, USA
Post Battle Deaths
Does anyone know of a resource that lists the types of deaths that occurred during actual naval battles in the Napoleonic era?

There are a number of books that state that only about 1 death in 13 or 14 were related to actual sea battles. The majority were caused by disease, accidents, weather, ships sinking, etc.

For some time, I have been on the lookout for a specific breakdown of the combat deaths such as:
- instant deaths caused by being hit by a cannon ball,
- dying later from complications caused by wounds by cannon balls,
- instant deaths caused by being hit by a splinter,
- dying later from complications caused by splinter wounds,
- and the same type of information for explosions, fires, small arms fire, and other "direct" combat actions.

Some time ago, "MythBusters" said that there was a myth that more deaths occurred from flying splinters than from being hit by a cannon ball. I am not a fan of this show but I wondered at the time if such a myth actually existed and what were the actual facts from that period. My casual research since then has been unsuccessful.

BTW, the MythBusters TV show demonstrated that a small anti-personnel cannon ball fired against the flat hull of a merchant ship will produce only tiny splinters that fly only inches from the inside of the hull and that this same anti-personnel ball can be shot through 4 or 5 pig carcasses lined up in a row. In other words, Jamie and Adam proved nothing about what happened to sailors during a real sea battle. Entertainment yes, science not.

Does anyone know where I can find such detailed information?

_________________
Don Campbell
"Whoever is strongest at sea, make him your friend."
Corcyraeans to the Athenians, 433 BC


Last edited by timoneer on Thu Aug 06, 2009 12:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Tue Aug 04, 2009 11:56 am
Profile
Lieutenant
User avatar

Joined: Mon Jun 26, 2006 5:25 am
Posts: 111
Location: Ventura, California
Post Re: Battle Deaths
timoneer wrote:
BTW, the Myth Busters TV show demonstrated that a small anti-personnel cannon ball fired against the flat hull of a merchant ship will produce only tiny splinters that fly only inches from the inside of the hull and that this same anti-personnel ball can be shot through 4 or 5 pig carcasses lined up in a row. In other words, Jamie and Adam proved nothing about what happened to sailors during a real sea battle. Entertainment yes, science not.


Jamie and Adam have confused the question of whether splinters were dangerous with the question of whether it's more dangerous to get hit with a splinter or a cannon ball. I don't believe they built their ship's side out of oak, either. Oak isn't just heavy; it breaks into very sharp pieces. Playing catch barehanded with chunks of freshly broken oak for a while might help them see the flaw in their method.

I'm sorry to go off topic so quickly, but those particular Mythbusters episodes just chap my hide.

Broos

_________________
www.brooscampbell.com


Tue Aug 04, 2009 5:23 pm
Profile WWW
Moderator
User avatar

Joined: Tue Apr 12, 2005 9:34 am
Posts: 1471
Location: Virginia, USA
Post Re: Battle Deaths
Broos Campbell wrote:
I'm sorry to go off topic so quickly, but those particular Mythbusters episodes just chap my hide.

I agree Broos. In addition to what you pointed out, I think that anyone with even a basic knowledge of the era could create a long list of "errors" in that particular segment. There was an earlier discussion in the SN's Forum of the MythBuster's Pirate show. CLICK HERE for that thread.

_________________
Don Campbell
"Whoever is strongest at sea, make him your friend."
Corcyraeans to the Athenians, 433 BC


Last edited by timoneer on Thu Aug 06, 2009 12:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Tue Aug 04, 2009 8:18 pm
Profile
Admin
User avatar

Joined: Thu Oct 30, 2003 2:32 pm
Posts: 2960
Location: Hawaii
Post 
Hi Don,

In terms of the complications caused by wounds, are you including infection?

Aside: One of my fencing instructors once said, and I don't know if this is really true, that some duelists would literally "play dirty" by sticking their blades into the foulest natural substances they could find (like poo or rotting animal carcasses) to encourage infection. If the wound itself wasn't fatal, the infection might be.

_________________
I have the honour to be, &c.
susan


Tue Aug 04, 2009 9:39 pm
Profile YIM
Moderator
User avatar

Joined: Tue Apr 12, 2005 9:34 am
Posts: 1471
Location: Virginia, USA
Post 
susan wrote:
In terms of the complications caused by wounds, are you including infection?

Exactly Susan. With the state of medicine at the time, nearly any wound could have resulted in death sometime after the actual battle. Dying of infection a week after the battle certainly should have been considered a "battle" death. At least in my judgment.

I just want to know if any historian has done research of any specific battle, or over the whole period, as to the specific cause of battle deaths. Since someone has obviously done research on naval deaths overall, did anyone break down the battle deaths?

The only reason I brought up the MythBusters experiments was to forestall anyone here from bringing up such modern "proof", especially since it was so seriously flawed. I admit that filming Jamie and Adam pouring through ship's records of that period to discover the truth would never be as entertaining as having them rigging up a compressed air cannon and shooting at dead pigs. Entertaining?

_________________
Don Campbell
"Whoever is strongest at sea, make him your friend."
Corcyraeans to the Athenians, 433 BC


Last edited by timoneer on Thu Aug 06, 2009 12:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Wed Aug 05, 2009 1:44 am
Profile
Lieutenant

Joined: Thu Jul 05, 2007 7:53 am
Posts: 176
Location: UK
Post 
The link below by a surgeon, Tony Harrison, has some interesting comments on battle wounds, disease and their treatment

http://www.hms.org.uk/ You will need to click on 'search' then key in 'Tony Harrison' to find the article, headed 'Diet and Victualling'. Also, if you click on 'Nelson and his navy' you will find 'The Duties of the Surgeon' which also makes interesting reading.

The phenomenon of 'wind of ball' was frequently noted: this was death or injury from a cannon ball passing close to, but not actually hitting the body. 'Wind of ball' that passed the head often meant survival; if it passed close to the stomach death was almost always the result.

http://ask.metafilter.com/58933/wind-of-ball-injuries


Wed Aug 05, 2009 5:31 pm
Profile
Moderator
User avatar

Joined: Tue Apr 12, 2005 9:34 am
Posts: 1471
Location: Virginia, USA
Post 
polly wrote:
The link below by a surgeon, Tony Harrison, has some interesting comments on battle wounds, disease and their treatment

Polly, thanks for the article. For those interested, here is a brief passage.

"By far the greatest cause of death or mutilation in a firefight between the ships of the period were flying splinters. Naval surgeons found that close fought actions produced less casualties than actions conducted between opposing ships at a distance. In close fought actions, the velocity of cannon balls was so great that that in penetrating the side of a ship a clean aperture was produced, with few splinters. But a spent ball, travelling from a distance usually produced a jagged aperture with numerous deadly splinters by which more men were killed or wounded than by the ball itself."

It is a shame that the article lists no death percentages or other numerical data. In addition, there are no footnotes to indicate the sources of the information. However, it does sound pretty convincing.

I could be mistaken but the use of the word "firefight" seems to indicate that the author is not from the AoS era. Polly, do you happen to know who "Tony Harrison, surgeon" is or was?

I wonder... Although not mentioned as a source of splinters, carronades (at close range) might have produced splinters also since they sent large "slow-moving" round shot into the sides of a ship. Anyone read of this?

Certainly the first sentence in the above paragraph could have been used as a basis for the MythBusters segment but firing a small anti-personnel ball, at close range, at such a slow velocity that it did not penetrate the bulwark, certainly did not conform to the rest of the information in the paragraph. Obviously, Adam and Jamie got their myth from another source and possibly devised an inappropriate experiment... if the information above is to be believed.

_________________
Don Campbell
"Whoever is strongest at sea, make him your friend."
Corcyraeans to the Athenians, 433 BC


Last edited by timoneer on Thu Aug 06, 2009 12:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Thu Aug 06, 2009 6:14 am
Profile
Admin
User avatar

Joined: Thu Oct 30, 2003 2:32 pm
Posts: 2960
Location: Hawaii
Post 
I don't remember...did the Mythbusters consider grape, langridge, and canister shot as well? These were used specifically to wound/kill people.

_________________
I have the honour to be, &c.
susan


Thu Aug 06, 2009 7:36 am
Profile YIM
Moderator
User avatar

Joined: Tue Apr 12, 2005 9:34 am
Posts: 1471
Location: Virginia, USA
Post 
susan wrote:
I don't remember...did the Mythbusters consider grape, langridge, and canister shot as well? These were used specifically to wound/kill people.

I don't know what they considered (I would hate to try getting into that pair of minds!). I don't seem to remember any discussion from them about the type of rounds but what they used was 2" shot. They were trying to create splinters from something usually fired from swivels.

Obviously such small shot couldn't create large splinters when fired into the flat surface of a hull, especially without enough velocity for hull penetration. They used a compressed air cannon to give them the velocity that, they said, "approximated historical velocity." They never revealed the source of the historical information they were using to prove/disprove the myth.

Susan, I think the basic flaw in their experiments was that they confused deaths from pirate attacks with deaths from warship battles. The hull section they built was supposed to be typical of a merchant ship of that era. The 2" shot was supposed to represent the typical shot fired from a pirate ship. However, as we know, pirates did not deliberately fire into a merchantman's hull since the pirate was interested in stealing the cargo and/or the ship, not sinking the merchantman. A simple demonstration of the superior speed of the pirate ship and a shot across the bow would usually cause the merchantman to "let fly" their sails.

The myth of the of the splinter deaths seems to come from warship battles not pirate attacks. Apples and oranges.

_________________
Don Campbell
"Whoever is strongest at sea, make him your friend."
Corcyraeans to the Athenians, 433 BC


Thu Aug 06, 2009 9:33 am
Profile
Lieutenant

Joined: Thu Jul 05, 2007 7:53 am
Posts: 176
Location: UK
Post 
Don:

it occurred to me that the Sick and Hurt Board might have some statistics about wounds and diseases. The following link might give you some idea of the information available to modern researchers. I've glanced at it briefly; it seems to be largely concerned with disease and preventative techniques. Statistics of battle wounds seem to be very fragmented. No discrete record seems to exist.

http://www.jmr.nmm.ac.uk/server/show/co ... viewPage/1

Re: Tony Harrison: I know only what can be gleaned from the Historical Maritime Association website. As a surgeon, he can speak from a professional angle about the history of the subject.


Thu Aug 06, 2009 6:47 pm
Profile
Commander

Joined: Sat Mar 31, 2007 12:27 am
Posts: 389
Location: Australia
Post 
According to Christopher Lloyd, in the RN there was no central collation of medical statistics from surgeon's logs until 1840. Consequently, I suppose the only way of arriving at a breakup of the causes of battle wounds would be by the study of individual logs.


Fri Aug 07, 2009 2:01 am
Profile
Moderator
User avatar

Joined: Tue Apr 12, 2005 9:34 am
Posts: 1471
Location: Virginia, USA
Post 
IONIA wrote:
According to Christopher Lloyd, in the RN there was no central collation of medical statistics from surgeon's logs until 1840. Consequently, I suppose the only way of arriving at a breakup of the causes of battle wounds would be by the study of individual logs.

Thanks. Looks like a long shot [pun intended] to get my question answered. :(

_________________
Don Campbell
"Whoever is strongest at sea, make him your friend."
Corcyraeans to the Athenians, 433 BC


Fri Aug 07, 2009 6:32 am
Profile
Lieutenant

Joined: Sat Oct 11, 2008 10:13 am
Posts: 106
Location: Sussex, England
Post 
Regarding splinters, I understand that ships built in India were often constructed from teak, and other indigenous woods. The splinters from these would be particularly unpleasant, and far more likely to induce blood poisoning.

_________________
Badger


Fri Aug 07, 2009 8:13 am
Profile WWW
Admin
User avatar

Joined: Thu Oct 30, 2003 2:32 pm
Posts: 2960
Location: Hawaii
Post 
Cause of death might be difficult to track if bodies were being thrown overboard during battle.

_________________
I have the honour to be, &c.
susan


Fri Aug 07, 2009 8:25 am
Profile YIM
Moderator
User avatar

Joined: Tue Apr 12, 2005 9:34 am
Posts: 1471
Location: Virginia, USA
Post 
susan wrote:
Cause of death might be difficult to track if bodies were being thrown overboard during battle.

Susan, good observation. So, even if someone was recording the deaths after a particular battle, any records (like the log, official reports, personal letters or diaries), could not be accurate (except possibly in the case of minor actions). Looks even less like I could ever get accurate numbers. The "myth" of splinter deaths exceeding those from being hit by shot must have come from general impressions of the survivors or surgeons rather than from hard data. Shame.

It would be interesting to find out how Tony Harrison came to his conclusions.

_________________
Don Campbell
"Whoever is strongest at sea, make him your friend."
Corcyraeans to the Athenians, 433 BC


Fri Aug 07, 2009 10:12 am
Profile
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Reply to topic   [ 15 posts ] 

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
cron
Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group.
Designed by STSoftware for PTF.