Date added: 4 Aug 2016
Types of Artillery
All cannon were classified into type by the weight of the projectile they fired, an approximate measure at best. In the earlier campaigns the French artillery were equipped with 4-, 8-, or 12-pounder cannon; however there was not a single 4- or 8-pounder on the field at Waterloo as the French guns at the battle were exclusively 6- and 12-pounders.
By comparison, the British artillery were 6- and 9-pounders (due to the difference in weight between a British and the heavier French ‘pound’, a French 8-pdr approximated to a British 9-pdr.) Short-barrelled cannon were termed ‘howitzers’ and were intended for high-angle firing.
At Waterloo the French had 246 pieces of ordnance, including 36 x 12-pdrs (Napoleon’s ‘Beautiful Daughters’). Wellington was seriously ‘out-gunned’ as he could only deploy 157 guns and howitzers, of which 22 were with the force at Hal & Tublize; it was only in the late afternoon that an additional 86 pieces were deployed by the Prussian IV Corps.
Types of Projectiles
The primary projectile of the cannon was the ‘roundshot’, a simple iron ball, representing 70-80 percent of all ammunition held in the field. ‘Case shot’ of ‘canister’ was the universal close-range projectile, consisting of a tin case fitting the bore of the cannon, containing a number of loose bullets. Most artillery used ‘light’ and ‘heavy’ case for different ranges.‘Common shell’ was a hollow iron sphere filled with gunpowder which exploded at a predetermined moment by means of an adjustable fuse lit by the flash of ignition; in the field, shells were only fired from howitzers.‘Grapeshot’ is mentioned by many contemporary writers, usually being confused with canister. Extensively used at sea, it saw little service on land as it was not as efficient against personnel as canister and could damage the bore of brass field guns.
Other projectiles were used exclusively for sea service: chain-shot, bar-shot, knife-blade, expanding and ‘dismantling’ shot, all designed to expand and slice away sails and rigging like a flail.