British Foot Artillery, 2 Crew Aiming
(Canon JJ-BCHGUN not included)
THE WAR OF 1812
The Battle of Chippawa, 5th July 1814
Aiming or "laying" a smoothbore artillery piece was partly art and partly science. The piece was traversed (or aligned in the horizontal plane) by means of handspikes fitted into the trail until the line of sight from the top of the breech through the sighting notch at the top of the muzzle was on target. The piece was then elevated (aligned in the vertical plane) by means of the elevating screw. In the heat of battle, the elevation chosen was usually a matter of judgement on the part of the gun commander although, if there was time and a need for accuracy, he might consult a range table. Because the line of sight was not exactly parallel to the axis of the bore, the gun commander would then calculate the tangential elevation required to compensate for the drop of the projectile in flight.. Experienced gun layers automatically took into account and made allowance for such factors as air temperature, wind direction and velocity, humidity, situation of the target and the elevation of the gun position.
The gun itself was also a factor to be considered as older weapons with worn bores would have more windage and less velocity and would thus require extra elevation. Finally, the personal experience and skill of the gun layer was essential in judging the "fall of the shot" and making the corrections necessary to lay the round on target. In the smoothbore period, good gunlaying was a combination of technology and technique that required an experienced eye.