Red Hot Shot Drill in 1860?

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    R. M

      That excellent writer C.S.Forester completed The Hornblower Companion in 1964 [Michael Joseph, London], just two years before his death, and it was re-printed [in 1977 and again] in 1998 [Chatham Press] to coincide with the TV series of Horatio Hornblower’s exploits.
      The Companion contains a detailed set of notes on just how Forester wrote his ten books, and on page 121 (Note 34) of the 1998 edition, he mentions buying an Artillery Manual for the British Militia for 1860 in a Los Angeles second-hand bookshop. He says that: ‘the special concern of the militia artillery was coastal defence – and coastal defence against wooden ships’.
      Forester, a man who generally knew his subject, explains that ‘a good half of the manual was devoted to the drill for the employment of red-hot shot’, a complex drill that ‘had to be carried out very punctiliously’. He presumes, probably rightly, that in a short time the effects of the developing Ironclad fleets of France and other European states, and [the] experience of the Americans would lend the use of red-hot shot by British soldiery useless.
      However, this was some seventy or more years after the last anticipated attempt at invasion of the British mainland by the French, though another was feared, and some thoughts occur to me.
      First, what exactly was the ‘technique’ the ‘drill’ for red-hot shot in 1860?
      Then, was the use of heated shot formally abandoned by the Ordnance? If so in what year?
      Finally, it would be extremely interesting to learn details of any drill or use of this form of shooting in other coastal defence systems.
      A glance at All the world’s fighting ships, 1860-1905, ed. Roger Chesneau, Eugène M Koleśnik (Conways, London 1979), provides the information that in 1860, the French had some 35 or so wooden men-of-war of 74 guns and upwards, and over a dozen frigates, with less than a handful of untried ironclads.
      So, red-hot shot may have been a reasonable option for Militia artillery at least!
      Rob Morgan

      Frank Scott

        I am not a gunnery jack, but the basic reason why ‘red hot shot’ faded from the scene seems to be the considerable technical advances in both guns and projectiles in the years that followed the end of the Napoleonic War. By the time of the Crimean War [1853-1856] guns firing shells had become quite common, as had rifling, and the need for ‘red hot shot’ had disappeared.
        Frank Scott

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