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prolonge and bricole
« le: 28 janvier 2015, 18:20:38 pm »
 Moving the guns on the battlefield....

Prolonge and bricole.

During a combat, the artillery pieces might be ordered to change position. This could be done with or without horses. According to Rene Chartrand, if moving forward, it was done by using the bricole drag ropes and handspikes; if retreating, by making the train drivers advance their horses so that the weight would be taken by the prolong, or prolonge in French.

- Prolonge
Moving the gun for longer distance was done by horses on a prolong permitting them to maneuver. The greatest advantage of prolong was that it could be used to move a gun quickly without having to be limbered. In retreating the prolong was fastened to the trail and hung over the pintle. When the limber was put in motion, the trail was dragged along the ground. The men would keep near it with handspikes to raise it if it met any obstacle on the ground. The length of the prolong was the same for foot and horse artillery. It was either between 36 to 40 French feet long ( - Manuel de l'Artillerie, fourth edition, 1794), or between 38 and 42, or just 44 French feet long. The sources vary on this matter. For horse artillery, however, the prolong was thicker (diameter of 1.6") than for the foot artillery (diameter of 1").
On the black and white picture you see an artillery piece (right) being pulled by the prolonge tied to the limber . (Source: Rene Chartrand's excellent "Napoleon's Guns 1792-1815 [1]: Field Artillery.") Using their bricoles the gunners then would place the artillery piece at the exact spot it was required.

- Bricole
For a short distance it was done by men using bricoles. The gunner wore, in addition to his white leather crossbelts for cartridge box and short saber, a bricole. It was a shoulder belt with an attached long drag rope. The bricole had a hook that could be inserted at the ends of the gun's axles and along the sides of the carriage.
Drag-ropes were attached and the gun was hauled by 8 men while 6 more lifted the rear of the gun-carriage by handspikes. Most often it was done on an open and relatively flat ground. There were - of course - exceptions from the rule. For example in 1813 at Kulm, the French gunners of Mouton-Duvernet, pushed forward their guns through a thickly wooded slopes !

On the training ground limbering up ready to move usually took at least 2-3 minutes. During battle however the gunners (and horses) were under tremendous stress and their movements were not perfect. One wounded, or killed horse was enough to immobilize the gun or caisson for a while.

Unlimbering was easier then limbering up and usually took approx. 1 minute on the training ground.
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