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1890s INFANTRY TACTICS


The breech-loading rifle had three times the fire-power of the old muzzle-loaders and the new magazine rifles were faster yet, Because a formed body of men could not survive in the zone of fire a single rank with 3' to 6' between men was the basic company formation. Widely spaced skirmishers were placed to the front and flanks of the formation, relying upon the range and firepower of their rifles to cover the gaps. The degree of emphasis upon maintaining the line or using cover varied from army to army. The British and Americans preferred small groups using cover while the French and Germans used a main line and reserve line behind their skirmishers. With units covering a wider front command depended more upon the company officers as a mounted regimental commander would not last long. Cavalry was confined to scouting or flank protection or used as mounted infantry as in the U.S. or Russian armies. Since there were few rapid fire weapons and quick firing artillery was just being introduced this system lasted until the opening days of WW1.

The U.S.Army stressed the use of cover and individual marksmanship. The Krag rifle was slow to reload as it was intended to be fired singly with the magazine held in reserve. At Fl Caney U.S. soldiers were ordered to cease fire to allow the sharp shooters better aim!. However, the purpose of aimed fire and "Indian Tactics" was to allow sufficient numbers to assemble to take the objective by assault. U.S. artillery was outdated and ineffective and the success of the Gatling gun detachment was only due to the efforts of its commander. U.S. infantry was quick to dig-in and rapidly took over Spanish trenches in addition to extending their own. It's worth noting that dirt was put to the front of the trench as the weapons of that time were mostly direct-fire.

The Spanish Army put greater emphasis upon maintaining the infantry formation and a high volume of fire. Although the Mauser was a very accurate rifle, its cliploaded magazine allowed the Spanish infantry to produce a very fast rate of fire. Because of their experience in Cuba, the Spanish made wide use of skirmishers and utilized very effective snipers. At long range the Spanish infantry was trained to fire by volley and were able to harass approaching U.S. columns at distances of up to 3000 yards!

The Spanish Army had Maxim machine-guns but there is no record of their use in Cuba Spanish artillery was used effectively and a pair of modern Krupp field-guns were able to outshoot two U.S. batteries. The Spanish used extensive field works with trenches, blockhouses and barbed-wire.

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