As in the XVIII century, the Russians invented the best artillery in the world.
23 July 1759, the position of the Russian troops was attacked by the army of Prussia. A stubborn battle unfolded on the heights near the village of Palzig, located in the west of modern Poland, at that time these were the eastern borders of the Prussian kingdom.
For the second year, the Seven Years' War was raging, in which all the major European states participated. That day, the Prussians went on the attack, to prevent the Russians from crossing the Oder and entering the heart of Germany. The stubborn battle continued for 10 hours and ended with the complete defeat of the Prussian troops. The army, considered to be the best in the Western Europe, the most disciplined and trained, lost only soldiers and officers killed by 4269 - almost five times more than the Russian troops! Our casualties that day were 878 soldiers and 16 officers.
The defeat of the Prussians and the relatively small losses of our troops were predetermined by the Russian artillery - some enemy attacks were repelled only by its fire, deadly and accurate.
"Newly introduced tools"
That day, July 23, 1759, for the first time in stories humanity artillery guns of the Russian army unexpectedly for the enemy opened fire over the head of their troops. Previously, the guns in the field battles were beaten only by direct fire.
On the eve of the Battle of Palzig, our army was the first in the world to receive light field guns invented in St. Petersburg, capable of firing both direct fire with grape-shot and explosive "grenades" and nuclei with "hanging fire", that is, on top of building their troops. It was this technical and tactical novelty that predetermined the defeat of the Prussians, despite their skillful and decisive actions.
Three weeks after the victory at Palzig, the Russian army collided with the main forces of the Prussian king Frederick II near the village of Kunersdorf, just a few kilometers east of Frankfurt an der Oder. 12 August 1759, the Prussian king, a brave and talented commander, managed to bypass the right flank of the Russian army and successfully attacked her. From 9 in the morning to 7 in the evening there was a stubborn battle - the first attacks of the Prussians were successful. But then, during the battle, they broke down the line, and Friedrich’s infantry crowded at the height of Mülberg, where they fell victim to the well-aimed fire of the new Russian cannons.
The battle ended with the unconditional victory of Russia. The baptized Kalmyks from the Chuguev Equestrian Regiment even defeated the personal guards of the Prussian king, bringing to the Russian command a hat of Frederick II who hastily escaped. This trophy is now kept in the memorial museum of Suvorov in St. Petersburg.
Reporting the victory over Frederick II near Kunersdorf, the commander of the Russian army, General-in-Chief Peter Saltykov, informed the Empress Elizabeth that “the great enemy cavalry and batteries harmed the enemy, especially from the newly invented guns and Shuvalov’s howitzers, the great enemy cavalry and batteries.
“Inventory”, “Inventing” - this term Russian people of the XVIII century called inventive activity. "Newly introduced" - that is, the newly invented tools. Howitzers are called "Shuvalov" by the name of Pyotr Ivanovich Shuvalov, an associate of Empress Elizabeth and one of the most prominent statesmen of the Russian Empire of the mid-18th century.
Peter Shuvalov was among those who, with the help of the Preobrazhensky regiment guards, raised the daughter of Peter the Great to the imperial throne. In Russian history, those events are considered the only absolutely bloodless coup d'état - despite the cruel customs of the time, during and after the “Guards Revolution” Nobody was killed or executed. Moreover, the new Empress Elizabeth, with the consent of her comrades-in-arms, abolished the death penalty in Russia. The Russian Empire was the only country in Europe where the state officially stopped killing its subjects.
Count Peter Shuvalov, being one of the closest to the Empress (his wife had been the friend of Elizabeth since childhood), was rightly considered the most influential politician of the Russian Empire. But unlike many “favorites” and “temporary workers,” Shuvalov used these endless possibilities for the benefit of Russia. Becoming a general field officer, that is, the commander of all Russian artillery, it was he who provided our army with the best tools in the world.
Count Peter Ivanovich Shuvalov. Reproduction from the book “Russian portraits of the 18th and 19th centuries. Publication of Grand Duke Nikolai Mikhailovich Romanov
Under the leadership of Count Shuvalov was created a real scientific group. In fact, this is the first case in the history of Russia when not single enthusiasts, not individual scientists, but a whole group of qualified specialists worked on the creation of technical innovations.
History has preserved their names for us. Among those who worked for the glory of the Russian artillery, three stand out: Mikhail Vasilyevich Danilov, Matvey Grigorievich Martynov, and Ivan Fedorovich Glebov. All of them are officers of the Russian army, professional artillerymen. Then the artillery was the most "scientific" branch of the army - the commanders of gun calculations needed to know the basics of mathematics, physics and chemistry.
But Danilov, Martynov and Glebov were not just gunners. In the middle of the 18th century, Colonel Glebov was in charge of all garrison schools for training artillery specialists, captain Martynov was the head of the St. Petersburg artillery school, and captain Danilov in the same school headed the laboratory for the production of fireworks and illuminations. Fireworks then demanded the most "advanced" knowledge in chemistry and pyrotechnics - Empress Elizabeth, daughter of Peter I, wanted her fireworks to be better than European ones, and in fact it was so.
"Close" and "secret howitzers"
In the 1753 – 1757 years, continuous gun firing took place on the Vyborg side of St. Petersburg. “A great multitude of gunpowder and other supplies were shot,” - as captain Mikhail Danilov later wrote in his memoirs.
At the initiative of Count Shuvalov various samples of guns were tested. Since the time of Peter the Great, a quarter of a century has passed, the artillery of European countries has stepped forward, and the guns of the Russian army still remained at the level of the Northern War with the Swedes. But the war was advancing with Prussia, and the commander of the artillery sought to quickly overcome the emerging backlog.
In those few years, the Shuvalov team created and tested many different samples. weapons. At that time, science was still far from theoretical calculations and subtle experiments; therefore, work on the improvement of Russian artillery was carried out by trial and error. Experimented with various shapes and sections of cannon barrels, to the extent that they tried to make even rectangular. Some samples of guns, invented by the team of Shuvalov, were immediately rejected, some tried to adopt, despite the doubts and difficulties. And only one sample in all respects turned out to be almost perfect.
Initially, Matvey Martynov and Mikhail Danilov created an artillery installation in the form of two barrels on the same gun carriage - this gun was immediately called “the twins”. It was assumed that when shooting with a canister, and especially with “rods”, that is, finely chopped iron rods, the striking effect will be greater than that of a conventional cannon. However, experiments have shown that the effectiveness of such a double gun is no higher than that of ordinary single-barreled guns.
With all the variety of samples and projects, Count Shuvalov was especially fascinated with a short tool, in which the inside of the trunk was a smoothly expanding oval cone. That is, the bore was not round, as usual, but oval, parallel to the ground (the horizontal diameter is three times the vertical). According to Shuvalov, with such a cross section, the canister flying out of the barrel should have been spread horizontally, while in the case of a conventional cannon, much of the bullets went upwards, that is, higher than the enemy, or downwards, into the ground.
In fact, Feldtseykhmeister Shuvalov dreamed of a kind of “machine gun” capable of sending a mass of lead bullets neatly along the horizon and mowing slender ranks of Prussian grenadiers. Invented gun with an oval section of the trunk immediately received the name of "secret howitzers." Outwardly, such a gun was no different from the previous ones, and so that no stranger could see the oval bore, by strict order of the general field officer, under pain of the death penalty, the artillerymen were obliged to always put a case on the gun and remove it only immediately before shooting.
The first tests seemed to be successful, and in a burst of enthusiasm, Count Shuvalov ordered to make 69 of such tools. However, further exploitation and combat use showed that with a slight improvement in the damaging ability of the car fire, such a “secret Shuvalov howitzer” has a number of significant drawbacks: the road is in production, difficult in the loading process, and most importantly, because of the cross section of the trunk, it can only fire the canister.
As a result, the most successful of the projects of the Shuvalov team was an artillery gun, outwardly much simpler and more ordinary than the exotic “twin” and “secret howitzer”.
The result of the most successful experiment, conducted in March 1757, combined the best properties of mortars and guns. The newborn cannon was decorated with the family coat of arms of the Shuvalov family - an image of the mythical beast of the unicorn. Soon all the guns of this type were forever nicknamed "Unicorns" - not only in army slang, but also in official documents.
The guns of that time fired with cores or canister along a flat trajectory — parallel to the ground or with a slight elevation. For mounted shooting with a high elevation angle, short-barreled mortars were used to fly over the walls and fortifications to the cores and explosive bombs. The "Unicorn" became a universal weapon: it was shorter than conventional cannons and longer than mortars.
Shuvalovsky “Unicorn” 1-pound on the mountain (landing) gun carriage - Sample 1775. Photo: petersburg-stars.ru
But its main difference from the previous guns was the design of the “charging chamber” - the barrel bore in the breech rear of the gun ended with a cone. In the previous guns, the completion of the barrel bore was flat or semicircular, and with mortars, the wide barrel bore designed for bombs and nuclei ended in a narrower one, where a gunpowder charge was laid.
The core, bomb, or tin "glass" with the grape-shot, when loaded into the barrel of the Shuvalov's "Unicorn", rested against a tapering cone, tightly sealing the expelling charge of gunpowder. And when fired, the powder gases gave up all the energy to pushing the projectile, whereas in the case of the former guns, some of the powder gases inevitably burst into the gaps between the core and the walls of the barrel, losing energy.
This allowed the “Unicorns” with a shorter barrel than the usual cannons to shoot an impressive distance for that time - to 3 km, and when the barrel was raised to 45 ° - almost twice as far. The short barrel made it possible to double the speed of loading and, accordingly, shooting.
This will seem unexpected to the modern reader, but the barrel, which is shorter than that of a cannon, has given a noticeable advantage in accuracy. Indeed, at that time, the production of artillery barrels was not yet perfect, the inner surface of the barrel bore had inevitable microscopic irregularities, which, when shot, informed the charge of unpredictable rotation and deviation from the predetermined trajectory. The longer the barrel, the greater the impact of such irregularities. Therefore, the relatively short "Unicorn" had better accuracy and accuracy of shooting than conventional guns.
Shuvalov’s team sought not only to increase the striking power and accuracy of artillery, but also to lose weight so that new guns could maneuver faster and easier in field battles. "Unicorn" was very easy and maneuverable. The Russian 12-pound cannon of the 1734 model of the year fired 5,4 kg cores and had a weight of 112 pounds barrel, and the Unicorn, which replaced its half-weight Unicorn, fired at the same range with more powerful 8 kg cores, had a barrel four times lighter. To transport the 1734 cannon of the year, 15 horses were required, and the “Unicorn” required only 5.
Centenary of "Unicorn"
It is significant that all the creators of the best artillery gun in the 18th century were the sons of the companions of Peter I. The father of Count Shuvalov fought the entire Northern War and finished it with the commandant of Vyborg defeated by the Swedes. Ivan Glebov’s father, as a boy, entered Tsar Peter’s “merry troops” and during the war years with the Swedes, he served as chief of supplies for the Preobrazhensky regiment, the first in the Russian Guard.
Father of Mikhail Vasilyevich Danilov got into the same Preobrazhensky regiment at the very beginning of its creation and, despite the rank of an ordinary soldier, more than once fought alongside Peter I. “My father, serving as a soldier in the guard, was in campaigns with the sovereign in 1700 year, when the city of Narva was taken by storm from the Swedes - this is what Mikhail Danilov wrote in his memoirs. - During that assault, my father was wounded hard: his left hand shot three fingers of a canister, half each, big, index and middle fingers. The sovereign, inspecting the personally wounded soldiers himself, cut off his fingers from my father’s fingers, cut them with scissors, deigned to say to the sufferer from the wound for comfort: “It was hard for you!”
In essence, the creators of the Unicorn were the second generation of Peter's reforms, when the acts of the first Russian emperor finally brought impressive results, turning Russia into the most powerful state of the continent.
"Unicorn 12-pound" - Sample 1790 g.Photo: petersburg-stars.ru
The prototypes of artillery guns, created by Mikhail Danilov, Matthew Martynov, Ivan Glebov and other specialists from the “Shuvalov team”, were cast in the metal by fifty Petersburg craftsmen under the guidance of the cannon master Mikhail Stepanov.
Very quickly, mass production of new tools for the 18th century was launched. By the beginning of the 1759 of the year, 477 of various “Unicorns” of six calibers weighing from 3,5 t to 340 kg had already been manufactured.
The steel mills founded by Peter I in the Urals had already turned into a giant industrial complex at that time, and Russia began to smelt more metal than any of the states of Western Europe. Therefore, to implement the experiments of Count Shuvalov, there was a powerful industrial base - hundreds of "newly invented tools" were cast in just a few years, whereas previously it would take more than a decade to manufacture such a quantity.
The first combat use of "Unicorns" and the first in the world to shoot over the head of their troops in a field battle was commanded by one of the creators of the new weapon - General Ivan Glebov, who received the order of Alexander Nevsky and the rank of governor-general of Kiev as a result of the war with Prussia.
In the second half of the 18th century, the Russian “Unicorns” turned out to be the best field implements in the world. The victories over the Turks, which gave Crimea and Novorossia to our country, were ensured by the perfect field artillery, which was superior to the Turkish one. Up to the wars with Napoleon, Russian artillery was also considered the strongest in Europe. The best European gunsmiths then imitated the Russians.
Already during the Seven Years' War in 1760, the Austrian allies asked Russia for drawings of new tools. Wanting to brag to Europe, the simple-minded Empress Elizabeth sent X-NUMX "Unicorns" and 10 "secret howitzers" to Vienna. There they were carefully studied by Jean Baptiste Griboval, a French officer who was then in the Austrian service. Returning after the Seven Years' War to his homeland, Griboval began to reform the French artillery according to the Russian model - later Napoleon himself would call him "the father of the French artillery."
But even half a century after the work of Shuvalov’s team, in the era of the Napoleonic wars, the Russian “Unicorns” were still superior to their European counterparts, making a considerable contribution to the victory of 1812 of the year. "Unicorns" were successfully used during the Crimean and Caucasian wars. On arms of the Russian army, these guns consisted of a century, until 1863, when the transition to rifled artillery began. And still for half a century, the ancient “Unicorns” were kept in warehouses in fortresses as the last mobilization reserve in case of a major war. Officially, they were written off from storage only in the 1906 year.