|Mitrailleuse and crew in 28mm - gun and crew from Wargames Foundry|
Today the French word "mitrailleuse" roughly equates to "machinegun" in English - there are a lot of modern weapons you can apply the term to. Back in 1870, however, it applied to this specific weapon, thought to be a real ace in the hole for the Army of Napoleon III. Most of the information I have found speaks of how the French treated the weapon as some sort of state secret, so secret that it impaired the training and proper use of the weapons when war with Prussia came in the summer of 1870.
|Great sculpting by the Perrys as always - particularly love the gunner figure|
|One of the gunner figures is sporting a carbine|
The weapon was tricky to use at range - it threw off a lot of smoke, and it was hard for the crew to track the effectiveness of their shooting when operating at artillery-style ranges (even short ones). Meanwhile the big plumes of gun smoke that appeared when in use made the Mitrailleuse batteries easy to spot - and they seemed to have been priority targets for the lethal Prussian breech-loading artillery, who duly hammered them as soon as they spotted them on the battlefield.
|Excessive use of Tajima tufts...no wonder I run out of them so quickly....|
But the contemporary military planners of the day did not have that context...they were coming to this as something to augment artillery. In hindsight, it was not that successful, but I can kind of see what the French were going for, and why they went about it - not sure the excessive secrecy was helpful, as it impaired the training and deployment, and understanding of the commanders regarding how these might be employed. On the other hand, the performance of the overall French high command was so dismal in 1870-71, I don't think the Mitrailleuse could really have changed what happened.
|Prussians in sight...|