Andreas Anton Frederick Schumacher was an early Danish rocket pioneer who developed a complete rocket system.
Born on February 22, 1782, in Segeberg, Denmark, Schumacher’s military career began as a reserve corporal. In 1803, he became an ensign in the Oldenburg infantry regiment and in 1804, a second lieutenant and then a captain assigned to the King’s headquarters. He was involved in the construction of firearms until the bombardment of Copenhagen in 1807 by a British force using Congreve rockets. Although this was only the second time these weapons were used they destroyed much of the city and Schumacher felt Denmark should develop its own rockets in self-defense. Schumacher was able to design a rocket similar to Congreve’s by 1809 and soon convinced King Fredrick VI to build a factory to produce them under Schumacher’s supervision. In 1816, the Danish “Rocket Corps” was established with Schumacher as its leader. It was the first rocket unit on the European continent.
Schumacher continued to experiment with rockets but soon discovered that using Congreve’s basic design limited the accuracy of the Danish rockets, especially in windy conditions, greatly reducing their utility on the battlefield. The Danish Rocket Corps was a state secret, to insure the element of surprise, but they were never used in combat. Until 1834, the Corps remained an elite unit but improvements in artillery soon diminished its importance, in Denmark and the rest of Europe. After 1842, the Corps was relegated to a minor role in the Danish artillery. Rocket production ceased and rocket officers were reassigned to conventional artillery units.
Andreas Schumacher also experimented with rocket boats, rocket illumination flares and produced rockets with significantly stronger thrust than Congreve’s. He also invented an early form of rapid-firing weapon, the “espingol.” It consisted of two or more main gun barrels with smaller-bore muzzles inserted between them. A precursor of the modern machine gun, espingols of various designs were used by the Danes until 1876; although an effective defensive weapon with a range exceeding 200 yards, it was soon eclipsed by improvements in breech-loading rifles.
Schumacher received the Order of Knight Dannebork in 1819 for his achievements. Andreas Schumacher died in 1823.