Sunday, September 24, 2017

A simple but still intriguing rifle of the Berks County School.

The rifle appears to be early 19th century Berks County school having components that resemble other rifles from Berks County such as similar patch box finials and trigger guards and the Roman nose stock profile.

Everything about this rifle, the patch box, trigger guard, inlays and the nicely engraved side plate would make one to speculate that it may have been built by an apprentice of the Kutztown Angstadt gunsmiths. The simple floral motif at the tail, it appears to be original, is another indication of apprentice work.

There are remnants of a signature on the barrel but are worn to the point where they are impossible to read. The flintlock is marked “Ketland & Company” and the rifle has been converted back to flintlock configuration using this period lock.

The 4-pc brass patchbox is, as you can see, not engraved. The brass trigger guard is of the Reading style.

All these features are typical of Berks/Kutztown rifles. Sure wish these things could talk.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Battle of Freeman’s Farm

In the early morning hours of  September 19, 1777, British General John Burgoyne launches a three-column attack against General Horatio Gates and his American forces in the First Battle of Saratoga, also known as the Battle of Freeman’s Farm.

Coming under heavy cannon fire from the approaching British troops, General Gates initially ordered the Northern Army to be patient and wait until the British neared before launching a counter-attack. General Gates’ second in command, American Brigadier General Benedict Arnold, strongly disagreed with Gates’ orders and did not hesitate to share his opinion with his superior. After arguing for several hours, General Arnold was finally able to convince Gates to order American troops onto the battlefield to meet the center column of the approaching British, and to dispatch a regiment of riflemen to intercept the British right flank.

Battle of Freeman's Farmby Don Troiani

Although the Americans were able to inflict severe casualties on the British, the delay in ordering a counter-attack forced the Americans to fall back. During the five-hour battle, the Americans lost approximately 280 troops killed, while the British suffered a more severe loss of more than 550 killed.

Due to the disagreement over military decisions of the battle
, Gates removed Arnold as his second in command. Arnold felt slighted by the army he served, and in 1780, he betrayed the Patriot cause by handing over the Patriot-held fort at West Point, New York, to the British. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

Battle of Harlem Heights

September 16, 1776, General George Washington arrives at Harlem Heights, on the northern end of Manhattan, and takes command of a group of retreating Continental troops. The day before, 4,000 British soldiers had landed at Kip’s Bay in Manhattan (near present-day 34th Street) and taken control of the island, driving the Continentals north, where they appeared to be in disarray prior to Washington’s arrival.

In the early morning hours, General Washington ordered the Continentals to hold their line at Harlem Heights while he sent Captain Thomas Knowlton and a volunteer group of Rangers to scout British movements and possibly lure the British into combat. While Captain Knowlton and the Rangers engaged the British in a frontal assault, Washington sent a second force of Patriots to attack the British from their right flank. During the short but intense fighting that ensued, the Americans were able to force a small British retreat from their northern positions.

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Despite the American failure to stop the British invasion of New York City the previous day at Kip’s Bay, the successful Battle of Harlem Heights restored public confidence in the American troops and lifted the spirits of the Continental Army. The Americans and British each lost approximately 70 troops in the fighting. One of the Americans lost was the Ranger leader, Captain Thomas Knowlton.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Adam Ernst

Ernst rifles are discussed in Joe Kindig’s Thoughts on the Kentucky Rifle in Its Golden Age.

He notes that Ernst appears in historical records in Franklin Township in York County, Pennsylvania during the years surrounding the War of 1812, and appears to have died in 1857 suggesting he was active circa 1805 through the 1850s.

Ernst appears to have worked under George Eister as his work has significant similarities. The barrel has the typical brass blade front and notch iron sights commonly seen on American long rifles and is signed "A. Ernst" just behind the rear sight.

This particular rifle is pictured on in the "York School" section of The Kentucky Rifle by Merrill Lindsay.

Most notable is the brass lock plate, Lindsay believes the lock plate may have been made in York by Ernst or one of his apprentices. It may also have been produced by Frederick Sell, given that a Frederick Sell signed rifle also features a brass lock and that Sell appears to have worked under Ernst before starting his own shop. As you can see the full length maple stock has attractive striped figuring at the midsection, brass furniture , and detailed carved designs including rococo motifs on the left side of the butt around the cheekpiece and near the breech with some checkering and silver stud inlays. The ornate patch box also has rococo style designs and it and the side plate have light engraving patterns. 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Battle at Eutaw Springs

After receiving reinforcements on September 8, 1781, Major General Nathanael Greene of the Continental Army resumes offensive action against Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Stewart and the British soldiers at Eutaw Springs, located on the banks of the Santee River in South Carolina. The Patriots approached in the early morning, forcing the British soldiers to abandon their uneaten breakfasts in order to fight.
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Greene commanded approximately 2,200 men compared to the less than 2,000 British soldiers commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Stewart. Unbeknownst to most of the Patriots, however, British Major John Majoribanks had managed to secure his unit in a stone house, impervious to Patriot Lieutenant Colonel William Washington’s cavalry attack. When Patriot soldiers took over the British camp and began to devour the abandoned breakfast, Majoribanks set his men upon them. A four-hour inconclusive bloodbath in the burning sun ensued, ending in both sides retreating from the battlefield. More than 500 Americans were killed or wounded in the action. British losses were even greater and the greatest sustained by any army in a single battle during the entire Revolutionary War. By the end of the battle, 700 of their soldiers were killed, wounded or missing. Because of the high number of casualties the British sustained, Stewart subsequently ordered his men to withdraw to Charleston, South Carolina, to regroup.

The Battle of Eutaw Springs was one of the hardest fought and bloodiest battles of the Revolution and proved to be the last major engagement of the war to take place in the South. The Patriots’ partial victory cemented their near-complete control of the southern section of the country.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Battle of Long Island

On August 27, 1776, the Battle of Long Island took place it was the first major battle of the American Revolutionary War. In terms of troop deployment and fighting, it was also the largest battle of the entire war. 

It pitted General George Washington’s 9,500 men against British Major General Howe’s force of 32,000. The confrontation was a disaster for American fortunes in New York, the defeat at Long Island was the first in a string of reverses which culminated in the British capture of the city and surrounding area. Badly defeated, Washington was forced retreat across New Jersey that fall, finally escaping into Pennsylvania. 
The defeat at Long Island cost Washington 312 killed, 1,407 wounded, and 1,186 captured. British losses were a relatively light 392 killed and wounded.