Sunday, November 27, 2016

R&C Leonard M-1808 Musket








Manufactured by Rudolph and Charles Leonard of Canton, Massachusetts between 1808 and 1814, this is one of the approximately 4,208 muskets delivered on contract. 
The U.S. War Department contracted with independent gun makers, including the Leonards, to produce Model 1808 muskets due to fears of entanglement with the warring nations of England and France. These muskets were the Harpers Ferry pattern except they had a straighter hammer spur, (top jaw guide), as on the Springfield models. The lock plate has beveled edges with a pointed tip and integral fenced rounded flash pan. The trigger guard has pointed finials, a one piece bow and a separate sling swivel stud mounted ahead of the bow. The tops of the barrel bands are flattened, the upper barrel band has a brass front sight blade and the bayonet lug is mounted on the bottom of the barrel. The lock is marked "CANTON/1812" in a vertical curve behind the hammer and ahead of the hammer is an eagle and shield motif over "U.S." in an oval and "R.& C. LEONARD". The left side rear of the barrel is stamped with a "V", "Eagle head/CT" in an oval and "U.S." proof and inspection marks. The barrel tang is also stamped with a "V" inspection mark. 


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Sunday, November 20, 2016

Harpers Ferry Model 1805 Flintlock Pistol




The M-1805 has the distinction of being the only production pistol ever manufactured at the Harpers Ferry Arsenal in the 19th Century. 
The M-1805 was a product of an order issued in November of 1805 by the American Secretary of war to the Superintendent and Master Armorer of Harper's Ferry arsenal. The order called for 2000 braces of pistols, made in the style of the English Light Dragoon model.




The order specified the particulars, including basic dimensions and sight arrangement, the latter specifically "Tang V-Notched Rear Sight - Small Brass -Sight near Muzzle". An error in communication resulted in the pistols originally being made with no sights, and then some of the pattern guns (including this example) being made with the rear sight on the barrel instead of the tang. 
Only 4096 of these pistols would be made in total, making them highly sought after by collectors. Values well into the 5 digit figures.
The pistol has a 10 1/16-inch round, smoothbore barrel with iron rib that supports an iron ramrod ferrule. The barrel has a dove-tail mounted front sight with brass blade and a dove-tail mounted, iron, rear sight located two-inches ahead of the tang. The lock plate is flat with beveled edges and a pointed tip. The lock has a integral, fenced, iron pan and a flat-faced, reinforced cock. 
The barrel band, ramrod end-pipe, trigger guard, side plate and strapped buttcap are brass. The pistol has a hickory ramrod with brass tip. The wedge-fastened stock is black walnut.


















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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Santa Fe Trail

On this day in 1821, Missouri Indian trader William Becknell arrives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

In an effort to recover from financial problems William Bucknell , lead a team of mules west from Franklin, Missouri. The mules were loaded with goods he planned to take through plains Indian territory (what is now Kansas) to the Mexican city of Santa Fe. The trip was long and hard but trading was good. Becknell returned home with money in his pockets and tales of the friendly people and the different lifestyle of Santa Fe. 
In 1822 and again in 1824 Bucknell, this time with wagons, he chartered his second course over the Cimarron Desert, which would later be known as the Cimarron Cutoff. Though the shorter this route provided less water, it saved the travelers ten days by cutting southwest across the Cimarron Desert to Santa Fe. 
"Santa Fe Trail, Cimarron Route" by Wayne Cooper
Travelers risked attacks by Native Americans in addition to the shortages of water. Despite the hazards, the shorter route would end up carrying 75% of the later Santa Fe Trail pioneers.
In 1825, Becknell helped map the trail for surveyors hired by the U.S. Congress. For his efforts in opening up an improved route for regular traffic and military movement, Becknell became known as the Father of the Santa Fe Trail.


In 1827 Becknell was appointed as a Justice of the Peace for Saline county, Missouri. The following year he was elected to the first of two terms in the Missouri House of Representatives. Retaining his rank of Captain, Becknell served in the Missouri state militia during a Native American uprising in 1829 and again during the 1832 Black Hawk War.

In 1835 Becknell sold all his Missouri property and business interests and moved to present-day Red River County, Texas in northeast Texas. During the Texas War of Independence, Becknell organized and led a cavalry unit known as the Red River Blues. Later he would serve briefly as a Texas Ranger and as a member of the legislature in the newly established Republic of Texas.

Becknell died on April 30, 1865, at his home. He is buried in a private family cemetery, a few miles west of Clarksville, Texas.


  


From 1825 until 1846, the Trail was an international commercial highway used by Mexican and American traders. In 1846, the Mexican-American War began. The Army of the West followed the Santa Fe Trail to invade New Mexico. When the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the war in 1848, the Santa Fe Trail became a national road connecting the United States to the new southwest territories. Great caravans of freight wagons dominated the Trail. Commercial freighting as well as considerable military freight hauling to build and supply the new southwestern forts. The trail was also used by stagecoach lines, thousands of gold seekers heading to the California and Colorado gold fields, adventurers, fur trappers, and emigrants. In 1880 the railroad reached Santa Fe and the trail faded into history.
This undocumented photo is believed to show the Cimarron Cutoff on the left and the Mountain Branch on the right? (c. 1860?)


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Sunday, November 13, 2016

Johnson M-1836 Martial Pistol




These Model 1836 54 caliber smoothbore flintlock pistols were produced by Gunsmith / manufacturer Robert Johnson of Middletown, Connecticut. 




The M-1836 was an improved version of the Model 1826 and was the final U.S. martial pistol manufactured using the flintlock system.

It was was the primary handgun issued to the U.S. Dragoons and Mounted Rifles during the Mexican War and continued to be used into the early years of Civil War (usually after having been converted to percussion).

They have the distinctive features of a swivel ramrod with button-shaped head, barrel band with strap extension that joins the side plate and an integral back strap and buttcap. The barrel has a brass half-moon front sight and an oval rear sight is located on the tang and the lock has a detachable fenced brass flash pan. The pistol barrel and furniture are finished "National Armory Bright" and the lock has a dark case hardened finish and niter blue frizzen spring. The black walnut stock was oil finished.



Many collectors consider this model to be the best of all U.S. martial flintlock pistols for good reason: These pistols are refined and sturdy. The swivel ramrod is more useful and better looking than the hickory rods used with earlier martial pistols, and the pistols balance well in the hand. 


Johnson
 produced the M-1836 from 1836 through 1844. Contract prices ranged from $7.50 to $9 each. Johnson’s factory was insured for $30,000. It held 27 employees and six water wheels.





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Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Iconic Northwest Trade Gun



Used longer and more widely than any other firearm in American history and was the primary firearm of the fur trade from the late 17th century through the end of the 19th century. Most were manufactured by gunmakers in Birmingham and London.

This long period of use means they were introduced before the iconic Brown Bess muskets and American long rifles and were still being produced well after metallic cartridges and repeating firearms were introduced in the mid-19th century.

Nearly all have plain full length stocks, light smoothbore barrels of fairly small size (16 and 20 gauge fairly common), oversized iron trigger guards and triggers, some say for mittened hands while others say for use with a two finger pull, brass side plates with serpent/dragon motifs, front sight blades, and flat buttplates fitted with nails early on and then screws for much of the era. Some, like this example, were fitted with notch rear sights for improved sighting. Standard barrel lengths early on were between 3 1/2 and 4 feet. Later, shorter lengths were more desired, and many older pieces were shortened in the period either to make them easier to use in brush, canoes(?), or on horseback or because of damage.
These guns were utility pieces useful for hunting fowl, small game, deer, and even larger game as well as for combat.

This example has blade and notch sights, no visible maker's marks, a circle "sitting fox" stamp on the lock (generally associated with the Hudson Bay Co. but also copied by others), smooth stock with tear drop flats and nail fitted buttplate, and the standard large trigger guard bow and serpent/dragon themed brass side plate.






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Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Heroine of the Revolution



Catherine “Kate” Moore Barry served her country with bravery and intelligence as a spy and messenger, and was instrumental in the pivotal Battle of Cowpens.

In 1781 the British, under command of General Cornwallis was out to crush Patriot resistance in the southern colonies, the resistance commanded by Brigadier General Daniel Morgan.
General Morgan, realizing how out-manned he was, appealed to Catherine Moore Barry for help. 
Her extensive knowledge of the area was a great help the Patriots. She knew every inch of the land she lived in. She knew all the shortcuts, the trails, where Patriots lived, and how to contact them. Single-handed, Kate rounded up the necessary local Patriots to join General Morgan's troops. With Catherine's help, General Morgan laid a trap for General Cornwallis and his men. The plan worked. General Cornwallis was defeated at the Battle of the Cowpens and retreated into the hands of General Washington at Yorktown, Virginia. With his surrender there, the colonies won their independence from Britain. Again, a woman's hand had assisted the Patriots in their war effort.


She became one of the first American Heroines and was decorated with several medals after the War for Independence by South Carolina. 
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