Monday, January 30, 2017

The British Land Pattern Musket

More affecently named the "Brown Bess".
How the Bess got it’s nickname is something collectors argue about and likely one of those things that has been lost in time. Regardless, the British Army's muzzle-loading smoothbore Land Pattern Musket and its derivatives are one of history's most iconic firearms. This musket was used in the era of the expansion of the British Empire and acquired symbolic importance at least as significant as its physical importance. It was in use for over a hundred years with many incremental changes in its design. These versions include the Long Land Pattern, the Short Land Pattern, the India Pattern, the New Land Pattern Musket and the Sea Service Musket.

Most male citizens of the American Colonies were required by law to own arms militia duty and the Bess was readily available. The Long Land Pattern was a common firearm in use by both sides in the American War of Independence.

The Long Land Pattern musket and its derivatives, all .75 caliber flintlock muskets, were the standard long guns of the British Empire's land forces from 1722 until 1838, when they were superseded by a percussion cap smoothbore musket.

The Bess variants remained in service until the outbreak of the Crimean War (1853-1856) when they were replaced by the Minie and the P53 Enfield rifled musket.

A Bess was even purported to have seen service, in the American Civil War, at the Battle of Shiloh in 1862. 

Pictured is a Third Model Brown Bess. 

The British Ordnance System converted many flintlocks into the new percussion system known as the Pattern 1839 Musket.


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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

J. Baum Rifle

The barrel of this rifle is signed "J Baum." 
Several Baum gunmakers are known to have produced long rifles in the late 18th and early 19th century including Samuel Baum and Adam Baum. The latter worked at the Hummeltown arms factory and produced weapons for the Continental Army during the American Revolution. 
His son Daniel also produced rifles for the war effort. 
Another of his three sons was named John (1761-?) and is the most likely maker of this weapon. 
The rifle is pictured and discussed on pages 380-383 of "Rifles of Colonial America: Volume II" by George Shumway. Shumway notes that the rifle was likely built in 1775-1800. 
The rifle is somewhat of a enigma. It has a long slender build with a part round/part octagon barrel that is bored smooth but is only .43 caliber suggesting it was used like a rifle. Further rifle characteristics include the blade and notch sights and the rifle style trigger guard. It has a unique rococo style patch box engraved with a griffin like animal, and the trigger guard has a cat like animal. Shumway notes in his description that these designs appear to be styled after the animals in "18th century Pennsylvania-German alphabet books and natural history books." He also notes that the carving on the left side of the butt is more Pennsylvania-German folk style than the style used by American gunmakers on early rifles.


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Friday, January 20, 2017

The Battle of Millstone, New Jersey

Painting by Thomas J Martin
On this day in 1777, Brigadier General Philemon Dickinson leads 400 raw men from the New Jersey militia and 50 Pennsylvania riflemen under Captain Robert Durkee in an attack against a group of 500 British soldiers foraging for food led by Lieutenant Colonel Robert Abercromby near Van Nest’s Mills in Millstone, New Jersey.
The mills lay at a strategic point between New Brunswick and Princeton, New Jersey, where General George Washington had defeated the British on January 3. After that victory, Washington had decided to divide his forces in order to harass British installments in the New Jersey towns of New Brunswick and Amboy.
The British, who were stealing flour and supplies from Van Nest’s Mills with which to supply their troops in New Brunswick, had set up small cannon defenses at a bridge crossing the Millstone River. The Patriots caught the British forces by surprise when they, avoiding the cannons, forded the deep and icy water.
In the ensuing 20-minute battle, Dickinson reported that the Patriots captured 107 horses, 49 wagons, 115 cattle, 70 sheep, 40 barrels of flour—106 bags and many other things. They also took 49 prisoners. General Washington reported to John Hancock that the British removed a good many dead and wounded in light Wagons, estimated to be 24 or 25 in total compared to the 4 or 5 losses sustained by the Patriots.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Battle of Cowpens

Relying upon strategic creativity, Brigadier General Daniel Morgan and a mixed Patriot force rout British Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton and a group of Redcoats and Loyalists at the Battle of Cowpens on this day in 1781.

Commander in chief of the Southern Army, Major General Nathaniel Greene had decided to divide Patriot forces in the Carolinas in order to force the larger British contingent under General Charles Cornwallis to fight them on multiple fronts—and because smaller groups of men were easier for the beleaguered Patriots to feed. Daniel Morgan took 300 Continental riflemen and 740 militiamen with the intention of attacking the British backcountry fort, Ninety-Six.

In response, Cornwallis dispatched Tarleton with 1,100 Redcoats and Loyalists to catch Morgan, whom he feared might instigate a broad-based backcountry Patriot uprising. Morgan prepared for the encounter with Tarleton by backing his men up to a river at Cowpens, north of Ninety-Six.

As Tarleton’s men attacked, Morgan instructed the militia to skirmish with them, but to leave the front line after firing two rounds. The British mistook the repositioning of the Americans as a rout and ran into an unexpected volley of concentrated rifle fire coupled with a cavalry charge and followed by the return of the militia. Tarleton escaped, but Morgan’s troops decimated his army.

American riflemen, scorned by Britain’s professional soldiers, proved devastatingly effective in this engagement. The British lost 110 men and more than 200 more were wounded, while an additional 500 were captured. The American losses totaled only 12 killed and 60 wounded in the first Patriot victory to demonstrate that the American forces could outfight a similar British force without any other factors—such as surprise or geography—to assist

The Battle of Cowpens by Don Troiani

A few side notes about Daniel Morgan;

In Jack Kelly’s book “Band of Giants: The Amateur Soldiers Who Won America’s Independence.” he wrote of Morgan, “Daniel Morgan was a natural fighter, he grew up on the frontier and for fun fought in no-holds-barred brawls.”
Nicknamed “Old Wagoner” for his teamster work driving supplies during the French and Indian War.
In the summer of 1775, the rowdy Virginian answered the call for volunteers and commanded the first troops specifically recruited for a national army by the Continental Congress.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Battle of New Orleans, War of 1812

On December 24, 1814, Great Britain and the United States signed a treaty in Ghent, Belgium that effectively ended the War of 1812. News was slow to cross the pond and on January 8, 1815, the two sides met in what is remembered as one of the conflict’s biggest and most decisive engagements. 
In the bloody Battle of New Orleans, future President Andrew Jackson and a motley assortment of militia fighters, frontiersmen, slaves, Indians and even pirates weathered a frontal assault by a superior British force, inflicting devastating casualties along the way, the British suffered over two thousand casualties (killed, wounded and captured), the Americans suffered fewer than fifty. 
The victory vaulted Jackson to national stardom, and helped foil plans for a British invasion of the American frontier.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Battle of Princeton

Washington at the Battle of Princeton, 1777 by Don Troiani
British General William Howe, deeply concerned by General Washington’s victory at Trenton and Assunpink Creek, dispatched General Charles Cornwallis with 8000 troops to Trenton. Cornwallis arrived with his troops on the evening of January 2 and prepared to overwhelm Washington’s 5,000 exhausted Continentals and militia the following day.

Washington knew better than to engage such a force and Cornwallis knew Washington would try to escape overnight, but he was left to guess at what course Washington would take. Cornwallis sent troops to guard the Delaware River, expecting Washington to reverse the route he took for the midnight crossing on December 25. Instead, Washington left his campfires burning, muffled the wheels of his army’s wagons and skirted the flank of the British camp. At dawn, January 3, as the Continentals were heading north they met the straggling British rear guard just outside of Princeton. A battle ensued and forty Patriots and 275 British soldiers would be killed during Battle of Princeton.

After that additional defeat, General Howe, along with brother Admiral Richard Howe, would chose to leave most of New Jersey to Washington and concentrate all of their forces between New Brunswick and the Atlantic coast.


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Monday, January 2, 2017

The Battle of the Assunpink Creek

On this date in 1777, the battle (also known as the Second Battle of Trenton) took place in and around Trenton, NJ, during the Revolutionary War and resulted in an American victory.
Following a surprise victory at Trenton early in the morning of December 26, 1776, General Washington and his council of war expected a strong British counter-attack. Washington and his council decided to meet this attack in Trenton, and established a defensive position south of the Assunpink Creek.
Lieutenant General Cornwallis led the British forces southward in the aftermath of the December 26 battle. Leaving 1,400 men under Lieutenant Colonel Mawhood in Princeton, Cornwallis advanced on Trenton with about 5,000 men on January 2. 

His advance was significantly slowed by defensive skirmishing by American riflemen under the command of Edward Hand and the advance guard did not reach Trenton until twilight. 
After assaulting the American positions three times, and being repulsed each time, Cornwallis decided to wait and finish the battle the next day. 
Washington moved his army around Cornwallis's camp that night and attacked Lieutenant Colonel Mawhood at Princeton the next day. That defeat prompted the British to withdraw from most of New Jersey for the winter.