I’ve lately been reading through the forum and a recent discussion regarding the term “haversack” in the 18th century solidified my belief that this is my kind of place. So… hello!
I like to write and tend to be long winded, so the very abridged version of what I’ve poured out below is this: What would be the most historically accurate/period correct firearm for an enterprising colonial on the Susquehanna frontier c.1755? And… what kit(s) may match up with the history in the best possible way?
The long version:
I’m writing what will probably be a lengthy note asking for some guidance about building a smoothbore appropriate for the Pennsylvania frontier during the 1750s. My sincere thanks in advance if you take time to read this missive and choose to reply. I know you all are busy!
I grew up in Northumberland County a few miles from the former site of Shamokin and Fort Augusta. I’ve spent my life in the towns and mountains of central Pennsylvania and now live with my young family just west of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River. The site of the first attack of the Penns Creek Massacre (LeRoy family) is less than a mile from my front porch and the entire country here is littered with sites and events from the French and Indian War through the Revolution. I spend a great deal of time hunting (including with a production CVA Mountain Rifle I bought with confirmation money when I was 12…), fishing, camping and wandering through a large district, and I’m interested in going deeper than books or touristing can take me. Period hunts and overnight scouts are my intent. Maybe eventually living history. (Did highly authentic ACW once upon a time…)
I’m 43 with a young family and have been thinking on a flintlock appropriate for experiencing the 1750s-1760s in this area for going on 20 years. I’m finally in a position to build a gun… I have the skill set to do good work (I build bamboo fly rods, haft historic axes, etc.) but with my young family and demanding career, I don’t think I’m up for the time commitment of building from a slab of maple. Nor are my experience and skill quite ready for a scratch build.
So, a kit then.
Just to state: Historical Correctness is important to me. Or as historically correct as can reasonably be achieved in these times. I have a running list of relic guns from this time period that I would love to build a bench copy of… I’m just not there yet.
So then… which kit as a basis for a civilian-owned smoothbore along the Susquehanna River during the French and Indian War? I’ve done a lot of research, and as I’m sure you all know, the historic record can get fuzzy when you try to get specific as to time and place. Especially for the 1750s-1760s. I believe I have a good understanding of the generalities of frontier guns of the period, I can make some educated assumptions, but could use some assistance in narrowing things down to what an enterprising colonial on the Pennsylvania frontier - one that placed appropriate importance on the acquisition of his firearm - would have equipped himself with to provide for and defend his family. Hunting, home defense, and off a’ranging when called upon.
My interests really are centered on American “assembled” guns, rather than imported European arms… though I would certainly embrace the right arm imported to Pennsylvania for sale to colonists. But the documented ingenuity of early gunmakers and smiths to create firearms and keep them in service for frontier work is damn fascinating to me. An early American “composite” gun seems appropriate - domestically stocked with imported or reclaimed lock and barrel and reclaimed, imported or self-made furniture. Surviving historic examples seem to run from ‘cobbled’ to very fine, though all carry a sense of purpose. Something like this may need to wait for a scratch build or starting with a non-inlet stock… but maybe one of the English trade kits would be an appropriate jumping off point for a colonial-made gun? I’m not sure this is achievable working from a pre-carved and pre-inlet parts set.
Arms imported to Philadelphia for the colonial trade would also likely be appropriate. An English fouling piece or fusee of the quality above those meant for the Indian trade but not to the level of a “fine” gun seems like an achievable build to produce a correct arm for the time and place.
I’m also much drawn to the Tulle Fusil de Chasse and other French trade guns - particularly the stock architecture - but cannot seem to historically justify those guns or ones domestically stocked in that manner being present on the Susquehanna frontier in the 1750s. Ditto use of the French hardware and locks. Maybe I’m mistaken in that regard. I’m hoping to avoid any sort of elaborate ‘backstory’ of how such a gun ended up in the Susquehanna Valley. I prefer to represent the common rather than the exceptional. Again… maybe my research and understanding is incomplete on the spread of the French types and they would have been present. All that said, if historical correctness for the time and place wasn’t paramount for me, I’d likely build a French gun.
If you’ve read all that, sincerely… thank you. I look forward learning here and to eventually getting a kit in hand and enjoying the making of something that will bring years of enjoyment and learning. Any and all advice - including any additional research suggestions! - is greatly appreciated.