French & Indian War Era Flintlock Rifles

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Maestro

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This subject got started as a "rabbit trail" in another thread and, so as not to get lost from searching in the future, (and also since it's a subject I'm personally interested in, :wink: ) I'm starting this new thread by copying those posts here:

George said:
Okwaho said:
There are several subjects: F&I rifles....

As an aside, are you fer 'em or agin 'em, Tom?

Spence

Okwaho said:
Spence, that's an interesting question and one that I as well as other students of the American long rifle have pondered over for some time. For openers the John Schreit rifle {RCA Vol.I No.18}has long been considered by most as the earliest signed and dated rifle {1761}While this is a very early rifle it does have some issues as to the date.I do not have the slightest doubt that there were rifles made in the preceding one or two decades. Daniel Kliest was working in Bethlehem in the 1750's, Memorials of the Moravian Church VI{1870}.Ludwig Schriver may have been the master under whom John Schriver the elder of the Hanover region learned his craft. Nicholas Hachen and his brother Wolfgang arrived in 1750. Nicholas settled in the Hanover region as did the gunsmith George Ungerford neither of whom were survived by signed work.It has been suggested that George Schreyer began his apprenticeship under one of them and likely Nicholas Hachen who died young.Wolfgang Hachen {Haga}settled in Reading but no signed work of his is known.

As can be seen there were gunsmiths working in Pennsylvania before and during the F&I War and it is obvious that of the gunsmiths working before and during the early stages of the Revolutionary War some and perhaps most learned their craft from masters working in the 1750's who unfortunately remain unidentified.

Then we have the rifles made south of Pennsylvania in the early periods.Depredations of the Civil War and early westward migration have robbed us of virtually all of the very early rifles. I have heard of one account of large numbers of guns being destroyed "including many from the old war".Here again we are forced to speculate not upon the dates of the remaining rifles but upon the identities of the masters under whom their makers trained.An excellent example is illustrated in Vol.II RCA number 118.This is a very early and unusual rifle. The carving is very baroque and probably unlike any other. It relates to early baroque carving found on some 17th and early 18th century English furniture.Again we are looking at the master of the man who made No.118 and who was working prior to the F&I War. I have long felt that this gun was possibly from the Eastern shore of Virginia or Maryland.

So now the question of F&I rifles remains simple,What do they look like and who made them. We know what existing {post F&I} guns look like but the key is who trained their makers and what did their guns look like.I don't know if I have answered your question since there is so much we don't know.I think that you can understand why collectors and students of the American long rifle look askance at the term "early Virginia rifles" used by various modern builders and reenactors as being appropriate and authentic for the French and Indian War {1754-1760} There are perhaps a dozen or less rifles known which could possibly be accurately dated to the French and Indian War.
as always I welcome responsible opposing comment.
Tom Patton

Okwaho said:
The original post the response to which I wrote my prior post was written by George "gently and good heartedly" enquiring as to F&I rifles whether I was for or against them so in reply I wrote my prior post. The answer to George should have been a good solid "YES" and with this answer in mind I wrote my prior post to which this post is an addendum.

As an addendum to my prior post on F&I rifles,building a rifle historically authentic to that period would truly be a daunting undertaking which could or should only be undertaken by the most experienced and knowlegeable builders.It would be a very expensive and time consuming project and I would not presume to suggest any particular builder.After all we are probably not talking about a bench gun here.
As always I welcome any responsible opposing comment.
Tom Patton
 
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tg

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There is not doubt they were arouind either imported(records exist) or built locals so the appearance and detail are what is lacking, most feel that to re-create one all you can do is take the earliest traits we have evidence of an build a speculation of what we think they may have looedlike using those gun that Schumway and others feel could go back to the 1750's we may not be 100% correct but an homest attempt will likely be accepted if presented as such, but what usually happens is a common style from the rev War or post 1800 is earlified with wide buttplate and wood box, early lock and a couple of very generic early traits which could really be early 1770 traits as much as any earlier.Just tossing out Pear.....thoughts.
 

rich pierce

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Pretty sure we've been down this road before. I take the odd position that it's not hard to make a plausible F&I War period rifle. It's just hard to know which one to build. That's because we'd like the rifle to be plausible for a particular persona, place, time, and purpose. And we'd like to have signed, dated specimens that help us make that link. We don't demand signed, dated tomahawks, hunting frocks (well, maybe some of us do), shoes or weskits but by golly we want our early rifles signed and dated, even if they didn't sign and date them back then.

But the builder today has many choices based on plausible examples when making a plausible F&I War era rifle.

I separate these into 2 broad categories: rifles stocked here, and rifles imported whole.

For imported rifles, builders can opt to build an English sporting rifle of the period, a Germanic "jaeger" style rifle, or even a Dutch rifle. There are plenty of examples of these; just none clearly linked to an American in the F&I War period so far as I know. There's a nice short German jaeger rifle that belonged to Peter Vrooman in the Mohawk valley in the Revolutionary War; whether it saw use earlier is unknown. Does anyone reading know of a European rifle linked to a F&I War period colonial person?

My vote for "most solid" example of a F&I War period, American stocked rifle is the Musician's rifle, believed made near Bethlehem, PA, which has a scratched date of 1756 on the patchbox. The rifle has been in the same family for hundreds of years, never sold.

Then there are at least six or eight original rifles that I would confidently use as examples of likely F&I War rifles used here for the following reason: they have no feature that necessarily post-dates 1760, and plenty of features that fit well into mid-18th century. We'd require no more for a weskit, a set of andirons, a trivet, a compass, a betty lamp, a tomahawk or a knife.

This places me firmly in the "for F&I War era rifles" category. They existed, we just don't know what any particular F&I War era guy's rifle looked like.
 

George

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Okwaho said:
The answer to George should have been a good solid "YES"...
And that is what I was expecting, Tom, but I'm pleased with what I got. My general understanding of the use of rifles in that time period is superficial, my detailed understanding of the types is non-existent, so I'll follow this thread with interest. I have little to contribute to this discussion beyond a couple of simple references to the use of rifles in the F&I war. One of my favorite resources for early American history is the Pennsylvania Gazette, and I have spent a fair amount of time searching that archive for interesting stuff. I've found references to "rifle barreled guns" from 1740 onward in civilian use, and a few during the F&I war. Since that is contrary to a lot of opinion I've seen expressed over the years as to their use and availability early on, I collect them when I run across them. These are two of them, from the war in South Carolina:

*************************
April 17, 1760 The Pennsylvania Gazette
ITEM #24643

CHARLESTOWN (in South Carolina) March 12.

Fort Prince George (Keowee) Feb. 28. "Mr. Coytmore died of
his Wound 25th Inst. the Day after the last Express set out.
The same Day one of the soldiers was shot in the North East
Angle of the Fort, from the Hills on the other Side of the
River: He died of the Wound Yesterday. We have Reason to
believe the Indians have a good many >
Guns amongst them, as their Bullets seem to come this
Way with great Force. There is no Communication at present
with Fort Loudoun. ---"


January 24, 1760 The Pennsylvania Gazette
ITEM #24311

Charles Town (in South Carolina) Nov. 24.

December 1. There being some Chasm in our Intelligence
from the Army, from the 18th to the 24th Instant, by some of
our Letters not having yet come to Hand, we shall defer
publishing our Advices from thence till our next. The Army was
healthy and in high Spirits; but the > Men
continued to desert 10 and 12 at a Time. They arrived at
Ninety six the 21st ult. where they were building a Fort, and
were to move forwards for Keowee as Yesterday."
****************************

With my limited understanding of the early history of rifles , seeing reference to use by Indians and to the rifle-barrel men deserting by the dozens made their use seem fairly common. That's what I was going to ask about.

Spence
 

Stophel

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Rich Pierce said:
My vote for "most solid" example of a F&I War period, American stocked rifle is the Musician's rifle, believed made near Bethlehem, PA, which has a scratched date of 1756 on the patchbox. The rifle has been in the same family for hundreds of years, never sold.

Yeah, but we don't get to see the "musician's rifle"....
 

jsn

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only rifles I could find were jager rifles, they could have been brought with immigrants in the 1740's or later
 

tg

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Whiskers book on N Carolina guns/builders lists everal estate references to imported from Europe rifles with 3 1/2-4' barrels in the 1750's and not just a rifle but in "lots" I see it as a condition that if they were made in Europe they were likely made here in the same or similar style as well, some imports were refered to as "Dutch" some were possibly English with their typical copy but with diminuitive cheekpiece, as Rich stated there is no shortage of guns thought to possibly be from the 1750's that were colonial made choosing one to match ones persona might be interesting as the whole concept is quite speculative, some think the "Faber" gun is a good example, I had one made by someone else to me it was passible as a late 1750 gun, thenthing to do is study the gun to be used as a reference and follow closely or just make a Generic "early' gun using the earliest traits one can find, I think Mr. Brooks or JD, or Rich gave a good description of what to include some time back it may still be around..... I hope the talk of "correct" guns from the F&I period does not upset folks with a low tolerance for the topic but if taken as a valid study of a valid topic it can be quite harmless :idunno:
 

chazmo

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Jacob Dubs, a swiss gunsmith, emigrated to the colonies in the 1730's and lived in Bucks County, PA (http://www.jstor.org/stable/20083607). A broken off buttstock and a fowler are both attributed to him--pictures are in the Kindig book. The architecture of the stocks clearly predates the classic bucks county style; a straight comb,and long curve from triggerguard to toe.

Based on this, I chose an early bucks county style rifle for my F & I impression.
 

Ranger1759

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I don't see why the Jager style rifle wouldn't have been copied en-mass here in the colonies during that time period...Plenty of Germans immigrated...Maybe what we think are European made rifles were actually built here in the "old style" and gradually changed with the times to become what we know as the PA or Kentucky Long rifle....
Ranger
 

rich pierce

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European guns were normally stocked in European woods. So early period rifles found here with stocks determined to be Euro walnut, etc are generally considered imports.
 

Stophel

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chazmo said:
Jacob Dubs, a swiss gunsmith, emigrated to the colonies in the 1730's and lived in Bucks County, PA (http://www.jstor.org/stable/20083607). A broken off buttstock and a fowler are both attributed to him--pictures are in the Kindig book. The architecture of the stocks clearly predates the classic bucks county style; a straight comb,and long curve from triggerguard to toe.

Based on this, I chose an early bucks county style rifle for my F & I impression.

The gun and butt remnant are attributed to Dubbs based solely on someone's imagination. One of them has a thumbpiece with the initials "JD" (which, undoubtedly, are the initials of the owner anyway). That's it. The gun is more like 1790's. :wink:

If I recall correctly, it also has a date of 1721 added to it! :shocked2:
 

Zonie

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Although there seems to be little remaining to justify the "Transitional Rifle" offered by some suppliers, I think there is some justification for saying they may be fairly good representations of some of the rifles used in the FI period.

They are quite Germanic in form, they have longer barrels than the typical Jaeger Rifles but retain the large bores often found on the Jaegers and with the use of American woods they do not seem to me to be out of place.

Although sliding wooden patchboxes would be fitting for this style of rifle it was sometime around the 1750-1760 period that simple metal patchboxes were being used.

The two rifles shown below were built by me using swamped barrels and Davis Jaeger locks in an attempt to make what may have existed during the FI period. Others may feel they are "Fantasy Guns" and that's OK but in my opinion they share traits that were well established during that time period.
canoegun14.jpg

CROPPED_TRANS_RIGHT.jpg
 

Mike Brooks

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Here's a nice Pre F&I war rifle I just picked up. English doglock breech loading rifle in 12 bore ca.1660- 1670. It was in England until the early 1990's. I seroiusly doubt there were any Doglock breech loading rifles here in the colonies....but you never know....
XBW149-Z-F2-L.jpg
 

tg

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"e gun is more like 1790's"

I was under the impression that the Bucks guns were a rather later developed style compared to Lancaster and Christian Springs so that curved butt feature was not aruond in the earlier 1750-60 period.
 

pargent

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Iam repeating this from 42nd Highland history.(1758)The 42nd received 10 rifles for its best marksmen,as did 7 other regiments,just prior to the Battle of Ticonderoga (july 8,1758).these 80 rifles came from a batch of 300 rifled carbines, each fitted with bayonets and steel rammers.They were brought to North America by Col. James Prevost of the Royal Americans. :)
 

chazmo

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I realize this goes against the common wisdom, but I believe the style of gun (curved toe line and curved or straight comb) made in the Northhampton, Bucks and Lehigh schools all reflect the local preferences of French Huguenot emigrants who settled extensively in Pennsylvania and New York in the late 1600's and early 1700's. These counties were some of the earliest settled in Pennsylvania, and I believe the french influenced style was also very early, not a later aberration. Realistically, even if you are a German or Swiss smith with a preference for straight toe/comb, you are going to make and sell what your customers want.

The fact that the curved comb/toe lines didn't migrate out of a limited geographic area further indicates to me that smiths were working to a local preference from a small population. There were more Swiss/German emigrants than French, so there are more existing pre-Revolutionary examples of that style than of the French influenced style.

Yes, I realize this is conjecture on my part. I know we can argue forever on the attribution of the Dubbs firearms (they don't look 1790's to me :wink: ). My point is to play devil's advocate. Maybe with the number of early rifles coming to light recently we can wistfully hope for an early french influenced rifle to be dug out of a closet, attic or barn.
 

Stophel

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Actually, it doesn't look 1790's to me either (looks more like 1810), but I was giving it the benefit of the doubt.
 
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