Location of 400 yard shot against George Hanger

Discussion in 'Revolutionary War' started by Artificer, Jan 11, 2018.

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  1. Jan 11, 2018 #1

    Artificer

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    Many people have read or heard of the example of an American Rifleman firing from 400 yards at Lt.Col. Bannistre Tarleton and Major (later Colonel) George Hanger in the Carolina's during the war.

    I remember Elnathan posting his guess on where it happened and it seems he pretty much got it right, if I remember what he wrote some time ago.

    I ran across the following looking for something else and thought others might enjoy reading the article.

    "Hanger was appointed major in the British Legion in June 1780 and his active service ended in October of that year when he fell ill with yellow fever at Charlotte. Therefore we can fix the month of August as being August 1780 in South Carolina. My biographical essay on Hanger[2] details the ground that he covered during that month and from it may be gleaned the only instance in which Hanger and Tarleton, while preparing to attack, served together during August on ground that Hanger traversed on several occasions ”• ground that included a mill. Taken together, these circumstances pinpoint August 18 and White’s Mill on Fishing Creek as the date and place at which the incident occurred, that is to say, during Tarleton’s and Hanger’s pursuit of Brigadier General Thomas Sumter."
    https://allthingsliberty.com/2017/03/prowess-american-riflemen-mystery-now-solved/

    Gus
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 27, 2018
  2. Jan 12, 2018 #2

    Artificer

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    Here is then British Major George Hanger's account of the incident:

    "I never in my life saw better rifles (or men who shot better) than those made in America; they are chiefly made in Lancaster, and two or three neighboring towns in that vicinity, in Pennsylvania. The barrels weigh about six pounds two or three ounces, and carry a ball no larger than thirty-six to the pound; at least I never saw one of the larger caliber, and I have seen many hundreds and hundreds. I am not going to relate anything respecting the American war; but to mention one instance, as a proof of most excellent skill of an American rifleman. If any man shew me an instance of better shooting, I will stand corrected.

    Colonel, now General Tartleton, and myself, were standing a few yards out of a wood, observing the situation of a part of the enemy which we intended to attack. There was a rivulet in the enemy's front, and a mill on it, to which we stood directly with our horses' heads fronting, observing their motions. It was an absolute plain field between us and the mill; not so much as a single bush on it. Our orderly-bugle stood behind us, about 3 yards, but with his horse's side to our horses' tails. A rifleman passed over the mill-dam, evidently observing two officers, and laid himself down on his belly; for, in such positions, they always lie, to take a good shot at a long distance. He took a deliberate and cool shot at my friend, at me, and the bugle-horn man. (I have passed several times over this ground, and ever observed it with the greatest attention; and I can positively assert that the distance he fired from, at us, was full four hundred yards.)

    Now, observe how well this fellow shot. It was in the month of August, and not a breath of wind was stirring. Colonel Tartleton's horse and mine, I am certain, were not anything like two feet apart; for we were in close consultation, how we should attack with our troops, which laid 300 yards in the wood, and could not be perceived by the enemy. A rifle-ball passed between him and me; looking directly to the mill, I observed the flash of the powder. I said to my friend, "I think we had better move, or we shall have two or three of these gentlemen, shortly, amusing themselves at our expence. The words were hardly out of my mouth, when the bugle horn man, behind us, and directly central, jumped off his horse, and said, "Sir, my horse is shot." The horse staggered, fell down, and died. He was shot directly behind the foreleg, near to the heart, at least where the great blood-vessels lie, which lead to the heart. He took the saddle and bridle off, went into the woods, and got another horse. We had a number of spare horses, led by negro lads."

    Gus
     
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  3. Dec 11, 2018 #3

    Rodd Boyer

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    ...no larger than thirty-six to the pound;

    Does that mean they were of .36 caliber?
    I've always wondered what exactly the riflemen used as arms.... and wondered if the"squirrel guns" were actually small caliber.

    Thanks,

    Rodd
     
  4. Dec 11, 2018 #4

    Ranger Boyd

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    By my calculations, 36 balls per pound works out to around .50 to .52.
     
  5. Dec 11, 2018 #5

    Rodd Boyer

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    Thank you, sir.
    With .350 cal balls weighing 65 gr, I suspect that you are pretty close.

    I just did some research and said most rifles were 40-45 cal.
     
  6. Dec 11, 2018 #6

    Artificer

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    I have always been more than a little suspicious of Tarleton's claim and especially due to the emboldened part at the end of the sentence:

    "The barrels weigh about six pounds two or three ounces, and carry a ball no larger than thirty-six to the pound; at least I never saw one of the larger caliber, and I have seen many hundreds and hundreds."

    Even though Tarleton did service from very early in the AWI, I think that is an over exaggeration to say the least.

    Rifles of .52 caliber were still very popular at the beginning of the AWI and some rifles were larger caliber than that. (BTW, it is interesting to note the favorite caliber of real Hawken Rifles was also .52 caliber.) Rifle Calibers were beginning to get smaller by the time of the AWI, but I still think a caliber of .45 to .47 would have been about the "general" minimum size, with the inevitable small numbers of exceptions.

    Gus
     
  7. Dec 11, 2018 #7

    Ranger Boyd

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    Yes, that sounds about right to me as well.
     
  8. Dec 11, 2018 #8

    Dr5x

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    CALIBERS ARE PERCENTAGES OF AN INCH.

    .25 CALIBER WOULD BE A QQUARTER OF AN INCH. .50 IS A HALF INCH. IT'S VERY SIMPLE.
    WHAT RATTLES MY CAGE IS "BOORE" MEASUREMENTS OF SHOTGUN BARRELS.


    DUTCH SCHOULTZ
     
  9. Dec 11, 2018 #9

    Spence10

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    There are 7000 grains in a pound. Make 36 balls from one pound and each will weigh 194.44 grains. A sphere of pure lead of that weight is .5059 inches in diameter, aka .50 caliber.

    Spence
     
  10. Dec 12, 2018 #10

    32 ballard xl

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    No. Early smoothbores as well as rifles were measured by guage. Guage means x number of identical round balls to the pound. So, he could also have said "no larger than 36 guage."
     
  11. Dec 12, 2018 #11

    Artificer

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    Hi Dutch,

    Loyalist Dave has provided some period documentation describing bores as having been about a half inch, three quarters inch, etc.; but the common way of referring to bore size in the 18th century was by so many "balls to the pound." No doubt because they did not have common precision measuring instruments, even in many of the mechanical trades.

    Gus
     
  12. Dec 12, 2018 #12

    Straekat

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    Gus,

    You may be aware there's a similar situation with nails- the fastener kind for clarity sake. Traditionally, nails were sorted by size and sold by the pound. The 16d (spikes), 8d (common nails), etc referred to nails sorted by size, and sold by the pence. The English symbol for the pence was "d", from the Latin "Denarius", a small coin of the Roman era.
     
  13. Dec 13, 2018 #13

    Artificer

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    Indeed, balance scales were a common, though somewhat "low tech" method of measuring things. It did require the person using them to have weights that could be or were trusted, but they did have those and even in much smaller sizes than pound weights for the Silver and Gold working trades.

    Having said that, I doubt anyone in the period would expect twelve 12d nails or twelve balls of 12 balls to the pound size to exactly balance the scales. Handmade items could just not hold even that level of accuracy.

    Gus
     
  14. Dec 17, 2018 #14

    Loyalist Dave

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    Um, then you need to allow for the patch...I get a .505 ball, so add a .015 patch and you get.. a .52 caliber bore.

    I wonder if it was just customary, or if there is something to a 194 grain ball over the 177 grain .490, and under the 225 grain .530, that lead the shooters to like the .52 caliber so much. Perhaps we're missing something?

    LD
     
  15. Dec 17, 2018 #15

    Spence10

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    Maybe, maybe not. I have an original bag mold marked 100 for 100 balls to the pound, so you would think the balls would be .36", .36 caliber, and require a larger than that barrel, as you suggest. However, when I cast balls with it, they measure .34". For that mold, the designation means that it makes balls FOR a .36 caliber, not OF .36 caliber. In the one under discussion, they may very well be talking about the size of the bore, not the balls for it. We still do that today.

    Spence
     
  16. Dec 17, 2018 #16

    Artificer

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    Agree with Spence on this.

    Molds imported into the Colonies in the 18th century were sometimes to often marked with a balls per pound marking. In an era before precision measuring instruments were available, that would almost certainly have had to mean the size that would fit into a gun of that "general" caliber. I write "general" because there was a range of bore sizes that could still be considered the same "balls to the pound" size.'

    The problem for us is we have no good idea on how much "windage," or open space around the ball/s inside the bore/s, was/were considered acceptable as we can't match them to original period guns in new/like new condition they were intended to be used for. It seems from both excavated and original documentation in Hamilton's "Colonial Frontier Guns," the French trading companies carried ball sizes that varied from .010" to .020" for their common smooth bore guns.

    I personally believe a merchant would have cast a ball in the mold and kept it in the mold (if it did not already come with a ball in it) so customers could try the size ball in their gun/s, but I have no documentation to support that.

    Gus
     
  17. Dec 18, 2018 #17

    Loyalist Dave

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    While yes of course, but we were talking about a man's statement that gave us .505 ball (.5059 ball so maybe .506), which is more than a .500 caliber bore, not a mold. Since we are also talking patched, round ball..., then you have a .010 patch, or larger, and I often use a .015 - .018 patch. Which when combined gives you a needed bore of .515 or .520, or maybe a tad higher. Ergo....a fifty-two. ;) This dovetails nicely with the observation that a lot of the rifles found today appear to be of that caliber.

    LD
     
  18. Dec 20, 2018 #18

    Artificer

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    There is also something not often discussed and probably because we don't have much or any documentation on it.

    It was a physical fact then, as much as it is today, that if one wanted to shoot at Long Distance with a round ball, then larger balls/calibers carried further with more accuracy than smaller calibers. IOW, too small a caliber and the likelihood of hitting something accurately at longer ranges drastically went down.

    I don't know of documentation for this right off the top of my head in the AWI, but IMO it is telling that with the Contract Rifles of 1792 (just 8 years after the AWI) they first required those rifles to be .47 caliber and then upped it to .49 caliber. They upped it even further to .54 caliber for the M 1803 Rifle and remained at that caliber for Military Rifles until the introduction of the Minie' Ball Rifle Muskets.

    So just as it has been found that .52 caliber rifles was a common or average bore size of rifles by and during the AWI, it seems to me they kept the calibers rather large for civilian made rifles that were to be used in the AWI.

    Gus
     
  19. Dec 22, 2018 #19

    tenngun

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    I suspect that a bore size popular in the day related to special numbers. Twelve, twelve bore about .75, twelve full moons in a year. Twelve tribes of Israel, twelve tablets to carry the law of Rome, twelve men good and true on a jury.
    Two dozen equals .58, four dozen .44, eight dozen .36, calbures that would remain popular.
    Noting the French pound is heavier then the English the Charly had twenty shots to French pound, that makes math easy when figuring loads, but .62 is 1/24 of a French pound.
    I don’t know about German mesurments but I bet Pennsylvanian made rifles of the time had some relationship to weight that was handy.
     

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