Matchlocks in the 18th century Americas?

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hyuzu

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From my limited knowledge, it seems that the major western armies were working to phase out matchlocks in place of flintlocks by the late 17th century. However, given the distance between the Americas and the countries that colonised them, and the remote nature of some of the settlements there, I was wondering how much recorded military or civilian use there was of matchlocks across North and South America after 1700? It would be interesting to see how late these weapons endured in practical use after that date.
 

DaveC

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In Spanish America, the matchlock was around for a good long while...

The Metacom War/ King Philips War 1676 in New England is subject of a vast literature. The militia certainly used matchlock muskets, although early dog lock flintlocks and snaphaunce or snap lock muskets were also in widespread use in the colonies too.

https://www.nps.gov/stri/upload/Matchlock-Manual-2009-10-29.pdf

As far as the colonial metropolis goes, the French ordnance officials ordered the removal of matchlocks from army stores by 1704... The first official designation of a "standard" firelock was 1717, with the English following suit by 1722 (1728). Spain, and hence Spanish America did not adopt a sealed pattern/standard firelock until 1752.

In the farthest frontiers of Spanish America one can be reasonably certain that matchlocks persisted long past their obsolescence. Their use may have been restricted to casa mata or pallisade or baluarte use given their cumbersomeness vis-a-vis Native American/ Amerindian opponents.
 

hyuzu

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Is there any evidence that the Spanish, Brits, French etc. tried to pawn off their matchlocks on indigenous allies/auxiliaries after the switch to standardised flintlocks? I've definitely seen evidence of eastern woodlands tribes using matchlocks earlier in the 17th century, so there would have been some groups who knew how to use them anyway...
 
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Canute Rex

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I have seen a photo of a matchlock from a Canadian museum that had been used by the Regiment Carrignan in the 1660s. Probably only for garrison duty.

My understanding is that the native Americans regarded matchlocks as worse than useless and shunned them.
 

hyuzu

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My understanding is that the native Americans regarded matchlocks as worse than useless and shunned them.
That's understandable, especially if they intended to use firearms on horseback (but then again, the Manchus and Mongols were able to master matchlocks on horseback, so it was doable).

I was pretty sure I read a few articles that mentioned Algonquins using matchlocks in the 17th century, but maybe I'm wrong...

In any case, I know nothing about whether anybody, indigenous or otherwise, was using them in the 18th century Americas :p
 

Canute Rex

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I can imagine the Algonquins giving them a try and then saying "no way."
 

Treestalker

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When my 'adopted' godfather Rodney Crowder was working in the jungles of South America, warriors of the feared Jivaro tribe were rumored to be able to launch and keep nine arrows in the air sequentially by individual effort. I don't think they would have traded that ability for a matchlock, even if you were good enough at dodging arrows to get close enough to negotiate!
 

Pukka Bundook

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Apparently, The Pilgrims amazed the natives by being able to shoot birds in flight with their matchlocks.
I read this years ago, I think in Harold L Peterson's book "The Great Guns".
 

curator

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Most historians agree that it wasn't until the introduction of flint locks into the trade network that Native Americans were desirous of obtaining firearms except perhaps as a status symbol. Matchlock guns were not viewed as tactically superior to the Native's bow and arrow. Trade for Flint lock guns may have exacerbated the Native American slave trade in the late 17th century. The depopulation of indigenous people from Spanish Florida by Creek and Yamassee slave raiders in 1701 to 1705 was fueled by these tribes demand for flint lock guns available for trade in Charlestown by the English.
 

tenngun

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At the school of the ozarks in Hollister mo there is a simple ml smoothie that has three locks built on it. A match lock, snaphaunce and early ‘hand forged flintlock’. The school was unsure of when it was built but thought it early eighteenth century as a journeyman piece.
If it was such (underline if) it would demonstrate some knowledge of matchlocks was still in vogue as they were replaced which flinters.
My own opinion was it was a make believe piece for collectors in the middle nineteenth made from old parts.
 

Belleville

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In Spanish America, the matchlock was around for a good long while...

The Metacom War/ King Philips War 1676 in New England is subject of a vast literature. The militia certainly used matchlock muskets, although early dog lock flintlocks and snaphaunce or snap lock muskets were also in widespread use in the colonies too.

https://www.nps.gov/stri/upload/Matchlock-Manual-2009-10-29.pdf

As far as the colonial metropolis goes, the French ordnance officials ordered the removal of matchlocks from army stores by 1704... The first official designation of a "standard" firelock was 1717, with the English following suit by 1722 (1728). Spain, and hence Spanish America did not adopt a sealed pattern/standard firelock until 1752.

In the farthest frontiers of Spanish America one can be reasonably certain that matchlocks persisted long past their obsolescence. Their use may have been restricted to casa mata or pallisade or baluarte use given their cumbersomeness vis-a-vis Native American/ Amerindian opponents.
Firearms in Plymouth Colony
 

Belleville

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From my limited knowledge, it seems that the major western armies were working to phase out matchlocks in place of flintlocks by the late 17th century. However, given the distance between the Americas and the countries that colonised them, and the remote nature of some of the settlements there, I was wondering how much recorded military or civilian use there was of matchlocks across North and South America after 1700? It would be interesting to see how late these weapons endured in practical use after that date.
 

Coot

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From my limited knowledge, it seems that the major western armies were working to phase out matchlocks in place of flintlocks by the late 17th century. However, given the distance between the Americas and the countries that colonised them, and the remote nature of some of the settlements there, I was wondering how much recorded military or civilian use there was of matchlocks across North and South America after 1700? It would be interesting to see how late these weapons endured in practical use after that date.
Firearms of any sort seem to have been in short supply in the Spanish colonies in the Americas. The only decent reference of Spanish arms in the Americas in the 18th c. that I have is "Spanish Military Weapons in Colonial America 1700-1821" by Brinkerhoff & Chamberlain. Matchlocks are not even mentioned.
 

DaveC

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The late Sidney B. Brinkerhoff & Pierce Chamberlain's book is about the 18th and 19th centuries and deals solely with military arms. Odie B. Faulk and Laura E. Faulk's work on the northern frontier and presidio system mostly discuss the escopeta, pistols, and other Miguelet-lock firearms employed by Dragoons and the "soldados de cuera." Almost all European monarchies at a certain point removed all matchlocks from their military armories and arsenals in order to keep up with the rival powers. The France of the "Sun King" Louis XIV, for example, initially balked at the sheer expense of completely re-equipping the armies with hugely expensive flintlock muskets, but in the end saw the measure as ultimately necessary. Inspectors ensured that there were no matchlocks left in inventory.

First France, and close behind Great Britain, created standard patterns of muskets in 1717 and 1728 respectively. By 1757 even Spain had adopted a standardized infantry flintlock with a "llave francesa" or "French-style flintlock" mechanism. On the frontier, the Miguelet-lock or "llave de patilla" remained more popular because it was thought sturdier and more robust, it involved less wood removal of the stock, which implied the stock was less susceptible to breakage. The Miguelet could use non-standard gun flints, which was a positive asset on the frontier, distant from sources of official supply. The steel or battery had grooves along the face to improve sparking, which was also another advantage. By the late 18th century, the Spanish military arms actually re-introduced the Miguelet system, and eventually a so-called "llave mixta" that combined elements of both systems.

Not a military arm, but hugely popular throughout Spanish America was the trabuco or blunderbuss. Escopetas with distinctive Catalan-style stocks began service life as relatively long arms, but over time became shorter, or subject to being cut down over time. The one weapon that persisted far longer in Spanish America well beyond other regions was the lance. It didn't have to be reloaded, particularly on horse back, which was a real benefit, it was utterly simple, reliable, rugged, capable of being repaired by any black smith no matter how rudimentary his equipment, and for equestrian people well practiced in its use, it was quite deadly.

Outside of military usage and considerations of the "arma blanca" or bladed weapons like the lance, sword, "espada ancha," machete, dagger, and trade knife or Belduque, some archaic arms persisted in use for quite some time.
 

Belleville

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Apparently New France was phasing out the matchlock about 1674.

"1683: 500 mousquets [matchlocks], 500 fusils [flintlocks}, 200 pistolets de ceinture and 1000 épées to be sold to the inhabitants sent to Canada and used in a 1684 campaign against the Iroquois (Lettre du Roy a Monsieur de La Barre, Fontainebleau, le 5 aoust 1683. AC B, vol. 9, ff.3-6; Bouchard, Museum, p 12; Bouchard, Les Armes..., p. 114)."

"1683: Regulations required each French merchant ship to carry 12 buccaneer guns [flintlock] to be sold at 15L each to the inhabitants of the various French colonies upon whom they called. (Moller)."

"1684: Inventory at Ft. Frontenac, 142 fusils and not a single mousquet. (Bouchard, Museum, p 12)."

"1694: Fort Louis de Plaisance, Newfoundland: 100 fusils were to replace 60 mousquets [matchlocks) that were then sent back to France on the boat “Le Lion”. (Russel Bouchard, Les armes…]"
 

Eterry

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I'm reading Guns on the Early Frontiers, by Russell. One thing he makes very clear is the Spanish went to great lengths to keep anything that went BOOM from the hands of Native Americans. The penalty for violating their laws were swift and unmerciful. Almost every other group of emigrant plied the Indians with powder, shot, and the latest of weaponry. It seems the Indians were discriminating customers, refusing anything they deemed "Second Rate".

I recall an incident from this book where solders marched to an Indian village armed with Matchlocks with matches lit. The villiage elders met the solders outside of town and begged them to extinguish their matches, as it frightened the children and women. The solders after some consultation agreed, and ordered their men to put out their matches. Now the men were armed with clubs, and the Indians slew them, leaving one alive to tell the tale.

So even if they had little use for the matchlock, they certainly knew what they were capable of.

My grandfather used a muzzleloading shotgun well into the 1920s, about 60 years after it was superseded by the breachloader. But this was in times of peace; I doubt if your scalp was in the balance you would want an outdated weapon, especially one as difficult as the matchlock.
 

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