Mid 1700's -- What Gun Would You Choose?!

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Alden

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French incursions into English-claimed, and recently defended, territories and atrocities by their native allies have resulted in the outbreak of a shooting war here in the colonies whether the folk back home know, or want to admit it, or not.

You command the largest contingent in your colony's Militia. Given the choice, what gun are you going to arm your troops with!?
 

larryp

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Brown Bess muskets loaded with buck and ball. Rugged, plenty of power and the load makes up for any lack of accuracy.
 

pargent

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+ 1 with bayonets cause the French do not like getting poked with sharp thingys :thumbsup:
Arty loaded with pineapple shot cause grape is way too soft .
 
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There is an old saying that goes, "Amateurs talk tactics and study strategy. Professionals learn logistics." I would add: Winners take what they have and make the best use of it while knowing themselves (and their enemies), then developing and training their troops in methods that will maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses.

The answer is: even IF one gun could be chosen, which it could not during the period for a variety of reasons, one period gun would not be the best choice with which to arm ALL of one's Militia or even a large force of Militia in a Colony. Further, a whole lot would depend on which Colony and still further, what part of the Colony the Militia Unit was to control. For example in Virginia, a Major size Militia Unit from the Tidewater Region would need to have a different make up of troops and arms than a Major size Militia Unit from the Mountains.

As a Commander of a large militia force, the first thing I would do is find out what resources of Arms and Supplies the Colony had available in stores and what part of those Arms and stores I would be given to use ”“ IF and such stores and arms were available. (This would have varied greatly from Colony to Colony. NO Colony was abundantly supplied and some Colonies had little to absolutely no Arms and supplies in storage to arm the Militia.) I would do everything possible to be the first such Commander to show up to choose whatever portion of Colonial stores I was to be given, to get the best quality and quantity for the missions of the troops under my command.

Generally, I would set up my Command in this order, though the numbers and arms would vary depending on which Colony or part of a Colony I was responsible to defend.

1. Staff. I would find the best man I could for a Sergeant Major armed with a Carbine and Bayonet, if possible. I would use the most successful Merchant I had and Assign him as Quartermaster. Personal Arms or one to two pistols. I would assign a knowledgeable surveyor or someone who knew the area the best for Operations. Personal Arms, though maybe a Carbine. If I had someone who knew or at least had studied Artillery, he would be my Artillery Officer and in charge of the Artillery, Powder and Artificers. Personal Arms or one pistol.

2. Cavalry. If I had a very few Horse Soldiers, they would be used for communications. If I had more, then I would set them up as Rangers/Light Dragoons, I.E. Mounted Infantry. NO Continental Cavalry Tactics for me, Thank you very much! If I had some riflemen who were also good horsemen, I would assign some of them to this unit, though most men in this unit would be armed with smoothbores and especially military carbines, if available.

3. Artillery. There was a good chance little or no artillery would be available. Even if there were artillery pieces available, I might or even probably would not want more than Light Artillery like the period British Grasshopper Guns.

4. Infantry, the bulk of most troops for any Militia. I would have my Subordinate Commanders find out how many bayonets we had and have them issue/use bayonet mounted musketmen spread out evenly in the front rank of each two rank formation, because no Militia unit had enough bayonets for their entire Infantry Ranks. If we had few or no bayonets, I would concentrate on getting some blacksmiths to forge as many as possible for the Front Rank Men at least. However, NO second rank Infantryman would have a bayonet until all the men in the front ranks had them. I would see to it that my Infantry was trained as Light Infantry. If possible, they would receive British Military Arms to ease problems getting bayonets and for logistical support. However and I HATE to say this, if French Military Arms were available, I would rather have them for a Militia Unit.

5. Riflemen. Some Militia Units would have no Riflemen up to some Units who might have a rather large percentage of riflemen. If I had only a very few Riflemen most would be used as Scouts and under the Cavalry if they were mounted, though if I had some Artillery - I would assign some riflemen to them. If I had a fairly good sized number of Riflemen, most would be trained and used with Light Infantry, though some still assigned to the Artillery and some to the Cavalry.

6. Waggoneers. These men would have the most motley assortment of arms, if they did not have their own personal arms.

7. Medical. I would normally assign the best Doctor as Chief Surgeon, though he would also have to be the best organizer if I had two or more Doctors. They might have their own personal arms or if not, I would try to give him/them at least one or two pistols each, though they might not have any arms if arms supplies were low.

8. Chaplain. I would make sure I had at least one to serve as Chief Chaplain, though I would also look for more of my men who were Reverends or Elders to try to find one per company/unit. Armed with their own personal arms, though maybe a smoothbore long gun or pistol/s.
Gus
 

Loyalist Dave

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IF one gun could be chosen, which it could not during the period for a variety of reasons

And be it further Enacted,”¦, said Sum of Twenty-five Thousand Pounds, be applied towards Compleating the Fort, now Erecting on the Frontier, called Fort-Frederick, and for the Payment and Subsistence of the Men already raised to Garrison the said Fort. And whereas it has been thought necessary by his Excellency, to order a Detachment of the Militia to the Frontier, for the Protection of the Inhabitants thereof...,One Thousand Stand of Arms, consisting of a Musket, Bayonet, Belt, and Cartouch Box, one Set of Bullet Moulds, and Ten Thousand best Oil Flints, for the maintaining a Magazine, for the better Defence of this Province. And that the said Arms and Ammunition shall be distributed by the Governor or Commander in Chief of this Province, for the Time being, in such Manner as he shall direct or appoint.
1755

Actually in Maryland one gun was chosen..." musket and bayonet", but they don't say if they are English muskets, or Dutch (It's doubtful Maryland had French muskets). The above extract from the colony records was for procuring arms, but the colony also maintained several hundred "muskets" prior to this expansion of its arsenal. I suppose that it is also possible that they bought "muskets" of colonial manufacture that were similar to a Kings Musket or to Dutch muskets.

What is interesting is that the records also show "short muskets" which may be a mistranslation of "ships' musket"...the records were hand written and there have been problems with transcription in the past...with Baltimore and Annapolis being large ports, then it increases the chances of it being an error.

The records also show "carbine" but don't specify what that means.

So one could've armed several companies with the "same" musket.

As was mentioned, it would be smarter to arm a company of say fifty men with about 30 muskets and about 20 rifles, and use the riflemen as flankers and scouts.

LD
 
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Loyalist Dave said:
Actually in Maryland one gun was chosen..." musket and bayonet", but they don't say if they are English muskets, or Dutch (It's doubtful Maryland had French muskets). The above extract from the colony records was for procuring arms, but the colony also maintained several hundred "muskets" prior to this expansion of its arsenal. I suppose that it is also possible that they bought "muskets" of colonial manufacture that were similar to a Kings Musket or to Dutch muskets.

LD

Hi Dave,

I agree that a Musket and Bayonet was generally considered the main arm of the Militia, though Maryland records you brought up in another thread on Carbines - showed there were Carbines, pistols and even some Artillery pieces stored at the Capital building at Annapolis (and other places) for the militia and Maryland also purchased more of those arms to arm their Militia. The numbers of carbines stored before and sometimes during the War, were somewhat close to the numbers of Muskets stored.

Your excellent quote on the arms to be purchased for the Troops to be stationed in and near Fort Frederick "technically" were still militia, but were really a Provincial force - meaning the closest thing possible to a semi-permanent Colonial Active Duty force under a Colony. There were other Provincial Forces in other colonies that were brought into the British Military Forces here.

The largest single quantity/source for British muskets and bayonets were the 10,000 Muskets shipped to Governor Shirley, BUT he had to re-arm and arm some British Regular Forces with them (both the Regular troops sent here and Provincial forces brought into the British Force) and then "Divvy Up" the rest of the muskets to other Colonial Forces. Most colonial militia got none of those muskets, unless they were actively in the field.

It wasn't until the capture of the HUGE number of French arms at Fort Louisbourg that a small amount of British Regular Forces here were finally well armed (most had been well armed before this, though) and the Provincial Forces acting with the British Regulars were well armed for the first time with muskets of the same bore with bayonets.

Gus
 
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Begs a question Rifleman. Heavy woods and rough country. It's cool to cold, lots of fog and must. Who wins a fight between to companies of scouts who stumble on each other. No position pre thought out or preped, and no battle pla, just a slug fest between a company of Virginia rifleman vs Canadian Rangers. Both companies are woodsman. It's " rapid fire " vs accuracy, bayonet vs tomahawks and rifle mans knifes. I wonder who would win.
 

Loyalist Dave

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You command the largest contingent in your colony's Militia. Given the choice, what gun are you going to arm your troops with

Ah but Gus, the thread isn't asking what everybody was armed with, but what you'd arm the largest contingent with. When they talk about raising companies, and sending "a detachment of militia" this does apply to the question in the thread, regardless of what status they later occupy. PLUS they are buying 1000 stands of arms....

In PA, where there was no militia, you'd have a complete mish mash of guns. In Maryland, you have (based on the records) perhaps a better than 50/50 chance of arming several companies with the "same" guns. Especially since a company was 50 men, so they bought or intended to buy arms for 20 companies.

Now they might have, by default from lack of supply, bought different arms, but there's nothing to indicate from the above sources that they didn't buy 1000 of the same musket.

LD
 
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Loyalist Dave said:
You command the largest contingent in your colony's Militia. Given the choice, what gun are you going to arm your troops with

Ah but Gus, the thread isn't asking what everybody was armed with, but what you'd arm the largest contingent with. When they talk about raising companies, and sending "a detachment of militia" this does apply to the question in the thread, regardless of what status they later occupy. PLUS they are buying 1000 stands of arms....

In PA, where there was no militia, you'd have a complete mish mash of guns. In Maryland, you have (based on the records) perhaps a better than 50/50 chance of arming several companies with the "same" guns. Especially since a company was 50 men, so they bought or intended to buy arms for 20 companies.

Now they might have, by default from lack of supply, bought different arms, but there's nothing to indicate from the above sources that they didn't buy 1000 of the same musket.

LD


Dave,

Please understand I did not mean to take you to task. I enjoy and value the information you bring to the forum. However, that was a very specific Militia Unit for Fort Frederick and would not (IMO) be the best arms for other Militia Units.

I have no doubt Maryland would have purchased all 1,000 muskets from the same maker and I would think that Wilson was the most likely maker/supplier, as he also supplied large quantities of muskets to other Colonies. Did Maryland ever receive the 1,000 muskets and if so, when did they receive them?

As you so well pointed out, such a Militia group at the start of the War had to start with what they had or what they could draw from the Colony's stores. Even IF each Colony had ready cash on hand and had authorized the purchase on the first day they knew the War began, they still had to wait months before the order got to England and the muskets showed up at a port in the Colony. Add to that the further possibility that the ship transporting them may have foundered and sunk with the muskets onboard..... and then the Colony would have had to wait longer to get their muskets.

I agree from the documentation that Maryland had enough muskets to arm a couple of companies with probably the same size Bore diameter Muskets, though maybe or even probably not the same Pattern Arms - as you have also suggested. Uniform bore size was a LOT more important for logistical ammunition support, than whether the muskets were the same pattern, as I'm sure you would agree. HOWEVER, if you were not the FIRST Commander to be tasked with raising a large militia force in your Colony, the Muskets the Colony had in Pre War storage would most likely have already been issued and not available to you, no?

OK, so if in the proposed Militia Unit we include what could be ordered and purchased by a Colony and the Colony actually had the money to do it, then that changes things. We know that British Ordnance was not prepared to quickly deliver arms for a particular Colony once the war began, even IF they would have been inclined to do so, so that leaves those arms out. We also know the different Colonies bought what they could, when they could and that often meant less quality or a different make-up of guns and calibers, than a Militia Commander would have preferred. But for the sake of discussion, let’s assume the Commander was authorized enough money to buy what he wanted and COULD order them from whomever he chose.

The choices from where the Commander could actually expect to receive the arms was either from a British Commercial Firm like Wilson or from Dutch Traders and God only knows what would be received from the Dutch Traders. So that narrows it down to British Firms and my choice would have been Wilson, as he already had a good track record supplying good arms to the Colonies before the FIW. You could also count on getting the proper size bullet molds, tools, spare parts, cartridge paper, etc., etc. for the guns from Wilson (or another British Firm). This would also limit the type of guns to what was commonly known or made in England at the time. IOW, one would not have been able to get French or other continental style arms at all or had to wait far longer than desired to get them. There are other questions as well.

I also think there would have been a difference between what a Militia Commander THEN may or would have asked for and what I would ask for, if I were transported back in time. Would a Militia Commander then have expected to operate with British Forces? In some cases yes, but not in all cases. If I expected to operate with British Forces, then I would DARN SURE would want my Militia Arms the same bore size as the British Regular Forces. I would have figured I could possibly receive ammo and other support from them when my supplies ran low. (Yes, I could take their Musket size balls and melt them down and recast for Carbine Bores, but there would not be time to do that during a battle.) However, knowing what I do now, I would specify Carbine Bore or .66 Caliber Arms for ALL the guns for my Militia. That way I only have to worry about ONE size bullet molds, ammo and cartridge formers and everything else for my entire unit. No need to worry about having different ammo for muskets and carbines, though I would still have to have different ammo for any pistols we had.

Now, if I actually was allowed to order what I wanted, I probably would NOT order all muskets for my large Militia Unit, even though I wanted ALL shoulder arms in the same bore size. I would ask for 90 percent of my Arms to be 42” barreled, .66 caliber muskets with the appropriate “Stand of Arms.” I would want 10 percent of my arms to be 37 inch barreled Artillery Carbines (with bayonets in their “Stand of Arms”) or at least Cavalry Carbines (no bayonet) and then get bayonets fitted. All Carbines to come with slings. This to better arm mounted Soldiers with my unit. If I had more mounted Soldiers, I would order a larger percentage of Carbines, but still with bayonets as I would expect my mounted Soldiers to have to fight dismounted some, to much of the time. If allowed, I would also order pistols and they all be the same bore size, though not .66 cal. Fortunately, the British had learned to downsize their Pistol Bores by this time period to I think .56 caliber. Yes, I know that Officers were expected to purchase their own arms, BUT I would not want to count on the mishmash of types and bore sizes they would bring IF they could procure pistols at all after the war began. I would also arm the horse mounted soldiers with a brace of pistols in addition to Carbines, if possible. So what happens if I had no to only a few mounted Soldiers with 10 percent Carbines? No problem, those Carbines would then go to my Light Infantry, Scouts and NCO’s.

Gus
 

Wes/Tex

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Alden said:
You command the largest contingent in your colony's Militia. Given the choice, what gun are you going to arm your troops with!?
Much depends, and I'm going by Alden's posted question, on how many of my militia had their own arms. By the next war, most of the colonies had specific rules about what the militiaman was required to bring to drill and have on hand. At this period, rules may not have been so tight. In all likelyhood, I would draw whatever I could get from colonial stores...mainly "past their due date" LLP or earlier muskets and hopefully the long pointy thingies emntioned earlier! :wink: :haha:
 
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I do not know about other Colonies, but Virginia got rather serious about the Militia having the proscribed gear in the 18th century. The only two examples I have personally found where Militiamen were actually fined for not having their proscribed gear was in 1740 during the War of Jenkins Ear and another in 1755 for the FIW. They are shown in the following thread:
http://www.muzzleloadingforum.com/fusionbb/showtopic.php?tid/290702/

Other folks have found Militia being fined I think in the 17th century in their "Colony?"
Gus
 
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FWIW, according to Of Sorts For Provincials, Virginia had the following arms in store at the Powder Magazine at Williamsburg, from an inventory dated July 12, 1750.

364 Muskets (including a stand of arms for each)

In the Governor's Mansion, there were:

276 Muskets
100 "Carabines"


This is not very different from Maryland's Stores at the time and seems to suggest both Colonies thought it ample to have on hand Arms for a Battalion of Infantry and a Company of Rangers/Cavalry.

Gus
 
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Loyalist Dave said:
Interesting that in both places the arms owned by the colony were in the colonial capital, and not broken up in smaller lots at several armories or forts.

LD

Dave,

You are better informed as to the Maryland Arms, but I wonder if Maryland was similar to Virginia's belief that these arms were "The King's Property" and did not belong to the Colony? If so, then it makes sense the arms were stored and maintained at the respective Capitals under the Colonial Governors' supervision?

Gus
 

Loyalist Dave

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That might be for the "old muskets" in Annapolis (Maryland had "rangers" on the "potamack" as early as the 17th century.)

However, the colony bought with tax money, 1000 stands of arms for the F&I, but doesn't say if they were bought local, or were somehow bought in England and shipped. The just say "muskets". (Dang) The records do stipulate that the Governor would distribute them as he saw fit, but they were not Crown property.

The records prior to the F&I show "muskets" and "old muskets" (doglocks???) and "carbines". Maryland had mounted rangers so the carbines may be for mounted troops. AFTER the F&I some inventories show "muskets", "carbines" and "short muskets". Don't know if these were called that simply because they shortened LLP's from 46" barrels to 42" barrels, or if the 1000 "new" muskets of the 1750's came with 42" barrels so by the 1760's were called "short" or...if they cut down some muskets to barrels shorter than 42". (Double Dang!)

After the F&I some inventories list muskets at Fort Frederick, as well as "Baker's Fort" (currently looking to locate that site) which was 12 miles from Fort Frederick.

LD
 
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Yes, I was referring to the muskets at Annapolis as probably being Crown Property and thus stored under the Governor's Supervision.

I did not think the 1,000 muskets purchased by Maryland for Fort Frederick were Crown Property. I also remember reading North Carolina, New York and some other Colonies purchased muskets for their respective colonies that were also not Crown Property.

Gus
 

Loyalist Dave

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This is interesting.....

I was watching this video produced by the folks at Ft. Dobbs NC, as I wanted to see the musket drill for the F&I period.

The narrator/instructor mentions that Governor Dobbs obtained 1000 stand-of-arms for the F&I war.

He obtained them from The Tower of London. Now I don't know if that means he asked and was sent muskets and gear belonging to The Crown that remained Crown property, or if they were "donated" or even bought by the colony.

THEN it is mentioned that the muskets were 1720's vintage, Dutch muskets, military surplus weapons. So by this time the early muskets bought by Parliament were being divvied out to colonial needs.

Makes me wonder how many of the "muskets" in Maryland and/or Virginia prior to the F&I might have been Dutch?

18th Century Drill (for F&I)

LD
 
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