Surplus and or outdated rifles/muskets

Discussion in 'Flintlock Rifles' started by PineyCreek, Oct 15, 2019.

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  1. Oct 15, 2019 #1

    PineyCreek

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    Was wondering if any military arms were made available to civilians during the colonial, revolutionary or civil war years? This could include arms of the European armies of the period. Piney Creek
     
  2. Oct 15, 2019 #2

    Flintlock1640

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    Given the large numbers of muskets seen cut down to half stock and used as fowlers, it seems a lot did make it to private hands. I imagine the easiest way was captured stores. Soldier carries his issued arm and brings home one to use after the war.

    Considering the early militia system many arms belonged to civilians to begin with. As arsenals became outdated I am sure arms were surplused. Older English arms went to various colonies. Older French/Belgian/German arms are found in Africa for the trade there (flintlocks, into the 20th century, but more modern than old military stores).

    Some countries it was totally illegal to own surplus arms, even captured. In 1800 France started drilling a hole in the side of the stock and filled it with a wooden plug. This property plug was then stamped with maker, year and the property mark (RF: Republic of France, EF: Empire of France, I forget the one for the monarchy MR?). Since it was a different piece of wood it couldn't be sanded off and used by a civilian.

    I don't know if there was an early version of Bannerman's surplus but arms certainly made their way out into the community. Most I would say come from foreign sales. Fledgling US buys the outdated Dutch and French arms and soldiers in militia units take the arms home to be ready for the next need. Eventually arsenals fill with 1795s and 1816s until the old militia muskets are no longer needed. Were these just kept, or paid for? Probably some of both.
     
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  3. Oct 15, 2019 #3

    Artificer

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    My earliest reference, though I can't lay my hands on the quote right off the bat, is from the 1690's when the Virginia legislature thought it was a good idea to import old "surplus" military arms that could be sold rather cheaply to poorer members of the Virginia Militia. However, they could not sell them as either some members of the militia were too poor to buy any gun OR they would not accept the military guns as they were "too heavy" for hunting and other uses. Unfortunately, there is not much documentation on what happened to those guns.

    In 1714, there were enough Arms sent to Virginia from Queen Anne's government, that the legislature voted "to build "a good substantial house of brick" precisely to protect the colony's arms and munitions." Thus the Powder Magazine, that can still be seen in Colonial Williamsburg, was built by 1715. Probably the most advanced these muskets were, would have been "dog lock" flintlock muskets.

    "So many munitions arrived from 1754 to 1763 in the course of the French and Indian War that the additions of a high perimeter wall and Guardhouse were necessary."
    https://www.history.org/Almanack/places/hb/hbmag.cfm

    To my knowledge and I've asked more than once at Colonial Williamsburg, they don't have much information on how Arms were procured by Virginia in the first half of the 18th century and what kinds of Arms they were.

    We do know that Governor Shirley of New York received 10,000 Arms from British Ordnance after Braddock's Defeat, early in the FIW. However, following British Ordnance's Policy of the Oldest Arms issued first, these were actually "Dutch" Muskets made on the Continent and some outdated German muskets as well. These Muskets were in poor to terrible condition, according to many period accounts.

    Since the Colonies could not get enough Arms from British Ordnance in the FIW, they bought arms from British Contractors like Wilson and also older muskets from the Continent, including Spain.

    Unfortunately, Bailey doesn't go into great detail on how the 18th century British Ordnance surplus sold outdated Arms or Arms that were not economical to fix - other than to say on the latter ones, they may have used or sold the barrels, but kept the brass furniture to be melted down for the current Pattern Muskets. Repairable Arms were sold at times to British Contractors who often sold them "to the trade," which could mean the Slave Trade or perhaps some came to the Colonies. Repaired/Refurbished Arms were generally issued to the English/British Militia and perhaps at times were sent to the Colonies.

    Gus
     
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  4. Oct 15, 2019 #4

    DaveC

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    In the case of Texas in the 1830s, volunteers from Georgia, Alabama, and Louisiana simply helped themselves to stands of arms in militia storehouses while "en route." Purchasing agents bought very many U.S.-type arms.

    Recall too that the initial militia muskets were such a widely varied bunch of guns, that it was almost immediately urged that these be replaced by more standard U.S. martial types. So there very likely were many of these kinds of muskets in circulation too. It is cited that the Alabama Red Rovers had a bunch of brand new Cadet length muskets, the Cooke's Co. of N.O. Greys had very many 1817 Common rifles, and that supplies of Model 1795 and Model 1816 U.S. muskets were similarly acquired.

    On the other hand, when the Texian Army of the People was rallying a good many young men showed up with no arms at all, having left the family rifle or fowler back home on the farm where it was needed... Others brought their own private arm, irrespective of how unsuited it may have been for military use.

    After the Napoleonic Wars, Great Britain disposed of possibly well over a million surplus muskets and rifles in Latin America. Big buyers included Mexico and Paraguay, but there were others. British arms had also been in wide use throughout Europe, including Portugal, Spain, Sweden, the Low Countries, etc.
     
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  5. Oct 15, 2019 #5

    Loyalist Dave

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    Well Maryland Archives online mentions the following different inventories over many many decades
    1696

    An Accot of the Arms &ca brought in and in Good Ordr lodged at the House of Majr Dorsey within the Port of Annapolis, the 18th day of September Anno Domini 1696.
    Armes lodged
    200 Pistolls with Round locks, Varnisht Stock and brass Caps
    100 Carabines with round locks & Varnisht Stocks
    80 Byonets


    1755

    Purchasing Arms and Ammunition, in the Quantities following, to wit…, 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.

    1763

    Your Committee find that since the last Report of the State of
    the Arms and Ammunition, there have been received by the Arm-
    ourer into the Magazine from Mr. James Dick 21 chests of Arms
    containing 500 Muskets, Bayonets, Slings, Cartouch Boxes and
    Bullett Moulds, and that there have been returned from Coll. Dag-
    worthy's Company. 86 Firelocks, short Muskets and Carbines, 18
    Cartouch Boxes, 10 old Slings, 8 hair Pouches and Powder Horns.

    1765


    In the Council Chamber

    200 Muskets with Slings appear to be in good Order
    200 new Bayonets with Cartouch Boxes and Bullet Moulds



    29 Old Bayonets


    86 Carbines and short Muskets
    57 Old Muskets and Carbines some without Locks and many with
    broken D.o


    104 Old Muskets most of which without Locks and not worth
    repairing


    382 Muskets very rusty and many of the Locks want repairing


    So these cannot be the same models of muskets and carbines used in the AWI. It is unknown if the locks in the first reference are "English Locks" [dog-locks] or something older like match locks...I'd guess dog-locks. Were the muskets purchased in 1755 colonial copies of Long Land Pattern Brown Bess, OR were they surplus 1728 version LLP's. Were they modified to accept metal rammers and were the barrels shortened?

    The reference following the purchase mentions "short muskets" and "carbines". Carbine ball and musket ball were different as many many invoices show, so the carbines were probably smaller caliber and meant for mounted troops, but how short is a "short musket"?? Is it cut down from 46" barrel to 42" OR is it very short by their standards?

    As one can see by the last reference the 86 short muskets and carbines may be the same as those that were returned, plus there are 200 muskets in good order, and a whole bunch not....were they neglected, or are they left over from the 1696 batch?

    None of the records that I've seen in the archives show them being sold off in large amounts..., although it is a criminal offence to sell any of Maryland's muskets IF it was issued to the person. Maryland also replaced personal muskets and rifles from time to time from Colony arms.

    So what happened to surplus muskets??

    LD
     
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  6. Oct 15, 2019 #6

    Artificer

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    That's the $ 64,000.00 question!!

    Arms issued from the Powder Magazine in Virginia were considered "King's Property" or at the very least, Property of the Colony. Unless a Militia Man could prove an Arm issued to him was taken by the enemy or broken/destroyed/captured in service, the Militiaman normally/usually was responsible for returning it to colonial stores or paying for it. (I imagine such arms were the same in most other colonies, who received arms from British Ordnance or purchased them from their Colony's funds.) So it would seem to me it would take an authorization from a Colony's legislature or perhaps the Royal Governor, to authorize surplus sales and/or other disposal of such arms? IOW, it was not common to just give away or issue Arms and not have them returned to the Colony's stores, when the need for their use was over.

    However, there were two glaring examples of how American Colonial Militia got Military Arms "free of charge." This was from when they captured the French Fortress Louisbourg (now in Nova Scotia) in 1745 and again later 1758. Fortress Louisbourg was one of, if not the largest stockpile of French Military Arms in New France. When British and British American forces captured it in 1745, they most likely found a wide variety of old Military Arms there. Those forces probably hauled off as many Small Arms and Cannon as they could, then probably destroyed the rest.

    In the Treaty following the War of the Austrian Succession, Fortress Louisbourg was given back to France and they most generously re-stocked it with Small Arms and Cannon. Though I cannot document this, they most likely had newer Military Arms than they had in store in 1745. So when the Colonial British American Militia returned in 1758 to capture it once more (probably singing the period equivalent of "We did it before and we can do it again..... as they took it again) found an estimated FIFTEEN THOUSAND Small Arms and accoutrements, as well as other military arms and accoutrements in storage there. THAT was pretty much the equal of ALL the numbers of Muskets England had sent to the British American Colonies up to that time in the FIW. Good Heavens, what a HAUL of Arms they got there!!!

    Oh BTW, wasn't it nice that after having their "Fire Sale" in 1745, the French Government re-stocked their shelves at Fortress Louisbourg with an even greater amount of newer Military Surplus Arms to have an even larger "Fire Sale" in 1758? ;) :D

    This is where/when the British Light Infantry got their French Muskets with which they replaced their issued British Light Infantry Muskets - that had been found not robust enough for Military Surplus. British American Ranger and other British American Militia there also got their pick of French Arms to replace or upgrade their Arms. Though I can't document this fully, probably every single British American Militiaman could take his pick of any French Arm they found in store there and may or even probably was allowed to take it home after the War. It seems they hauled off most of the rest of the Arms captured there and somehow divvied them up amoung the New England Colonies, to be used or placed in storage by the Individual Colonies.

    Gus
     
  7. Oct 18, 2019 #7

    PineyCreek

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    Thanks to all who responded, very interesting and informative.
     
  8. Oct 18, 2019 #8

    nkbj

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    I've wondered how many flintlock muskets remained flinters but also got sights and rifling, and maybe shortened in civilian use. We'll never know. Just something thought about.
     
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  9. Oct 18, 2019 #9

    tenngun

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    Back in the seventies I got a Brown Bess that was cut off to a 30” barrel and got about a pound of brass tacks stuck in it. It was ‘some’.
    I imagined a bunch of besses all over the Rockies and plains, but....
    In the east we don’t find bess parts in Indian village that have been excavated.
    So where did all the Brit muskets go captured in battles during the F&I?
    Where did all the Charleys go later in the war?
    After Saratoga or Yorktown where did they go?
    After the Mexican war a band of Outlaws was captured in Texas, and there were old besses in the haul taken from them.
    However we don’t see too many in records or archeological sites, I wonder why.
     
  10. Oct 18, 2019 #10

    tenngun

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    Right after I wrote that I got thinking.
    I would note you could shoot a charley cartridge in a bess, but not the other way around.... hmm
     
  11. Oct 18, 2019 #11

    Stantheman86

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    I am recreating just this with putting an 1860s period type leaf sight on my Pedersoli 1795 Springfield and possibly going to look into getting it rifled. It's just this kind of thing that was probably done after the Mexican war or at the outbreak of the Civil War. Keeping them flint made more sense for people/Militia etc worried about cap supply but with ready supplies of flint.

    There were a good number of Charlevilles converted to percussion, Pedersoli used to make a repro of this.

    Also if you look at arsenal manifests from the big armory inventory of the 1850s there were many, many muskets listed as "French" or "British musket .76 bore" in Poor condition, missing locks, unrepairable etc. Translating to, various Militia armories probably had racks full of thrashed old Revolutionary era weapons.

    I also heard that the old busted up flinters were retained in large numbers by State Guard armories and used for drills, musters and D&C training, most in unfirable condition by 1861 after almost 80 years of rough drill handling.

    I suspect a lot were just broken up and scrapped.

    Also like when we wonder what happened to all the Civil War rifle muskets......I've seen pics of farmers using Springfield musket barrels as fenceposts because the muskets were available pretty much for free in the 1890s-1900s and it was cheaper to buy 200 muskets than fenceposts.
     
  12. Oct 19, 2019 #12

    PineyCreek

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    What is a charley cartridge?
     
  13. Oct 19, 2019 #13

    Loyalist Dave

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    A French Charleville "Charley" Musket Cartridge was small enough to fit a bess but the bess musket ball would be pretty tight and perhaps not fit the "charleville"

    LD
     
  14. Oct 19, 2019 #14

    toot

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    .690 DIA. FRENCH vrs. .730 DIA BRITISH, i think not. yes a FRENCH cartridge will work in a BESS but not the other way around.
     
  15. Oct 19, 2019 #15

    desi23

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    An interesting subject. There were certainly a number of different ways that old (and sometimes new) military arms passed into private hands. Years ago I read an article in the Gun Report (a collectors magazine) about research into Ohio militia arms turning up reports on 1850's era state government investigations into discrepancies between arms purchased and those actually in the state armories. Seems there was a rather large number of firearms that could not be accounted for. Some were determined to have been issued to local militia members and never turned back in... problematic, especially when some of those persons had since moved on out of state (Go West Young Man!!), others had simply vanished from the records. So it would seem likely that some people could have had a fairly new musket in their possession (though the state would like to have it back I'm sure). Ohio was probably not the only state to have problems like this...
     
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  16. Oct 19, 2019 #16

    Einsiedler

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    Not a military arm, but wondering about what happened to all the muskets and such. Here’s a photo of a trigger mechnism I found up on a hill country ranch where I was basically raised. Maw (my old copeñero’s mother) told me that considering where I found it, it was an old muzzleloader her twin brother (who was killed in Italy in WWII) found in a cave while hunting arrowheads along the Perdenales river.
    [​IMG]

    Said he found 2 rifles. And this one that I found the trigger to while metal detecting was the one they used for a toy!!!!
    The other was a German style sporting rifle and they didn’t tear it up. It’s up in the gunsafe. So I wonder how many others got used for toys!!!???!! :D

    (If y’all wanna see pic of other rifle, lemme know).
     
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  17. Oct 19, 2019 #17

    DaveC

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    The French musket ball would likely have been .65 to .66 caliber--radically undersized to fit in the fouled .69 cal. barrel. Similarly, the .75 caliber, "12 to a pound" British musket would have used a ball in the .69/.70 cal. range. No, the Brown Bess ball will not fit down the muzzle of a Charleville or similar U.S. musket.
     
  18. Oct 19, 2019 #18

    Stantheman86

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    Things were loose back in the 1800s in America, "firearms " weren't seen as dangerous threats to the public, and there was no way to track people down. No electronic footprint like today , no SS # , no registered address. A record of birth or death was just handwritten in a log book at a County courthouse, maybe.

    If a guy joins the local Militia and walks away after 3 muster drills with a musket, there's no way to find that guy , that musket is gone. Maybe, the arsenal commander might send a runner into town to ask around about Pvt whathisface but other than that , just write it off. I'm not sure if Militia/State Guard guys drew weapons at "musters" or they gave them one to keep with them at home.

    Not like today where there is 0 possibility of a Guardsmen just sauntering off on a drill and going to Montana with an M16 and they're like "oh well" and scratch one out of the inventory book in the Armory.

    I'm sure LOTS of old muskets were found and used as toys or just left to rust away somewhere. No one , as a whole, besides enthusiasts or historians seemed to really care about "old guns " until recent history . My Dads friend , who was in his 80's a while back (he's probably passed now unless he's like 110) said back in the 1950s him and his friends would buy "old Civil War muskets" for a buck at flea markets and shoot charges so big the hammer would re cock itself. They damaged a few of them and just threw them away. Same with cap and ball revolvers, theyd buy them for pennies and just abuse them or give them to kids with a tin of (probably original 1860s era) caps to use as cap guns until "something broke inside" and they'd leave them laying outside somewhere.

    It's kinda infuriating deep inside now , but they didn't know any better . They were just old guns. It's amazing that now we worship these objects as historical relics and I wistfully wonder if my original P53 Enfield was in any big battles, that this weapon "saw the Elephant " when it was probably taken home by a guy after the war and used to shoot bird shot at crows for 50 years.
     
  19. Oct 20, 2019 #19

    toot

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    DaveC, I concur with what you say. .65/.66 caliber RB'S in the FRENCH MUSKETS, I didn't know that they were that small of a DIA. same .69/.70.CAL. range for the BROWN BESS MUSKETS? I am going to shoot some in the calibers that you have put forth in both guns and see what the accuracy is. thanking you..
     
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  20. Oct 20, 2019 #20

    DaveC

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    Lots of modern-day smooth-bore shooters use a much larger ball to reduce the inside-the-bore-windage. So, for example, I know guys who are using .672 balls with a couple layers of ALOX lube in a .69. Or, as another example, a .715" ball in a British Bess. There is a real variance between what was called for in the regulations and modern-day practice. With the flintlock, a coarser powder was often relied on than the powders we typically use now. The cartridge was torn open, and a dash of powder was used to prime the pan, prior to "casting the musket about" and dumping the main charge into the barrel. These days, loading a primed musket is something of a safety no-no... But this is how it was done. Some ranges will insist that the musket gets loaded first, and only primed at the firing line just before being fired. If so, you may need a separate powder horn or priming horn or what-have-you to prime the pan after the musket is loaded.

    As for how undersized the balls were, in the American Revolutionary War, the Continental Army was using lead balls "19 to a pound" in the French .69 musket. My understanding is that translated to a .643" ball.

    Good luck with your shooting.
     

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