Was a Fowler sometimes a Musket?

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Daveboone

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Lost in floods, fires, sold for scrap, plain discarded before anyone thought they were worth saving, etc. After WW2, we piled up hundreds of Zero fighter planes and burned them! Imagine what the value would be today for historians & collectors. As a kid, a pal found a WW1 German helmet in the local dump; bet lots of "rusty, useless old guns" were just abandoned and trashed.
Have you seen any of the post WW2 footage of the B29s being flown strait from the factories to the scrappers? Sad to see, but the war machine was going full tilt right up to the signing of the peace treaties...probably after, until confirmations.
 

hanshi

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It's really nothing more than "semantics" that differentiates musket from fowler from smoothbore from gun and on and on. They all had flint locks, unrifled barrels and fired a ball. Any smoothbore gun, just about like any tool one can name, can be put to a variety of uses and usually perform well at most of them. Much specific nomenclature is modern - think rifle styles - and by any name they are the same. My smoothbore, if not referred to by it's given name, "Ol' Loudmouf", is called a musket or smoothbore by me. Mine has both a front and rear sight but that does not make it a rifle. So what exactly do I have? How about a "work-a-day" smoothbore/musket.
 
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Hi Davebone,
As I wrote previously, surplus Brown Besses were not popular except as sources of scrap. Their weight, big bore, and slow locks made them lousy sporting guns. The Brits palmed many off to Mexico as muskets in the 19th century but not for civilian purposes. British ordnance struggled to find buyers of surplus Besses and most went for little money as scrap. That fact presented British ordnance with a serious dilemma. They needed to keep tradesmen employed in the gun trade as a measure for national security. That way they always had the supply of skilled workman ready to make muskets when war threatened rather than having them melt away into other trades during times of peace. However, they could not afford to make endless supplies of arms that were not needed and they knew that those excess arms would be worthless in a very short time. An alternative was to encourage involvement of the gun trade during times of peace in places like Africa where firearms were the currency for gold, ivory, and slaves. Slaves mainly for British sugar plantations in the West Indies that were the source of great wealth in England. This was a major market for British gun makers when government ordnance contracts were scarce. The East India Company was another avenue. So the British government constantly had to juggle small arms production during the 18th century to assure it could produce the arms when needed and without a huge and expensive government manufactory like the French. This is also why British Ordnance insisted on issuing older patterns of the Brown Bess musket before supplying newer and updated patterns. They knew that if they moved immediately to issue the new guns, the old ones would be worthless because they had little surplus value and an expensive loss to the government.

dave
 
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I've wondered if and how often early English Trade Guns (not the later NW trade guns), up to and including what today they call "TYPE G Carolina" trade guns, were sold to colonists as a lower price alternative to English Trade Fowling Pieces?

Virginia still had a good bunch of these guns with blue painted stocks stored in the Powder Magazine at Williamsburg in the opening days of the AWI.

Even though stored at the Powder Magazine in the Capital for the Indian Trade and at least para-military use, these were never known as "Muskets," though.

Gus
 
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ord sgt

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As a kid, a pal found a WW1 German helmet in the local dump; bet lots of "rusty, useless old guns" were just abandoned and trashed.
When I was in grade school (long long ago), one of my classmates brought in something found in the dump by his father, It was a long rifle, not sure if it was flint or percussion, that someone had tossed into the dump. My classmate brought the rifle into school for "show and tell". Being quite young at the time, the rifle appeared huge to us.
 
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Hi HJ,
The distinctions between fowler and musket get even more complicated when you add "fusils" to the mix. Fusil is just a French word for "gun". In the latter half of the 17th century, when flintlocks were being introduced to the French military, they formed units called "fusiliers" which were soldiers issued flintlock guns and used to guard artillery. The match lock musket was still the dominant firearm but they found that matchlock musketeers with their burning matches were dangerous around powder magazines and artillery positions. Hence, when flintlocks because available, the French quickly issued flintlock guns they called fusils to troops assigned to guard artillery and powder magazines. Fusil did not refer to bore and barrel length at that time rather that the gun was a flintlock. Later, the term fusil came to be associated with lighter and smaller caliber guns usually carried by officers and NCOs. Eventually, "carbine" and fusil came to mean just about the same thing.

dave
Good info!
 
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When the Enfield P1853 rifle was adopted by the Brits it was known as a rifled musket and the art of military shooting was taught as Musketry for a long time after the ML era . The Tower armory, which was a depository for British Military arms, destroyed or auctioned off a lot of surplus arms as new ones came along , In pre electricity days house fires caused by candles and oil lamps were common , these would have "eaten up " a lot of muskets . If they were cheap they may not have been valued and looked after as much as a custom made firearm or they just fell out of fashion.
 
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I think you’ll find that on most occasions the terms are interchangeable only as far as military issue guns.

For example a Brown Bess and a Charleville would never be called a fowler, while at times they have been named ‘fusils’ depending on the specific variant or pattern.

With French guns you’ll find that the early 1717 series infantry guns were very much that a fusil in style and design and not much different then the guns that have been named ‘fusil’ by various authors and collectors.

But in my opinion, the term fowler is mostly associated with a civilian weapon that doesn’t have a full sized military style lock, under 6 1/4 inches in length and the weight of the gun is typically between 7-8lbs with much slimmer stocks.
 
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I always assumed that a crap load of Brown Bess muskets would have found thier way into civilian hands after the revolution. It seems to me that they would have served fine service on a homestead in smooth bore service for varmints/birds, what have you.
Somewhere I read that the United States sold many Brown Bess muskets to Mexico, which were included in Santa Ana’s army at the Alamo.
 
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Somewhere I read that the United States sold many Brown Bess muskets to Mexico, which were included in Santa Ana’s army at the Alamo.
Hi Bob,
As I wrote above (as well as Gus) , England sourced those muskets. The US did not have a supply like that. However, the US did help Santa Anna twice to take power in Mexico. At the time he was outwardly friendly to Steven Austin and the American expatriates trying to colonize Texas.

dave
 
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Hi Bob,
As I wrote above (as well as Gus) , England sourced those muskets. The US did not have a supply like that. However, the US did help Santa Anna twice to take power in Mexico. At the time he was outwardly friendly to Steven Austin and the American expatriates trying to colonize Texas.

dave
This is why it’s always good to check information sources. I’m a bit more informed now.
Thus begs the question- what did they Army do with all those thousands of British muskets (and accoutrements) after Yorktown?
 

Loyalist Dave

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Hi Bob,
As I wrote above (as well as Gus) , England sourced those muskets. The US did not have a supply like that. However, the US did help Santa Anna twice to take power in Mexico. At the time he was outwardly friendly to Steven Austin and the American expatriates trying to colonize Texas.

dave
However, the Bess captured at New Orleans in 1814 did end up in American state armories for a while. Some were converted over to caplock and phased out.... except the 10th TN Infantry CSA, The Rebel Sons of Erin, some of the companies in that regiment were armed with Flintlock Bess, when they first were armed and joined Confederate forces. Their arms were quickly upgraded, but the Bess was still "seeing action" in the 1860's.....

The 10th TN was organized at Ft. Henry in 1861...., where they eventually were attacked, and retreated to Ft. Donaldson.. This was in 1862.

Apparently some of the companies were armed later than the rest of them from Tennessee, and they found the Bess stored and still serviceable.
Buck-n-ball don't ya know?


LD
 
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However, the Bess captured at New Orleans in 1814 did end up in American state armories for a while. Some were converted over to caplock and phased out.... except the 10th TN Infantry CSA, The Rebel Sons of Erin, marched out with Flintlock Bess, when they first left to join the Confederate forces. Their arms were quickly upgraded, but the Bess was still "seeing action" in the 1860's.....

Apparently it was a unit formed a bit later than the rest of them from Tennessee, and they found the Bess stored and still serviceable. Buck-n-ball don't ya know?


LD
That’s fascinating to me! Thanks LD.
I recall seeing an old Degarretype (?) photo of an old man holding his flintlock. Story was he was a veteran of the War of 1812, and used that same gun during the Civil War. But I digress from the thread…
 
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However, the Bess captured at New Orleans in 1814 did end up in American state armories for a while. Some were converted over to caplock and phased out.... except the 10th TN Infantry CSA, The Rebel Sons of Erin, marched out with Flintlock Bess, when they first left to join the Confederate forces. Their arms were quickly upgraded, but the Bess was still "seeing action" in the 1860's.....

Apparently it was a unit formed a bit later than the rest of them from Tennessee, and they found the Bess stored and still serviceable. Buck-n-ball don't ya know?


LD

In 1861 Virginia still had "300 English Muskets" in storage (probably left over captured India Pattern Muskets from the War of 1812) and were still flintlock. Yep, they got issued out.

As late as 1863 when newly commissioned Officers tried to buy their own pistols from the Richmond Armory, all they had available was flintlock pistols.

Gus
 
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They were not usually acceptable as muskets in militia units because they did not have a standard large bore (to accept government ammunition) and could not mount bayonets.
Here in Virginia, militia guns were not required to load standard ammunition. If the militia was called out, men were required to bring their own. If the militia was needed for extended service, the men would turn in their personal arms and be issued the King’s arms from the magazine in Williamsburg. I don’t have my copy of Henning’s statutes with me, but if I remember, I’ll pull the relevant acts this evening.
Jay
 

hanshi

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It is just so very easy to get caught up in nomenclature and slice names thinner and thinner. It sometimes can lead one to go astray if one is not careful.
 
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Here in Virginia, militia guns were not required to load standard ammunition. If the militia was called out, men were required to bring their own. If the militia was needed for extended service, the men would turn in their personal arms and be issued the King’s arms from the magazine in Williamsburg. I don’t have my copy of Henning’s statutes with me, but if I remember, I’ll pull the relevant acts this evening.
Jay

I had heard of this extremely good sense measure, but I am not aware of how often it was actually done.

This allowed small working parties with the bare necessities of equipment and under the watchful eyes of the Unit Artificers and/or Artillery NCO's/Officers, to easily make as many cartridges as needed for the unit. It allowed Commanding Officers to watch and control the ammunition and to easily keep track of what the soldiers had, as well as keeping waste to the minimum.

As I understand it, the militia soldiers left their personal arms at home, so their families had the means to defend themselves, while their militia were on campaign? Depending on the period, this was not as important to the Tidewater Region, but valuable to the Piedmont Region and downright necessary to those who lived in or beyond the Blue Ridge mountains.

Gus
 

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