Info on History of American West


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ReadyontheRight
January 11, 2003, 11:22 PM
Does anyone have any good internet links to history of the American West? I'm specifically looking for timelines of historical events, real western personalities and the introduction of specific guns and new gun technology.

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Art Eatman
January 11, 2003, 11:35 PM
For timelines of events, I'd recommend an encyclopedia as a starting point.

As far as the American West, what's your starting point? Weaponry after the War of Northern Aggression is fairly well covered in numerous writings.

Art

4v50 Gary
January 12, 2003, 12:34 PM
The urge to move westward was one of the reasons why we had the French-Indian War of 1755. So, if you want to start, the predominant gun of the Indians were either rifles or trade guns made by the British, French, Dutch or Spanish. If you ever get to Nashville, TN, the State Museum has a trade gun that purports to have belonged to Daniel Boone (the provenance is dubious but at one point Daniel was "relieved" of his gun by some Indians and given a "trade gun" in exchange. At another point, he was held captive by the Shawnee and adopted into their tribe as "Big Turtle" and when he left them, he took his "trade gun" with him). Like the Whites, the Indians did gradually adapt to the percussion gun and even the cartridge rifle.

Percussion was around by the 1830s but many old timers and mountain men preferred the flintlock (Davy Crockett took his flintlock with him to the Alamo). Cartridge guns did come around the 1850s but muzzle loaders predominated well throughout the Civil War. After the war, they were sold cheap to the soldiers and were carried out west along with breechloaders and the cartridge guns. Custer and the 7th Cav. had the breechloading trapdoor Springfield and many of the Indians were armed with the traditional bow & arrow, lances, and some had flintlocks, percussion as well as repeating firearms.

The 1870s saw the rise of the Colt cartridge revolver though some folks still stuck with their Civil War cap n ball. Wild Bill Hickcock was supposed to have been among them.

Cosmoline
January 12, 2003, 02:26 PM
One word of warning--myths about the firearms used in the 19th century are very common. Sillywood movies have led us to believe that every Mountain Man had an extremely expensive Hawken and every cowboy had a Colt peacemaker.

For one thing, handguns were not all that common on the post Civil War frontier. At least not nearly as common as Sillywood would have us believe. Nor were they the go-to gun of choice. Those wealthy enough to have one would not have exposed it to the elements in an open hip holster! The scarcity and expense of ammunition also kept frontiersmen from being very good shots with them. The real trick shooters came a generation later, when the "old west" transformed itself into a traveling circus. There's no doubt about it--the Winchester levergun did a lot more to "win the West" than any six shooter. I have a collection of little books detailing the production statistics from Colt, Winchester, Marlin and a few others. These speak for themselves, with far more rifles being made (and presumably sold) than handguns.

Here's an example. From 1873 to 1900 there were 192,000 Colt SAA's manufactured. During that same period there were 541,329 Winchester '73's, 120,576 Winchester '86's. 171,821 Winchester '92's and 183,372 Winchester '94's.

Art Eatman
January 12, 2003, 04:28 PM
One reason for the flintlock to last so long in the exploration period of the west was simple logistics: Where would one have re-supplied with percussion caps, away from cities? Flint, knapped by the rifleman, was readily available.

I'd bet that the percentage of folks with handguns increased with the advent of the railroads and the settlement of towns. Not only cost, but the mix of utility/need, and re-supply of ammo. More people had more familiarity with rifles and shotguns.

Art

Mike Weber
January 12, 2003, 07:23 PM
Here is a pretty good old west search engine. I've used this one to gather detailed information on Wyatt Earp and the gunfight at the Ok Corral. http://tombstonehistory.tripod.com/theposse.html

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