Revolutionary War weapons


December 22, 2012, 02:28 PM
Does anyone know what type of weapon the Maryland Militia from Frederick County Maryland would likely have used during the American Revolution?

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December 22, 2012, 03:48 PM
Mostly the Brown Bess along with assorted civilian guns would be my guess.

December 22, 2012, 04:03 PM
The 1st Maryland Regiment was recruited from that area:

1st Maryland Regiment

Here's a nice print of them in action, which can also be viewed at full resolution:

Full resolution:

4v50 Gary
December 22, 2012, 04:23 PM
Committee of Public Safety Muskets - many states responded to the threat of war by forming Committees of Public Safeties. These committees ordered muskets, most which roughly followed the Brown Bess pattern. It is believed that the Maryland Committee of Safety had "M" marked on the musket to indicate that it was property of that state (see Bill Ahearn, Muskets of the Revolution, page 149). This is not to be confused with "MB" which stood for Massachusetts Bay Colony. The Maryland Committee of Safety musket have been known to have its thumbpiece secured by a screw

Also consider fowlers. These are smoothbore guns whose sporting nature meant they could not take bayonets. It is likely they had a wood ramrod.

It is also possible that some Dutch muskets made it to their hands. Until ejected from New Orange (New York), the Dutch had a presence in the New World.

Suggest you contact the Brigade of the American Revolution (reenactors), Company of Military Historians (they've got experts in every aspect of the material culture of the military), any Rev. War National Battlefield Park in Maryland or any Maryland State Battlefield Park. Historian Rangers are generally a very good source of information. They sit around bored in the winter when no one visits so they occupy themselves with research (lucky blokes).

Recommended books include: George Neuman's Collector's Illustrated Encyclopedia of the American Revolution and Battle Weapons of the American Revolution, and Bill Ahern's Muskets of the Revolution.

Jim K
December 23, 2012, 12:47 AM
It never is a good idea to depend on long-after-the-fact paintings, but it is pretty obvious there are no civilian weapons in that picture. Everybody seems to have a musket with a bayonet and sling, presumably the Brown Bess or Brown Bess copies.

Maryland, like the other colonies, received arms from England for the militia, and those were Brown Bess muskets, one generation removed from first line weapons. Those would not have been enough to arm all the volunteer units, but they probably were adequate to arm the front line troops.

Much is made of the use of the long rifle, but except as a terror weapon, the rifle played little part in the Revolutionary War. In those days, just as today, military discipline and command and control won battles. Riflemen sniping from cover impacted British morale, but they did not win battles.


4v50 Gary
December 23, 2012, 12:00 PM
Riflemen did win battles. The biggest was the capture of Fort Sackville by George Rogers Clark. Smaller ones include King's Mountain (a bigger fight but i think Sackville had greater consequences), The Seige of Fort Granby and Fort Galpin. There is one major victory that was influenced by riflemen - Freeman's Farm (Second Saratoga).

The rifle saw only fleeting use in the war. The First Pennsylvania was the Congressionally raised rifle regiment but they were disbanded after their term of service expired. Daniel Morgan's riflemen was raised after that but after a year's service was reduced to two companies in New York State. Those two companies were led first by Capt Posey and later Maj. Parr. After the Sullivan's Expedition they too were disbanded (7 Nov., 1779). In Jan. 1780 Washington had Parr raise another provisional battalion but they were left in New York to watch Clinton while Washington went to Virginia to confront Cornwallis.

Still, the majority of men shouldered muskets and it was with bayonet armed musket men that the Continental Army fought the British.

December 23, 2012, 01:36 PM
Saw the some of the remains here of a dig at South Bound Brook NJ where a battle was fought between British and the County Militia Cos. here......was surprised to see how much buckshot was recoverd......there were some .58 Cal. Balls as well but really massive amounts of the equivilent of "O" Buck.......rough .30Cal.
IMO....alot easier to load buckshot in civilian smoothbores of various calibers than to try and figure out ball sizes...

Also have read some interesting accounts where muskets were actually painted different colors....some black, blue, red to match same color paint on ammo / cartridge boxes to determine caliber / cartridge size for quick identification.

4v50 Gary
December 23, 2012, 03:54 PM
Buck 'n ball (one large ball, three buckshots per cartridge) was fired from muskets all the way from the French & Indian War all the way to the American Civil War.

December 23, 2012, 04:05 PM
That's true but not the norm......I feel seeing all the buckshot made me realize how this was a CQB situation accross the Raritan River...volley fire at close quarters would be nasty with buckshot comming from militia ranks.
I personally load my own cartridges for my .72 Cal Flintlock Smooth Bore and I load 15 pellets of "O" buck per cartridge over 90gr. 2f for deer....I'm an ambush hunter from ground cover and have never lost an animal yet.

December 24, 2012, 05:12 PM
The rifle absolutely played a part in the patriot forces. But the use of rifles in combat was very much in infancy with no standards developed for organization or drill. The military minds on both sides were all about massed infantry with muskets and the primacy of the bayonet charge, coupled with precise artillery work. There was no real place for riflemen in that mix, since they could not mount bayonet and were slow to reload.

But they were certainly there, and pioneered what would become future warfare.

A less well studied aspect was the use of fowlers and simple scatterguns in militia units. These were the cheapest of all arms and included trade guns. But they wouldn't mount bayonet and tended to fire smaller caliber ball than proper muskets. I suspect that many of the complaints about poorly-equipped units came from the predominance of scatterguns over muskets.

4v50 Gary
December 24, 2012, 06:50 PM
During the Revolution, the British issued 1,000 Pattern 1776 rifles. These were distributed to various units including The Queen's Rangers (Simcoe's unit). Another source of riflemen for the British were their Tory loyalists. The final source of riflemen were the German Jaegers who were sent by their king (they were not mercenaries per se but to pay off their debts several German kings sent soldiers to fight on behalf of George II). The Germans were already well versed in the rifle and had specialized units (jaegers or jagers which were composed of rifle armed troops and light infantry (with muskets and bayonets).

Rifles didn't win near universal acceptance as a military weapon until about the time of the Napoleonic Wars. By then most nations had riflemen (except the French who discarded them because Napoleon disliked rifles).

December 25, 2012, 01:38 PM
Lots of interesting history in this thread.

December 26, 2012, 01:46 AM
There were no French muskets used in our Revolution? Or was that more of an 1812 thing?

Loyalist Dave
December 26, 2012, 07:28 AM
Folks the thread is about the Frederick County Militia. As a member of the Maryland Militia, a group that reenacts militia from Frederick County, Maryland, I can tell you that according to Maryland Archives online..., they would've been carrying 1st Model Brown Bess muskets IF they were issued arms from state arsenals.

Otherwise, English Fowlers or rifles were in the hands of the militia. While it is true that several locations, one such was Jerusalem Mill (located in what is today, Bel Air, Maryland) produced muskets that we today call "Comittee of Safety Muskets"..., rarely would these have been delivered to the militia, as the need by regular troops was so great.

Just for clarification, there were three "levels" of troops during the AWI.

Militia were for the defense of the colony, and usually were not paid. Further, depending on how the colony legislated the militia, the militia could not be ordered away from the colony, and not every colony had a militia. Maryland formed a volunteer force from its militia, named it "The Flying Camp", and sent those men North to help Washington.

State Troops were raised by some of the colonies, now "states" as they had declared independence, were uniformed like regular soldiers and equipped as well, but were paid by the states, not by Congress. Some colonies/states did not raise "state" troops.

Regular soldiers, are full fledged soldiers enlisted into the Continental Army, and paid by Congress. Many militia men whose terms of service expired, would go on to enlist in the regular army. Joseph Plumb Martin was such a soldier, and his diary survives, and is a very popular reference work for those interested in the AWI.

As for rifles..., Three companies of riflemen, two from Frederick County, plus one from VA, were formed and marched North to help Washington. Captain Michael Cresap commanded one of the two Maryland companies.

The Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment was then authorized 17 June 1776 in the Continental Army and assigned to the Main Army. The Regiment was organized 27 June 1776 to consist of the three existing companies (two from Md. and one from Va.), plus two new companies to be raised in Maryland, and four new companies to be raised in Virginia.

The new companies were organized 11-31 July 1776 in Frederick County (Thomas Beall commanding) and Harford County (Alexander Lawson Smith commanding) and the others were in Fauquier, Berkeley, Frederick, and Culpeper Counties, Virginia

16 November 1776, New York - Two hundred fifty Virginia and Maryland riflemen and two hunderd Pennsylvania militiamen, in conjunction with 2,000 regulars, defend Fort Washington against attack by Germans serving the British, under the command of General Howe. The fort was lost, and a great portion of the combined rifle regiment was lost as well.

The regimental organization was disbanded with the surviving Virginia portion being transferred 3 February 1777 to the 11th Virginia Regiment, and the Maryland portion provisionally reorganized in November 1776 as a single company under Captain Alexander Lawson Smith and attached to the 4th Maryland Regiment. Some sources say those soldiers that remained with the regulars were armed with muskets at that time, with their rifles, as they were personal property, were placed in storage or were sent home.

The whole was reorganized 21 March 1779 as Rawlings' Independent Corps, to consist of three companies (one from Maryland); concurrently relieved from the Main Army and assigned to the Western Department.

They were disbanded 1 January 1781 at Fort Pitt, Pennsylvania.

There were French muskets used during the AWI, but those would have been almost exclusively issued to regular army soldiers.

Maryland had an armed military "presence" in the colony since the 17th century, with men paid to "Range" specific parts of the colony, looking for lost cattle, and fending off Indian incursions. As such..., Annapolis and Baltimore were locations of stored arms, and these arms were issued out to militia units as needed. They were not, however, well looked after when in storage, as some of the archive inventories report.


December 27, 2012, 02:12 PM
The first regular American issued musket was the French Charleville from which most of our technology derived.

December 27, 2012, 02:44 PM
I believe when I was at Buckman's Tavern....on the Lexington Green.....thay had one hanging on the wall there that was actually used on April 19th....the day Liberty was born.

December 27, 2012, 03:36 PM
The first regular American issued musket was the French Charleville from which most of our technology derived.

The big shipments of French arms (and uniforms, etc.) came in starting in 1779. Prior to that, the American arm of choice was the Brown Bess. (The French musket was superior to the Brown Bess in several significant ways.)

December 27, 2012, 04:17 PM
Folks sometimes forget that the colonies were colonies for quite a long while. So folks like Washington fought for the King in the Seven Years/F&I wars. The British army was the foundation for our own military, further improved by Prussian drill and the superlative artillery work of the French (artillery is the unsung hero of most of our wars)

4v50 Gary
December 27, 2012, 05:40 PM
Bravo Loyalist Dave for a most informative post.

BTW, I checked one of my books and it confirmed that the standard cartridge for the American Army was buck 'n ball. The militia on the other hand often used just buckshot. Remember every militia man was unique and used what was at hand (I know at Breed's Hill in Boston the militia fired nails and rocks when their shot gave out).

Jim K
December 27, 2012, 07:09 PM
Loyalist Dave,

Some time ago, I acquired a .69 flint musket marked on the barrel "2d Regt B.C. MIL."

I thought this might mean Second Regiment Baltimore County Militia, but I never had time to really research the gun. There are no other significant marks on either the lock plate or the barrel, but because of external features, I believe the gun to be of either French or Belgian origin. It is in excellent condition and I have fired it.

Might you have any thoughts on the marking or possibly on the origin of the gun? Thanks for any help you might be able to give me.


(P.S. I hope it is not among those deadly military assault weapons our adorable governor plans to ban.)


4v50 Gary
December 27, 2012, 09:31 PM
B.C. could also be Berks County.

Jim K
December 28, 2012, 06:03 PM
It could be lots of things, but because the gun was found in MD, the first thoughts were Baltimore County or Baltimore City. Plus, not many rural counties or towns would be able to raise two regiments of militia.


4v50 Gary
December 28, 2012, 06:04 PM
Contact Colonial Williamsburg. Their curators should know.

December 28, 2012, 07:46 PM
Can you post a pic? This is way too cool!
I'm really starting to think I need a flintlock.

December 28, 2012, 07:58 PM
I own many and that's all I've been hunting with for the last 22 yrs......Rifles and Smoothbores.

Loyalist Dave
December 29, 2012, 11:49 AM
Many of the committee of safety muskets were cobbled together from surplus parts from other muskets. It is not unusual to find an "American made Bess" that has a British lock, a French side plate, and a French or Dutch barrel. Calibers could range from .69 up to .80. There are examples of British Bess muskets with flat, unmarked lock plates as well. In such cases the muskets in disrepair were brought back into service by American smiths and armorers, with whatever was handy.

As for the .69 caliber musket with the markings, is the barrel pinned or does it have barrel bands like a French musket? Also, remember that the front line weapons of the day, were relegated to state militias after the war, so it may indeed be Baltimore County, but for the war of 1812. :D

Actually Gary it's a common myth, but buck-n-ball wasn't the standard load for the majority of the folks during the AWI in any of the armies, and neither was buckshot. Buckshot, and cutting musket balls, and putting a nail through the ball, were probably only done in the first few battles of the war. The problem was the rebels had very few bayonets, and the standard tactic in the minds of both side's generals was to win the battles with bayonet charges. Well, if you are George W and you don't have bayonets, then you need to stop the bayonet charge before it gets to you..., hence the use of buckshot or buck and ball.

This quickly halted though, for to use buck and ball, or buckshot, you have to use more lead than a single ball, and for the supply strapped Continentals, this was not a good idea. Plus the Continentals began to get more bayonets. Further, even though there wasn't an actual "convention" on warfare, such as the Hague or Geneva conventions..., it was considered by the gentlemen who were the officers on both sides, that using buckshot was "against the rules of war". (Note: such rules don't apply when they fought Indians) If you got caught by the enemy with buck and ball or a nail through your musket ball in your musket, you got hanged. :eek:

Washington was also not above working at, gaining and maintaining the respect of his opponents, and so such a load was frowned upon in his army. As an example, at one battle (iirc Harlem Heights) where Washington retreated, the British horners (they used horns, plus fife, and drum) sounded the fox hunting call gone away. It is used when the hunters see the fox, and the fox is running for its life..., this REALLY insulted Washington, so he did care what the British Officers thought of him. Following the rules of war was very important to him..., remember the British thought he was not worthy of a regular commission in their army..., George had some things to prove to his counterparts beyond simply winning.


December 29, 2012, 01:01 PM
Well as I posted....Buckshot was very prevelent here with the NJ Militia Cos.....also, it was discovered that here at Artillery Park in Pluckemen NJ that 69 Cal. ball was used not only for loading in muskets but for starting fires as well.....seems many balls were found in and around fire pits as the cartridges / powder in them was being used to start fires in the cabins....the balls were either cast aside or tossed in the fire places....some didn't melt and have been recoverd.

December 29, 2012, 08:17 PM
Prolly just ripped the paper case open and sparked it off with a flint and steel, or even a unloaded flintlock pistol held close to the case. a little bit of straw and some twigs laid on top, and you were soon drying out your socks!Kinda how we use a magnesium fire starter nowdays.

December 30, 2012, 04:49 PM
Yup..........and they had plenty of cartridges to spare....easy way to start a fire.

December 30, 2012, 08:31 PM
George had some things to prove to his counterparts beyond simply winning.

As I recall, he had hoped to become a prominent officer in the British Army after the F&I war. But he was stuck in the VA militia instead. I wonder how history would have turned out if Ft. Necessity had been a great victory for him and he'd been a career regular army officer for King George.

Jim K
December 30, 2012, 09:12 PM
Hi, Loyalist Dave,

It has bands like the French muskets, and also has the dished out place on the right side of the butt stock and the "finger groove" extension on the trigger plate, all characteristics of French or Belgian work. But in my limited experience, French muskets are marked on the lockplate and this musket has (and apparently never had) any lockplate markings. It looks most like the French Model 1822, so that would of course not be in the AWI (aka Revolution) time frame.

I suspect it was purchased from Belgium to arm the militia at some point when Springfield and Harpers Ferry could not meet requirements.


December 31, 2012, 11:39 AM
As I recall, he had hoped to become a prominent officer in the British Army after the F&I war. But he was stuck in the VA militia instead. I wonder how history would have turned out if Ft. Necessity had been a great victory for him and he'd been a career regular army officer for King George.
They had a documentary re: GW on PBS and the main reason he married Martha was she had money from her previous husband's estate and her own family's money. The money was needed so that George could attempt to buy a commission in the British Army. As I understand it, this purchase of commission is still currently practiced in the British military. Its purpose is to finance a retiring officer in his waning years.

January 1, 2013, 07:44 AM
Yup..........and they had plenty of cartridges to spare....easy way to start a fire.
So in a time when folks were picking lead from the panes of their windows and we were in the infancy of producing our own gunpowder, the soldier was going to waste one or more to start a fire?

Loyalist Dave
January 1, 2013, 08:44 AM
A better interpretation of the musket balls would be that they were given them loose, to remold. A French musket does not shoot a military round of .69 caliber..., it shoots a .620 -.640 or so, while the Bess at .75 caliber shoots between a .69 and a .68. So if one issued the soldiers .690 ball (bess ammo) they may have been told to melt the stuff down and make proper ball for military rounds for their French muskets. The ball could be finished or have been awaiting remelt. (When you tell a private to pack and prepare to "move out"..., and you don't collect the ammo they haven't finished..., you don't expect the private to lug several pounds of loose lead even if the army is strapped for bullets. Privates don't care! hence the reason it may have been left behind...)

Why do I think they might be remolding ball that is ".69 caliber" ?

We have done live fire tests with modern powder..., and lesser loads (should foul up the barrels at a lesser rate). Now if you use a standard "box" of 24 rounds, and you take accounts from the war of troops firing full boxes and being out of ammo..., you know that they could shoot all 24 rounds without cleaning, as nobody mentions soldiers with jammed muskets or units disengaging in a battle to clean bores.

So when you test repro muskets, and you find that you simply cannot load and fire a .75 Bess with a .710 ball in a paper cartridge, even if you remove the ball from the cartridge, 24 times in a row, using 10-15 grains of powder to prime and 85-90 grains for the main charge (100 grains total for the full cartridge)... as the barrel gets too clogged. The same is true for a .69 caliber French musket using a .675 ball. You really really have to reduce the size of the ball for any musket IF you are loading military cartridges.

Now I am sure humidity played an important role, and as I am in a East Coast state, the finidings from the test shold be OK for a start. We really should get a batch of home made powder, of no smaller than 1Fg relative size, and redo the test to get a better idea, and at the same time get some chronography on the rounds and fire at some down range targets set up in a traditional formation for an accuracy check.


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