View Full Version : Muskets used in early years of the Revolutionary War

January 14, 2013, 08:03 PM
I discovered an ancestor that fought with the Americans during the Invasion of Canada in 1775. I am curious to find out what type of weapons they would have used. It was early in the war so they would have used whatever was on had for the local Canadian militia or what the Americans brought up with them. Anyone have any ideas on this.

4V50 Gary
January 14, 2013, 08:07 PM
Brown Bess was pretty common. It could also have been a captured Charleville left over from the French & Indian War. Or it could be a sporting fowler.

If your relative was from Virginia, Pennsylvania or Maryland, he may have belonged to Daniel Morgan's Rifle Battalion and carried a rifle gun.

January 14, 2013, 08:18 PM
He was French, came to Quebec in 1760's. Joined with American forces and went to NY when they withdrew. Maybe the Charleville would be a good bet.

4V50 Gary
January 14, 2013, 08:41 PM
Could also be a Trade Gun. They were smoothbore.

January 15, 2013, 09:35 AM
All are correct but most likely a Brown Bess.

January 17, 2013, 08:41 PM
American rebels in 1775! Well, a variety of arms would've been on hand: their own militia weapons for one, especially "fowler-muskets" which did double duty as hunting guns and military guns (militia statutes required members to own long arms of "musket bore" (.69 cal or larger). Slender, small-bored hunting guns didn't cut it! Composite guns were very common: older military locks, barrels, etc. re-stocked into "new" muskets, often with a mix of English, French, and Dutch parts.
Finally, though they would have had their hands on few issue-type "Brown Bess" muskets (these being in Royal arsenals for use by Crown forces), there would have been large numbers of "commercial grade" copies of the Bess in circulation in the colonies - basically cheaper/simplified versions of the issue Bess....

January 17, 2013, 10:20 PM
You have to remember that if he was militia, it could have been a variety of different arms. If he was French and in Canada - furnishing his own arm, it could very well have been a French "fusil de chase" - (trade gun). Many of the guns utilized by the militia - American militia - dated back to the F & I War as well. There were a wide variety of "Committee of Safety" long arms - some styled after military and some quasi-military. Many "militia" members, made up of locals, were required to own a firearm and serve. Calibers may vary (usually smoothbore muskets) and like any individual of that time, they would have molds to fit their individual weapons. I'm talking "irregulars" - not organized military.

I have a smoothbore that is .69 that was passed down through my family - converted from flintlock in later years. The stock design is definitely "French" but it is stocked in American Maple. Full stock - barrel bands instead of pinned barrel - I have had several knowledgeable fellows inspect it in past years when I was at Friendship for the Nationals - they said that from their inspections it would be classified as a "committee of safety" musket. No markings on it at all but stock points to a French influence and they figured that it dated to the F & I War. Oral family history has it carried during the Revolutionary War - but i have no written or solid proof of that other than oral history. That part of the family came from NY state. I'm still working on the genealogy and hopefully I can establish a Rev War Veteran or F & I Veteran to whom it may have belonged.

January 18, 2013, 10:08 AM
Hmmmmm....a military weapon.

They were the 'assault weapons' of their day, weren't they???

When I was in the military, I was trained to be an 'assault weapon, even if all I had was a knife....

Today, people in our government, like Rep Jose Serrano (D- New York) wants to repeal the 22nd amendment. Next, you will find your 1st amendment rights infringed upon.

I am very disappointed with our government...

January 18, 2013, 12:02 PM
Check out the "New England Colonial Fowler/Militia Musket" on this page, for a reproduction of a typical militia arm like those being discussed:



They often had the fore-end cut back to accommodate a socket bayonet, if one could be had. Most men carried a tomahawk or hanger/cutlass type sword as a side arm. One of the three was required as part of your militia weaponry.

January 18, 2013, 12:44 PM
Also remember that this was pre mass production. All firearms were hand made. There is no such thing as two identical guns from that era. Although the gunsmith may have been working from a pattern, the fact that each piece was hand made meant there would have been variations.

It was for this reason that each gun came with its own bullet mold - sized for that particular bore. Using a bullet from your buddy's mold may or may not have worked even though both guns were supposed to be the same caliber.

January 18, 2013, 03:05 PM
Bore size for military muskets was "sort of" standardized by the time of the Rev War. French bores were in the .68-.72" range; British .75-.78" pretty much. They didn't worry about making it an exact science, because round balls for military cartridges were always way undersized - so the soldier could fire many, many rounds without worrying about fouling.

A civilian with a militia piece of "musket bore" could use issued cartridges without any trouble, in most cases. Hunting guns would have an accompanying mold, as Doyle states, as accuracy was more critical, obviously, in a hunting situation than in line combat. This was especially true of rifles.

January 21, 2013, 11:37 AM
Brian that is a great website. There are some nice kits listed here.