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ca. 1770’s AMERICAN MILITIA FLINTLOCK MUSKET – VERY NICE HISTORIC REVOLUTIONARY WAR MUSKET:  This musket bears all the classic earmarks of the long guns carried by the Militiamen during the Revolutionary War and the following years onto the expanding frontier.  Seldom does the collector of United States militaria have the opportunity to possess a firearm that solely through the individual character of the piece is as evocative as a musket from the period of the American Revolution.  The simple pleasure of holding this musket fires the imagination with images of Lexington and Concord, the Brooklyn Heights, Bunker Hill, Saratoga, Trenton, Cowpens and Yorktown, kindled with the spirit of the patriot soldier who shouldered this musket in defense of his home and to win the independence of his new nation.   

 

This musket presents as one that was restocked in America before, or during, the Revolutionary War, using an existing barrel and lock, and pieces of the furniture, that had been salvaged from an existing musket whose stock was beyond the point of repair.  Under British law which governed the American colonies, they were prohibited from establishing any substantial manufacturing capabilities, to include the gun making arts.  The colonies were maintained as a source of raw materials and as a captive customer base for the finished products exported from Britain.  While gun makers, smiths, and other craftsmen were permitted to satisfy local needs, they were limited to using materials which had been purchased from Britain and other European nations, or repurposing parts salvaged from arms already present in North America. 

Restocking existing muskets and rifles was practiced by colonial gunsmiths well before the outbreak of hostilities between Britain and the colonies for purely economic reasons, however once the War began in earnest, the supply of gun parts was dramatically curtailed and restocking became a necessity in order to arm the local militias and Continental Regulars during the War. 

Manufactured in small shops and smithies throughout the colonies, quite often these muskets were not maker marked for obvious reasons considering that they were intended to be fired in anger at British soldiers.  Though lacking maker names, these muskets present with some particular characteristics which allow them to be identified. 

George Newman documented the style and character of these American muskets in his seminal work, Battle Weapons of the American Revolution, and his efforts provide us with a wealth of details to identify these historic guns today.   

This musket is stocked in what appears to be curly maple, a native American hard wood, evidenced by the tiger stripe grain visible on the forestock.  Newman identified the shape of this stock as the “New England Fowler”, a style preferred in that region.  Incorporating the narrow, delicate wrist, the dramatic drop in the angle of the butt stock comb below the line of the barrel - as opposed to the English style of the comb being level with the barrel - and the long, narrow, unadorned forestock, this stock is consistent with the New England Fowler.  The combined features of the slender wrist and the long “handrail” crease along the buttstock comb are typical of mid-18TH century styling which continued well into the period of the war. 

The stock is mounted with a combination of an English cast brass ramrod entry pipe and two upper pipes fashioned of sheet brass produced in the colonies as opposed to all of the pipes being cast brass as found on English made guns.  The butt plate, trigger guard, escutcheon plate, and probably the side plate are all products of English makers.  The lack of any provision for attaching a sling is very typical of many American restocked firearms. 

All of these features combine to identify this musket as one that was restocked in America during the 1770’s, and certainly of the type used during the Revolutionary War.    

This musket has survived in its original flintlock configuration, with no evidence of having been converted to percussion and reconverted to flint. 

Measuring 42” long, the full length .72 caliber barrel and the lock have a pleasant even light brown patina, undisturbed by attempts to clean the metal, and generally smooth to the touch with only minor pitting, with more pronounced age and pitting concentrated around the expected areas such as at the breech around the vent hole.  The lock-trigger function is crisp, with the main spring and frizzen spring both being quite strong.  The iron front sight is soldered into a nicely inlet slot set back from the muzzle, and there is a groove running the length of the tang and onto the breech which functions as a rear sighting guide.     

The barrel bears a series of three stamps at the breech – viewed from the muzzle to the breech, the London Gunmakers Royal Proof Mark (1685-1813), the Gun Maker’s Mark, and the London Gunmakers Company View Mark (1685-1813).  The stamps are polished down from being carried over untold miles by roughened hands, but there is enough of the characters remaining to be discerned.  An experienced student of these early muskets who is very familiar with the gunmakers’ marks of the Revolutionary period offered the opinion that the maker’s stamp on the barrel may be that of J. Bumford, who was producing barrels and stocking guns in England from 1757-1775. 

The brass furniture all has a pleasant and desirable even mustard colored aged patina with no evidence of recent cleaning.  The panoply of arms side plate features intricate well inlet cut outs, and hand incised details.  The military theme of the side plate argues further for this musket having been carried by a militiaman or Continental solider.  The butt plate features the elongated, three step pinned tang.  The heel of the butt plate is anchored with an iron nail – a method noted by Newman on other American restocked muskets - and the toe with an iron screw.  The wrist is decorated with a brass escutcheon attached with square brass brads, which Newman describes as an English Trade Pattern.  The butt plate tang, the trigger guard, and the wrist escutcheon, are decorated with hand cut engraving in an attractive pattern highlighting the profiles of the furniture.  The full length hand forged button top iron ramrod is present, and the lower end still retains the split twist which formed the cleaning worm, though the tines are now worn away.  From all appearances, and from the fit in the thimbles and stock, the ramrod is original to this musket – a distinct added value.    

The stock is in very good condition, featuring a handsome dark reddish brown color, while showing the expected evidence of wear commensurate with the period of use and exposure to the campaigns of the day.  Immediately forward of the rear ramrod thimble, at the balance point where the soldier carried his musket, the finish has been worn sufficiently to expose the underlying striped grain, indicating the stock wood is quite likely curly maple – additional evidence this musket was stocked in America.  The barrel channel edges are overall smooth, intact, and sharp. The ramrod channel is likewise overall smooth with no splits or missing wood.  Remarkably, the narrow wrist is very solid without any cracks or signs of weakness – an area that was particularly venerable to being broken, and quite often found with repairs.  The butt retains its full profile with none of the loss at the toe as is normally encountered. 

There is some wear along the edge of the lock plate mortise, concentrated between the plate and the trigger.  During the period of use, the stock was damaged between the lock and the side plate, not unusual given the amount of wood removed in this area to inlet the barrel, lock and trigger assembly.  On both sides of the stock, between the lock plate and the barrel tang, and above the side plate, there are cracks which were repaired, anchored with small brass brads and screws.  Very likely having been done at the same time, there are two iron plates inlet into the wood on each side of the trigger guard running from the end of the forward trigger guard tang to the rear curve of the trigger bow.  Very old repairs, evidenced by the pitted surface of the iron plates, the plates are nicely shaped, very delicate in profile, and are attached with small iron screws.  The repairs are very old, evidenced by the utilitarian method in which they were executed – for strength, not cosmetics - and both of these areas are polished smooth through handling and not through attempts to repair or disguise the areas.  These factors indicate that these areas of damage occurred during the musket’s period of regular use, perhaps even attributable to battle damage, and the musket remained in active service after the repairs were affected. 

These types of period repairs executed by military articifers and small village gunsmiths on the edge of frontier are considered by many experienced collectors of these early long guns to be desirable features.  They serve as subtle testimony to the hard use this musket was exposed to, and that it was carefully restored demonstrates that it was valued by the man who carried it.     

The balance of the stock has the normal handling and age marks expected in such a piece, but no other notable damage, cracks, or splits.  The wood retains a particularly rich color with a wonderful undisturbed patina, and has a nice, smooth hand polished feel.    

Whether your collection focuses on the full array of American weapons, or you concentrate on one particular firearm or historical era, this early American Militia Flintlock Musket is a temptation that will start you thinking about making room for “just one more”.  This veteran musket, having survived in very nice presentable condition, is much more than collectable firearm.  It is a keystone artifact from our nation’s earliest days, and speaks of those stalwart patriots’ desperate struggle for liberty when they stood shoulder to shoulder with their future and their very lives in the balance.  (0803)  $3250

 

 
 
 
 
 
 

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