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REVOLUTIONARY – NAPOLEONIC WARS GRENADE LAUNCHING CUP – SCARCE FLINTLOCK ERA APPENDAGE:  The sort of early musket appendage that is seldom encountered in collections or on the market, this brass grenade launching cup has survived in excellent condition.   

Developed in the mid-18TH Century, these launching cups provided a method for the rank and file infantry to deliver small, but very effective grenades on opposing lines of infantry as well as into fortified positions before commencing the assault.  As the technology developed some nations provided specifically designed muskets to be used with these launching cups by specially trained and designated units of soldiers who would become known as “grenadiers”.  Launched in volley fire against massed infantry or against entrenched positions, even small grenades would have had a devastating affect.   

The cups were carried separately by the grenadiers.  When preparing to launch the grenades, the soldiers would load their muskets with a blank charge, fit the cup over the muzzle, locking it in place on the bayonet stud, and place the grenade in the cup with the fuse oriented to the top, away from the muzzle.  The musket was presented with the muzzle elevated and fired as any other musket.  When discharged, the gases escaping the muzzle through the small hole passing from the mounting socket into the cup would launch the grenade, with the muzzle flash enveloping the grenade and lighting the fuse, in the same manner in which the fuse of an artillery shell was lit upon firing the cannon.  The fuse could be adjusted in length to determine the amount of time it would burn, in order to deliver the explosion directly over the desired target.    

This substantial and well made brass grenade launching cup measures 3 ½” in overall length, the interior of the cup measures 1 7/8” in diameter and the mounting socket has an interior diameter of 9/16”.  This socket is smaller than those produced for use with the standard infantry arms such as the Springfield, Brown Bess and Charleville muskets, as well as those carried by other nations, but the design and principle is exactly the same as the larger cups used on those arms.  This particular launching cup was evidently made for a launching musket with a smaller diameter barrel, perhaps one made expressly for launching grenades and therefore did not require the larger bore of the standard infantry muskets.  There are no identifying stamps or marks on the piece.  The brass has a very attractive naturally aged patina and while fully intact with no damage and no misshaping, the surface of the brass shows evidence of use and handling. 

There is relatively little documentation regarding these cups and very little has been written about them.  George Neumann features only one example on page 81 of his well known and comprehensive work, Battle Weapons of the American Revolution, the only reference to these launching cups I could find in my library.  I recall seeing only one other through the years and it was so long ago, I don’t recall any details other than it was also made of brass and of the same basic design.  This rare specimen of one of the more interesting appendages associated with the early battlefield flintlock muskets would make a significant addition to your collection or display.  (0902)  $350



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