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Author Topic: Historic Revolutionary War British Officer's Fusil  (Read 4005 times)
hawknknife
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« on: September 09, 2009, 06:10:51 PM »

Last month, I posted pics of a very early English flintlock Fowler that dated to the early 1720s.

This officer's Fusil was purchased from the same family.  This gun is engraved on the tang of the buttplate with the numeral "23" which seems to be a gun belonging to an officer in the British 23rd Regiment known as the Royal Welsh Fusiliers.  The 23rd Regiment was about the most active British unit serving in America during the conflict being engaged from Lexington/Concord all the way through the surrender at Yorktown.  The flintlock is in what we term "attic condition" and has never been "monkeyed with."  The 66 cal barrel measures 39 inches in length and has London eighteenth century commercial proofs.   The barrel has a lug to accept a socket bayonet.

I have obtained several opinions as to whether the numeral "23" is a regimental number or has been proposed, a rack number.   More of whom I consider authorities on the subject have stated that it was absolutely a weapon issued to the 23rd regiment.  Some have told me it was so unusual that they honestly did not know what the number stood for.

The officer's guns were a private purchase by the individual officer or sometimes were purchased by an agent who was paid to equip a regiment with their equipment.  Being that this number is engraved and was in the design of the stand of arms on the buttplate tang, I can't see how the officer or agent who ordered the gun or guns would have know in advance what the rack number would be.  One would assume that the officer's weapons belonging to a specific officer would have been quartered with him.   I have seen pictures of the military issue brown besses that were regimentily numbered by a unit armourer after the guns were received by the unit.  On many of these the regiment number is a numeral only with no suffix mark of "Regt" or "R" .

I have removed the lock from the fusil and as can be seen in the pics the benchmark XII is on all the parts to include the lock internals and stock.

Please give me any information you might have on this subject and of this fusil.  And if this fusil was in fact used by an officer in the 23rd regiment, and I believe it was, it would be a very important discovery.

The 23rd Regiment was given the honor of leading the assault on Bunker Hill losing 90% of its men as they were casually and cooly picked off by the riflemen from New Hampshire.  

 Thanks for reading all this...
Carl Merck
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rich pierce
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« Reply #1 on: September 09, 2009, 10:15:29 PM »

Terrific find and pictures.  Not expert so I can't help you on what the 23 means.
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St. Louis, Missouri
California Kid
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« Reply #2 on: September 10, 2009, 12:59:38 AM »

Great find thanks for posting the pics. Wish they weren't so dark.
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Mike Brooks
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« Reply #3 on: September 10, 2009, 09:10:17 AM »

Thanks for posting those, great old gun.
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G-Man
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« Reply #4 on: September 10, 2009, 10:15:08 AM »

Nice quality piece and a really rare treat for those who like British guns to see this many detailed photos of one of these.  It just looks like it has  history seeping out of every crevice.

With it's prominent position boldly and proudly displayed and incorporated as an intrinsic part of the engraving pattern, and looking to be be cut by the gunmakers's (or at least the engraver's) hand I would tend to agree "23" is a regimental number, but my knowledge of British military arms is limited.  But my understanding is that high quality officer's fusils such as this were personal pieces purchased by the officer, right?  And even if it were to receive a rack number, how would the maker know at the time it would be "23" (?). So I would guess regimental number.  This piece could have belonged to a second son who did not inherit the family land or title and was purchased a commission in a prominent regiment.

Again, these 2 guns you have posted are really great and rare chances for folks to get a really good look at some classic English 18th century styles of guns.  Thanks for posting.

Guy
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James Rogers
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« Reply #5 on: September 10, 2009, 11:53:09 AM »

I conversed with someone who is more well versed on English military arms than I am.
He seems to believe it is doubtful as being associated with the 23rd Regiment RWF as it lacks the Price of Wales' feathers, etc.  He said some regimental/militia guns were numbered up like that. The gun is not a super high end example and from the later end of the 18thc.
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art riser
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« Reply #6 on: September 10, 2009, 12:10:30 PM »

The 23rd engraving appears to be by a different hand.
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jim meili
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« Reply #7 on: September 10, 2009, 01:54:59 PM »

Using Acer's uploading site, here are some of the photos turned brighter.



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mr. no gold
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« Reply #8 on: September 10, 2009, 02:43:35 PM »

Carl-Thank you for showing your new acquistion.These arms are always welcome and they provide fresh insights into the weaponry of the 1700s.
A few thoughts on your gun: it has Pratt's Improvement, that is: the second ramrod pipe is funnel shaped, as is the top pipe. Pratt was a private contractor and installed that innovation on the second pattern Brown Bess muskets that he produced. This suggests that your gun was produced after 1779 when the Pratt change came into general use.
Pratt and other contractors sometimes stamped their names into the ramrod channel; have you inspected this gun for any such mark? It can be hard to read, but will show, if there. I have a second pattern Bess and the channel has a name which I cannot read.
Most marked British military arms that I have seen (I do not profess to be an expert here) have had an "rd" after the number when they were marked to a regiment. This numbering can usually be found on the barrel, the wrist plate or on the buttplate.
It is interesting that the barrel is set to receive a bayonet; this is not typical of an officer's fusil. The gun appears to be a military piece given the bayonet, sling swivels and the traits of the Brown Bess (swelling at the rear pipe, beaver tail tang carving and the sturdy profile.
But, it is not a regulation arm and the engraving, etc., suggests what others have already pointed out; it was a privately purchased piece which shows considerable use. Quite likely in the Revolution, perhaps by a Loyalist militia man.   
You are very fortunate to have found these guns in a single family. I hope that you are wringing out every detail of the history that they can give you on the who, what and where of these guns. Their history might prove to be very important to our understanding on the diversity of arms used 250 years ago.
I further hope that there are more surprises for you at the same source that these two guns came from. Have you inquired about the powder horns and other related items, by the way? Thanks again.
Dick
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rallen
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« Reply #9 on: September 10, 2009, 08:26:23 PM »

What a wonderful piece of history. It has all the distinguishing features of a middle period officer's fusil (c 1770-1780s). The flat lock & acorn trigger guard give it way, but the sideplate, the two private Tower proofs and nose band were also typical during this period for private contract officer's fusils.  The muzzle pipe is an altered trumpet pipe that was also used on these fusils. It would seem that somewhere, there would be a contractor's mark or name associated with this piece?  The real puzzle is in the engraving on the buttplate and sideplate. As Art mentions it looks to be of a different hand and not up to the same standard of the border, but at the same time, at least on the sideplate, as if a space was left for the standards??? As was mentioned, for the 23rd regiment, I would expect the Ich Dien - Prince of Wales feathers on the barrel. These were executed by the regiment's own contractors in a finer hand the the standards. More on the level of the border and shading on the sidepiece and trigger guard.
Another twist is the prevailing attitude toward officer's carrying fusils during the Revolution.  'North American' (ie F&IW) generals such as Howe, were in favor of their officer's carrying their own fusils and adding to the barrage.  Classically trained, 'Continental' generals such as Burgoyne, Clinton and Cornwallis were of the opinion that officer's were to lead, not fight and discourage the use of fusils.
Facinating, authentic piece of history in great condition, that probably did play some role in the Revolution, even with these questions. Wonderful. Thanks for sharing.
Ryan
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Mike Brooks
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« Reply #10 on: September 11, 2009, 08:46:38 AM »

Just my opinion....I believe this to be a junior officer's or sergeants musket due to it's quality. I have no opinion on the "23" but a regimental number makes sense.
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Dpeck
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« Reply #11 on: September 12, 2009, 07:40:04 AM »

Thanks for posting.  I have a real interest in that type of weapon and appreciate the pictures.

DP
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Thou shalt not take tyself too seriously!
jwh1947
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« Reply #12 on: September 13, 2009, 10:47:56 PM »

I tend to concur with Mr. No Gold.  I have had the opportunity to examine numerous arms in both England and Scotland, and the "28" markings are not consistent with the standard regimental marks I've observed there.  However, that doesn't detract from the firearm one bit; it is a neat English piece.  With or without regimental association, there's enough there to stand on its own merits.  I'd be happy to own it.  JWH
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Michael
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« Reply #13 on: September 14, 2009, 06:42:22 AM »

Carl,

Thank you for posting all the pictures of the fusil!!

Just out of curiosity how thick is the barrel wall at the muzzle? In the pictures it looks almost 'paper thin'.

Michael
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hawknknife
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« Reply #14 on: September 14, 2009, 09:45:46 AM »

Michael, The muzzle is very thin, not from use but manufactured that way, it is as thin as the pics.  I've looked down the bore with a light and it is not very pitted but I haven't run a patch down it or cleaned in any manner. It still has all the dust and dirt it had when I acquired it, lock and all.

Dick, I did inspect the ramrod channel and you are correct, in the channel near the entry pipe is the bench mark XII and beside it, a rectangular cartouche with the initials AM or VA or AW it is clear but hard to make out.  I assume this would be the makers name since this is a commercial built gu n?

Art, I've looked at the engraved number "23" and I can't see how anyone could determine it was cut by another  engraver other than the person who did the entire design.  I have a "pretty good eye" for this antique stuff and can't say it was done by another..looks the same to me....                   
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mr. no gold
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« Reply #15 on: September 14, 2009, 07:59:51 PM »

Carl, as I mentioned earlier my Bess has the ramrod channel stamping which looks like a full
surname, perhaps. Same story, mine is not legible; I was hoping that yours would give us a name to explore. The Tower armory did not put anything in government made guns, so only the subs did it.
Pratt signed his muskets, thusly, and the others must have done so, as well, since both of ours are marked that way.  Mine doesn't look like the name, Pratt. So...?
Someone has to have a list of the subcontractors in England, but I wouldn't know where to start to find that data. I had contacted Kevin Blackley, (Blackley and Son), but he was of no help. Anyone on the ALR have connections in England?
As to barrel muzzle thickness, it looks like pure musket, to my eye. The maker surely was one of the unknown subcontractors. As always more question than answers.
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Acer Saccharum
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« Reply #16 on: September 14, 2009, 10:02:04 PM »

I cannot tell either that the number was added or original. You'd need magnification to see if the curves were cut by the same hand as other curves on the gun.

What I DID notice was the curves of the engraving are all very good. The flower on the guard, the terminals of the guard. The borders are cut very well.

However, the picture of the drums and flags on the sideplate and the image of crossed canon and flags on the heel of the butt are as crude as can be. It's an odd contrast. Not the same quality as the border work. A possibility would be that the hardware would be engraved with the basic patterns, and areas left open for scenes to be decided upon by the purchaser. Then someone else did the engraving of the scenes.
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G-Man
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« Reply #17 on: September 15, 2009, 07:00:42 AM »

I am not sure , but on some of the discussions of other English guns I think the topic has come up that some of this hardware was sort of "mass produced" in large lots - even some of the stuff used on high end guns - by suppliers who sold them to multiple gunmaker shops?  I know it has beeen discussed with regard to silver mounts.  Anyway, is it possible the shops that produced them also engraved some of the basic designs before they went out the door to the gunmakers?

Just wondering.  Anyone know?

Guy
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Mike Brooks
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« Reply #18 on: September 15, 2009, 07:41:52 AM »

I talked to Lynton Mackenzie about this years ago, most engraving was done out of house by a professional engraver. This engraver probably worked for multiple gunshops as well as took on engraving jobs outside the gun trade. Chances are the fellow that bought this gun may have bought it already made "off the rack" and had some extra engraving added and the gunshop sent it over to what ever engraver was available at the time.
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hawknknife
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« Reply #19 on: September 15, 2009, 09:21:22 AM »

Yes, and this is the very reason I believe the "23" Is a unit number.  Why would the officer who ordered the gun ask the engraver to engrave a rack of weapons number in the center of the tang when the order was placed?
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