Author Topic: Early Loads for Trade Guns and Fusils  (Read 9255 times)

TickLick

  • Guest
Early Loads for Trade Guns and Fusils
« on: July 05, 2013, 08:46:00 PM »
Hello,

Does anyone have any knowledge of how shot was loaded into trade guns in the Americas?  Now of course we use over powder cards, cushion wads and over shot cards, etc.  But none of that was cut to size for guns traded at Michimilimackinac or anywhere else.  Yet, tons of shot were traded each Summer at these posts.

The only period documentation on the use of these guns on a daily basis was a short remark written by a French trader advising the Indians not to try to shoot at fish by placing the muzzle of the new gun under the surface of the water and firing.  He said "That would ruin even the finest Spanish barrel ever made."

Also, an English trader wrote in a letter that "The Pawnee soon ruin new guns through mis-handling of them and through lack of familiarity with their proper function."

I have looked for info on how the recipients managed to load all that shot they traded for but there seems to be nothing written on the subject.

Offline Hungry Horse

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 5354
Re: Early Loads for Trade Guns and Fusils
« Reply #1 on: July 06, 2013, 02:02:25 AM »
 There are historical documents refering to the natives using blanket wadding. Think about it, there isn't anything much more period correct than moths. I suspect blankets went away pretty quick. I suspect cards may have been cut from rawhide, and half tanned leather as well. Wadding was also made from paper wasp nests, and no doubt ground hornets nests also. The blanket wadding reference was in regard to shooting with a round ball.

                        Hungry Horse

Online bob in the woods

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4521
Re: Early Loads for Trade Guns and Fusils
« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2013, 06:24:08 AM »
Honestly, having read any historical documents I could or can get a hold of, the only references I have ever found re wasp nest use are from Sam Fadala. ie modern .   I have read of blanket wadding, paper wadding ..even moss, grass etc but not wasp nest.   If there is documentation of it's use, I'd love to hear about it.

Offline James Wilson Everett

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1090
Re: Early Loads for Trade Guns and Fusils
« Reply #3 on: July 06, 2013, 06:57:19 AM »
Guys,

I believe that Ted Hamilton in one of his books on the fur trade shows an artifact trade gun barrel recovered from a stream that is loaded.  Memory tells me that there is an X-ray photo in the book.  It shows the load of rather large shot with a wadding of beaver hair.  Again, this is trusting my rusty memory as I am very remote from my library.  Maybe someone out there can search their collection for the book and reference?  Perhaps the only other reference would be any existing powder measures associated with such guns.

Jim

Offline Hungry Horse

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 5354
Re: Early Loads for Trade Guns and Fusils
« Reply #4 on: July 06, 2013, 09:08:14 AM »
There is a reference to the use of wasp nest in one of the very early ( like 1930's) NMLRA publications by V. Starr, definitely before Dr. Sam the two patch man. The recovered trade guns from a river in Minnesota, with beaver fur wadding, was one I had forgotten until Jim mentioned it.

                     Hungry Horse

Online bob in the woods

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4521
Re: Early Loads for Trade Guns and Fusils
« Reply #5 on: July 06, 2013, 03:17:02 PM »
Thank you for the references. I forgot about that x ray of the barrel section depicted in the Hamilton book. I will take another look at it.  Reference the wasp nest use;  does the article refer to actual 18th or even early 19th C use or is it simply a 1930's  usage reference ?   I am interested, having not yet seen any indication of actual period usage of "wasp nest "    Anything is possible I suppose, since I can't imagine they were that picky about wadding in certain circumstances

Offline James Rogers

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3099
  • James Rogers
    • Fowling Piece
Re: Early Loads for Trade Guns and Fusils
« Reply #6 on: July 06, 2013, 05:18:21 PM »
There is a reference to the use of wasp nest in one of the very early ( like 1930's) NMLRA publications by V. Starr, definitely before Dr. Sam the two patch man. The recovered trade guns from a river in Minnesota, with beaver fur wadding, was one I had forgotten until Jim mentioned it.

                     Hungry Horse

IIRC some think that may be remnants of hat wadding

doug

  • Guest
Re: Early Loads for Trade Guns and Fusils
« Reply #7 on: July 06, 2013, 06:27:17 PM »
    I remember seeing the X ray and thought that it may have been on this site.  In my memory the gun was a brown bess and not a trade gun and was loaded with buck and ball.   I would think blanket wadding would not be used often because cloth of any kind was probably an expensive item on the frontier.  At least around here you would have to do a lot of looking to find many hornets nests and again while it may have been used,  I suspect not very often. 
    I would think what would be common is the fur/hair scraped off of hides in the process of making leather although probably not beaver because the hides would have been worth quite a bit more at a trading post.   I also suspect an alternative would be what we call locally "spanish moss" which is a green lichen growing on trees.
     All of this is speculation obviously but I think with all of the various possibilities, one has to ask "how probable was it" in terms of cost and availability in quantity.

cheers Doug

Offline Habu

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1123
Re: Early Loads for Trade Guns and Fusils
« Reply #8 on: July 07, 2013, 12:21:47 AM »
Factors such as hard use and wear, and the effects of carpet beetles, may have increased the availability of blanketing for use as patches.  Folks were buying blankets every year, because they just plain wore out--a worn out blanket is a fine source of chunks of fabric for wads. 

I think (don't recall for sure) that there may have been x-rays of NWG barrels recovered from underwater at various portages in Voices from the Rapids: An Underwater Search for Fur Trade Artifacts, 1960-73

Offline Hungry Horse

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 5354
Re: Early Loads for Trade Guns and Fusils
« Reply #9 on: July 07, 2013, 07:57:16 PM »
Doug;

  The book is called Voices from the Rapids ( an underwater search for fur trade artifacts). Although many Northwest gun remnants were found, in Voyageur's Channel, in the French River, the ones that were loaded ( two out of four) were made by Richard Wilson, and they were indeed wadded with beaver fur.
 There was nothing precious about blanket remnants, they were used for anything and everything. Blankets were traded by the hundreds of thousands. A trading post in Alaska, was actually saved from a horrendous fire by covering it with trade blankets and pouring barrels of beer over them.

                  Hungry  Horse

Online bob in the woods

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4521
Re: Early Loads for Trade Guns and Fusils
« Reply #10 on: July 07, 2013, 08:08:28 PM »
Hungry Horse....there was a time when I would have saved the beer, and let the post burn  ;D  Interesting story !

Offline Oyvind

  • Starting Member
  • *
  • Posts: 8
    • svartkrutt.net
Re: Early Loads for Trade Guns and Fusils
« Reply #11 on: July 07, 2013, 09:11:59 PM »
There is a reference to the use of wasp nest in one of the very early ( like 1930's) NMLRA publications by V. Starr, definitely before Dr. Sam the two patch man. The recovered trade guns from a river in Minnesota, with beaver fur wadding, was one I had forgotten until Jim mentioned it.

In danger of repeating myself, the earliest reference I've found that mention hornet's nest for wadding dates back to the mid-1890s in the article "A Turkey Hunt" by David Dodge in the Outing magazine. Although it was published in 1895, Hunt relates back to events that occurred when he was younger, possibly before the Civil War. He mentions his neighbour Matt using an "amazingly long-barreled gun, which was an old "flint-and-steel"converted into a percussion".

The loading process is described as follows and involves using hornet's nest for wadding:

"Matt had his own notions about loading a gun and believed that his method was the only sure one for turkey. The charges had to be measured with extreme nicety, a certain sized shot unmixed with any others, and hornet's-nest wadding had to be used. The last wad had always to be rammed till the ramrod had bounced out of the barrel seven times."

The article is available online here: http://archive.org/details/outing27newy (page 231232).

Offline Hungry Horse

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 5354
Re: Early Loads for Trade Guns and Fusils
« Reply #12 on: July 08, 2013, 04:15:42 PM »
 One wadding I had forgot about, but, as is the case at my age, remembered while trying to remembering something else, is cork. proper sized corks were sliced to make a thin wad, or card. They were light and often disintegrated when the shot column left the barrel, making them nearly perfect.

                   Hungry Horse

Offline James Rogers

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3099
  • James Rogers
    • Fowling Piece
Re: Early Loads for Trade Guns and Fusils
« Reply #13 on: July 08, 2013, 04:39:56 PM »
"In 2006 an early English Type G trade gun was turned in to the State of Florida (Bureau of Archaeological Research). It was recovered from the Suwannee River in north Florida. ......The barrel had a charge in it which consisted of wadding and a ball. The wadding appears to be something like palmetto fibers ....."

James Levy

Mike R

  • Guest
Re: Early Loads for Trade Guns and Fusils
« Reply #14 on: July 08, 2013, 04:40:59 PM »
As already mentioned, about anything that could be used for wadding, was, including grass--Audubon, who typically carried a double flint smoothie, mentioned in one article that he used up most of his shirt for wadding on one trek.


Offline James Rogers

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3099
  • James Rogers
    • Fowling Piece
Re: Early Loads for Trade Guns and Fusils
« Reply #16 on: July 08, 2013, 04:42:03 PM »
I observed here a kind of Moss I had never seen before; it grows in great Quantities upon the large Trees, and hangs down 3 or 4 Yards from the Boughs; it gives a noble, ancient and hoary Look to the Woods; it is of a whitish green Colour, but when dried, is black like Horse-hair. This the Indians use for wadding their Guns, and making their Couches soft under the Skins of Beasts, which serve them for beds. They use it also for Tinder, striking Fire by flashing the Pans of their Guns into a handful of it, and for all other Uses where old Linnen would be necessary.

Moore, Francis. A Voyage to Georgia, Begun in the Year 1735. London: Jacob Robinson, 1744.

Offline James Rogers

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3099
  • James Rogers
    • Fowling Piece
Re: Early Loads for Trade Guns and Fusils
« Reply #17 on: July 08, 2013, 05:00:04 PM »
We have now to speak of another species of wadding, which has novelty, at least, to recommend it ; but, in truth, it may be preferred to hat-wadding, for the principles of that equally apply to this, and it possesses one great advantage in the circumstance of not fouling the barrel so much as the other. The wadding to which we allude, is made of the cloth called fear-naught, or shepherd's cloth, which is very generally known, fitted to the bore of the piece by a punch ; but it must not be dyed, for the acid which is said to set the colour, will rust the inside of the barrel immediately in contact with it, and especially if the gun is laid by charged.
The Sporting Magazine October 1793

TickLick

  • Guest
Re: Early Loads for Trade Guns and Fusils
« Reply #18 on: July 08, 2013, 07:05:13 PM »
Thank you, that's all very interesting.  I guess just common sense and a little experience, not to mention what was available, provided the necessary wadding.

Offline Daryl

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 14820
Re: Early Loads for Trade Guns and Fusils
« Reply #19 on: July 08, 2013, 11:38:14 PM »
Doug M. the Brown Bess X-ray of wadding with the buck and ball load could quite likely have been from the paper ctg. itself.
« Last Edit: July 08, 2013, 11:38:28 PM by Daryl »
Daryl

"a gun without hammers is like a spaniel without ears" King George V