Author Topic: Longrifles as military arms.  (Read 21473 times)


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Re: Longrifles as military arms.
« Reply #50 on: October 08, 2009, 06:10:23 PM »
Dave, thank you for the information on the rifle and other tidbits.  In another thread they mentioned that longrifles also cost from 4-4.5 pounds in the Revolutionary times.  A musket at one pound also answers a lot of questions.  In America the longrifle was mostly a personal arm.  My own conclusions, which are hardly conclusive,  is that rifle owners were likely men more or less settled in their trades or occupations.  Slightly older men for the times.  This is in the more settled areas. A younger man had to get himself established, often with a desire to marry, such that his money was being spent just getting his "estate" together.  Some of the men did not, as I understand it, marry until in their 30's.  Things were a little more mercenary than romantic back then. They may have bought a rifle while getting things together but there were other needs. The "longhunters" looked at a rifle as more of a business investment which was used for gathering skins and furs etc.  It was said that 50-100 deer hides would buy a longrifle.  Makes sense that if you are making money on deer hides (the original term for a "buck") as well as other endeavors,  you would get a good tool for the job and one that is cost efficient. These were men from the less populated areas.   Other firearms were also available, such as English fowlers, at less cost.  That is a reason I have felt that riflemen were not that numerous. Another point I have read is that American riflemen were more familiar with firearms, which I believe.  Europe did not have a hunting society by the 1700's.  The legend of Robin Hood talks of him saving a poacher, which far predates these times.  Even though the Germans and English could arm soldiers with rifles, our riflemen were more used to shooting them.  The "Kentucky" windage and elevation speaks of this as compared to leaf sights on European rifles.  Leaf sights are great on a shooting range where ranges are known but the "instinctive" Kentucky windage might be more effective at guesstimated ranges.  For example you do not usually shoot something at 100 yards even its more like 98 or 111 yards etc.  The general agreement was that our riflemen were more effective at greater distances.



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Re: Longrifles as military arms.
« Reply #51 on: October 08, 2009, 06:24:24 PM »
Again my screen started doing funny things.  One of the problems with researching is ta ht I am not a trained historian so I use what is called secondary research or rely on conclusions of others that have read all the available original manuscripts, etc.  I call it my quick and dirty research.  What one encounters is often contradictory or questionable.  As Dave pointed out about about Ferguson and the "conspiracy nonsense" .  One source said Howe endorsed him another that Howe set him up for failure.  A lot of what you read is written by someone that wants to prove a point so that they look at a specific instance, such as Morgan at Saratoga, and try to play that up.  Morgans crew did contribute significantly, no doubt, but so did Stark, Arnold and Schuyler.  One source on the Baker rifle stated that a rifleman made two 800 yard shots with one, which Dave later pointed out was a little shorter than that.  That is why I enjoy these discussions, because there are those that have different perspectives and have had the time to do more specific study.  That is the fun in these discussions for me, not showing someone up, every one is entitled to their opinion, but satisfying my curiosity.  The study of longrifles is the study of history and their use.  I enjoy the historic discussions as much as shooting and building the rifles.  thank you all.


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Re: Longrifles as military arms.
« Reply #52 on: October 08, 2009, 06:59:01 PM »
Hi Northmn and Gus,
You are very welcome concerning the Ferguson info on the old thread.  That is the beauty of these bulletin boards.  We are all limited by the accounts provided to us by good, bad, amateur, and professional historians.  Even primary sources like diaries are usually biased.  That is why I try to read accounts from different sources that may be contradictory.  Considering all sides (or as many sides as you can) about a topic hopefully leads to reliable knowledge and maybe even "truth".  In the case of technological topics such Ferguson rifles, having a copy to build and shoot really helps to clear the historical mists. That is one benefit we (all of us who build or shoot muzzleloaders) have over historians.  We experience some of the minutia of daily life from the past and if smart and careful enough, can project that experience on to bigger historical issues.  I don't want to belabor this but let me make one more point.  We all tend to want to discover meaning in events but in reality many historical events occurred because of contingency and random happenings (like weather, accidents, poor health etc.).  Again, those of us who at least partially connect to the past through living history or shooting muzzleloaders, sometimes are better able than historians to appreciate how random events may have impacted past lives and thus influenced the decision making that resulted in some major historical event. 

"The main accomplishment of modern economics is to make astrology look good."

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Re: Longrifles as military arms.
« Reply #53 on: October 08, 2009, 10:18:49 PM »
Dave and Northmn,

It's absolutely true that every source document is going to have some kind of bias in it, or it may be just that the person didn't know something that would have made things look differently to him or her. 

I love these discussions as everyone can bring in a piece of the puzzle or a very interesting tidbit someone else may never have heard and it gives us more information to look back and perhaps get a better picture of what happened.

I was extremely interested to read about the cost of muskets vs rifles. 

Back in the 1980's, the people in the gun shop at Colonial Williamsburg said that muskets and fowlers cost about 6 to 8 dollars and rifles cost 9 - 12 dollars for "common rifles" unless the rifle was very highly engraved, decorated and inlaid with semi precious or precious materials and was a special order for a truly rich person.   They also said the average wage of an average person was about a dollar a month.  I assumed they were talking about Spanish Milled Dollars because the time period was such that we would have been using them along with Pounds and some coinage from other countries as well.    However, I don't know for certain if they meant Spanish Milled Dollars as I had a lot of other questions I was much more interested in at the time and didn't think to ask about the rate of exchange or coinage. 

I've been thinking about Northmn's comment on how many casualties were taken by British light troops vs American Riflemen.  I'm sure some of it would have been because our Riflemen were better shots, but I don't think that's the only reasons.  I can think of a few important additional reasons.

As Northmn pointed out, Britain did not have a "hunting society" filled with average men during this time period.  Hunting was usually the activity of the rich while the poor man poached.  I think some of those successful poachers would have given our American Riflemen a run for their money for woodscraft and being sneaky , but certainly not all nor even the majority of them.   Poachers also usually didn't have to contend with hostiles who would steal from or kill them and were often as good as woodcraft (or better) than American Riflemen.  After all, the Native Americans taught woodscraft to European Colonists either directly or "through other means."  When one goes hunting for deer, one has to be sneaky.  When one goes hunting for deer in an area there are hostiles that are hunting the hunter, the hunter had to become pretty darn good to even survive.   I have no original documentation to completely support this, but I'm pretty sure our American Riflemen were better at being sneaky and woodscraft then most British Light Infantrymen.   As such,  that would also account for more casualties of British Light Infantrymen because the Americans could use their strength in tactics. 

I also believe the British weren't looking for just the Hessian Rifles, but the Hessians who knew how to shoot the rifles well.  I don't know how many of the Hessian Jaegers were actually hunters in those years, but at least the core of them were.  Many would not have been hunters in the exact same sense as ours were, but even if you worked for the noble who was going to shoot the game, you had to get him in the right spot and quietly enough so the nobleman could shoot.  You also had to be a good enough shot if the Nobleman missed, that you "finished" the game for him (even when the Nobleman flat out missed by a mile) so the Nobleman could "claim his prize" and more importantly HIRE the Jaeger for more hunting parties in the future.   That's what made them additionally valuable to the British as the Jaegers brought their hunting skills along with their skills at shooting.   

There is also another thing we have to keep in mind about the British Light Troops and that is tactics.   Scouts then as well as "point men" on patrols on the modern battlefield, often take a higher percentage of casualties than other infantrymen.  If nothing else, scouts would often "spring" a trap laid for the forces on his side.   If they opposing force was smart, they would allow the scout to get further in so the trap could be effectively sprung on the force following him, BUT it was in the American Rifleman's best interests to make sure they took out the scout.   Sooner or later the opposing force runs out of experienced scouts that way and the patrols of opposing forces are not going to be nearly as effective.   Light Infantry by design or happenstance also often wound up making first contact with the enemy.  That alone would cause more casualties in their ranks.  If one is attacking a good defensive position held by resolute troops with more or less equal weapons and plenty of ammo - and you don't have significant supporting arms, you normally have to have a 7 to 1 ratio of soldiers to ensure you will take that position.   However, you must count on losing a bunch of soldiers doing it.   The superb example of that was the Battle of Breed's (AKA Bunker) Hill where poorly trained militia men inflicted such grievous casualties on the British attackers until the militia ran out of ammo. It got to the point there that the British didn't really WANT to use more direct assaults on the Americans at Breed's Hill and normally in European Warfare would have flanked or used artillery or cavalry on the American position, but those weren't available.  It also became a point of honor and more importantly for strategy, they couldn't accept a poorly trained militia would beat some of the finest infantrymen in the world.   If the British Army was not feared, they could not be as effective. 

Something I believe the British never really considered as well they aught, was that a new supply of replacement soldiers and supplies were not just across the English Channel as it was on the Continent.   They also didn't look at the Rev War so much as a War like the Patriots did, but a rebellion that they expected to put down like recent earlier rebellions in what is now Scotland and Ireland.