Brown Bess'es used by Butler's Rangers during Rev' War

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Posted by Champ on February 15, 2000 at 04:58:59:

From the Butler's Rangers website:

"The British issued four (4) versions of the Brown Bess during the Revolutionary period in North America: the Long-Land Musket, and three variants of the Short-Land Musket. These were smooth-bore flintlock muskets.

By the Revolution, British muskets were fitted with a firing action called a "flintlock." It had been designed in the early 1600s, and the Brown Bess was equipped with a flintlock in which a spring-loaded, rotating cock would drive a flint against a frizzen creating a spark which ignited powder in a small priming pan. It resultant flash ignited a main charge in the breech of the barrel through a touchhole.

The Brown Bess was muzzle loaded, heavy, and its length made it unwieldy, It had no rear sight, which is an indication of its accuracy and use. Its ball could carry some 300 yards, but was not very effective beyond 150 yards.

The regular British infantryman was trained to deliver by word of command one shot every fifteen seconds. The musket was not accurate at any great distance, inducing Colonel George Hanger, a Revolutionary veteran, commenting on the performance of the Brown Bess during the Revolution, to write:

A soldier's musket, if not exceedingly ill-bored...will strike the figure of a man at eighty yards; it may even at 100; but a soldier must be very unfortunate indeed who shall be 150 yards, provided that his antagonist aims at him...I do maintain...that no man was ever killed at 200 yards by a common soldier's musket by the person who aimed at him.

Although there are records that the Rangers trained to the regulars' standard, it is unlikely that they ever reached this frequency in combat.

The musket left a significant smoke signature when fired, so that in ambush the location of the soldier was quickly identified. When fired in mass, the smoke could quickly mask the enemy, and this factor was taken into account when soldiers formed up into company and battalion formations.

Rapid, sustained fire would heat the barrel and furniture to a degree that the soldier could not hold the musket with a bare hand. There is historical evidence that soldiers would wrap their hand with a rag, or wear a glove, to prevent burning their fingers and palms.

All versions of the Brown Bess could be fitted with a socket bayonet, but it was not fixed until after firing, as loading would have been very difficult. The basic pattern had a 4" socket and a 17" triangular blade and were mounted on a top barrel stud so that when locked on the blade should always be on the right of the barrel.

Early British muskets carried a variety of markings denoting the manufacturer and ownership. In 1764 the names of contractors and dates of manufacture were ordered dropped from the lock plates and only the word "TOWER" was allowed to be engraved or stamped on muskets. That word is sometimes used in the name of musket. Ownership was designated by the Royal Cypher, "GR", and a broad arrow.

The Brown Bess had a life expectancy of between 12 and 15 years, depending on care and use.

The Long-Land Musket. This pattern was in common used during the French-Indian Wars and the Revolution. It came into use about 1762, and traced its development back to the first models issued in the 1720s.

Length: 61 7/8" Cal: .80 Furniture: Brass
Lock: 6 1/8" x 1 1/4" Tr. Guard 11 1/8" Weight: 10.5 lbs
Barrel: 46" Butt Tang: 5 3/8"

The Short-Land Musket. This was a shorter version of the Long-Land Musket and was in use as early as 1762, and in 1768 was officially adopted as the infantry small arm. Other changes included a flattened side plate, a shorter butt tang, and a straighter lock. There were at least three (3) variants of this model.

Length: 57 3/4"......57 3/4"......58"
Lock: 7" x 1 3/4".....6 7/8" x 1 1/4".....7" x 1 1/4"
Barrel: 42".....41 7/8"......42 1/8"
Calibre: .75 cal......77 cal......78 cal
Tr Guard: 10 3/4".....1l 3/8".....11 3/4"
Butt Tang: 3 3/4".......3 3/4"......3 3/4"
Furniture: Brass.....Brass......Brass
Weight: 10.3 lbs.....10.8 lb......10.0 lbs "

Unfortuantly, I couldnt locate the information about the cut-down Bess, but when I first joined the Rangers, I was informed by their regimental hq (who possess much as of yet unpublished material on the unit) that there were indeed a "few" cut-down muskets, though I also know these were not the normal practice.

Hope this info helps some...


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