Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Confederate Keen, Walker “Tilting Breech” carbine.

Pittsylvania County, Virginia seems to have been a hot-spot, during the course of the Civil War, for a number of little known Confederate manufactured arms.
Danville was the location of two Confederate arms making companies, Keen, Walker & Company and Read & Watson.
Just a few miles to the north, in Pittsylvania Courthouse, Bilharz, Hall & Company would be established.
Keen, Walker and Bilharz, Hall would both produce limited quantities of unique breechloading carbines.
Read & Watson would spend their energies altering pre-war US made breechloading Hall rifles for Confederate use.

The Keen, Walker “Tilting Breech” carbine was a percussion carbine that had a 22 inch round, .54 caliber iron rifled barrel. From outward appearances, it looks quite similar to the 1st Model Maynard carbine, with a very narrow, flat wood stock, small frame and a round barrel without a forend. The lever that operates the action of the carbine, and doubles as its trigger guard, also has a distinctly “Maynard” like appearance.
The operation of the gun is more like that of the Perry carbine, as lowering the lever tilts the breechblock down in the rear, raising the front of the breechblock and exposing the chamber for loading.   

One has to believe that these characteristics were the influences of which lead to the Keen,Walker design. 

The first delivery of the Keen, Walker & Company Tilting Breech Carbines was on 5/10/1862, 101 of the carbines submitted to the Danville Arsenal. A second delivery of 100 carbines 9/3/1862 and 81 more 9/16/1862. With a production of only 282 of the guns.
The Keen, Walker & Company ceased to exist in 1863.

A Peter White Longrifle

A nice example of the iconic American long rifle built in the shop of Peter White (1777-1834). He is believed to be the son of either Nicholas or John White who were both gunsmiths during the American Revolution.
Peter White was in Emmitsburg, Maryland, in 1800 and was likely a journeyman or apprentice under John Armstrong. By 1807, White was settled in Cumberland Valley Township. In 1819 he advertised that he had begun working in Uniontown “opposite the Market House”.
Though White died in 1834, one or more of his three sons carried on the family trade.
The barrel on this rifle is signed "Peter White", and the lock is signed "White/Peter". The latter indicated White likely crafted his own lock whereas many other gunsmiths and gunmakers of the day purchased imported locks or those made by local lock makers. The lock is also more slender than is often seen. As you can the rifle has standard blade and notch sights and a full length maple stock with mostly engraved brass furniture including the ornate patch box, gorgeous carving on the left side surrounding the cheek piece which has an oval silver inlay, and additional carving at the breech, ahead of the stock flats and behind the ramrod entry pipe.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Battle of Guilford Courthouse

On this day in 1781, the largest, most hotly-contested battle of the Revolutionary War's Southern Campaign was fought at the small North Carolina backcounty hamlet of Guilford Courthouse.

Major General Nathanael Greene, defending the ground at Guilford Courthouse with an army of almost 4,500 American militia and Continentals, was tactically defeated by a smaller British army of about 1,900 veteran regulars and German allies commanded by Lord Charles Cornwallis. After 2 1/2 hours of intense and often brutal fighting, Cornwallis forced his opponent to withdraw from the field. Greene's retreat preserved the strength of his army, but Cornwallis's frail victory was won at the cost of over a quarter of his army.

Cornwallis would later comment, "I never saw such fighting since God made me. The Americans fought like demons."

The battle proved to be the highwater mark of British military operations in the Revolutionary War. Weakened in his campaign against Greene, Cornwallis abandoned his campaign for the Carolinas and would it lead to his at surrender at Yorktown.

"During the crisis of the furious fighting the famed British Foot Guards were embroiled in a close duel with Howard's Marylanders. At the crucial moment William Washington led his force of dragoons through the woods directly into the exposed flank of the Guards who were taken completely by surprise. The confusion created by this brilliant charge helped to allow the Patriots to disengage and survive to fight again". Don Troiani

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

On this date in 1758 the Battle on Snowshoes took place.

A group of about 180 rangers and British Regulars, led by Robert Rogers, were dispatched to scout French positions.
The French commander, at Fort Carillon, had been alerted to their movement, and sent a force consisting mostly of Indians to meet them.
The combatants met in a wooded area near Lake George, in northern New York. 
In fierce fighting, the British troop was decimated, with more than 120 casualties. 
The French believed that Rogers was killed in this action, as he was forced to abandon his regimental jacket, which contained his commission papers, during his escape from the scene.
This battle gave rise to the tale that Rogers escaped capture by sliding 400 feet down a rockface onto the frozen surface of Lake George. That rock is now known as Rogers Rock or Rogers Slide.
The battle was given its name because the British combatants were wearing snowshoes.

Image result for Battle on Snowshoes

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Jacob Dickert Flintlock

From the 1760s to his death in 1822 Jacob Dickert was both a military contractor and a respected Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, gunmaker. 

Dickert was born in Germany in 1740 and arrived in the colonies in 1748 with his parents. He is believed to have made weapons for the Continental Army and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania during the revolution, but his first known contract is dated 1792. 
He owned a gun barrel boring mill a few miles from his gun factory in Manheim Township. He later took his grandson on as an apprentice and then business partner. 
Despite his long career and the large number of rifles he undoubtedly produced, examples of Dickert's work are extremely rare today. This example is signed "J. [faint design] Dickert" on the barrel near the breech. The faint design is likely the crossed tomahawk and arrow touch mark used by Dickert. 
As you can see the patch box is a unique rattlesnake design. A few other rifles of the era are known to employ this motif. 

The Confederate T.W. Cofer Revolvers

Cofer Second Model

We are all aware of the numerous Confederate revolvers made during the Civil War and one of the most interesting is the revolvers made by Thomas W. Cofer.
Cofer’s first introduction to gunsmithing came before the Civil War in the form of an apprenticeship to his cousin, Pembroke Gwaltney, who was already an established gunsmith.
Sometime before 1861, Cofer went into business for himself in Portsmouth, Virginia. The earliest known examples of Cofer-marked guns are shotguns bearing his name on the lockplates that were made prior to the Civil War.

On August 12, 1861, the Confederate Patent Office granted Cofer patent number 9. (one of the first patents delivered by the Confederate States of America) The patent was granted for and relates only to a unique two-piece cylinder. 
Collectors feel that there are only two known examples of his revolvers with the two-piece cylinder. (sorry no pictures)

Cofer’s second model was also a percussion-cartridge revolver but utilized a single-piece "bored through" cylinder for an improved reloadable cartridge.

What is interesting about the second model is that the metallic cartridge was not a rimfire but one featuring a simple brass case with a nipple at the rear for a percussion cap.

Cofer had applied for and had been granted a Confederate Government contract which forced him to be realistic and practical. The complexities of the second model and the urgent needs of war prompted Cofer to concentrate his efforts on producing a standard percussion model. 
This 3rd model is referred to as the "production model" by collectors.
Portsmouth fell to the Union in early May of 1862 and it is believed that only 86 revolvers were delivered and all went to the 5th Virginia Cavalry.

The revolvers copied the solid frame principle of the Whitney model but with a brass frame and spur trigger.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

On this day in 1836 the Alamo fell.

The final assault on the Alamo came before daybreak , as columns of Mexican soldiers emerged from the predawn darkness and headed for the Alamo's walls. Cannon and small arms fire from inside the Alamo beat back several attacks. Regrouping, the Mexicans scaled the walls and rushed into the compound.
Once inside, they turned a captured cannon on the Long Barrack and church, blasting open the barricaded doors. The desperate struggle continued until the defenders were overwhelmed. By sunrise, the battle had ended and Santa Anna entered the Alamo compound to survey the scene of his victory.