Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Civil War era Raphael revolver.

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The Raphael revolver is one of those revolvers that could’a, would’a, should’a depending upon what historian/collector you read. One thing that is for certain is that the revolver’s name came from the broker that imported these revolvers, George Raphael & Company of New York. Their manufacturing and design history are relatively unknown but most feel that they were manufactured in France. Raphael is said to have supplied other French and European revolvers and swords to the Federal Government and was involved with James Richard Haskell in presenting one of the earliest machine guns to the government in 1862

One source stated, According to US records, approximately 106 of these French made, double action, 6-shot revolvers were purchased for US military use on September 21, 1861. 

Another source stated, 1,000 of these large frame double action 11 mm Raphael revolvers were purchased on the commercial market by the Federal Government during the Civil War. Some Raphael revolvers may have been privately purchased by officers during that same time period. It is assumed that the revolvers were manufactured in France. George Raphael was a friend of Abraham Lincoln and he supplied revolvers and swords to the Federal Government.

Quoting a 3rd source, Even the many of the most advanced collections of Civil War handguns are unlikely to have a Raphael in it. It would be equally appropriate in a collection that centered on US or CS handguns, early cartridge guns, or imports arms.

My findings lead me to speculate that Raphael almost certainly imported more than the 106 figure and sold them on the commercial market prior to and/or during the Civil War. Known samples indicate some revolvers may have been privately purchased, perhaps by Confederate agents. The revolver below is stamped CSA, was it done so post war? Maybe a Bannerman special? Who knows? Draw your own conclusions. 

The revolver is famous for very precise machining of their complex mechanism. It fired an early version of a centerfire cartridge that was 11mm (or roughly .42 caliber). The back plate had six holes through which the firing pin on the hammer could contact the primer in the cartridge. They feature a very interesting design with a loading gate on the upper right side. The cylinder and breech plate rotate at the same time when the hammer is cocked, however the cylinder can also be rotated separate from the breech plate when the loading gate is open for loading and unloading. The revolver has a solid open top frame design, dovetailed front blade sight and a dovetailed notch rear sight mounted on the breech end of the barrel and six round cylinder. The usual butt cap lanyard bolt doubles as an ejector rod.


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The Battle of Barren Hill

On May 20, 1778, The Battle of Barren Hill occurred during the American Revolution. British forces from Philadelphia attempt to trap 2,200 Continentals defending Valley Forge led by Marquis de Lafayette. Lafayette, through skillful maneuvering, avoids the entrapment and the destruction of his forces. The encounter takes place at Barren Hill, now known as Lafayette Hill, just northwest of Philadelphia.
Washington had dispatched Lafayette and his men two days before to spy on the British in Philadelphia. The British learned of Lafayette’s mission and intended to surprise, surround and capture the encampment with a force of 7,000 to 8,000 men. Lafayette, in turn, learned of the British plan late on May 19.
Lafayette assigned 500 men and approximately 50 Oneida Indians armed with cannon to face the British onslaught and stand their ground by the local church, while the rest of Lafayette’s forces fled west over the Schuylkill River to safety. 

Before following the Continentals across the Schuylkill it is believed the Oneida warriors harassed the British as they marched back to Philadelphia. 

Marquis de Lafayette

Saturday, May 19, 2018

The Skirmish of The Cedars was a series of military confrontations early in the American Revolutionary War during the Continental Army's invasion of Quebec.

The skirmishes, which involved limited combat, occurred in May 19 and 20, 1776 in and around The Cedars which was a strategic landing point for anyone navigating the Saint Lawrence river to or from Montreal.
Brigadier General Benedict Arnold, commanding the American military garrison at Montreal, had placed a detachment of his troops at The Cedars in April 1776, after receiving rumors of British and Indian military preparations to the west of Montreal.

Continental Army units were opposed by a small number of British troops leading a larger force of Indians (primarily Iroquois), and militia.
The garrison surrendered on May 19 after a confrontation with a combined force of British and Indian troops led by Captain George Forster. American reinforcements on their way to The Cedars were also captured after a brief skirmish on May 20.
Forster’s scouts advised him of Arnold’s approach with a sizable force and all of the captives were eventually released after negotiations between Forster and Arnold.

The terms of the agreement required the Americans to release an equal number of British prisoners. However, the deal was repudiated by Congress, and no British prisoners were freed.

Colonel Timothy Bedel and Lieutenant Isaac Butterfield, leaders of the American force at The Cedars, were court-martialed and cashiered from the Continental Army for their roles in the affair.

Monday, May 14, 2018

The Lewis and Clark journey begins.

On this day in 1804, the Lewis and Clark “Corps of Discovery” with approximately 45 men left Camp River Dubois, at the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, for the American interior.
President Jefferson called the group the Corps of Discovery. It would be led by Jefferson’s secretary, Meriwether Lewis, and Lewis’ friend, William Clark.
Twenty-five hundred dollars had been appropriated to fund the Corps, whose mission was to explore the uncharted West. 
Most of the members were U.S. Army soldiers, chosen for their specific skills such as gunsmithing, hunting, or blacksmithing.

Over the next four years, the Corps would travel thousands of miles, experiencing lands, rivers and peoples that no Americans ever had before.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Confederate Bilharz, Hall ML Carbine

Late 1863/early 1864 the Bilharz, Hall & Company of Pittsylvania Courthouse Virginia received a contract from the Confederate States for a cavalry carbine similar to the Springfield Model 1855 carbine.

Why this particular pattern of musketoon was chosen as the basis for the Bilharz, Hall & Company guns is not known, but the design of the Confederate carbine generally conformed to the overall appearance of its pre-war US counterpart the US M-1855 Springfield, with some minor changes.

The gun was iron mounted with the exception of a *brass nose cap and instead of the conventional carbine sling bar and ring on the stock opposite the lock, a sling ring was secured to the rear of the trigger guard bow. The carbine retained the iron-mounted design with a swivel ramrod, but dispensed with the adjustable rear sight, opting for a simple fixed one. The 22” barrel was .58 caliber, making it compatible with the .577 and .58 ammunition used by most of the Confederate infantry. The Bilharz carbines initially utilized a brass nose cap like their US counterparts, but after about 350 were manufactured the *brass piece was replaced with a pewter nose cap that remained in use through the end of the manufacturing period. It is generally believed that the Confederate War Department agreed to purchase 1,000 of these carbines from Bilharz, and it is believed that between 500 and 750 were finally completed.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

The first American victory of the Revolutionary War, Fort Ticonderoga.

On this date in 1775, Benedict Arnold of Massachusetts joined Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys of Vermont in a dawn attack on Fort Ticonderoga, surprising and capturing the sleeping British garrison. 

The fort, located on Lake Champlain in northeastern New York, served as a key point of access to both Canada and the Hudson River Valley during the French and Indian War. Although it was a small-scale conflict, the Battle of Fort Ticonderoga would give the Continental Army much-needed artillery.  In all, 59 pieces of equipment, which included cannons ranging in size from four to twenty-four pounders, mortars, and howitzers. All to be used in future Continental battles. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Raid on Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

One of the most ignored events during the French & Indian War, is the Expulsion of 11,500 Acadians from the present day Canadian Maritime provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island —an area then known as Acadia. The Acadians were the descendants of of the original French colonists.
As part of the British military campaign against New France the British first deported Acadians to the Thirteen Colonies, and after 1758 transported additional Acadians to Britain and France.

The result of the Expulsion was the devastation of both a primarily civilian population and the economy of the region. Thousands of Acadians died in the expulsions, mainly from diseases and drowning when ships were lost.

Throughout the expulsion, Acadians and the Wabanaki Confederacy continued a guerrilla war against the British in response to British aggression which had been continuous since 1744.

One such event took place on this date in 1756, it was the Raid on Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.

Charles Deschamps de Boishébert (also known as Courrier du Bois, Bois Hebert), was a member of the Compagnies Franches de la Marine and was a significant leader of the Acadian militia's resistance to the Expulsion of the Acadians. He encouraged a militia of the Wabanaki Confederacy (Mi'kmaq and Maliseet) to attack a British settlement at Lunenburg. The native militia also raided two islands on the northern outskirts of the fortified Township of Lunenburg, Rous Island and Payzant Island (present day Covey Island). The Maliseet killed twenty settlers and took five prisoners. This raid was the first of nine the Natives and Acadians would conduct against the peninsula over a three year period during the war.

Boishébert also settled 
refugee Acadians during the Expulsion along the rivers of New Brunswick. At what is now, Beaubears National Park on Beaubears Island.

Charles Deschamps de Boishébert