Monday, July 16, 2018

July 16, 1779, The Battle of Stony Point took place.

 Stony Point is on the eastern bank of the Hudson river and Verplanck's Point on the opposite shore, they were key to the control of the Hudson. 
A British garrison of between 600 and 700 men occupied Stony Point under the command Lieutenant Colonel Henry Johnson.
Stony Point was surrounded by water on three sides. On the mainland side of the point flowed a swampy steam that flooded at high tide and was crossed by one causeway.

Watching the British actions from atop nearby Buckberg Mountain, General George Washington decided to attack utilizing the Continental Army's Corps of Light Infantry. Commanded by Brigadier General Anthony Wayne, 1,300 men would stage a night time attack against Stony Point in three columns. The first, led by Wayne and consisting of around 700 men, would make the main attack against the southern side of the point. This was to be supported by an attack against the northern side by 300 men under Colonel Richard Butler. Major Hardy Murfree was ordered to stage a diversionary attack against the main British defenses with around 150 men. This effort was to precede the flank attacks and serve as signal for their advance.

To ensure surprise, Wayne's and Butler's columns would make the assault with their muskets unloaded and relying solely on the bayonet. Approaching Stony Point, the Americans benefited from heavy clouds which limited the moonlight. As Wayne's men neared the southern flank they found that their line of approach was flooded with two to four feet of water. Wading through the water, they created enough noise to alert the British pickets. As the alarm was raised, Murfree's men began their diversionary attack.

Responding to Murfree's diversion, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Johnson rushed to the landward defenses with six companies from the 17th Regiment of Foot. Wayne’s flanking columns succeeded in overwhelming the British and cutting off those engaging Murfree.

A stunning victory for Wayne, the fighting at Stony Point saw him lose 15 killed and 83 wounded, while British losses totaled 19 killed, 74 wounded, 472 captured, and 58 missing. In addition, a host of stores and fifteen guns were captured. Washington ordered Stony Point abandoned the next day as he lacked the men to fully protect it.


Also on this date in 1812
Soon after the outbreak of the War of 1812, the British forces on St Joseph's Island moved toward the American held Mackinac Island. The British forces consisted of 45 regular soldiers under the command of Captain Roberts plus 180 Canadian Voyageurs from the North West Company and 400 Indians.

On the night of July 16th the British landed at a sheltered cove of the island and the next morning were in position on the hill above the fort with cannon and muskets aimed down into it.

When confronted by the British, Lieutenant Porter Hanks the American commander amazingly uttered "War! What War?" 

Fort Mackinac - Mackinac Island
1798 North Blockhouse at Mackinac

A full month has passed since the United States declared war on Great Britain, but this is the first Lieutenant Hanks has heard of it.

He had never been warned by his own government that they were declaring war. 

Lieutenant Hanks had 61 regular soldiers in the sturdy fort. Hanks had a choice, he could fight to the last man and become a hero or surrender. If it were a matter of facing just the 45 British regulars he might have done that. But he was also facing the Indian warriors whose savagery was said to be without limits, and therefore he may be fighting to not only the last man but the last women and child as well.

The American commander had no choice but to surrender and agree to the British terms, one of which was that his troops be paroled to their homes and not take part in the war until they can be exchanged for British soldiers who have been captured.

The American Government will pay a big price for not warning all their forces that they had declared war. This bloodless battle is also one of the most significant. The news of the capture of Michilimackinac Island will touch off a chain of events that will frustrate the Americans in their attempt to seize British North America, an enterprise that most of them believe to be, in Thomas Jefferson's much quoted phrase, "A mere matter of marching."

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Fifth Pattern Burnside carbine.

On March 25, 1856 Ambrose E. Burnside was awarded patent # 14490 for the .54 caliber breech loading Burnside carbine design. For the next several years the Burnside carbine went through a number of design improvements, mainly in the breech system, until the Fifth Pattern was perfected. The Burnside Rifle Company produced about 44,000 Fifth Pattern carbines from 1861 to 1865.

Roughly 55,500 Burnside carbines of all models were produced and delivered to the US government, making it the 3rd most used carbine model of the Civil War.

The carbine used a unique tapered cartridge with a foil or brass case and was ignited by a traditional percussion cap.

A 1863-64 survey of some 185 US military officers rated the Burnside as follows: 17 – Best, 125 – Good, 12 – Fair, 28 – Poor and it was rated “worthless” by 3 officers. This meant that 77% of those officers surveyed had a positive opinion of the gun.

Some of the cavalry regiments that received the Burnside as part of their supply of small arms were the 1st Michigan, 3rd Indiana, 5th, 6th & 7th Ohio, 3rd West Virginia, 14th & 18th Pennsylvania, 14th & 21st New York and the 2nd, 12th, 14th & 16th Illinois and 4th Wisconsin Cavalry.

John Noll Longrifle.

This slender longrifle is a classic example of John Noll's work and as expected signed "JOHN NOLL" on the top of the barrel. 

John Noll (1747-1824) was a late 18th and early 19th century gunmaker active in Lancaster and Franklin counties in Pennsylvania. 
It has the typical Noll "IN" silver barrel stamp at the breech. 
Joe Kindig, Jr. notes: "John Noll is the only Kentucky rifle maker I know of who used a little silver mark like this. Marks of this type, but usually with a gold background, were often used by European gunsmiths." Kindig also notes: "John Noll was one of the really great master gunsmiths during the Golden Age of the Kentucky rifle. He made beautiful long slender guns." 
As you can see this rifle certainly fits Kindig's description. 
The rifle has the classic blade and notch groove sights nearly always found on these early rifles, a full length maple stock with primarily brass furniture including the engraved patch box, engraved silver escutcheons, and intricate carving especially on the left side of the butt below and to the rear of the cheekpiece. 

Monday, July 9, 2018

On this day in 1755 Braddock's Defeat occurred.

 When news of the defeat at Fort Necessity reached British Prime Minister Thomas Pelham-Holles, Duke of Newcastle, he called for a quick undeclared retaliatory strike against the French.

General Edward Braddock

The British Government sent General Edward Braddock to the colonies as commander in chief of British North American forces. Braddock arrived in Virginia in February 1755 to take command against the French in North America.
Braddock was about sixty, a short, stout, bad-tempered with little experience in action and none of the type of fighting that was in store for him. His rudeness and arrogance made a thoroughly bad impression on the colonials and were to contribute to a jaundiced view of the British officer class. On arrival, however, he received a congratulatory letter from a Virginian lieutenant-colonel of twenty-two named George Washington, who was privately thinking of a career in the British regular army. Braddock soon discovered that Washington knew the wilderness country and took him on his staff as an aide. His first objective was the French Fort Duquesne, deep in the wilderness at the Fork of the Ohio River, where the city of Pittsburgh stands today.
Two regiments of infantry, the 44th and 48th, arrived from England and after some difficult months making preparations and recruiting additional troops locally – with Braddock’s temper almost permanently at boiling point – the army began the march for Fort Duquesne.
The expedition progressed slowly because Braddock considered making a road to Fort Duquesne a priority in order to effectively supply the position he expected to capture. As progress was slow Braddock left about one-third of his force to bring the supply train on behind under Colonel Dunbar of the 48th, while pressing on through forest country with perhaps 1,500 men.

On July 9, 1755, Braddock's men crossed the Monongahela without opposition, about 10 miles south of Fort Duquesne. The advance guard of 300 grenadiers and colonials with two cannon under Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gage began to move ahead. Washington tried to warn him of the flaws in his plan, for example, the French and the Indians fought differently than the open-field style they were using but his efforts were ignored. It would cost Braddock his life for not listening to young Washington.

As Braddock’s advanced guard proceeded through the trees in their red coats they were surprised by an enemy force. Most of them were American Indians, the rest French and Canadians. Fiendish war-whoops sent chills down British spines as the Indians darted down each flank of the British and caught them in a cross-fire, while the French blocked the front.

After an exchange of fire, Gage's advance group fell back. In the narrow confines of the road, they collided with the main body of Braddock's force, which had advanced rapidly when the shots were heard. The entire column dissolved in disorder as the Canadian militiamen and Indians enveloped them and continued to snipe at the British flanks from the woods on the sides of the road. At this time, the French regulars began advancing and began to push the British back.
Following Braddock's example, the officers kept trying to reform units into regular order within the confines of the road, mostly in vain and simply providing targets for their concealed enemy.
Many British officers were killed or put out of action and the men ran for it, colliding with their comrades moving up in support.
After several hours of intense combat, Braddock was shot off his horse, and effective resistance collapsed. 

Colonel Washington put Braddock on a cart and led as many of the British as he could get to listen to him back across the Monongahela.

Washington's first order of business was to get Braddock to safety. Fortunately for Washington, most of the opposing forces chose to loot the battleground rather than pursue Braddock's men across the Monongahela River. Momentarily out of harm's way, Braddock ordered Washington to rally the fleeing troops. As best he could, Washington was able to collect nearly 200 men—an insufficient number to stage a strong counter-attack. With increasing despair, Braddock ordered Washington to locate Colonel Thomas Dunbar and retrieve the men and supplies that were being held in reserve.
Carrying out his assignment, Washington located Dunbar seven miles away. The next day, Braddock and the remainder of the army reached Dunbar's camp and plans began anew to orchestrate a deliberate retreat. Unable to effectively lead, Braddock relinquished command to Dunbar.
Braddock struggled on for another day before dying at night on July 13, 1755.
The following day, Washington fittingly chose a spot along Braddock's road and buried his commanding officer. Fearing that enemy soldiers would attempt to locate Braddock's body, Washington directed the wagon train and foot soldiers to march over the recently disturbed earth to cover any signs of Braddock's recent burial.

"Looking down the old road to the location of Braddock's original burial site."
The French commander Dumas realized the British were utterly defeated, but he did not have enough of a force to continue organized pursuit.

Washington's actions earned him the sobriquet "Hero of the Monongahela", by which he was toasted, and established his fame for some time to come.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

The Confederate Tallassee carbine


The Tallassee carbine is is among the rarest of all Confederate arms. Outside of museums, there are less than ten known.

They were made in Tallassee, Alabama in 1864 with equipment moved from Richmond, Virginia.

The carbine was designed along the lines of the British Enfield pattern 1853 carbine, 58 caliber barrel, which measures 25″ long and was originally finished in the bright and is rifled with 3 broad shallow lands and grooves.

The following information is from the Springfield Museum; “The Confederate Ordnance Department always wanted to headquarter the Ordnance Department safely in the middle of Alabama. Political pressure at the time, however, forced them to stay in Richmond. But by 1864, the political pressure gave way to the realities of war, and Tallassee was chosen to manufacture a carbine modeled after the British Enfield. This was the Confederate Arm officially designed and adopted by a Board of Cavalry Officers in the field. There were approximately 500 carbines manufactured in 1864, with the gunstocks provided by the Macon Arsenal.
Before Federal troops could arrive, the employees destroyed all the gun parts, much of the machinery, and a quantity of the arms. The employees then fled to avoid capture.”

The following is from the Talisi Historical Preservation Society; "Welcome to the history of our gun. Maybe one of the most sought after guns manufactured by the south during the war, because only a very few are known to exist.
On April 28, 1864, as the vulnerability of the armory at Richmond, Virginia had become increasingly alarming, Lt. Col. James A. Burton, superintendent of armories was sent to Tallassee, Alabama, to investigate the possibility of relocating the Richmond Carbine Factory. He arrived on May 28 to find two stone mills operated by Tallassee Falls Manufacturing Company. The old mill which still exist today was the perfect place for the new armory. It was completely isolated from the newer mill and powered by the water coming over the falls of the Great Tallapossa River. The machinery was quickly relocated from Richmond to Tallassee and the manufacture of the rifles was soon begun. Tallassee was a small mill town on the banks of the river and became evident that materials there were in short supply and would have to be shipped in. Times grew harder as the war raged on and the north advanced even further towards the southland. Materials for the construction of these guns became even harder to acquire, but it is known from official records that approximately 500 guns were made. The Union troops were ravaging the South destroying everything in their path. As they moved through Selma, destroying the Arsenal, detachments were sent to destroy the Armory at Tallassee. At least twice they tried to locate it, but either through false information and maybe blind luck the Armory remained unharmed. Knowing of the threat of Union invasion the Armory had been abandoned, taking all the machinery and carbines with them. Now the story truly gets vague. Were the guns buried in the ground, thrown in the river, or melted down? To this day there are many unanswered questions as to the fate of the Tallassee carbines. Only a few have shown up in collections across the country (less than 10 are known to exist). We are still researching this and any information anyone might have would be greatly appreciated....We have purchased this Armory and are trying to restore and preserve it."
 - Talisi Historical Preservation Society, PO Box 780022, Tallassee, Al.

July 8, 1758, the bloodiest battle of the French & Indian War took place near Fort Carillon on Lake Champlain.

The battle, took place primarily on a rise about three-quarters of a mile from the fort itself. A French army of about 3,600 men under General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm and the Chevalier de Levis decisively defeated an overwhelmingly numerically superior force of British troops under General James Abercrombie. The British frontally assaulted a well entrenched French position without using field artillery, the lack of which left the British and its allies vulnerable and allowed the French to win a decisive victory. It was a humiliating defeat for Britain. Some 2,000 British troops had been killed or wounded, including some 350 American troops from New England, French casualties totaled around 350.

American historian Lawrence Gipson wrote of Abercrombie's campaign that "no military campaign was ever launched on American soil that involved a greater number of errors of judgment on the part of those in positions of responsibility".
Many military historians have cited the Battle of Carillon as a classic example of tactical military incompetence.

The Victory of Montcalms Troops at Carillon by Henry Alexander Ogden.JPG
"The Victory of Montcalm's Troops at Carillon" by Henry Alexander Ogden

Thursday, July 5, 2018

July, 5th, 1777, Fort Ticonderoga falls to the British.

A view of Fort Ticonderoga from Mount Defiance. (Flickr | Slabcity Gang)
Fort Ticonderoga from Mount Defiance

Fort Ticonderoga commander Major General Arthur St. Clair retreated from the fort after British cannons were seen on top of the high ground of Mount Defiance and Sugar Loaf Hill both of which commanded the fort.
After capturing Fort Ticonderoga, the British, under Lieutenant General John Burgoyne, pursued the retreating Continental army under St. Clair.
The bulk St. Clair's army retreated through Hubbardton to Castleton, while the rear guard, Patriots commanded by  Colonel Seth Warner, Colonel Ebenezer Francis and Colonel Nathan Hale, stopped at Hubbardton to rest and pick up stragglers.

On July 7, the British and German troops ran into stubborn rebel resistance at Hubbardton, Vermont. The day would ultimately turn the tide for the Patriot cause.  In the fields and hills around Hubbardton, a tenacious American rear guard of about 1,200 derailed the British general’s plan for a quick march to Albany. The British won a tactical victory, but they suffered precious losses. The Patriots left the British and Germans bloodied while also saving untold casualties from their own army. Burgoyne and his weakened force ultimately surrendered at Saratoga on October 17, 1777, paving the way for a French alliance with the colonies and American independence. 

"Battle of Hubbardton" by Roy Frederic Heinrich