Sunday, October 15, 2017

An Early Abraham Schweitzer Golden Age rifle from the Chambersburg School.

This rifle has been featured in multiple books and articles and is pictured on page 334 of "Kentucky Rifle Patch Boxes and Barrel Marks" by Chandler and page 92 of "Gunsmiths of Adams, Franklin and Cumberland Counties, Pennsylvania" by Whisker. 

Abraham Schweitzer (1769-1831) was active in the Chambersburg area and his rifles display various designs and included designs from the earlier period and other areas including the Lancaster and Emmitsburg Schools.
As you can see it has a horse head finial on the patch box which is also nicely engraved with rococo designs including a C scroll on the patch box door that coordinates well with the carving ahead of the finial and along the left side of the butt ahead, below, and to the rear of the relatively shallow cheek piece. There are also swirl patterns near the ramrod entry pipe and additional rococo designs at the breech. It has a faint lock maker's mark on that appears to read "Ketland & Co." 

Griswold & Gunnison Revolvers

Samuel Griswold was an American industrial pioneer in the 1820s based in central Georgia where he founded the Griswoldville village, an industrial site. Here he created a successful cotton gin factory, in 1830, that quickly became the largest producer of cotton gins in the nation.
At the outbreak of the American Civil War, the Griswold cotton gin factory was leased to the Confederate government and retooled to make pistols and munitions, at the behest of Georgia governor Joseph E. Brown. 

Griswoldville would also served as a mustering site for Confederate and state troops.
The revolver produced at Griswoldville was first called the Griswold and Grier, and later on called the Griswold & Gunnison, after Arvin Nye Gunnison of New Orleans, Griswold's new business partner.

Prior to the partnership, Gunnison had been producing Colt copies in New Orleans prior to the city’s capture in late April 1862. Some historians estimate he had made around 100 revolvers before moving to Griswoldville.

Gunnison Revolver

First Model Griswold & Gunnison revolvers, like the one pictured below, had round barrel housings, the Second Model had octagonal barrel housings. It is thought (?) that the change took place around serial number 1500.

Griswold & Gunnison First Model
Griswold & Gunnison First Model

The revolvers are copies of the Colt 1851 Navy revolver and were made with distinctive brass frames because of the shortage of steel in the South. Also typical of the revolver is a cylinder manufactured from twisted iron instead of steel.
Griswold & Gunnison were the largest Confederate manufacturer of handguns and produced approximately 3700 percussion revolvers between 1862 and 1864.

Griswoldville was destroyed on November 20, 1864, by Captain Frederick S. Ladd and his men of the 9th Michigan Volunteer Cavalry Regiment. The Battle of Griswoldville was the first battle of Sherman's March to the Sea.

Pictured below is a Second Model

Thursday, October 12, 2017

On this date in 1758, the Battle of Fort Ligonier took place.

In 1758 the Forbes expedition methodically constructed a road across the Allegheny Mountains. In early September they reached a place known as Loyal Hannon (near present-day Loyalhanna Township, Pennsylvania). Forbes' advance force, about 1,500 men under the command of Henry Bouquet then began the construction of Fort Ligonier for the purpose of establishing winter quarters. They were subjected to regular harassment by small French and Indian raiding parties sent from Fort Duquesne.

After Fort Duquesne, 
commanded by Fran├žois-Marie Le Marchand de Lignery, had their supply line cut by the British capture of Fort Frontenac, Duquesne fell into dire need of supplies.
Lignery, ordered an attack on the British position in the hopes of weakening the British advance and capturing some of their supplies. He sent out virtually his entire garrison, 440 troupes de la marine and 150 Delaware Indians, under the command of Charles Phillip Aubry. 

As Fort Ligonier was still under construction, the British had men stationed outside to guard supplies and the expedition's animals as they grazed, about 1.5 miles from the fort. These guards, who suffered the brunt of the French and Indian attack, were driven back to the fort along with about 200 provincials sent to help them.

British artillery quickly forced the French and Indians to retreat where they waited for darkness before renewing the attack. An attempt was made to breech one of the fort’s redoubts but again they were repulsed by artillery. The French and Indians remained near the fort through the night, sniping at sentries, probing the defenses, and killing or taking about 200 horses before they withdrew back to Fort Duquesne.
Without further incident work continued on Ligonier, and saw General Forbes' arrival on November 2nd.
On November 24th , Lignery was forced to destroyed Fort Duquesne, and sent his men to other forts to the north and west.

As you can see from today's pictures of Fort Ligonier, it is a must see, when you are in the area.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Battle of King's Mountain

Patriot militia under Colonel William Campbell defeat Loyalist militia under Major Patrick Ferguson at the Battle of King’s Mountain in North Carolina near the border with Blacksburg, South Carolina, on this day in 1780.

Major Ferguson’s force, made up mostly of frontier Loyalists from South Carolina, was the western wing of General Charles Cornwallis’ North Carolina invasion force tasked with protecting Loyalist outposts from attacks by Patriots led by Isaac Shelby, Elijah Clark and Charles McDowell. Ferguson had declared that the Patriots could choose to lay down their arms or see him “lay waste to their country with fire and sword.” Believing they could prevent Ferguson from making good on his threat, 1,000 Patriot militiamen gathered in the Carolina backcountry, including Davy Crockett’s father, John. Learning of the Patriot force from a deserter, Ferguson positioned his Loyalists in defense of a rocky, treeless ridge named King’s Mountain.

The Patriots charged the hillside multiple times, demonstrating lethal marksmanship against the surrounded Loyalists. Unwilling to surrender to a “band of banditti,” Ferguson led a suicidal charge down the mountain and was cut down in a hail of bullets. After his death, some of his men tried to surrender, but they were slaughtered in cold blood by the Patriot frontiersmen, who wanted revenge for British Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton’s cruelty to surrendering prisoners at Waxhaws on the Carolina border on May 29, 1780. The Loyalists suffered 157 killed, 163 wounded and 698 captured, while Campbell’s force suffered just 28 killed and 60 wounded. The Patriot success was the first against the British in the South, and convinced General Cornwallis to stop his march through the territory.

Of the 2,000 men that fought for both sides at the Battle of King’s Mountain, 1,900 were born on American soil. Only Ferguson and 100 of his personally trained Redcoats were Britons.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

The Spencer carbine, as well as the rifle, was one of the most popular firearms of the Civil War even though they would not see issue until the latter part of 1863.

In 1861 Christopher Spencer began his attempts to market his firearm to the government by submitting samples to the trials board at the Washington Navy Yard, after which the Navy Department put in an order for 700 Spencer rifles.

However the view by the Department of War Ordnance Department was that soldiers would waste ammunition by firing too rapidly with repeating rifles, and thus denied a government contract for all such weapons. More accurately, they feared that the armies logistics train would be unable to provide enough ammunition for the soldiers in the field, as they already had grave difficulty bringing up enough ammunition to sustain armies of tens of thousands of men over distances of hundreds of miles. A weapon able to fire several times as fast would require a vastly expanded logistics train and place great strain on the already overburdened railroads and tens of thousands of more mules, wagons, and wagon train guard detachments.

Undaunted, Spencer was able to gain an audience with President Lincoln, who invited him to a shooting match and demonstration of the weapon on the lawn of the White House. Lincoln was impressed with the weapon and after some bureaucratic wrangling the Spencer carbine would be eventually adopted by the Union cavalry in 1963.

At war’s end it is estimated that the government had purchased 95,000 carbines and 11,470 rifles.

Notable early instances of use included the Battle of Hoover's Gap, and the Gettysburg Campaign, where two regiments of the Michigan Brigade (under Brig. Gen. George Armstrong Custer) carried them at the Battle of Hanover and at East Cavalry Field. At the Battle of Nashville, 9,000 mounted infantrymen armed with the Spencer, rode around Gen. Hood's left flank and attacked from the rear.

To expedite the loading process, a Colonel Erastus Blakeslee with the 1st Connecticut Volunteer Cavalry, designed the Blakeslee quick-loading cartridge box which held several loaded magazine tubes that could be quickly inserted in the butt which allowed for rapid reloading. Only 10,000 of these cartridge boxes were manufactured.

The Virginia Manufactory of Arms

Virginia Manufactory of Arms Rifle

On January 23, 1798, the Virginia General Assembly enacted a law authorizing the Governor to establish an armory in the Richmond area. The new armory would be named the Virginia Manufactory of Arms.

Doing so Virginia would be assured by not having to depend upon European or federal arms. Uniformity and quality of weapons could be obtained under the acute eyes of the local government. Also, the monies spent in the arms-making endeavor could be expected to remain in circulation within the state for the benefit of all residents. The Virginia Manufactory and was the first state owned armory to successfully manufacture a complete line of weapons for its militia.

Beginning in 1802 through the end of operations in 1821, the Manufactory produced;

58,000 flintlock muskets
2,000 flintlock rifles
4252 pistols
10,000 swords
300 cannons. 

Model 1797 Musket

2nd Model Virginia Manufactory Cavalry Saber

In 1804, the Manufactory began to dabble in pistol making using burst musket barrels, provided no flaws or other defects existed in the shortened sections. 
Pistol making began in earnest in 1805. The pistols were made in two models.
The 1st Model pistol, above, was produced between 1805- 1811.
The 2nd Model pistol, below, was produced between 1812- 1815.
The first few 1st model pistols had hickory ramrods the balance, had steel ramrods.The 2nd Model using the swivel style.

The Virginia Manufactory closed on December 31, 1821. In 1861 the Confederate Government reopened the armory, where it was known as the Richmond Armory. During the Civil War Virginia’s militia inventory of arms were altered to percussion weapons.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Confederate Sisterdale Dragoon

The provenance and history of this revolver, is dated to its manufacture in 1862 and it was long retained in the family of the Confederate soldier who not only carried it but who helped make it.

The massive 44 cal. dragoon measures over 14" overall with 7-3/4" bbl weighing 4lbs. It has a most unusual, partially external complex mechanism for turning cylinder as can be seen in photo.

Bill Gary in his 1987 text 'Confederate Revolvers' dedicates an entire chapter to this unique survivor of which six were noted to have been made.

 Pictured in 'Lone Star and Double Eagle, Civil War letters of a German-Texas Family', by Minetta Goyne, 1982, pg. 67. A passage dated August 10, 1862, Camp Clark states;

 "Assembled to produce six-shooters for the army on or near the Ernst Kapp farm, not only the Coreth brothers, but at times also Adolph Munzenberger, August Schimmelpfennig, Hermann Kammerling, and a somewhat nebulous character variously called "Wilhelm der Schmidt" or "Schmidt Willem" all were involved in the project. All were under the direction of Alfred Kapp, who had special qualifications resulting from a tour of the eastern United States in 1856-57, during the course of which he had worked at the Colt factory in Hartford".

Together these men produced a number of pistols (six, it is thought) that experts describe as combining certain features of the Colt, the Remington, the Smith and Wesson, and the Rogers and Spencer. Only one is known to exist today. "The engineering excellence among this group of German-Americans in Sisterdale, Texas, was amazing. This particular pistol is among the very finest of any made in the South, with fabulous aesthetics and the overall unique mechanism and horn grips." 


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