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Old 11-15-2005, 04:32 PM
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A while back we had a bit of mild disagreement over the importance of the long rifle in the American Revolution. You-quite correctly-pointed out that they were employed in very small numbers compared to the musket. I felt that their impact was out of all proportion to the numbers employed. The account of the British officer below comes from the Battle of New Orleans but I think you will agree that weaponry had changed little in the interval between wars. And it's an interesting read in any case.
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Over sixty years ago in August, 1941, the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association published an article entitled "The Lone Marksman."

British strategy for 1814 called for isolating the New England states a la Burgoyne with one army, sacking Washington with another and a third capturing New Orleans and isolating the interior from commerce. Commanding this last army was Sir Edward Pakenham, who arrived with his Peninsular War veterans on December 13, 1815. Pakenham, along with several of his generals, were killed in this one-sided battle that helped propel Andrew Jackson into the White House. From the battle, we have this account that was previously published by an anonymous British officer who fought there:

"We marched," said this officer, "in solid column in a direct line, upon the American defenses. I belonging to the staff; and as we advanced, we watched through our glasses, the position of the enemy, with that intensity an officer only feels when marching into the jaws of death. It was a strange sight, that breastwork, with the crowds of beings behind, their heads only visible above the line of defense. We could distinctly see the long rifles lying on the works, and the batteries in our front with their great mouths gaping towards us. We could see the position of General Jackson, with his staff around him. But what attracted our attention most was the figure of a tall man standing on the breastworks dressed in linsey-woolsey, with buckskin leggins and a broad-brimmed hat that fell around his face almost concealing his features. He was standing in one of those picturesque graceful attitudes peculiar to those natural men dwelling in forests. The body rested on the left leg and swayed with a curved line upward. The right arm was extended, the hand grasping the rifle near the muzzle, the butt of which rested near the toe of his right foot. With his left hand he raised the rim of his hat from his eyes and seemed gazing intently on our advancing column. The cannon of the enemy had opened up on us and tore through our ranks with dreadful slaughter; but we continued to advance unwavering and cool, as if nothing threatened our program.

'The roar of the cannon had no effect upon the figure before us; he seemed fixed and motionless as a statute. At last he moved, threw back his hat rim over the crown with his left hand, raised his rifle and took aim at our group. At whom had he leveled his piece? But the distance was so great that we looked at each other and smiled. We saw the rifle flash and very rightly conjectured that his aim was in the direction of our party. My right hand companion, as noble a fellow as ever rode at the head of a regiment, fell from his saddle. The hunter paused a few moments without moving the gun from his shoulder. Then he reloaded and resumed his former attitude. Throwing the hat rim over his eyes and again holding it up with the left hand, he fixed his piercing gaze upon us, as if hunting out another victim. Once more, the hat rim was thrown back, and the gun raised to his shoulder. This time we did not smile, but cast our glances at each other, to see which of us must die. When again the rifle flashed another of our party dropped to the earth. There was something most awful in this marching to certain death. The cannon and thousands of musket balls played upon our ranks, we cared not for; for there was a chance of escaping them. Most of us had walked as coolly upon batteries more destructive, without quailing, but to know that every time that rifle was leveled toward us, and its bullet sprang from the barrel, one of us must surely fall; to see it rest, motionless as if poised on a rack, and know, when the hammer came down, that the messenger of death drove unerringly to its goal, to know this, and still march on, was awful.

'I could see nothing but the tall figure standing on the breastworks; he seemed to grow, phantom-like, higher and higher, assuming through the smoke the supernatural appearance of some great spirit of death. Again did he reload and discharge and reload and discharge his rifle with the same unfailing aim, and the same unfailing result; and it was with indescribable pleasure that I beheld, as we marched [towards] the American lines, the sulphorous clouds gathering around us, and shutting that spectral hunter from our gaze.

'We lost the battle, and to my mind, that Kentucky Rifleman contributed more to our defeat than anything else; for which he remained to our sight, our attention was drawn from our duties. And when at last, we became enshrouded in the smoke, the work was completed, we were in utter confusion and unable, in the extremity, to restore order sufficient to make any successful attack. The battle was lost."1
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Old 11-15-2005, 05:14 PM
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Good post Hal.

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Old 11-16-2005, 01:47 AM
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Interesting... so, if I got that right, it was the AIM not the rifle?
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Old 11-16-2005, 04:40 AM
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IT WAS THE RIFLE AND THE SHOOTER, A KENTUCKY LONG RIFLE IN THE HANDS OF AN EXPERT SHOOTER.
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Old 11-16-2005, 07:07 AM
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I found this on the web.

Tactics and Weapons of the
Revolutionary War.



A basic overview of how the weapons of the American Revolution were used and why.

Weapons and tactics are interdependent. When one changes the other changes.


The main weapons of the American Revolution were the muzzleloading flintlock musket, its attached bayonet, and the cannon. Secondary weapons were the rifle and pistol, swords and other cutting weapons. By far, the most common weapon was the smoothbore flintlock musket, of a large caliber, .62 to .75 inch bore, or equal to 16 to 11 gauge shotguns.





A musket has no rifling to spin the ball. It is "smoothbored" and will shoot both ball or shot, or a combination of the two. The firearms of the period used blackpowder. Blackpowder leaves fouling behind when fired. For this reason, the balls used by the military were undersized, so that the troops could quickly seat the next load down the barrel. The British musket, (the Brown Bess), was 75 caliber and they used a 69 caliber ball. The French musket (the Charleyville), supplied to the Americans, was 69 caliber and fired a 65 caliber ball. They were long barreled ( about 42 inches) and could mount a long triangular shaped bayonet on the barrel. The bayonet was an important part of the musket system. The length of the musket, with the long bayonet, was also designed to be used to defend against horsemen. By forming a rectangle or square with men facing outward with their bayonets, horsemen could not ride among them. Cavalrymen were considered the equal of 3 to 5 men on foot, because of their mobility. The bayonet replaced the pike as the means of defending against cavalry, and was the close range weapon.


The armies used paper cartridges to speed the loading process and reduce the risk of loose powder being around sparking guns. A wooden dowel about the diameter of a ball was used as a former to make paper tubes. Into this a ball and the proper amount of black powder was put, and it was sealed.


To load, a soldier opened his cartridge box, grabbed a cartridge, bit off the end to expose the powder, and poured a small amount into the pan of the lock, closed the pan, dropped the cartridge (powder first) into the barrel, removed his rammer, rammed it home, returned his rammer, and then "made ready" to shoot by cocking his lock, and "presenting" or pointing, his piece to the enemy. There were no sights, just the bayonet lug near the muzzle. The soldier just looked down the barrel.


Since the ball is undersized, and the paper cartridge is just dropped into the barrel, the ball might come out spinning as the gases behind it escaped unevenly. It might spin in any direction, and fly like a curve ball or be thrown slightly to any side. After 50 yards it was very hard for a soldier to deliberately hit a man sized target.


To compensate for inaccurate shooting, the men fired volleys, sending a mass of balls toward the enemy, some of which should hit. In order to fire volleys in unison, they formed into units of two or three ranks (lines) deep, shoulder to shoulder. The unit would operate like a machine, lead by an officer (assisted by his non -coms), who would give the orders to load, fire and maneuver. Units could turn their lines, form into columns or squares, advance or turn about at the direction of their officers. Early in the war, the Americans did not have a universal system. Each state or even regiment had their own, making command by generals harder. The Americans also did not practice large unit -Brigade or larger- drills early in the war.


The tactics of the day called for each unit to form next to it's neighbor, forming a line across the battlefield. ( not necessarily a straight line, or an unbroken one.) They would both defend and attack in these formations, which gives them the name of linear tactics.


The tactics were not designed to shoot down the enemy until he gave way, but to break up his organized lines so that your side could then march forward, in cohesive, organized and linear fashion, and charge with the bayonet. A disorganized unit can not stand against an organized bayonet charge. Each unit tried to break the unity of the enemy formation so it could charge with the bayonet. Charged units, if not able to organize themselves, would give way if possible- or die spitted.


Muskets could be fired as fast as every 15 seconds. It took a sense of timing to be able to drive a charge home while the enemy was unable to fire and break up your lines.


Rifles, while much more accurate than muskets, also were loaded much slower. It would take at least 30 seconds, and sometimes a minute or more, to reload a rifle. In that time they were often charged with the bayonet, and since rifles were not equipped with bayonets, riflemen usually had to yield to musketmen.


Early in the war, the Americans had a shortage of bayonets. When France joined the war, they supplied muskets with bayonets, and the other accutrements- uniforms, cartridge boxes, etc, alleviating the Americans shortage of arms and bayonets. The French provided a hundred thousand muskets and bayonets during the war.


Cannon were considered the queens of the battlefield. Infantry unsupported by cannon usually lost if the enemy had cannon. American Militia units were known for not standing up against British units with cannon support, since they rarely had any of their own.


The Muzzleloading cannon used were smoothbores, and smaller than used in later wars. Most were 3, 4 or 6 pound guns, mounted on wooden carriages with large wheels. Some 3 pound guns had iron legs to stand on and were called "grasshoppers". Larger guns of 12 pounds were sometimes used in the field, and even larger guns were mounted in fortifications and ships.



The cannon fired either solid ball, various small shot, or sometimes shells. Shells are a hollow iron ball filled with blackpowder and fitted with a fuse. The shot used could be buckshot, musket balls or grape shot, which are larger iron or lead balls about 1 inch in diameter.


Cannon had a range of several hundred yards. A 3 pounder ranged about 800 yards with solid shot, and 2 hundred yards with grape shot, maximum. At close range, loaded with shot, it could destroy an enemy company.


It is a myth that the Americans won by using cover, while the dumb British stood in the open in ranks to be shot by the hidden Americans. Both sides fought primarily in the open, in formation. When von Stueben took over training at Valley Forge, he put a single standard and methodology into the American army, so they could work better together. They then became a match for the British on the open ground in every respect. The Americans had been hampered by various methods and commands of maneuver, with little large scale drill. Von Stueben changed that, setting a single standard and training the army to use it, and the Americans proved their ability to use these techniques at the Battle of Monmouth. Instead of a regimental way, or state way, there was only the ARMY way. One method, one way to issue the order.


Certainly on occasion the Americans used cover, hiding behind trees and rock walls. The start of the war at Lexington and Concord is a prime example, and the New Jersey Militia, used it well also, both being examples of partisan warfare. Most battles of armies were fought using linear tactics. Even most partizan battles were fought using some form of linear tactics- they would fire volleys, and often stood in lines. Both sides used cover when they could. The slow rate of fire made manuever important, so units fought and moved in lines, even in woods, so they could protect against bayonet charges.
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O Almighty Lord God, who neither slumberest nor sleepest; Protect and assist, we beseech thee, all those who at home or abroad, by land, by sea, or in the air, are serving this country, that they, being armed with thy defence, may be preserved evermore in all perils; and being filled with wisdom and girded with strength, may do their duty to thy honour and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Old 11-16-2005, 07:09 AM
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Here's another

WEAPONS


Weapons were an important part of the Revolutionary War. From the clubs and stones of the cavemen to the atomic bombs and machine guns of World War II they always have been and always will be.

The weapons of the Revolutionary War were not as big or as clumsy as the first cannons and guns. Although some were clumsy, slow and couldn't hope to hit an elephant at three hundred feet they were the best of their day and some of them won us our freedom!

Smoothbores

Most of guns of the Revolutionary War were smoothbore muskets. Smoothbore meant that the barrel or bore was smooth unlike the modern twenty-twos of today. Because they were muzzleloaders (they were loaded from the front end) they were slow to load. The average solider could load and fire once in twenty seconds. The British who trained with live ammunition (at that time no one else did) were able to get a shot in every fifteen seconds. The smoothbore muskets were also heavy compared to today's rifles. They weighed about twenty-five pounds. Accuracy was not something they were known for, at two hundred forty feet one shot didn't have a prayer of hitting a single target. Also one shot in six didn't fire off anyway.

Volley Tactics

There were only two ways of dealing with the problems of smoothbore muskets. The first way was something called Volley Tactics. Volley Tactics was a way of continuous hailing fire at the enemy. The armies used rows of men up to one hundred wide, they had one row fire and allowed the rows behind them to reload. They followed this procedure back to the fourth or fifth row and then looped through it. In theory this allowed the army performing this greater odds of hitting things.

Riffles And Riffling

Riffling was the only other way to deal with the problems of smoothbore muskets. Riffling is a series of spiral grooves cut into the inside of the barrel. Riffling put a spin on the ball being fired out which made it so gravity and other forces wouldn't affect it as much and make it bounce around in the air. Riffles got their name from the riffling grooves that made then so accurate. At around five hundred feet away riffles could still hit a chosen man-sized target. Riffles were still muzzleloaders so they were as slow as the smoothbore muskets. The main thing riffles were for would be to take a small group of men with riffles and go to a camp or battlefield where they would be out of range for the British Brown Bess to fire back. They would pick off the officers until there was total chaos among the British troops. Then everybody else would come in and kill off the rest of the army.

Cannons

Cannons weren't as important as the muskets but they were useful. They were the largest and slowest weapons of the Revolutionary War. They came in all different sizes. The sizes themselves were and still are weight measurements. The size is actually the weight of the cannon ball used. Cannons were smoothbore, they were so because riffling wouldn't grip an iron ball of such size and lead was too heavy, expensive, and impractical. Mainly cannons were on ships due to their size and weight. Some were used on the battlefield and they took about two minutes to clean and reload. After about forty shots the cannons needed at least an hour to cool down or it would only be good melted down into ammunition.

These weapons won us our freedom as much as the men who used them.
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O Almighty Lord God, who neither slumberest nor sleepest; Protect and assist, we beseech thee, all those who at home or abroad, by land, by sea, or in the air, are serving this country, that they, being armed with thy defence, may be preserved evermore in all perils; and being filled with wisdom and girded with strength, may do their duty to thy honour and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Old 11-16-2005, 07:14 AM
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Medal of Honor issued during civil war.

The Civil War

Civil War Recipients of The Congressional Medal of Honor

Early in the Civil War, a medal for individual valor was proposed to General-in-Chief of the Army Winfield Scott. But Scott felt medals smacked of European affectation and killed the idea.

The medal found support in the Navy, however, where it was felt recognition of courage in strife was needed. Public Resolution 82, containing a provision for a Navy medal of valor, was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on December 21, 1861. The medal was "to be bestowed upon such petty officers, seamen, landsmen, and Marines as shall most distinguish themselves by their gallantry and other seamanlike qualities during the present war."

Shortly after this, a resolution similar in wording was introduced on behalf of the Army. Signed into law July 12, 1862, the measure provided for awarding a medal of honor "to such noncommissioned officers and privates as shall most distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action, and other soldierlike qualities, during the present insurrection."

Although it was created for the Civil War, Congress made the Medal of Honor a permanent decoration in 1863. 1,520 Medals were awarded during the Civil War, 1,195 to the Army, 308 to the Navy, 17 to the Marines and 4 to civilians. 25 Medals were awarded posthumously.

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THE ORIGINAL MEDAL OF HONOR

The Navy's Medal of Honor was the first approved and the first designed. The initial work was done by the Philadelphia Mint at the request of Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles. The Mint submitted several designs for consideration, and the one prepared by the Philadelphia firm of William Wilson & Sons was the design selected.

The selected Medal of Honor design consisted of an INVERTED, 5-pointed STAR. On each of the five points was a cluster of LAUREL leaves to represent victory, mixed with a cluster of OAK to represent strength. Surrounding the encircled insignia were 34 stars, equal to the number of stars in the U.S. Flag at the time....one star for each state of the Union including the 11 Confederate states.

Inside the circle of 34 stars were engraved two images. To the right is the image of Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom and war. On her helmet is perched an owl, representing WISDOM. In keeping with the Roman tradition, her left hand holds a bundle of rods and an ax blade, symbolic of authority. The shield in her right hand is the shield of the Union of our states (similar to the shield on our seal and other important emblems.)

Recoiling from Minerva is a man clutching snakes in his hands. He represented DISCORD and the insignia came to be known as "Minerva Repulsing Discord". Taken in the context of the Civil War soldiers and sailors struggling to overcome the discord of the states and preserve the Union, the design was as fitting as it was symbolic.


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NAVY MEDAL OF HONOR (1862)
For all practical intents and purposes, the Navy Medal of Honor remains the same today as it did when it was born. The only change has been in the attachment that connects it to the ribbon, and the ribbon itself. Originally the Navy Medal of Honor was suspended from its red, white and blue ribbon by an anchor wrapped with a length of rope. The reverse side of the Medal was inscribed with the words "Personal Valor" above an open area in which the recipient's name could be engraved.


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ARMY MEDAL OF HONOR (1862)
Struck from the same die as the Navy Medal of Honor, the original Army Medal differed only in the emblem that attached it to the same red, white and blue ribbon as the Navy. Replacing the anchor was an eagle perched on crossed cannon and clutching a saber in its talons. Replacing the words "Personal Valor" on the back of the Medal were the words "The Congress To" with an area to engrave the recipient's name.


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Bernard J. D. Irwin
(1830-1917)
The first recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor,
for whom the New Hospital at Fort Riley, Kansas has been named.


The First Medal of Honor Action
Bernard J.D. Irwin on February 13-14, 1861


Bernard J.D. Irwin wasn't thinking about medals that February morning in 1861...indeed there was no such thing for American soldiers. Instead the Army Surgeon's mind was occupied with concerns for a young Arizona Territory boy and a group of fellow soldiers. Days earlier Cochise and a band of Apache warriors had captured the boy. The 7th Infantry's 2d Lt. George Bascom had immediately pursued with 60 men on a desperate rescue mission. Now word had reached Fort Breckenridge that the greatly superior Apache force had surrounded Bascom and his men and imperiled their own survival.
Accustomed to using his medical skills to save lives, Irwin was determined to now use his military skills to save his comrades. Unfortunately only 14 men could be spared from the garrison, these to be Irwin's rescue party. No horses could be spared for the mission, so Irwin and his 14 soldiers departed Fort Breckinridge on mules. Faced with a trek of 100 miles in the midst of a winter blizzard, the logistics of the mission were as improbable as the possibility of encountering the much larger enemy force, defeating them, and rescuing the captives. None-the-less the Irish-born surgeon was determined to try.

"D-Day" came on February 13, 1861 when Irwin's small rescue party encountered Cochise and his warriors at Apache Pass, Arizona. But it wasn't a battle so much as it was a TACTICAL engagement. With a carefully laid out plan and maximum placement of his 14 men, Irwin succeeded in convincing the Indian warriors that he had arrived with a much larger force, causing them to withdraw. Bascom's 60 men were liberated and joined Irwin and his 14 soldiers. The unified force then pursued Cochise into the mountains where they were able to engage him and rescue the captive boy.

Irwin's heroic rescue occurred almost a year before the Medal of Honor was introduced to the US Congress. Indeed, Irwin himself did not receive the Medal of Honor until January 24, 1894.... more than 50 years later. But his actions the cold mornings of February 13-14, 1861 are recorded in history as the FIRST MEDAL OF HONOR ACTION.

Additional Information can be obtained from:
An Army Hospital: From Dragoons to Rough Riders -- Fort Riley, 1853-1903


Fort Sumter was built on a man made island at the mouth of Charleston Harbor. It was designed to compliment Fort Moultrie, which lay across the shipping channel on Sullivan's Island.

The fort was not quite completed at the start of the war. As war clouds gathered, Major Robert Anderson secretly moved the Federal garrison of Fort Moultrie out to Sumter. He considered Moultrie indefensible from the landward side. The move caused an outcry in Charleston, and South Carolina militia units immediately began emplacing artillery to contest the Federal occupancy on the fort. Firing commenced on April 12, 1861. The Civil War was on.
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O Almighty Lord God, who neither slumberest nor sleepest; Protect and assist, we beseech thee, all those who at home or abroad, by land, by sea, or in the air, are serving this country, that they, being armed with thy defence, may be preserved evermore in all perils; and being filled with wisdom and girded with strength, may do their duty to thy honour and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Old 11-16-2005, 09:50 AM
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Good stuff,Boats.

But there is a bit more than is covered in those articles. Rifles had been around for a long time and small units armed with rifles were fairly standard in European armies and were employed as noted above.

British colonists in what was to become America found themselves in need of weapons that were at once superior hunting tools and more effective in fights with Indians who stubornly refused to fight according to Europian standards. To meet these needs the rifle was refined to the point that it is usually considered to be a weapon unique to the region. It was known variously as the Pennsylvania (where it was usually made)rifle, the Kentucky(where it was normally used)longrifle, the long rifle,or(later)the American rifle. Each was hand made-usually to buyer's specs-and so any discription of what was "standard" must be taken with a grain of salt. In general though it was considerably diferent from European versions in that it was of much smaller caliber with a considerably longer barrel, and was lighter and better balanced with improved sights.

One of the most important innovations was not actually part of the rifle. As has been noted rifles were notoriously slow to load due to bore-sized balls having to be forced down the barrel (often by beating the ramrod with a mallet) against the resistence of the rifling. Development of the lubricated patch (usually linen or thin leather) allowed the use of undersized balls and much faster reloading times without loss of accuracy.

Smaller calibers coupled with longer barrels made for higher velosity with smaller more effecient charges of powder and more shots per pound of lead or powder.

Rifles were much more expensive than muskets and were rarely purchased by those who could get by with less than the best. For frontersmen, however, the best was an absolute necessity as the quality of their weapon directly effected their chances of survival. Such men lived (or died) in intimate daily contact with,and use of,their rifles and either became the best marksmen the world had seen to that point, died, or gave up the lifestyle.

I believe that the idea that colonists fighting from behind rocks and trees is a myth is itself a myth when applied to frontersmen. That is the style of fighting they were used to and prefered, was a big advantage when used against usual British tactics, and it seems altogether unreasonable to suppose they would give that up.

I once ran up on a report that stated that following the battle of New Orleans, nearly 90% of British dead were found to have died as a result of cannon or rifle (not musket) fire.
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Old 11-16-2005, 11:12 AM
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Old 11-16-2005, 04:33 PM
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The terms "Kentucky" and "Pennsylvania" long-rifles is really a misnomer. Most of the rifles made in America before the Rev War were by the Dickert family of both states. They were well known throughout the colonies as the manufacturers of the best rifles around. Like others have stated, they were expensive, probably costing several months income, but well worth the expense. The reputation of American marksmanship spread rapidly to England. There was a letter written by a loyalist to an English newspaper editor telling him to advise any officers being sent to fight the American rebels should settle their affairs before being shipped out because their return would be highly unlikely since they would be the favorite targets of American riflemen.

I have a .50 cal flintlock rifle and a .69 cal French Charleville musket. Both are excellent weapons. The Charleville design was so popular with Americans that the US military adopted it for post-Revolution use, copying it at the federal armories.

The design of the bayonet was also important. Unlike 19th-21st century knife-style bayonets, the 18th century triangular bayonets were called "blood-gutters" because they left a gaping hole rather than a slit. Plus, at 18 inches long, they went damn deep. Most affidavits I've read that were written by Americans during the Rev war stated that they would rather be shot than stabbed by a bayonet. I guess being stabbed was a bit too up-close-and-personal for them.
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