musket Sam Meeker takes from his father in my brother Sam
is dead, was a Brown Bess "Long Land" musket with a 46" barrel
length, .75 barrel caliber, and bayonet length of 16"-17".
A skilled soldier could fire three shots per minute with a
musket of this type.
Bess is a nickname of unknown origin for the British Army's
Land Pattern Musket and its derivatives. This musket was used
in the era of the expansion of the British Empire and acquired
a symbolic importance which was at least as significant as
its physical importance. It was in use for over a hundred
years with a good number of incremental changes in its design.
The earliest version was the Long Land Pattern of 1722, 62
inches long (without bayonet) with a 46 inch barrel. It was
later found that shortening the barrel did not lessen its
accuracy and made handling the musket easier. This resulted
in the Militia (or Marine) Pattern of 1756 and the Short Land
Pattern of 1768, both of which had a 42 inch (1,067 mm) barrel.
Other versions included the India Pattern, New Land Pattern
Musket, and Sea Service Musket.
most male citizens of the American Colonies were required
by law to own a musket for militia duty, the Long Land Pattern
was a common firearm in use by both sides at the commencement
of the American Revolution.
of the Brown Bess was, as with most other muskets, poor. The
effective range is often quoted as 80-100 yards but it was
more likely about 50 yards. The combination of the large diameter
of the bullet, the heavy weight of its lead construction and
its unstable aerodynamic shape (a round ball marred by hand
casting) contributed to its low effective range. Though the
large projectile could inflict a great deal of damage when
it did hit its target, military tactics of the period stressed
mass volleys and bayonet charges, instead of individual sniping
due to the inaccuracy of these muskets. The great length of
the weapon, 62 inches long, with a bayonet of 16 to 17 inches,
was advantageous because it allowed longer reach in bayonet
engagements, especially against horsemen. By forming a rectangle
or square with men facing outward with their bayonets, horsemen
could not ride through them.
call it a Brown Bess?
usage of the term "Brown Bess" appears in an April 1771 issue
of the Connecticut Courant, which noted "...but if you are
afraid of the sea, take Brown Bess on your shoulder and march."
This familiar use must indicate widespread use of the term
by that time. The 1785 Dictionary of Vulgar Tongue, a contemporary
work which defined vernacular and slang terms, contained this
entry: "Brown Bess: A soldier's firelock. To hug Brown Bess;
to carry a firelock, or serve as a private soldier."
explanations of the use of the word "Brown" include that it
was a reference to either the color of the walnut stocks or
to the characteristic brown color that was produced by russeting,
an early form of metal treatment. Others argue that mass-produced
weapons of the time were coated in brown varnish on metal
parts as a rust preventative and on wood as a sealer (or in
the case of unscrupulous contractors, to disguise inferior
or non-regulation types of wood). However, the Oxford English
Dictionary notes that "browning" was only introduced in the
early 19th century, well after the term had come into general
the word "Bess" is commonly held to either derive from the
word arquebus or blunderbuss (predecessors of the musket)
or to be a reference to Elizabeth I of England, considered
unlikely as she died more than a century before the introduction
of the weapon. More plausible is that the term Brown Bess
could have been derived from the German words "brawn buss"
or "braun buss", meaning "strong gun" or "brown gun"; King
George I who commissioned its use was from Germany.
how it worked...
is a great photo exhibit of how these guns worked. Be sure
to check out the videos at the bottom of the page: http://science.howstuffworks.com/flintlock2.htm