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Go Back   Armchair General and HistoryNet >> The Best Forums in History > Historical Events & Eras > American Age of Discovery, Colonization, Revolution, & Expansion > American Revolution

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American Revolution 1763-1789 The birth of a new nation - to commence at the Proclaimation of 1763 to the end of the Articles of Confederation.

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  #16  
Old 01 Feb 10, 02:10
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This subject about rifles and muskets is really interesting me and for the short time that I have read up I offer these few samples.

Col George Hanger, a British officer, became very interested in the American rifle after he witnessed his bugler's horse shot out from under him at a distance, which he measured several times himself, of"full 400 yards", and he learned all he could of the weapon. He writes:

"I have many times asked the American backwoodsman what was the most their best marksmen could do; they have constantly told me that an expert marksman, provided he can draw good & true sight, can hit the head of a man at 200 yards."

Quotations from M.L. Brown's, FIREARMS IN COLONIAL AMERICA
(this from a web site that I can't cite because I copied and pasted the info into a wordpad document and forgot the web address. Sorry

During the war British supplied their soldiers with Brown Bess muskets and most Continentals and militia also used muskets. Washington was aware of the potential of the long rifle (later known as the Kentucky long rifle) and recruited about 1,400 backwood hunters as riflemen and used them as pickets and snipers deployed in the flanks of the regulars. The two most notable use of riflemen using the Kentucky longrifle (also called the Pennsylvania longrifle because the rifles were developed by German immigrants from Pennsylvania ) were at Saratoga and Kings Mountain as you fellas already mentioned. But I have also read that snipers using the Kentucky LR were used to pick off redcoats during the siege of Boston.
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  #17  
Old 01 Feb 10, 07:36
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Gentlemen,
Please keep an open mind. I have a long and exhaustive study sitting on an editor's desk at this moment so I cannot go into the details I wish I could share with you.
I too have done a great deal of shooting with both a Brown Bess and period rifles. I completely agree that 150 yards is within reasonable range of a Rev War period rifle.
However, go much beyond that and you run into serious difficulties. The round ball loses velocity very quickly. It is also very susceptible to cross winds. To shoot at the longer distances one must hold over the target as the ball is going to impact well below the aiming point. Holding a few inches over the target is no big deal. But, holding over several feet introduces enormous problems. One is that you can no longer see the target as it is covered by the barrel of the rifle. Also, if you have to hold over say 3, 6, 12 feet (it can be much more) over the target you now have another problem - you have to first determine the distnace to the target so you'll know how much to hold over...and then you have to determine how high 3,6,12 is above the target so you know where "in the air" to aim. At a rifle range you may know that a berm is 100, 200 or 300 yards away. You can fire and see the ball impact in the dirt and do some "Kentucky windage/elevation" to correct for the drop of the ball. That cannot be done on the battlefield as the rifleman does not know the distance precisely and the rifleman can't see the impact of the ball. The distance to the target and the amount to hold over is critical with very little margin for error when the ball is traveling in a "rainbow" trajectory (think of a mortar as an extreme example). Crosswind is another factor. At 200 yards a 5 mph crosswind can move the ball 18 inches to the side.....which will cause a miss on a man sized target.
As for Murphy. I'll have to leave his story to my article. As soon as it is published I'll certainly let you guys know. I'm think you will enjoy it.
I regret bringing this subject up as my hands are tied and I cannot speak fully. My apologies. Until the article is available I can only ask that you keep an open mind and question exactly what is stated in these long-shot accounts. I cannot say more at this time.
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  #18  
Old 01 Feb 10, 12:20
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This link will provide the story of Timothy Murphy as it is known. I have no claim to its authenticity. I look forward to Hugh's article so I can understand the potential flaws in the story.

http://www.revolutionarywararchives.org/murphy.html

I noticed the website had a story about Patrick Ferguson and George Washington also. Written by a Scottish professor who seems to ignore any reference to Ferguson having a bit of a dark side. Perhaps the website is also forgiving to the story of T. Murphy.

Hugh, I am interested to hear the details of why you think the Murphy incident may be a myth.

Last edited by Elijah; 01 Feb 10 at 13:09..
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Old 01 Feb 10, 16:12
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Ineresting regarding Rifles because there are reports of at least one British officer whose men when ambushed by rifle men are able to break and beat them and say if ambushers had used Muskets his command would have been destroyed.
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  #20  
Old 09 Oct 10, 20:29
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The Tim Murphy Myth

Friends -
Some of you may recall that months ago we discussed the effectiveness of rifles in the Rev War. At that time I mentioned that I (written with historian Jim Jordan) had an article sitting on an editor's desk.
I urge you to seek out a copy of The Journal of Military History, vol. 74, No. 4 (October 2010). I received my copy today. It is available through Ebsco online - although I checked today and it is not yet available. Perhaps your library will get a copy for you through Inter-Library-Loan.
The full title of the article is "The Other Mystery Shot of the American Revolution: Did TimothyMurphy Kill British Brigadier General Simon Fraser at Saratoga?" It is on pages 1037-1045.
I seriously doubt anyone can possibly read the article which reveals the poor research and poor history (endlessly repeated by historians as gospel) which created the myth of Tim Murphy and not question other legendary long range shots. Perhaps, others will investigate the origins of those tales.
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  #21  
Old 09 Oct 10, 22:14
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Thanks for the heads-up Hugh. I just ordered a membership and am looking forward to your article. It sounds like an interesting publication. I will probably enjoy the rest of it as well.
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  #22  
Old 09 Oct 10, 23:02
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I read this a while back and was delighted to find it online. I figured I'd throw my hat into the ring.

http://www.americanrifleman.org/Arti...?id=2455&cid=5
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Old 09 Oct 10, 23:22
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I was astonished that the NRA would publish that article as history. Myths and legends abound. It made me squirm in my chair.
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  #24  
Old 09 Oct 10, 23:46
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hugh View Post
I was astonished that the NRA would publish that article as history. Myths and legends abound. It made me squirm in my chair.
I do agree. I'm sure they are just trying to inflate the myth of the American Rifleman, and get you to buy a rifle. Having never read the sources they cite myself, have you? What are you're thoughts on them? Are they considered reliable?

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Assuming, then, that he survived both disease and cannon shot, the typical soldier who fought in just a few battles could be fairly certain of enjoying a peaceful, pensioned retirement.
↑ That made me laugh.
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Old 10 Oct 10, 09:17
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I presume that the editors of American Rifleman are not historians. It probably never occurred to them that statements of fact need to be substantiated - and properly cited so the reader can look them up and weigh the evidence himself. The article did not cite any sources - just laid it out as gospel. Historians, and we are historians or we wouldn't be here, know that an event can be seen differently by various people. As we try to determine just what happened, and why, we want to get back to the origins as best we can. Secondary sources are great for an overview but when checking the footnotes/sources of these secondary sources if other secondary sources are cited the credibility diminishes quickly. If one tracks the citation from a secondary source to another source...and then one hunts up that secondary source and finds it is citing some other secondary source....how much reliability can we expect? Writers citing other writers.....so where did the original info come from and has it become distored in the "generations" or was it nonsense to begin with. That's what got me started on the hunt for Tim Murphy. Chasing down every fact is obviously extraordinarily time consuming - my Tim Murphy work was a sledgehammer on a gnat approach. No one writing to earn a living could spend that much time or they'd starve to death. Hence, we get "history" books that when looked at closely may not be as authoritative as we would hope.
I don't blame the American Rifleman - they just did what generations of historians have done....printed the story without checking the facts in detail. But, if they checked the facts in detail it would have taken a couple thousand hours of research time.....who can we point to who does that?
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  #26  
Old 10 Oct 10, 09:41
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hugh View Post
I presume that the editors of American Rifleman are not historians. It probably never occurred to them that statements of fact need to be substantiated - and properly cited so the reader can look them up and weigh the evidence himself. The article did not cite any sources - just laid it out as gospel. Historians, and we are historians or we wouldn't be here, know that an event can be seen differently by various people. As we try to determine just what happened, and why, we want to get back to the origins as best we can. Secondary sources are great for an overview but when checking the footnotes/sources of these secondary sources if other secondary sources are cited the credibility diminishes quickly. If one tracks the citation from a secondary source to another source...and then one hunts up that secondary source and finds it is citing some other secondary source....how much reliability can we expect? Writers citing other writers.....so where did the original info come from and has it become distored in the "generations" or was it nonsense to begin with. That's what got me started on the hunt for Tim Murphy. Chasing down every fact is obviously extraordinarily time consuming - my Tim Murphy work was a sledgehammer on a gnat approach. No one writing to earn a living could spend that much time or they'd starve to death. Hence, we get "history" books that when looked at closely may not be as authoritative as we would hope.
I don't blame the American Rifleman - they just did what generations of historians have done....printed the story without checking the facts in detail. But, if they checked the facts in detail it would have taken a couple thousand hours of research time.....who can we point to who does that?
I appreciate you taking the time to reply. I'll take that to heart, and I'll read a bit more critically.
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Old 17 Oct 10, 16:13
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Originally Posted by ONSunset View Post
Looking at the differences between the musket and the rifle used during the war there are differences which at first makde me think the rifle was a better weapon because of it's better accuracy and longer range but the rifle could not use a bayonet, took longer to load than a musket, had a tendency to have gun powder clog barrel and forced the rifleman to take time from shooting to clean the barrel. The use of a bayonet was very important becuase it could be used to intimidate the defender during a charge and could be used when raining while the rifles were useless when wet.

think you need to take it in the context of the times and how wars were fought in those days.

wars were fought with the same tactics that were used back to the days of pikemen and archers... massed men clashing at short range..... the musket and a bayonet charge is just extension of those tactics...

the rifle was the tool of a frontiersman for providing food for his table..
if he brought it with him to fight the Brits, it was because that was what he had..

the muzzleloading rifle didn't become an effective military weapon until the development of the Minie ball...

thats why the American Civil war is such a bloodbath, Napoleonic tactics meeting the rifled musket.
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Old 17 Oct 10, 22:47
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hugh View Post
I presume that the editors of American Rifleman are not historians. It probably never occurred to them that statements of fact need to be substantiated - and properly cited so the reader can look them up and weigh the evidence himself. The article did not cite any sources - just laid it out as gospel. Historians, and we are historians or we wouldn't be here, know that an event can be seen differently by various people. As we try to determine just what happened, and why, we want to get back to the origins as best we can. Secondary sources are great for an overview but when checking the footnotes/sources of these secondary sources if other secondary sources are cited the credibility diminishes quickly. If one tracks the citation from a secondary source to another source...and then one hunts up that secondary source and finds it is citing some other secondary source....how much reliability can we expect? Writers citing other writers.....so where did the original info come from and has it become distored in the "generations" or was it nonsense to begin with. That's what got me started on the hunt for Tim Murphy. Chasing down every fact is obviously extraordinarily time consuming - my Tim Murphy work was a sledgehammer on a gnat approach. No one writing to earn a living could spend that much time or they'd starve to death. Hence, we get "history" books that when looked at closely may not be as authoritative as we would hope.
I don't blame the American Rifleman - they just did what generations of historians have done....printed the story without checking the facts in detail. But, if they checked the facts in detail it would have taken a couple thousand hours of research time.....who can we point to who does that?
So who did shoot Fraser?
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Old 17 Oct 10, 22:57
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So who did shoot Fraser?
Some experts claim it was a man behind a grassy knoll...I am holding out for one of his own men...

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Old 27 Nov 10, 01:56
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I once watched a demonstration of a musket from a Brown Bess where the round almost came out of the weapon traveling sideways. When I questioned why I was told the round bounced as it traveled down the barrel and that many times different munitions factories made ball of differing sizes which during the war contributed to innacuracy.
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