The comparison between the iconic Brown Bess British musket of the period and the French Charleville (although it was made in other arsenals besides the one at Charleville) might be interesting to discuss. The Royal Arsenals were at Charleville, Saint-Etienne, Maubeuge, and Tulle. New arsenals for arms production were opened at Mutzig, Versailles, Liege, and Turin as well as one for the production of bayonets at Klingenthal.
The Brown Bess, or more correctly, the Short Land Pattern and Long Land Pattern Muskets, were excellent weapons of .75 caliber that were used in various models from their inception. The Short Land Pattern became the standard during the War of the Revolution in America and the Long Land Pattern went out of production and those already made were no longer issued. The round, or ball, weighed slightly over one ounce.
French military muskets were generally known by their year of manufacture and not the place where they were manufactured. The term 'Charleville' came into usage in the United States as many of them that were sent to the Continental Army were manufactured there. The name more or less stuck with them. The French musket was of .69 caliber-eighteen French balls equaled one pound.
The last Royal Army model of musket was that of 1777. This model was improved and simplified in the System of the Year Nine (1800-1801) and was again improved in the Year Thirteen (1804-1805).
Both muskets were excellent weapons and gave good service during the wars. The Continental Army during the War of the Revolution began with the Brown Bess and after shipments of French muskets were received, the troops preferred the French model even though it fired a smaller ball. The 'Charleville' became the issue musket of the Continental Army. The excellent 1795 model Springfield musket was modeled on, if not a direct copy, of the French model 1777 musket. It saw service as the issue musket during the War of 1812.
The study of French and British small arms of the period also includes fusils, carbines, mousquetons, dragoon muskets, pistols and rifled long arms as well as rifled pistols.
The following publications might be helpful:
Small Arms of the British Forces in America 1664-1815 by De Witt Bailey.
French Military Small Arms by Didier Bianchi.
Springfield Armory Infantry Muskets by Kent Johns.
The Book of the Continental Soldier by Harold Peterson.
French Military Arms and Armor in America by Rene Chartrand.
Engineering the Revolution: Arms and Enlightenment in France, 1763-1815 by Ken Alder.
Also here from the Journal Militaire, how to make a French cartridge
Picard was repeatedly from a fixed rest at a target 1.75m x 3.00m Müller at a representation of a line of cavalry, volley fire by formed infantry. Greener from a rest at target 6 feet by 20 feet Scharnhorst was a company of Grenadiers against a canvas target representing an enemy company. Some analysis of this Prussian data is given by Nafziger “Imperial Bayonets”
And of course a hit on a target would not necessarily result in a hit on a man, straight edged targets are not the same as complex body shapes. Then there in the issue of aiming for the centre of mass. This would mean multiple hits on those mid-ranks, although they would still count as a single casualty, although more likely a fatality. Some of the hits on the target may be ricochets, so will be ‘spent’. Likewise the practice by some soldiers of spilling some of the charge to reduce recoil could also contribute to the ineffectual hits. So not all hits would produce a wound. Some of these will be edge hits. These may graze or be a glancing blow. These may be so minor as not to be recorded as a wound. These factors go some way to explain the differences between trials and real world volleys.
Regarding the accuracy of a Brown Bess musket, this subject is covered at length in Volume 3 of David Harding's Small Arms of the East India Company which is a most comprehensive study on weapons capabilities of this era.
The East India Company infantry were trained and armed in a similar manner to the Crown forces, so although the information mainly relates to East India Company regiments, it is also relevant for British infantry.
The soldiers in these recorded practice sessions stood on their own and fired individual aimed shots at a target six feet tall by two feet wide. The percentage hits at various ranges, which are an average taken from the records of many regiments' target practice over many years, represent the firing of many thousands of rounds:
· At 80 yards, the soldiers hit the target with 31% of the rounds fired.
· At 100 yards, the soldiers hit the target with 25% of the rounds fired.
· At 120 yards, the soldiers hit the target with 19% of the rounds fired.
· At 200 yards, the soldiers hit the target with 8% of the rounds fired.
It should be recognised that the musket and service ammunition is actually more accurate than these figures suggest. These soldiers fired from a standing position with no support, so human error (sighting errors, unsteadiness in holding a heavy musket still, extremely heavy trigger pull on some muskets and flinching after pulling the trigger) would be responsible for much of this inaccuracy. Firing from a fixed rest would produce better results, but these figures represent what the average infantryman was capable of on the practice range with nobody returning fire.
Mark, indeed, and our whole period saw a gradual drift towards mechanisation and standardisation. But the battlefields of the Peninsula or the sub-continent were a long way from the Tower or Whitehall. I suspect there were more local modifications and workarounds than we know about. It’s what makes the study of firearms from this period so fascinating. I particularly like those of the volunteers and yeomanry for example, for whom what rules there were seemed not to apply overly much. Even today, not everyone follows the rules. If anyone wants a spare gas plug or combi tool for an SLR, I know where to put my hands on one!
You make some interesting points regarding patterns and standardisation of firearms of this era.
When arms were in short supply in the 1790s many muskets were purchased from the gun trade which were not subject to the normal inspection process, so some strange variations can be found, although most bought from the trade were of standard form, usually of India Pattern, exactly the same as those bought from the East India Company and those made later for the Board of Ordnance.
Those made for the Board of Ordnance, either built by contractors or assembled in the Tower or at Lewisham would have been standard and no large variation would have been accepted. Therefore all "Type 1 India Patterns", for example, would have been superficially pretty much identical and collectors are correct to assign a pattern name. These muskets were subject to around 12 separate inspections at various stages of manufacture. This included gauging the bore and the lock. I agree that a soldier probably had little appreciation of the variations in pattern and they would all be "Brown Bess" to him, although John Green of the 68th did note the difference when his unit received the New Land Pattern Light Infantry musket (double-sighted muskets with japanned barrels in his terminology).
However, that standardisation did not mean that the parts were interchangeable between different muskets. Quite a bit of tolerance was allowed and the bore size, for example, was anywhere between 0.75" and 0.77". It would not normally be possible to exchange the barrels or locks on separate muskets, nor the components of locks, without some minor or even major modification. The regimental armourer would have been able to sort some of these difficulties in order to repair arms and keep them serviceable, but a common soldier would have been very lucky to find another lock, or even a lock component such as a spring that would fit his musket.
Thank you Mark, very insightful. You illustrate that rather chaotic supply ‘system’ with different regiments having different patterns over time very well. I would add that there was some interchangeability between the major components, ie lock, stock and barrel. Some also received ‘upgrades’ being later fitted with percussion for example. These can produce some “oddities” sometimes dismissed as fakes. They often were not, manufacturers using components they had to hand. What we regard as “standard” might merely be the most common survivors, hardly the most forensic approach. I sometimes think modern collectors are like lepidopterists cataloging butterflies. The “Cambridge Blue” has no idea it’s called that, much less Pseudolycaena Marsyas. It just flies about and thinks about making little butterflies. To the soldier his musket was, well, a musket. The whole use of India Pattern was the adoption of existing items and a design that was already tooled for, even though it was for a private entity (The East India Company). Such was the nature of 18th and 19th century manufacture. Hence the need to have a “sealed pattern” against which the contract was let and the need that Ordnance have a Pattern Room, which is now part of the Royal Armouries in Leeds. The world armorers live in today, with universal documentation, set design specs, commonality of parts etc is largely a late Victorian invention. Even screw threads weren’t standardised until Whitworth. The idea the the Board of Ordnance was some kind of brains trust or sought to be a guiding hand in firearms design would be erroneous. They just wanted to put something that went bang in the hands of troops in the most economical, effective and timely fashion. In some ways, I’m sure that privately they regarded the firearm innovators and inventors as crackpots and the banes of their lives!
The size of a British musket ball during the Napoleonic Wars, according to Adye in "The Bombardier and Pocket Gunner", was 0.68" with a weight of 14.5 to the pound. According to the same work, the powder charge was 6 drams (165 grains) so De Witt Bailey and David Harding are about right.
The ammunition was made into a paper cartridge something like this with the ball at one end and the powder at the other:
It was loaded without taking the ball out of the paper, with the ball uppermost, so although the ball was very undersized compared to the bore of the musket, the paper filled the void to a large extent, centred the ball in the bore and stopped some of the gas escape that would have occurred if the ball had just been rolled down the barrel. After priming, the powder was shaken down the barrel and the rest went in like this (the position of the hand is wrong, but it shows how the cartridge was inserted:
As pointed out by Hans-Karl, the India Pattern musket was the main armament of British infantry during this era. The Long Land Pattern would no longer have been in service although some Short Land Patterns would still have been in use at the start of the era, although by the Peninsular War it is debatable whether any remained.
The New Land Pattern musket, made in limited numbers from the early 1800s, was issued to the Foot Guard Regiments and the 4th Regiment. The similar New Land Light Infantry musket was issued to the 43rd, 51st, 52nd, some battalions of the 60th, 68th, 71st and 85th regiments.
Here is a comparison of the some muskets of this era, which give a good indication of the different lengths, from top to bottom:
British India Pattern Type 1
British India Pattern Type 2
British New Land Pattern
British Short Land Pattern
French M1777 ANIX
There was another Pattern made during this era, referred to as the Duke of Richmond Musket. This had been designed just before the French Revolution and had a very advanced lock, with all the components enclosed inside. Several thousand were made but the complicated mechanism resulted in very slow production and this this pattern was soon dropped. This musket was a smaller calibre, around 0.73", but still used the same ammunition having a heavier ramrod to make loading a fouled barrel easier. This musket was issued to the 43rd and 52nd Regiments on their conversion to Light Infantry but was found to be "defective" (probably due to the smaller calibre making loading difficult) and they were re-issued with the New Land Pattern Light Infantry musket in 1806.
Duke of Richmond Musket:
I am not looking for a uniform introduction, more or less for a guideline, there all muskets were still hand made, variations are numerous, but for that reason, there must have been a sort of common diameter for a ball - it won't be of any use of the infantry when they had to find out that the ball would not fit into the barrel, that was one of the reasons that the French went from 18 to a pound to 20 to a poid de marc ball - which decreased diameter - made loading and fitting easier.
One of my main sources is an article by
De Witt Bailey and David Harding : From India to Waterloo : The "India Pattern"Musket pp. 48 - 57
The Road to Waterloo - The British Army and the Struggle against Revolutionary and Napoleonic Franc, 1793 - 1815, a National Army Museum Publication Edited by Alan J Guy, London 1990
in case I converted correctly (sorry Imperial measurements are of no use to me) it is a barrel diameter of 19.3 mm - the diameter of the ball 17.6 mm - the powder charge 6 drams - 10.62 g.
What I could find out and published was that 14 balls were cast from one pound of lead and the weight was 32.4 g per ball.
My other main source - Darling, A.D. : Red Coat and Brown Bess, Museum Restoration Service Series, 8th edition, Bloomfield, Canada 1987 - states 6 - 8 drams for the powder charge.
Haythornthwaite , P : Weapons & Equipment of the Napoleonic Wars, Poole, 1979 gives 18 mm diameter for the ball, which I find not that plausible and I would agree with Baily & Harding.
Thanks again, any information on the ball, weight, diameter - powder charge on the Brown Bess as well, there I have conflicting information about this?