A rare military relic from the pre-Revolutionary War era is up for grabs at this month’s Morphy Auctions’ popular Collectible Firearms & Militaria event, set for December 13-15, 2022 at Morphy’s Pennsylvania gallery.
Among the 1,632 lots are a ton of vintage powder horns, (52) swords, (48) knives, (31) NFA arms, ammunition, and 259 assorted lots of militaria, ranging from uniforms, medals, and flags to a variety of field gear and equipment. Many “book examples” are featured.
This one caught my eye:
A .67-caliber 1760 British light infantry flintlock carbine!
The key traits of the light infantry fusil of the age are a smaller carbine bore (.65-67 rather than .75 in standard muskets), a 42-inch barrel (vs 46+ on the “Brown Bess”), a slimmed stock with a simplified butt plate, trigger guard, and ramrod pipes, wooden ramrod, a muzzle band rather than a cap, a unique thumb plate, and a carbine lock. These were prized by scouts and skirmishers, particularly in British light infantry units. In other words, the first shots at Lexington and Concord were likely from carbines such as these.
These guns weighed 7-8 pounds compared with the standard 11 lbs of the Long Land Musket.
As described by Morphy:
The fight for American independence comes into sharp focus in Lot 1098, a rare-pattern 1760 British light infantry flintlock carbine. Its distinctive furniture is of a type seen on carbines recovered from French and Indian War sites, e.g., Bushy Run Battlefield, Fort Ligonier, etc. It is also the very same type of carbine that was used by British infantry regiments during the American Revolutionary War, as early as 1771. The example offered by Morphy’s is identical to one shown in DeWitt Bailey’s reference Small Arms of the British Forces in America. In that book, Bailey states that before 1760, a total of 6,589 such carbines had been produced and that by 1776, every British infantry regiment had at least two of the guns in its possession.
While you may know of today’s standard U.S. Army infantry rifles, and those of the 20th Century, how about those present at Lexington and Concord or the line of Springfield muskets from 1795 through 1865? What came after?
A historical society in northern California was told that a planned mock battle with historical significance could not be staged unless the re-enactors used sticks rather than muskets.
CBS13 reported the Elk Grove Historical Society planned a two-day event in April, near the anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord, and hoped to draw 3,000 visitors.
“We would have encampments and all kinds of entertainment for the kids to see,” said Jim Entrican, who participates with the group.
But the city and parks district refused to grant the non-profit a permit, explaining local ordinances were in place against discharging any firearm.
“They actually asked us if we can use wooden sticks, and can you see 12 men in full regalia and another 12 charging with wooden sticks saying ‘Bang bang!’ It just doesn’t have the same effect,” Entrican said.
Washington’s Life Guard, officially dubbed “His Excellency’s Guard,” was authorized 11 March 1776 and was a mixed infantry and cavalry unit of about 200~ men though this fluctuated during the war, swelling to almost 300 in 1780 and shrinking to just 60 or so men by the end of the conflict. Originally drawn from each colonial regiment encamped around Boston, with each unit sending four vol-untold men, it was possibly the first true polyglot formation with soldiers from each of the 13 original colonies.
Originally commanded by Captain Caleb Gibbs, an adjutant of the 14th Massachusetts Continental Regiment, they were drilled by Baron Frederick von Steuben, himself and were the tightest unit in the army– being used as shock troops on more than a few occasions when the chips were down.
After the war, the Guard remained dormant and while just 300 or so men’s names are known to have legitimately served, apparently several thousand aging Yanks in the late 18th and early 19th century made quick boasts in parlors and taverns of being a member of old George’s personal bodyguard– perhaps the original instance of U.S. Army stolen valor.
In 1922, when stationed at Fort Snelling, Minn., the U.S. 3rd Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) –the oldest active duty regiment in the Army, having been first organized as the First American Regiment in 1784– established a Continental Color Guard consisting of two veteran soldiers in the livery of Washington’s old guard. They were popular and remained until the regiment went off to World War II and subsequent disestablishment in Germany in 1946.
Meanwhile in 1926, the Military District of Washington permanently detailed select dismounted horse soldiers from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment (Brave Rifles), then at Fort Meyer, to stand guard at the the tomb of an unidentified American serviceman from World War I interred in the plaza of the new Memorial Amphitheater, thought they did it in standard uniforms of the day.
Then, in 1948, the 3rd Infantry Regiment was reorganized and they assumed the role of the capital’s ceremonial troops from the 3rd Cav, working Arlington, the Tomb and greeting dignitaries (all with a military role in crowd control and protecting from enemy raids and sneak attacks in the event of an outbreak of hostilities).
By the 50s, the Old Guard again had a small contingent of ceremonial color guard who wore the uniforms of Washington’s men.
With the Bicentennial fever sweeping the country in the 1970s, Company A of the Old Guard’s 4th Battalion (recently returned from combat duty in Vietnam), was christened the Commander-in-Chief’s Guard in 1973 and has been pulling that role, wigs and muskets and all, ever since.
The Commander in Chief’s Guard, based at Fort McNair, is patterned after George Washington’s personal guard and has a variety of weapons and uniforms unique to their company. Officers carry an espontoon (half-pike) used as a signalling tool while NCOs carry a halberd. All ranks tote short swords for close combat.
Washington himself in 1777 directed all Continental field officers to arm themselves with espontoons, noting “firearms when made use of with drawing their attention too much from the men; and to be without either, has a very aukward and unofficer like appearance.”
The primary long arm of the unit are replica firing Brown Bess flintlocks with (always) mounted bayonet. All of which involves training.
The uniform for service is the 1784-pattern Army field pattern of the uniform for wear by all infantry consisting of a blue coat faced with a red collar, cuffs and lapels, white buttons and lining, long fitting overalls, and a black tricorn cocked hat with cockade.
The unit’s color guard carries the the U.S. Army Color with 172 campaign streamers, representing every campaign in which the Army has participated while the 3d Infantry Color bears 54 campaign streamers. The guard also carries a recreation of Washington’s own camp flag.
The guard is also the unit who gets roped into the other historical uniform duties, turning out Joes in Union Army blue, Confederate Gray, Doughboys and 101st Airborne paratroopers from 1944 and others for various events and public demonstrations.
Just 66 strong, the unit also has a war and homeland security mission, being trained as the Old Guard’s Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense (CBRN) unit and still completes regular weapon qualifications etc. on standard arms.