During the American Revolution, muskets, their attached bayonets, and cannons were the primary weapons supplied. The British Land Patterned muskets, nicknamed “Brown Bess”, were introduced in 1722 and produced into the 1860s. Other weapons were available such as rifles and pistols, but muskets were preferred because they were more convenient due to how quickly they could be fired. Generally, muskets could be fired approx. every fifteen seconds as opposed to rifles that required at least thirty seconds, or more, to reload. Rifles were much more accurate than muskets; it was nearly impossible to hit a target accurately from more than 75 yards away using a musket. Black powder was used to fire the lead bullet, however it leaves a residue in the barrel, affecting the bullets ability to travel in a straight line; this could be overcome by using larger bullets. In order to compensate for its lack of accuracy, the musket came equipped with a bayonet, which the rifle did not have, and proved to be useful in close combat.
When using muskets, certain tactics needed to be employed in order for them to be effective. Typically, the soldiers would stand in a relatively straight line, shoulder to shoulder, and fire in unison to create a volleyed attack; this tactic gave a second line of soldiers time to reload. The premise of the musket was not necessarily to shoot down the enemy, but rather to break up a line of soldiers in order to push through them. Once the line broke, and they were in closer proximity, then the bayonets became very useful.
There are several variations of the musket; however, the musket that is currently on display is an India Pattern Brown Bess musket. This particular variation was in service between 1797 and 1854 although some were in use prior to 1797. It is 139 centimetres long and its width varies between 5 centimetres and 11 centimetres at its widest point. It weighs approximately 10 pounds. It has a steel engraving of the British Crown near the trigger and just left of the crown the word “Tower” is engraved confirming that it is of British military pattern and was assembled at the armouries of the Tower of London. It is manufactured out of wood as well as metal and is still in very good condition. This musket has been in the family of Donald MacDonell since 1784. It is said to have been used in the battle of Culloden by Roderick Roy MacDonell who was the original owner.
originally posted to norwestersandloyalistmuseum.ca on August 1st 2013