LIKE A PAGE OUT OF HISTORY, ARSENAL AT WILLIAMSBURG DISPLAYS ARMS AND ACCOUTERMENTS OF FIRST U.S. SOLDIERS
TODAY'S ARMY RIFLEMAN wears green. This new uniform links the modern citizen soldier with the first defenders of our country's liberties to wear "rifleman green," the militia and regular troops of Colonial America. And today at Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, are soldiers such as once served in the French and Indian Wars, or fought with Major Robert Rogers' Rangers—-that elite, semi-guerilla force almost certainly supplied from the same historic Powder Magazine which stores the Williamsburg troop muskets today.
Garrison musket T long was used against Indians at long ranges. Martial blunderbuss had naval, coaching use. Brown Bess with pipe-claypd sling was regular arrr of "Royal Americans," whose officers carried lighter fusils. Bottom, Dragoon's carbine has sling ring and slide. All are flintlock, all are British m^ds.
Display of Heavy Cavalry pistols of George III period is not just for "effect." Small arms of period in arsenal were actually in such racks. Light Cavalry pistols were same bore but shorter, had only one ramrod ferrule. Locks bear makers' names,
The Powder Magazine, a unique octagon-shaped building which, although much reconstructed, still has parts of the original in it, once held the arms of King George's "Royal First Virginia Regiment." This unit, the first regular regiment of native Americans, is the ancestor of the U. S. Army of today.
The arms they carried have disappeared, lost at Bunker Hill, Ticonderoga, Kings Mountain, Valley Forge. No museum preserves any musket marked "Royal Americans," though they must have had some such property mark. But the reconstructed Williamsburg Magazine contains muskets of the period; full kits of accouterments, and armorer's tools, either original or reconstructed after the original designs. This slice of the past reveals the armament of America's first fighters—the militia and regulars of the Revolution.
Here, also, exciting events took place which touched off the Revolution in Virginia just after the battle of Concord and Lexington. In May of 1775, Governor Dunmore unwisely removed the powder from the magazine one night when most of the city slept, using Royal Marines from a nearby warship to do the job. The citizens objected because the powder was theirs, for their protection.
An excited mob threatened the Governor in his palace. Patrick Henry led militia from Hanover County to force the return of the arms and powder, but the Governor fled the city, never to return.
Modern militia steps out to drum tattoo at Williamsburg Governor's palace as College Company may have done in 1776.
"Col." Dudley Williams wearing gold-trimmed officer's tricorn points to priming pan with paper cartridge. On table is cartridge tying rig.
Visiting GIs learn manual of arms as done two centuries ago. Below, cannon and shot are slushed for yard storage. 3-leg rig is winch for lifting big gun tubes.
From then on, Virginia was free from British rule. But sly old Dunmore, when he left, had his marines rig up a gun trap in the Magazine, and one of the Liberty Boys lost an arm when he entered.
Afterward, several units were equipped from the Magazine: the College Company (students and professors from William & Mary College), the James City County Militia, and a boys' brigade—ages 14 to 17—calling themselves the "Liberty Boys." Led by Henry Nicholson, the Liberty Boys armed themselves with the blue stocked trade muskets, wore buckskin hunting shirts with "Liberty or Death" scrawled across their chests, and deerskin hats.
The Magazine, popularly known as The Power Horn, is one of the most historic structures in America. It symbolizes the right, guaranteed in the Virginia Bill of Rights and later in the Constitution, of the citizen to keep and bear arms. The restored Magazine appears as it did in the days of Colonel George Washington. The building is a three story brick octagon, surrounded by a high wall. Within the courtyard are piles of cannon balls, many of them excavated on the spot, including chain and bar shot as well as "grape." There is a great artillery piece on one side of the yard with all its wedges for elevating the barrel. Behind the Magazine stands a hoist for lifting the cannon barrel and, nearby, a device for sorting cannon balls according to size. In the old days, the spent balls were recovered, sorted and fired back at the enemy. On the ground floor to the rear of the building is the powder room where reproductions of the casks and kegs of powder are on display. In those days the powder was stored in a small keg holding about one hundred pounds, encased in a larger keg which helped keep out the moisture. Also in this room are several small signal guns with brass barrels.
On entering the front door of the Magazine—a massive nail studded one with a huge lock—you can see lead melting pots, shot moulds, musket parts and armorers' tools; for an armorer was kept around to keep the guns in repair.
Each gun part had to be fitted by hand. A number of armorers have worked here, carefully filing the metal and chiseling the stocks for a neat fitting. Perhaps James Anderson, Williamsburg blacksmith, was one of them. Anderson, during the Revolution, was an official gunsmith for the Virginia Committee of Safety. From the armorer's room a central stairway spirals upward to the second floor where most of the firearms are kept in racks along the walls. Today the visitor will not find these racks always full, (Continued on page 58)
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