mostly without firearms of any kind; about 600 were La Fitte's pirates, armed with cutlasses and pistols; part of them served the 13 cannon , and the rest were for hand-to-hand fighting in case the enemy scaled the breastworks: their influence upon the battle was very small: there were about 500 regulars armed with muskets; at close range they counted for something: and then there were about 500 regulars armed with Model 1800 Rifles, and about 2,100 militia from Kentucky, Tennessee and Louisiana who were the deadly units in that little army.
General Jackson's opponent was General Pack-enham, a leader of experience and fame; his force was estimated to be about 10,000 veterans of many battles. General Packenham did the attacking; General Jackson's riflemen did the shooting that counted; in about three hours the battle was all over except for burying the dead. General Jackson reported that he had lost 6 men killed and 7 wounded. General Packenham wasn't able to report, but his successor reported the loss of 2,100 men actually killed and wounded. Many of the dead were shot accurately in the center of the forehead; scores had two or more bullet holes in the skull; hundreds were literally riddled with bullet holes. Regardless of all side influences, the astonishing casualties were the result of accurate shooting.
It was the first large battle between the smooth bore and the rifle. Europe was amazed at it.
Napoleon, in exile upon Elba, refused to credit the report unless he could see specimens of American sharpshooters, their arms and marksmanship; and several of the victors of New Orleans actually started for Elba to demonstrate their skill. But the Hundred Days came too soon to permit Napoleon to change his musketeers to riflemen. Who can say-?
In the United States, the Kentucky rifle, used by militia as a military weapon, was of great service in the Spanish and the Indian troubles, in the struggle of Texas for freedom, and in the Mexican War. The Kentucky rifle, in flintlock and in percussion lock, from its infancy about 1750 until the time when the muzzle loader was superseded by the breech loader — and that was more than a century later — was ever true to type. No better all-purpose weapon was ever devised for conditions as they used to be.
Authentic data absolutely determining the shooting qualities of Kentucky rifles are now extremely difficult if not impossible to find. But we can safely assume that, although not made by scientists, they were nevertheless short range instruments of great precision.
From their infancy to about 1820 their calibre averaged about .54, for a half ounce ball. From then to the Civil War the small bore " squirrel rifle," using from 90 to 200 balls to the pound, was much in use in rural districts where small game predominated. During the whole period fixed sights were the rule, exceptions being most infrequent.
Because " Kaintucks" were accurate within sporting range — about 100 yards — they were said to shoot pointblank. Consequently, fixed sights and very low trajectory to 100 yards with spherical bullet, meant high rear sight and high velocity. High sight, although it may look low, is easily proved. Fix a Kentucky rifle barrel, with breech pin removed, in a vise, and sight it at the crossing of thin lines at right angles placed 50 yards away. On the vertical line measure up from the crossing, and mark the distance between the axis of the bore and the tip of the front sight. Then sight through the bore and have an attendant spot on the vertical line where the barrel points. The fact that this point is above the spot made to show the height of the front sight proves that the barrel is sighted high.
High velocity (for the kind of projectile), ranging from 1,600 to 2,500 foot seconds, is indicated by the quantity of powder held by the charger for the rifle; and again, and as conclusively, shown by the slow pitch of the rifling, which with low velocity would not shoot even a spherical bullet accurately.
Hence at anything under 100 yards the aim was correct within an inch or so with the same sight; and consequently it made no difference whether the savage peeking over a fallen log, or the squirrel squatting on a branch, was 20, 50, or 90 yards away; if he was truly covered, down he went.
The average backwoodsman used the same charge always, regardless of distance or kind of game, and got to know just what his rifle ought to do at all distances. He knew how much to aim under a small object near him, and how much to aim above a distant one. His rifle was reliable because he never varied the charge.
But an occasional genius proved the rule by making exceptions. It is recorded that our Robin Hood, yclept Dan'l Boone, used to strain his " Old Betsey" occasionally with six fingers of powder in the barrel, thereby getting up a speed to his bullet of about 2,500 feet to the second, and shocking some distant redskin who was making insulting motions from far beyond what he supposed to be rifle range. And, on the other hand, Dan'l, when a prisoner of the Indians, was obliged to practicc economy to the extent of using half of a small powder charge, and half of a bullet cut in two with his hunting-knife, so as to lay by a supply for the days of escape. According to history Daniel brought home the venison just the same.
With the Kentucky rifle the spherical bullet also went out of use. At short ranges its target qualities are up* to the rifle crank's heart's desire; and, also at short ranges, its game-getting qualities far exceed those of the pointed bullet. Not for a minute is the ball advocated as a long range competitor of the sharp pointed bolt shot from a high power modern rifle; but at a hundred yards, or less, or a little more, it has points of superiority. While a small calibre sharp pointed soft nose bullet frequently acts upon live meat like the thrust of a slender dagger, drawing little blood and often producing but little inconvenience, at any rate at the time, on the other hand the stunning blow of the blunt ball, even when wrongly placed, instantly and almost invariably disables either man or beast. It might be well to revive its use.
And why not, in these days of scarce game, and also of interest in target shooting, resurrect also the Kentucky? The sport of archery, a revival or survival of the serious use of the bow and arrow, hasn't half the fascination of rifle shooting, yet has a host of followers. Bows and arrows are mere sticks. But a fine Kentucky is the acme of grace, color, and lavish ornamentation. A high-grade hand-made reproduction of a Kentucky would cost $400 or more. But there is joy in the mere thought of a Kentucky Rifle Club; the fringed, colorful, picturesque clothing of both men and women; the many adjuncts and accoutrements, worn on the person, delightfully mysterious and important looking; the long, slender, flashing, richly inlaid rifles; the nature-setting of meadow, and trees, and sky. Pleasure, wealth, skill and health. V
The eight specimens chosen for illustration represent fairly well the usual forms of butt and the distribution and the average type of ornamentation.
Before 1800 inserts ran less to conventional forms and more to subjects taken from nature, such as moon and stars, animals, birds, fish, etc.
The woodwork of some of these rifles is beautiful in natural figure and enhanced by artificial enrichment. Usually curly maple of close pattern was chosen, and quarter-sawed — or split — so that the sides instead of the ends of the curls should show. In finishing a stock the wood between the curls was charred soft and then rubbed with loose, fine sand, which left the curls slightly in relief. The wood was then dressed with linseed oil stained with alkanet root and darkened with soot. In a couple of days, when the oil had soaked in but not fully dried, the wood was rubbed long and vigorously with buckskin; this rubbed the stain and soot off the high, hard curls and polished the whole of the wood and left it strongly resembling tortoise shell. The final finish was successive coats of bleached shellac rubbed to a high polish. Pioneers with fixed habitation generally owned two or more rifles; the plain service rifle for use against game and savages and not shellacked and not glittering; and the target shooting or elegantly designed rifle which, in the weekly or even more frequent gatherings of such men whose play was with arms, gratified its owner's self-esteem and in his own opinion at least set his social position, or at least'his earning powrer among his fellows. In these show pieces the mottled wrood, plum brown barrel, bright blue lock and trigger, polished brass and silver, made a very pleasing combination. The striping of the ramrod, done with blood, or acid, or heat, added one more touch of the picturesque.
Lengths up to six feet were not uncommon, and occasional specimens over that were made cither for very tall or very short men. For the latter man loading the rifle was almost a ceremony. Setting the rear sight far forward on the barrel was to minimize the blurr which, when that sort of sight is close to the eye, is troublesome to all shooters and particularly so to those beyond middle life. But the position of the rear sight was also partly determined by another consideration; it was usually set nearly above the point of balance of the rifle when loaded, and marked the spot most convenient for picking up the rifle in a hurry.
Two of the rifles illustrated by Plate 1 are now smooth bores. When new they may have been either grooved or smooth. It was necessary in Kentucky rifle days to have such rifles as were in constant use rebored at least once a year. About 1815 to 1820 the rifle had so long been a satisfactory weapon to the backwoodsman he lost sight of what rifling was for and began reverting to the smooth bore. Many a new rifle, and many a rusted barrel, in that period was ordered made smooth in the belief that it would shoot as well as if rifled and save considerable expense in the labor of cutting. Perhaps it is needless to say that ignorance and economy of that sort were of short duration.
In the pages that follow other flint-lock rifles will be described, — the German and New England sporting rifles and the British and American military rifles — which, at one time and another, came into competition with Kentucky rifles and always were " second best." Why? Because the Kentucky barrel was long and burned a large powder charge; heavy for its bullet and caused a minimum of recoil; balanced far forward and kept on the bullseye. Because, using a bullet smaller than the bore and covered with a greased patch, it was loaded easily and quickly compared with other rifles even after becoming considerably foul. Because a Kentucky was an excellent combination target, sporting and military arm having great accuracy, high velocity, low trajectory, maximum shocking power and minimum kick, and other rifles did not possess all of these features. Kentuckies were the first " express " rifles, and better than the later express rifles because the cylindrical bullets of the latter did not give equal results in accuracy.
The Kentucky rifle ultimately developed into the Plains rifle and the Plains rifle into the general* use rifle. The Plains rifle began to be developed during the last of the flint lock period and it reached its maturity, whether made flint lock or cap lock, during the percussion period. The change began in St. Louis in the rival shops of the celebrities, H. Hawkins and H. E. Dimick, and was made to meet the conditions incident to life on horseback.
In the flint lock period there was not much variety in ammunition, owing to lack of ballistical knowledge; and there was not the wealth of varied form and mechanical devices for repetition of fire, that m»
arose with improvements in loading and in ignition. Such improvements were barred by the crudity of exploding the powder by a spark obtained by the friction of (lint and steel. There was, however, some variety among flint lock rifles.
eight kentucky rifles formerly of the hamilton collection. now in the woodmansee collection. courtesy of w. e. hamilton
No. i, Length 63| inches. Length of barrel 47f inches. S. Miller, maker. Curly maple. Brass and silver furniture.
No. 2, Length 59| inches. Length of barrel 43J inches. M. Schull, maker. 80 balls to the pound. Curly maple. Brass and silver furniture.
No. 3, Length 59£ inches. Length of barrel 44 inches. Joseph Golcher, maker. Curly maple. Brass and German silver.
No. 4, Length 57^ inches. Length of barrel 42 inches. J. J. Henry, maker. 90 balls to the pound. Curly maple. Brass and German silver.
No. 5, Length 56^ inches. Length of barrel 41 inches. M. Smith, maker. Wood seems to be cherry. Brass, silver, and silver wire inlay.
No. 6y Length 58f inches. Length of barrel 44 inches. Jacob Rusily, maker. 80 balls to the pound. Curly maple. Solid silver large furniture, silver
and gold small furniture and inlay. Carving and engraving of admirable quality. Three-leaf-gold trimmed rear sight. The lock, bearing the name S. Spangler, is of an early percussion type which sets the date of manufacture in the vicinity of 1830.
No. 7, Length 61 £ inches. Length of barrel 45 inches. J. Bishop, maker. Curly maple. Brass and German silver. 80 balls to the pound. Probably flint lock when new.
No. <?, Length 60£ inches. Length of barrel 44£ inches. W. Barnhart, maker. Curly maple. Brass large furniture. Silver inlay in barrel and 54 silver inserts in the wood. Rather abundant scroll engraving of good quality. 80 balls to the pound. Formerly flint lock.
No. i, Very large Kentucky rifle with special rear sight, funnel-shaped, to give clear definition in target-shooting. Although such a" monster rifle, six feet and half an inch long, may have been the fit companion of a huge backwoodsman of the Blue Ridge Mountains, it is much more probable that it was made for some kccn-cycd, under-sized, five-foot-one, locally famous marksman who bolstered his dignity with purchased inches. Not only was the law of contraries strong in the backwoods, but also humor of a whimsical sort swayed many a man's popularity. The interesting rear sight, adjustable both for wind and distance, undoubtedly is of later make than the rifle. Neither lock nor barrel bears the maker's name.
No. 2, Typical New England flint rifle. Period probably about 1800. New England produced but few sporting rifles in the flint-lock period, and those few almost invariably were, in design, based upon that of the German rifles captured by New Engländers at the Battle of Bennington in the Revolutionary War. Compare with the picture of the German rifle shown on Plate 3, No. 2. From just such an arm the Kentucky was developed in the first half of the 18th Century. The conditions of use in New England were quite different from those of the Middle Atlantic and Southern States; hence the development of the rifle in New England was peculiar to itself, and partook of the nature of the fowling piece as far as possible. The barrel of this rifle is surprisingly thin. The calibre is about .50, with eight narrow, deep grooves having a pitch of one turn in ten feet. The total weight is only 7| pounds; the mountings are of brass and silver, very simply engraved; the patch box opens by pressure on a stud in the butt plate; the sights seem to be copied from those on the German rifle, and are simple and fixed. The maker, Silas Allen of Shrewsbury, Mass., a captain of militia and a gunsmith by trade, lived in the very heart of the region where the captured German rifles were used for the ensuing twenty five or thirty years. The Allen rifle shot a slower ball than a Kentucky and had a far more disconcerting kick.
For fifty years or more the repeating rifle has in America held undisputed reign. Few people of the present generation have ever seen or heard of a double barrel rifle, or even thought that such may formerly have been in common use. Yet such was the case, and great numbers were made and used in America even far back in flint lock days.
In volume 1 of the " Firearms in American History " books the tale is told of a shot from a double barrel flint lock rifle that probably was the most important shot ever fired in the United States; for if that bullet had not hit its mark there would not, in all probability, be any United States. — The double barrel flint lock rifle did not originate in America; in crude form it was a common weapon in central Europe as early as 1700; but during the period of the " Kentucky " rifle it was improved and beautified by American artisans to the very utmost possible in a flint lock arm. Almost invariably the barrels were one over the other, both bored in the same piece of solid iron; there was but one lock for both of them; they were pivoted upon a central axis and after the top one was fired the lower one was turned up. Each barrel had its own sights, conforming to its shooting peculiarities; hence accurate shooting could be obtained. In the flint lock period American gunsmiths very* v^rY rarely attempted the difficult, to them practically impossible feat, of making a satisfactory double barrel rifle by brazing together two separate barrels side by side, with one set of sights for both barrels.
No. J, Double barrel rifle with one lock and barrels that revolve by hand. Weight about ten pounds. Made by J. Hillegas, of Pottsville, Pa. The lock plate with its internal parts and its cock is set in the butt, and the pan and frizzen of each barrel is fixed to the barrel and turns with it to meet the cock. This type of arm was as often made with one barrel smooth-bored so that ball-and-buck, or bird shot, or bullet, could be used in it. Both barrels are bored in one piece of iron. On the further side of the barrels there is a ramrod. In the filigree work around the patch box there is a spot, or place, where the wood beneath has been cut out and a spring and rod set in; strong pressure with the ball of the thumb on that one small spot causes the cover of the patch box to fly open. Of this device there is not the least indication; and there is no other way to get the cover open; the surrounding metal is not held by screws, which could be removed, but is either bedded in place with an adhesive or else is held by blind pins. This secret receptacle is interesting; was it a safety-deposit box for valuables as well as a patch box?
No. 4y Double barrel rifle with two locks and stationary barrels. In this arm the right hand lock is set lower than the left hand one; usually the reverse was the case. The left hand lock, which fires the upper barrel, has its sear connected with the trigger by means of a loose lever extending rearwards in the wood. The color scheme for this rifle is rather attractive; the silver furniture is set in a background of curly wild cherry wood enriched with a stain of alkanct root in linseed oil, and graded, for darkness, by heat from clear wood coals; the locks and triggers when new were blue-black; the barrels were stained plum color by rusting with salt and water, polishing with a scratch brush and washing in a hot, weak solution of bluestone and water; the ramrods, one on each side, are straw color (hickory) vStriped with red-brown. The fitting and finishing of the parts of the rifle show excellent workmanship, but the design of the inlaid ornamentation is amateurish and weak and shows lack of knowledge of the fundamentals of decorative design. This rifle is a rarely good specimen of isolated backwoods effort, because it shows so plainly, by its careful and accurate workmanship and elaborate finery, the love of the maker for his work, and at the same time it shows so plainly that his failure to express his sentiment wras due to lack of culture. The rifle reconstructs the man: plain of face, figure, and the speech of every-day thoughts; kindly, simple, honest and painstaking; shy and repressed in intercourse with his fellows but full, within, of ideals and emotions; a dweller in an isolated and shut-in world where he got nothing from others higher than what he himself developed.
No. 5, Collier revolving breech loading rifle. Tfyis invention had little American use, but was of American origin. Elisha H. Collier, of Boston, Mass., developed this breech-loading multi-shot mechanism, suitable for pistols, smooth-bore guns and rifles, during the latter part of the 1812 War. The country was financially poor then, and the Collier arms were expensive ones to manufacture; so he soon abandoned the idea of marketing them at home and went to England, where he patented his invention in 1818. From then until 1850, when he returned to Boston, they were made extensively in flint lock, pill lock and cap lock. Their use was confined almost without exception to the tropics — India and Africa — where heat and moisture soon reduced them to ruin; this accounts for the few at present in existence.
For the flint-lock period, this arm represented the last word in advancement; it was as good as the system of ignition would permit. The frizzen is a box containing 10 charges of priming powrder, each charge automatically deposited in the flash hole by the movement of the frizzen. In the butt a removable tube contains a store of priming for refilling the magazine of the frizzen. The cylinder contains five chambers (in this rifle; in others from four to eight): the chambers are chamfered at the muzzle and they fit over the rear end of the barrel to make a nearly gas-tight joint. The turning of the cylinder is accomplished by hand; first releasing it by pressure on a stud, then moving it rearward to disconnect it from the barrel, then turning it and moving it forward; in the forward position it is fixed against recoil by an arm with elbow joint. When used with Curtis & Harvey's diamond grain rifle powder — the cleanest and strongest powder contemporary
with the rifle — Collier revolving rifles were nearly free of jams and misfires, were not unduly noisy like the later Colt rifles, and gave satisfaction as regards accuracy and speed of fire.
No. 6, Hall breech loading double barrel rifle. From 1811 to 1816 the Hall system of breech loading was applied to sporting arms — rifles both single and double, shotguns, and a few pistols. The double barrel rifle illustrated contains all the essential breech loading features of the later Model 1819 U. S. army rifles, the only difference being in the precise fonn of the individual parts. Its two barrels are bored in one piece of iron; each has its own set of fixed sights. It is shown with the left chamber raised for loading and the right chamber dropped in position for firing. Its length is 4 feet 10J inches; its weight about 12 pounds. Its probable use was for big game shooting in the wilderness north and east of the town (Yarmouth, Maine), where it was made.
For further data on Hall breech loading rifles, see under Military Rifles, Model 1819.
No. ly Repeating 3-shot rifle with superposed loads. Each of the loads, placed one on top of the other, has its own flash hole. The forward load is of course to be fired first and the others in succession; this is accomplished by sliding the lock forward, along the groove to which it is fixed, for the first shot, and then sliding it back one space at a time.
It registers, to each flash hole, by means of the swinging cover to the flash hole, one end of which engages with a notch to locate the lock and hold it. Repetition of fire by means of superposed loads was tried in each stage of firearms development beginning with matchlock and of course never accomplished successfully because of the impossibility of preventing the occasional firing of rear charges by the forward one. The skeleton butt is removable. No maker's marks. See 4-shot repeating pistol, Vol. 1, page 215 and plate 28. See also the Model 1824 Militia Rifle in this volume, Plate 18, No. 6.
No. 2y Captured German rifle, Revolutionary War period and earlier.
This sort of arm, made perhaps about 1770, belongs primarily in the period treated by Volume 1. But in addition it influenced the design of our Model 1800 military rifle, and also the design of sporting rifles made in New England, where the German jagers and their rifles were captured, even up to the period of percussion arms. Moreover, when Great Britain produced her first army rifles this German rifle was the model used, and its bad points were faithfully reproduced.
For an instrument of death, this rifle, when new, appeared decidedly gay and festive. Its light yellow stock, made of maple, close grained and figured, and tipped with ivory, united rather than contrasted with the bright colors of its polished iron barrel and steel lock and its sparkling brass furniture. And its small size made it seem to users of long " Kain-
tucks " rather like a toy. It was, nevertheless, a hard shooter, although not a very accurate one. Its weight was 7 and £ pounds; its whole length was 44| inches, and the length of its barrel was only 29£ inches. It was intended to shoot a ball of about 19 to the pound (368 grains), loaded bare. The diameter of the ball was .643 of an inch, and as the diameter of the bore plus the depth of two grooves on the opposite ends of a diameter was .635, windage was thus eliminated. In order to get the tight fitting ball to enter the muzzle, the jager carried, dangling from his belt, a short piece of metal rod and a mallet; with these he hammered the ball in a little way. There was also, dangling from his belt, a stout iron ramrod for driving the ball down onto the powder. When the barrel was dirty, and particularly if the atmosphere was dry, all these aids to loading were really quite necessary; and getting the ball seated often required much time and the expenditure of considerable strength and a great many words.
The use of the metal rods and the mallet soon deformed the inner rim of the muzzle; and when that was the case the accuracy of the rifle was but little superior to that of a musket; but the energy of the tight fitting, misshapen bullet was greater.
The simple, fixed sights seem to be set for 100 yards. This was accomplished by making the bore at the muzzle eccentric with the outside rim of the muzzle; and this in turn was accomplished by belling the barrel at the muzzle externally and then filing the top flat to a straight line from breech to muzzle, and seating the muzzle sight into this thin wall.
The pitch of the rifling was one turn in 3 feet; a much quicker spiral than American rifle makers considered necessary, and indicating a moderate powder charge and low speed. There were 8 semicircular grooves, each \\ hundredths of an inch deep. These grooves were cut with fair accuracy but not with accurate spacing, hence the lands were of unequal width. Barring this defect, the quality of workmanship, particularly the external fitting and finish, was high.
The large wooden rod carried in the thimbles was a cleaning rod only. There was a cavity in the butt of the rifle in which to keep spare flints; its cover was of wood, and could be removed by sliding it off, rearwards; it was exactly the same as on wheel lock rifles.
In fact, the only material difference between this rifle and its wheel lock predecessors was in the form of the butt and the kind of lock; there had been no real improvement in German rifles for over 200 years. Exactly this sort of arm came to America with the immigrant German gunmakers about 1700, and served as a basis for the development of the Kentucky rifle. All that our government arms makers could find about it worthy of adoption for our first military rifle was the handiness of its short barrel; a case of reversion to first principles.
The German rifle used a large ball, a relatively small powder charge, and nad, compared with a Kentucky, low velocity, high trajectory, tremendous recoil, limited accurate range, and a far slower rate of fire.
A national sentiment for arms is of inestimable value. It always was, is now, and always will be.
It may be that the clearest presentation of the former American attitude, or sentiment., toward arms can be given best by a story or two, illustrating conditions during an epoch. The first epoch, terminating with the end of the flint lock period, when only about 3 per cent of the population of the United States lived in cities and less than half of the male white population had educational advantages, is treated by the story of "John Metcalf."
"John Metcalf" was a typical rural American of that time. Practicalities, instinct, affection and hate governed, instead of high intelligence. Such as he composed the raw militia who, under a leader with ability to control him, won the extraordinary Battle of New Orleans. And, chips of the same block, were the later pioneers who won the West from uncountable dangerous beasts and worse savages. lie lived in a world-wide age of illiteracy, strong drink, and rough customs. However, merely his sentiment for arms, unshaken by ordeal and passed on to his children, palliates his crudities and sets an example.
John Metcalf, Old-time American Rifleman1
In times of long ago, in the settlement of Way-back, somewhere in New England, there lived a young man whose skill with firearms had wide renown. He lived alone in a one room log cabin in a pleasant clearing on the bank of a small river that formed a highway between scattered settlements; and, had he been asked about his occupation, he would have replied that he was a farmer. But the fruit and the vegetables that he grew in the rich virgin soil of his farm took but a part of his time and furnished even less of his abundance.
• Adapted from one of the author'* stories in " Romances ot a Firearm's Collector."
The surrounding ancient forest contained quantities of game which offered him both sport and food. And, throughout the length and breadth of the country, there were constant shooting matches, where skill brought both glory and substance. With the terrors of the French and Indian War, and the Revolution, still in mind, all Americans held skill with arms in high esteem.
These shooting matches rarely offered prizes in money. Usually the victor won poultry, pork, lamb or beef; sometimes household goods or other merchandise. But whatever the prize was, it could easily be turned into money, and in consequence John Metcalf not only had an abundant larder but also a stocking, hidden under a hearthstone, which bulged with cash.
At the matches held in Wayback and in the country round about, John Metcalf had a close competitor who was as constant as his shadow. The pair of them were rivals also in suing for the hand and heart of the fair Mary Turner, the greatest prize of all. Neither Metcalf nor Chalfin was able to get a decided answer to his suit. The fact was, both of these young men were average typical Americans, each had pleasing qualities not possessed by the other, and both were equally ardent lovers and would make equally good husbands.
As time went by, Chalfin's success as a marksman increased, thereby reducing Metcalfs supremacy, and, worse yet, his earnings, too. The old saying, "It never rains but it pours/' seemed to Metcalf really true, for Rumor, too, brought an additional worry; the gossips professed to know that Mary had told in confidence that perhaps the best man would win.
So Metcalf and Chaliin gave even more thought and care to arms. Chalfin scoured and 44 leaded out " the bore and grooves of his much-worn short and large bore rifle which his father had captured from a German jager at the Battle of Bennington in the Revolutionary War. For patches he tried various materials tougher and thicker than what he had been using, and he had the nearest blacksmith make for him a die to cut the patches all alike. He polished the ancient weapon inside and out; invented a better rear sight; tested all possible combinations of loads for accuracy; and thought about his rifle, which bore the pet name of " Betsey," and its eccentricities, both day and night.
Metcalfs many guns and one rifle all were old and much worn. The best preserved one was a huge Brown Bess; although a smooth bore and probably incapable of being made to be really accurate, it was in the best condition of any to stand experiments. So he trued its bore by careful reaming; after much musing upon the influence of windage upon a loose ball he found by experiment that a wrapping of thick buckskin glued over the ball, if well done, helped a good deal. He sifted and resifted his powder through muslins of different sized meshes to get the grains of uniform size, and measured a large number of charges of powder of similar grain and wrapped them separately for future use.
However, in spite of Metcalf's utmost efforts, his leadership continued to be threatened. His friends chaffed him; and Mary was as coy as usual. Then, one day, he disappeared. A caller found his shutters up, weeds starting in the garden, and the place deserted. Whether or not the fair Mary knew his whereabouts, she kept her own counsel; certainly it was a mystery to all others.
About two months later, an early morning sunbeam, streaming through an open window of Metcalf's cabin, showed John Metcalf upon his bed. Moving along the wall it came upon the polished patch box of a new rifle resting above the fireplace, and lighted the whole room with a myriad of reflections. Metcalf, only half awake, was living over again the adventures of his long journey to Pennsylvania, where were gathered the bulk of all the best rifle-makers of the world. Roused by the glitter, he arose and took down his new treasure. Balancing it, turning it, appreciative of its rich color and beautiful wood-figures, its gracc, its tense, alert, high-bred air, he felt well repaid for the time, effort and money spent.
Thenceforth, at every shooting match, he and his new " Mary Jane " were objects of conspicuous attention. No longer was Chalfm a dangerous rival. Neither a musket, a fowling-piece, nor Chalfin's ancient foreign rifle could hold a candle to " Mary Jane " for fine and regular shooting at the usual range of ten measured rods. The larder of the little cabin overflowed with the bounty of his harvest. In its secret hiding place under the hearthstone, the long woolen stocking, nearly emptied for " Mary Jane," once more bulged to the bursting point with money saved. John Metcalf was famous and on the road to wealth. Wayback honored him with public office. Mindful of the adage " To him who hath shall be given/' he began again to beg his other Mary for the gift of her captious heart and dimpled hand. And, as he shot and won, so he wooed and won.
In those days of long ago when the forest trees grew up to the very borders of the door yards, ready and waiting to be cut and made into timber, it was customary for every new husband to provide his bride with a brand-new home. And it was customary, moreover, and a jolly and well-liked custom, too, for the neighbors to come from far and near, and settle like a swarm of bees and " give the house " — that is, build it.
Mary and her mother went to live temporarily at John's cabin to prepare, with the help of other women who came by the day, the immense amount of food necessary for so large and hearty a gathering. John, meanwhile, had gone with horse and cart to a distant town for a barrel of rum, for the evils of strong drink were not recognized then.
Upon his return with the rum — and the minister, too, in the same vehicle, — the new house was already under way. Gangs of men, all under con trol of Elijah Chalfin, who had been chosen foreman, were at their various tasks. One gang had cleared and leveled the site for the new house, which was to be a three-room addition to the original one, and had almost finished the small cellar. Another gang was felling trees and chopping them into logs; while still another drew them, with oxen, to the site of the building, cut them into lengths, and notched them. So skilful and hardy wrere those old-time axmen that one day sufficed for those preliminaries, and at the end of the second day the house was raised and the roof on.
Then organized labor ceased, and each man applied himself to the making of simple furniture and to such finishing touches as his taste and skill permitted. Whereas, before, there had been liberal feeding and frugal drinking, now the rum barrel was set in the midst and all hands indulged themselves freely.
Songs, jokes, horseplay and tomfoolery reigned supreme. " When rum is in, sense is out/' says the adage. Chalfin's jokes rubbed Metcalf more and more against the grain. Finally Metcalf, not more than half sober, replied in anger, " Dry up, drat ye! Y'aint no good with gun nor gal! " and Chalfin struck him. Instantly there was a rough-and-tumble fight. The tipsy onlookers took sides and cheered and jeered.
Suddenly Chalfin, with a lucky jerk, tore himself free, and ran toward the porch of the new house, where everybody had left their arms. While Met-
calf's friends were dusting him off, Chalfin came back with " Betsey " in one hand and 44 Mary Jane " in the other. A nearly sober ally of Metcalf's assumed charge of the new situation, and, drawing the friends of Metcalf to one side and those of Chalfin to another, formed them into parallel rows only a few feet apart. Between the long rows fifty feet were measured as sufficient for men with nerves in such shaky condition, and the standing places of the duelists were marked with chips of wood. To each principal stepped a second, appointed by the man in charge, who loaded the rifles in the presence of all.
Then the principals, shaky with anger, exertion, and liquor, faced each other, each with his rifle in the hollow of his arm, butt foremost, right hand upon the grip, awaiting the word " Shoot!" " Ready," called the leader, " One, two, three, shoot! " At the word both of the powerful men flung their rifles to a horizontal front with flashing quickness and pressed the triggers instantly. Metcalf's flint fell with a click upon the frizzen but brought no answering spark. From the pan of his opponent's gun camc the warning flash of successful ignition. Metcalf dodged, but, obtuse with liquor, he was not quick enough. The great ball, more than an ounce in weight and three quarters of an inch in diameter, struck him in the ribs with paralyzing force, and the duel was over.
Now that the dreadful deed was done those who had clamored for it were sobered. The victim was a strong and healthy man. He was still alive and conscious. To their anxious enquiries he answered that the best thing that they could do was to bring the bride and the minister.
In his new house, with his bride beside him, John Metcalf lingered between life and death for many days. Fever and pain made him a constant sufferer. Regrets for his rashness saddened his hope for life. Yet no one of them, nor all together, crowded the rifle from his affections. He had it brought to his bedside, and saw that it was properly cleaned and oiled. Then, becoming childish, he asked to have it hung in front of him by cords from the ceiling, where a flood of sunlight, pouring through the open window, showed it brightest of anything in the room.
Hanging there in space, bright against a dark and airy background, graceful, dainty, richly colored, bejewelcd with sparklings from its polished metal furniture, the beautiful rifle awakened hazy, meditative, pleasing mind-pictures.
As he grew stronger, the pictures in his mind became clearer, and one August afternoon when the locusts, singing the harvest song, awakened him, and the cool of approaching dusk revived him, he took Mary's hand in his and told her a little story that he had dreamed.
Mary and he had been wandering quietly among the dim aisles of a strange forest, seeking, without hurry, their home and a new life. They came to the rim of the woods and looked out upon a beautiful, sunny, green glade dotted with islands of verdure.
The breeze, pleasant with odors of flowers and pungent herbs, brought also the purl of running water. They stepped together out into the sunshine and sawr before them a stream which had two branches. Down one of them an Indian was going; he turned, and menaced them. John held up his rifle, and the red man vanished. Up the other came a deer. Again John held up the rifle, but the deer, instead of running away, came to them. Next they discovered a house already built; it was peaceful and homey; flowers grew about it, and busy bees were making honey. From the open door came a troop of children, playing and laughing. The little girls were cute miniatures of Mary, demure and shy as wild things; the little boys carried toy guns and — but here Mary interrupted. H John," said she, " you seem strong in your mind and I guess you have dreamed an omen. I felt bad at first that you thought so much of your rifle when you have me, but it has helped you to get well, and so I don't mind. But, oh! those little boys with guns! The love of guns seems born into you men."
John smiled. " Like best friends," he said gently, 14 sometimes they hurt, but wre stay fond of them. Mary, family, and best friends, is the way of it."
THE PERCUSSION PERIOD Sporting Muzzle and Breech Loading Rifles
In this period interest centers in improvements in firing mechanisms and in advance in the knowledge of the science of exterior ballistics. The latter was due primarily, among civilians, to the increased educational facilities caused by the rapid growth of cities and the consequent multiplication of schools and colleges; among our army officers a desire for scientific accuracy was gained during their four years of hard study as cadets at the West Point Military Academy; the former began in one man's fondness for arms and experiments with arms. His accomplishments were first in date and perhaps also in value as one man's work.
About 1800, in Belhelvie, Scotland, a shooting parson with an inventive turn of mind became greatly interested in the experiments of French chemists to substitute potassium chlorate for potassium nitrate in gunpowder. They were unsuccessful in using one for the other; so his first experiments were along the line of mixing the two for use as a charge in his gun-barrel. Happily his courage was such that he was not deterred by the astonishing consequences from continuing to experiment. While trying detonating powder in the pan of his flint
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