Of all the types of individual firearms of eighteenth-century America, the musket was by far the most important. It was the workhorse of the American Revolution. While cavalry and riflemen were spectacular and highly useful in given situations, and artillery offered a handy resource, the major pitched battles were decided by steady lines of infantry armed with the musket.
British muskets provided the bulk of the American armaments at the beginning of the war. Many an American veteran of the previous colonial wars retained his standard issue British musket and brought it with him when he enlisted. Magazines and arsenals in the various colonies contained stockpiles of British arms that had been stored there during the earlier wars. Americans had grown familiar with British weaponry during the colonial period, and it was only natural that the colonies selected British firearms when it came time to outfit their own armies.
There were actually two models of the British musket in use at the time, both known by the soldiers’ nickname “Brown Bess.” The first was officially designated the long land musket, with a 46-inch barrel, which had been adopted during the reign of George I. It is often called the first model Brown Bess. The second model known as the short land musket, featuring a 42-inch barrel, was introduced about 1740. Although the first “Brown Bess” officially superceded the long musket around 1765, both models were widely used during the War of Independence.
These muskets were .75-caliber arms with handsome brass mountings and brown-finished walnut stocks fastened to the barrels by pins. It was the brown color of these stocks, in fact, that gave the muskets their nickname. Before them, British muskets had their wooden stocks painted black.
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