I am getting back into the reenacting hobby, this time representing a private soldier in the Continental Line during the Revolutionary War. My unit, the 1st New Jersey, depicts a Continental Army regiment of the second establishment as it would have appeared in 1777.
My discretionary funds for this diversion are limited, and it will involve some significant purchases. The single greatest expense is a musket, which I hope to acquire sometime next year. A number of factors come into play along with price as I begin considering my options for armament.
I can only afford one firelock, and so I want one that is historically appropriate both for 1777 and for use during the first years of the American Revolution and even further back in the French and Indian War in case I ever decide to reenact those periods. I am also interested in matters such as weight and availability. As Jersey Blue, I have the option of either a British or a French infantry longarm, but the devil, as always, is in the details
1777 is a significant date, because in this year the French musket sometimes known as the "Charleville" was imported in large numbers - 11 thousand of the 1763 model arriving in Portsmouth New Hampshire that March and another 11,000 in Philadelphia shortly thereafter. This musket soon became the preferred firelock of the American forces.
If I were someday to decide to reenact anything earlier than this period, including the French and Indian War, it would be more historically appropriate for me to try to acquire an older reproduction model French infantry musket over the 1763 or 1766 "Charleville".
The other option is a British musket, the famed "Brown Bess" or Tower musket. The (2nd model) short land service pattern infantry musket of 1769 was favored by the British in America, and a fair number fell into American hands. If I were a private in the 1st New Jersey in 1777, I would want to replace my Brown Bess with one of the French muskets, but it is plausible that I would not yet have been issued one, or have one in working order. In any case, for F&I war use I would need the 1742 1st model long land service pattern musket or possibly the 1756. Depending on availability, either the 1742 long land pattern British infantry musket or the 1728/1746 French infantry musket gives me the period flexibility I prefer.
The French 1728/1746 musket is 63" long and weights 11 pounds (the 1766 "Charleville" is 60" inches and under 10 pounds). The British long land pattern is comparable in weight to the older French musket, though the 2nd model short land pattern is 8.8 pounds and 58.25" in length. Basically, if I want the option to use my firelock for F&I, I will have to settle for a heavier version.
The French Musket has a distinctive bayonet and cartridge box. Accoutrements aren't cheap, and those for the 1763/1766 models, such as the 1767 model cartridge box, would not be appropriate for use in earlier periods. There are a number of options for American made cartridge boxes that would work with the Brown Bess. I rather like this one, but there are other, rather costly alternatives out there.
As to availability:
A reproduction 1766 "Charleville" is manufactured by Italy's David Pedersoli & Co. This company also makes what based on weight appears to be a Short Land pattern Brown Bess with a 1762 lock signature. Points off if that is the case, as the short land pattern debuted in 1769. The manufacturer does not appear to make the 1728/1746 French musket or the 1742 1st model long land musket I am looking for.
I can get the French infantry musket marked "St. Ettienne" issued in 1777 for a decent price from this source which other reenactors have recommended, though the 1766 model was what was shipped in great numbers to the Americans. I can also get a 1756 model (1st model) long land pattern Brown Bess with a 46" barrel. A rival site, though, MilitaryHeritage.com, claims that this model was not used during the French and Indian War in North America. Hard to beat the price, though, as they can go for twice as much.
MilitaryHeritage.com does supply the precise models I am seeking, but while the price is attractive they are shipped with the vents undrilled, requiring additional modification to be fully functional. I am very leery of making this kind of investment without being certain I am getting what I require for the amount I have to invest in the hobby. Likewise, I am not interested in buying my musket in kit form.
While the French infantry musket was arguably the better weapon and probably was carried by more soldiers of the 1st NJ in 1777 than any other weapon, I am leaning toward the 1st model long land pattern British Infantry musket from Middlesex Village Trading Company for my use as a reenactor.
I'll be talking with other members of the regiment before making a final decision, but judging from these marching files of the unit at Monmouth this past June, the brass nose caps of the Brown Bess are much in evidence, along with the barrel bands of at least one "Charleville".