Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Rifle of The Mormon Battalion

The men of the Mormon Battalion are honored for their willingness to fight for the United States as loyal American citizens. Their march of some 2,000 miles from Council Bluffs to California is one of the longest military marches in history. Their participation in the early development of California by building Fort Moore in Los Angeles, building a courthouse in San Diego, and making bricks and building houses in southern California contributed to the growth of the West.
Each soldier was issued the following: 1 Harpers Ferry smoothbore musket, Harpers Ferry 1 infantry cartridge box, 1 cartridge box plate, 1 cartridge box belt, 1 bayonet scabbard, 1 bayonet scabbard belt, 1 bayonet scabbard belt plate, 1 waist belt, 1 waist belt plate, 1 musket gun sling, 1 brush and pike set, 1 musket screwdriver, 1 musket wiper, 1 extra flint cap. Each company was also allotted 5 sabers for the officers, 10 musket ball screws, 10 musket spring vices, and 4 Harpers Ferry rifles.
Battalion members carried the US Model 1816 Flintlock Smoothbore Musket manufactured by Harpers Ferry Arsenal in 1827.
The 1816 musket model was produced from 1816 until 1844 by Harpers Ferry, Springfield Armory and various other contractors. The 9-1/2 pound musket had the highest production of any US Flintlock musket and was the last flintlock martial arm to be produced. In total, all US government productions of the M1816 were 325,000 muskets produced at Springfield, Massachusetts and 350,000 muskets produced at Harper's Ferry in addition to 146,000 produced by other contractors. It served the US Army over 50 years and in two major armed conflicts. It saw service in the Mexican war in its flintlock version and in the US Civil War in both flintlock and percussion versions.
The flintlock ignition system employed a piece of flint clamped into the top of the musket hammer. When fired, the hammer fell forward, causing the flint to strike a spring-held vertical piece of steel called a frizzen. As the steel snapped back, the resulting sparks were forced downward to a priming charge of gunpowder. The ignition of this powder passed fire through a pin-sized hole and ignited the powder charge. The advent of the small brass percussion cap in the 1830s, with its self-contained explosive charge, eliminated the need for flint, steel, and priming powder and would eventually make flintlock arms obsolete.
It had a one piece full stock of walnut. The furniture and barrel were left in the white or browned depending on manufacturer and lot. The barrel was 42" long with a .69 caliber smoothbore (no rifling). The casehardened lock plate was marked with an eagle over "US" and dated 1816 on the tail. The 1816 had no front or rear sight. The bayonet lug was on top of the barrel at the muzzle. The three steel barrel bands were retained with barrel band retaining springs. A steel ramrod with button shaped head was stored under the barrel. The musket was converted from flintlock to percussion between about 1840-1860.
The earliest models of the 1816, including those dubbed the "Type I" musket, usually dated around 1817, featured a flat beveled lockplate and steel pan. There seems to be some variations between the placement of the bayonet lugs on the barrel, with some being produced for the 1812 bayonet and others for the 1816.

The next change of the 1816, the "Type II" muskets, produced 1822-31, are often referred to as the "National Armory Brown". It was called thus because of the browned finish on all metal parts except the lock and the sling swivel on trigger guard. These are often mistaken for "M1822" or "M1822" muskets.

The "Type III" muskets, produced 1831-44, are referred to as the "National Army Bright" models. Differences included a strengthened sling swivel and a bright finish on all metal parts.
A good deal is known about the Model 1816 flintlock muskets that were issued to the Mormon Battalion in August 1846 at Fort Leavenworth thanks to surviving weapons maintained by the LDS Museum of Church History and Art. These weapons have been authenticated by Battalion experts and are periodically displayed for the public by museum curators. All of the surviving Mormon Battalion Model 1816's in the LDS Museum collection are Type II weapons, stamped “Harpers Ferry” on their casehardened lock plates and dated “1827.”
Some US Model 1804 Rifles manufactured by Harpers Ferry Arsenal were also issued to the Battalion.
I had the opportunity to shoot an actual Moromn Battalion musket as a teen ager from a Brother in my ward who had it as part of his collection. It doesn’t have a big kick but the smoke from the blast makes it hard to see after you’ve shot it. It’s hard to believe that it had a .69 caliber ball. That’s a lot of lead coming down range. This rifle also weighed 10 pounds! Many of these facts bring much respect to these brave men and women. I had relatives serve in the Mormon Battalion and their stories make this service personal to me. Remember that on July 16 in 1846 the Mormon Battalion was mustered into service.
Semper Paratus
Burn

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