Adventures of our Forefathers
Seems with our editor's moving and trying to get back to square one Buck's computer has had some problems with converting my last article. Hopefully this will be resolved and it will appear in the next issue. In the mean time he has given you a little information in this column about when percussion cap guns appeared on the scene.
After the War of 1812, about 100 soldiers from the disbanded British de Meuron regiment were hired in 1816 by the Earl of Selkirk. They were hired to travel to the settlement he was co-sponsoring with the HBC on the Red River (at modern-day Winnipeg, Manitoba). They brought their Brown Bess muskets with them. Some of the men took jobs with the HBC and went to outlying fur posts.
After a major flood on the Red
River in 1826 (?), a flood which was about twice the size of the Red River
Flood a couple of years ago, almost all the Selkirk Settlers, including
the de Meurons, fled to the U.S. (Fort Snelling, if I recall correctly).
There are also records of the HBC men using bayonets on their guns around
1821 as hostilities with the North West Company escalated, suggesting to
me that the HBC may have been bringing in army surplus Brown Besses for
There has been some recent discussion about who would use cap guns and why. One vital consideration that has to come into such a discussion is : When? If you're talking about Lewis & Clark or the Astorians or Lisa's expetidions or Ashley's enterprising young men, then there was only one option. Knowing when cap locks were "invented" really doesn't help a whole lot because the real issue is what was available to the person in the field.
As far as American Fur Company records go, the first percussion caps do not appear on their inventories until the mid to late 1830s. Wyeth's diary records his gunsmith converting guns from flint to cap in the mid 30s. He also complains about his hunters using "miserable flint guns" which they continually blame for misfires (which they used as excuses for coming back to camp empty-handed).
At the same time, the Indian people clearly used flint guns which were new manufacture even up into the 1870s. I've also found a lack of clear information among period journalists as to what kind of gun anyone was carrying, and what kind of ignition it had. Once in a long while someone will mention checking their priming, giving an indication of a flint gun.
So, cap guns do not seem to have been much available in the field in the West until maybe the later 1830s, and there was always the problem of getting caps.
Until then I am yr' svt,
stories & adventures pertaining to those than went before us.
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