U.S. Model 1816 Flintlock Musket
Specialist, Valley Forge National Historical Park
region of southeastern Pennsylvania played a
long-standing role in the development
of martial firearms following America's War for
Independence of 1775-1783.
The noted firearm historian, James B. Whisker, states in
his 1990 work,
Arms Makers of Pennsylvania, that by 1775
"the beginnings of an arms industry that would,
first, arm us during
many wars, and .. . train the craftsmen who would
produce the guns
of artistic merit in the four or five decades after the
Arms Makers of Pennsylvania, p. 13).
Whisker wrote primarily of the American rifle industry
of Lancaster and
Berks Counties, by 1797 the region around Philadelphia
immense time, talent, and resources to a growing
industry. Prevalent among these Philadelphia arms makers
was the Evans
family of Evansburg, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. By
1821 the Evans
family became established in the village of Valley
Forge. Here, where
50 years earlier, the Continental army spent the winter
of 1777-1778, the Evans
family made significant contributions to the production
of the United States'
most prolific firearm of the 19th century—the U.S.
example of the standard U S. Model 1816 Flintlock Musket
was manufactured by
William L. Evans at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. The .69
caliber muzzle-loading musket
weighed about 10 pounds. This musket was the standard
firearm carried by U.S.
infantry forces from 1816 to 1842. This musket, made at
Valley Forge, includes the
standard socket bayonet. Author's
examining the history of arms making at Valley Forge
from 1822 to 1836,
it is necessary to address past misconceptions and
beliefs regarding firearm
production at Valley Forge. Although full of patriotism
and "answering the call"
fervor, it is now known that, contrary to past writings,
muskets were not made
at Valley Forge during the American Revolution. The
point is well made by the
early 20th century arms historian, L.D. Satterlee in his
work "Owen Evans: Gunmaker
and Valley Forge."
1938, L.D. Satterlee set out to investigate the
traditional belief that "there was a
gun factory at Valley Forge during the American
Revolution and whether it manufactured
the Model 1777 (French Musket), or any other
model." (Satterlee, "Owen
Evans: Gunmaker and Valley Forge." p. 1). To
support his theory that gun
making at Valley Forge during the American Revolution
was often based on oral
tradition, Satterlee critiqued various sources. His
findings were conclusive.
investigation first led to the 1910 work of a Mr.
Charles Sawyer, Firearms
in American History. Sawyer's book concluded that arms
during the American Revolution at Valley Forge. He based
largely on firearms found marked "V. Forge" on
their lockplate, near the
hammer. Today, we know such markings were put
exclusively on the 1816 contract
musket, the feature topic of this article. For Satterlee,
lacked clarity, leaving him to question what the author,
meant by this statement.
Satterlee continued his investigation of the legend of
guns being made at
Valley Forge by reviewing the 1916 edition of W. Herbert
Burke's Guide to Valley
Forge. Founder of the Washington Memorial Chapel, and
active collector of
Washingtonian memorabilia for the earlier Valley Forge
Historical Society, Burke
wrote on page 178 of this early park visitor's guide,
"Perhaps one reason for
the destruction of the forge, by the British is to be
found in an old musket in the
Valley Forge museum. It was made at Valley Forge in 1777
for the American Army."
(Satterlee. p. 1).
musket Burke referred to was a French Model 1754
Flintlock Musket fraudulently
marked "Valley Forge." Today, no official
records stating gun making
at Valley Forge during the American Revolution have been
found. In the
end, past writings regarding the making of muskets at
Valley Forge have
resulted in more questions than bona fide evidence. To
the history of arms making at Valley Forge, the author
submits that the story
begins with the infancy of military arms making in the
United States in 1794.
1794, the young United States found itself on a course
toward war with France.
To counteract the French threat, on 2 April 1794 the
United States Congress
passed a resolution, that among other things, authorized
of two national armories to make weapons for the United
The two armories were located at Springfield,
Massachusetts and Harpers
Ferry, Virginia (later in 1863 in West Virginia). The
following year, 1795, Congress
adopted an old workhorse of America's War for
Independence, the Model
1763 French Flintlock Musket as a pattern for the United
States' first standardized
military musket. Known as the Model 1795 U.S. Flintlock
began at Springfield Armory the same year.
with the adoption of the 1795 musket, the military
initiated further research
and development programs at the two national armories
refine and improve the standardization of the musket. By
July 1815, the U.S.
Ordnance Department moved closer toward an improved
In a letter of June 10, 1815, Colonel Decius Wadsworth
of the Ordnance
Department wrote the Secretary of War, Alexander Dallas,
points which should be considered when designing a new
The specifics of this 1815 letter are not important to
this brief essay.
is important to understand is that through this letter,
the U.S. Ordnance Department
designed, approved, and manufactured a new gun, the U.S.
Flintlock Musket, which became the most prolific and
dependable infantry firearm
for the nation's military from 1816 to 1844. Some
sixteen independent and
private contractors, including the Evans family,
augmented the nation's two national
armories in the production of the U.S. Model 1816
Flintlock Musket. At this
point, we channel our focus to Valley Forge.
America won its independence in 1783, the iron industry
at Valley Forge
slowly declined as a profitable business. By 1802 a
slitting mill once operated
on the west side of Valley Creek was idle. The last
forge at Valley
Forge was in ruins by 1816. At this point, Mr. John
Rogers, an iron
industrialist from Philadelphia, purchased land on the
west side of Valley
Creek, setting the stage for firearms manufacturing at
Upper Merion 1814 tax rolls include an assessment on
of land owned by John Rogers located along the west, or
side, of Valley Creek. (Microfilm. Montgomery County
Norristown, PA). Listed with John Rogers is Mr. Joshua
Malin of Upper
Providence in Delaware County. Apparently shortly after
purchase, Malin, a cousin of Rogers, rebuilt the
dilapidated slitting mill
on the west side of Valley Creek. This structure,
rebuilt to Malin's specifications,
measured eighty feet long by thirty feet wide and was
complete with a
"tilt mill" at one end and a small foundry
between the main building
and the dam. This refurbished structure, it is now
believed, became the factory
where the 1816 contract muskets were manufactured at
first documented government contract for muskets made at
Valley Forge originated
in Richmond, Virginia. On July 28, 1817, Mr. Alex McRae
signed a contract with the U.S. Ordnance Department to
muskets, of 1816 pattern, at $14.00 each. Unable to fill
his obligation, McRae's
contract was terminated "having failed to deliver
arms, according to the terms
of his contract, a suit was instituted against him and
his sureties, in July, 1820."
Collection of Annual Reports... To The Ordnance
I. p.113). The contract was transferred to John Rogers
and Brooke Evans
of Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. "It may be proper to
remark, that the contract
with Alexander McRae, of Virginia, made July 28,
1817,... has been, with
the consent of the Department, transferred to John
Rogers and Brooke Evans,
of Pennsylvania." (Ibid). With this transfer, the
first documented firearms contract
at Valley Forge had been approved.
Evans, who migrated from Sheffield, England, was a
merchant whose business was registered at 120 High
records state from March of 1821 to December of 1823,
Evans and John
Rogers manufactured "Under this agreement, five
hundred and thirty muskets, of approved quality, have
been delivered; and no
doubt is entertained of its being satisfactorily
fulfilled within a short period." (Ibid).
The partnership between Brooke Evans and John Rogers
then dissolved, John
Rogers entered into a lone contract with the government
for an additional 5,000
second contract for the Model 1816 musket was awarded to
John Rogers on January
2, 1825, for 5,000 muskets at a price of $12.25 each.
The delivery rate was
set at 1,000 stands per annum. (Gluckman, American Gun
Makers, p. 183).
stand consisted of a musket, bayonet, and musket tool.
Roger's contract for 5,000 muskets introduces a third
player into the history
of firearms manufacturing at Valley Forge. Unable to get
into production for
lack of capital, Rogers apparently entered into a
partnership with William L. Evans
of Evansburg, Montgomery County. William
was the sixth child of another known Pennsylvania musket
Evans. He was born on May 28, 1797 in Limerick Township,
Montgomery County. By
late 1825, William L. Evans, partnered with John Rogers,
began production at Valley Forge on the U.S. Model 1816
generally agree that William completed the contract for
over the next three years. Known muskets from this
contract are dated
from 1826-1828 on the musket's lockplate behind the
Flayderman's Guide to Antique American Firearms . . .
values, p. 436/
May 3, 1831, William L. Evans was awarded a second, and
final, government contract
for the U.S. Model 1816 Musket. This contract for 1,500
muskets, at a price
of $12.45 per stand, was to be delivered within two
years to the Frankford Arsenal
in Philadelphia. Surviving muskets of this contract, the
last documented government
arms contract at Valley Forge, support the belief that
all 1,500 stands
were delivered. By the closing months of 1833 firearm
manufacturing at Valley
Forge neared completion.
an 1844 flood of Valley Creek washed out the former mill
of Evans' musket production,
the factory was not rebuilt. The once active musket
at Valley Forge was over. Family genealogical records
indicate that William
L. Evans died on August 6, 1861. William's body "is
buried in the family plot
in the old churchyard of St. James Perkiomen Church at
final thoughts will complete this study of firearms
manufacturing at Valley Forge.
Firearms historians generally agree that gun
manufacturing at Valley Forge
was part of a larger picture. It is believed that the
barrels and other iron components
of the Evans' 1816 contract muskets were made at Valley
parts were then crated and shipped to a factory in
Evansburg, near Collegeville,
Pennsylvania, where the actual muskets were assembled.
and his co-author L.D. Satterlee comment in their work,
"It is believed that
barrels mostly were made at Valley Forge, the rest of
the arm being made at the
factory at Evansburg." (Ibid. p. 61). This factory,
possibly located at Pechin's Mill,
south of the Perkiomen Bridge, was the established mill
operated in previous years
by Owen Evans, the father of William L. Evans.
should be noted that this work is not the definitive
study of firearms production at
Valley Forge. To date, the lack, or unknown existence,
of government records related
to musket production at Valley Forge leave the subject
open to continued research.
The actual location of the mill along Valley Creek
within Valley ForgeNational Historical Park is
speculation at best. (To date, archeological survey
records do not locate
the exact location of the mill.) The author continues
into the intriguing story of firearms manufacturing at
Collection of Annual Reports and other Important Papers,
Relating to The Ordnance Department.
Vol. I: 1812-1844. Washington, DC: U.S. Government
Printing Office. 1878.
Norm. Flayderman's Guide to Antique American
Firearms... and their values. 5th Edition.
Northbrook, IL: DBI Books. 1990.
Arcadi. American Gun Makers. Harrisburg, PA.: The
Stackpole Co. 1953.
County Tax Assessment-Upper Merion Township (microfilm
reel for 1789-1844). Montgomery
County Historical Society. Norristown, Pennsylvania.
LD. "Owen Evans: Gunmaker and Valley Forge." Hobbies.
James B. Arms Makers of Pennsylvania. Selinsgrove,
PA: Susquehanna University Press.
article summarizes a program presented by the author to
the Tredyffrin Easttown History
Club in May 2003 on military firearms production at