Brown Bess, Oriskany And Militia

Reading about the Revolutionary War I always puzzled over the Continental Army’s affection for the Brown Bess musket. Indeed a number of rifle regiments petitioned to be turned into musket regiments.  But I finally payed attention to the numbers.  It fired a .75 Cal ball 458 yards and at 250 yards still had a velocity of 500 FPS which is close to the 1911A1’s 600 FPS muzzle velocity. So I guess I wouldn’t want to be hit by one of them.  But the reason for the affection was that it was a lot faster to load than the rifles.  Not accurate but okay when you were firing at formations of Britishers and okay at slugfests like Oriskany where you typically shot your opponent at ten to thirty yards in a thick forest.

Interesting point about Oriskany is that it had more casualties than any American battle until Shiloh in numbers and has rarely been equaled in any battle in percentages (80% killed or wounded), on the American side it was fought entirely by militia and surprisingly to the British they would not run after the first volleys. This was because American militia lines dissolved in the forest and everybody regrouped themselves with their family and neighbors and so when one of them was hit, the others refused to leave him.

Still as General Philip Schuyler said of General Herkimer and Oriskany “that Dutchman got the shit shot out of himself.”