A Revolutionary War Sniper- The Rise of Tim Murphy By Ed Hale

I am fascinated by the stories of the American Revolution and the rise of the common man to greatness in the face of Tyranny at that time. Perhaps you are as well!!

It was my undertaking to build a 1770 Revolutionary War Flintlock Rifle that I learned about Tim Murphy (1751 – 1818) and his marksman skills that aided greatly in winning the War.

Born in 1751 near Delaware Water Gap in northern Pennsylvania, Tim and his family relocated to Wyoming Valley of Northeast Pennsylvania now known as Scranton-Wilkes Barre metropolitan area, then it was frontier says the below website.  See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timothy_Murphy_(sniper)

On June 29, 1775,  Timothy Murphy enlisted in the Northumberland County Riflemen, as part of Captain John Lowdon’s Company. This was a prestigious and select outfit of marksmen who had to prove themselves capable of long range shooting with a Pennsylvania flintlock rifle, patch and ball out to 250 yards.

According to accounts, To qualify, Murphy had to fire his Pennsylvania Flintlock Long-Rifle and repeatedly score hits on a seven inch target at 250 yards. Capt. Lowdon’s  men and others were ordered to march to Boston under the command of Daniel Morgan, a legendary officer who again was pulled from the common men of the time. Morgan was a large man with “thick broad shoulders and arms like tree trunks” and a marksman in his own right (another story).

The men under command of Morgan were called Morgan’s Rifleman. They marched 600 miles to the Siege of Boston in 21 days. The Siege began on April 19th 1775 where New England Militiamen, some my cousins, and Morgans Rifleman and snipers like Tim Murphy boxed in the British Army in Boston forcing them to depart by ship to Nova Scotia where the British military were headquartered.

It was shortly after when Tim was ordered as part of Morgans Rifleman to march north to find General Burgoyne’s troops and snipe British artillery officers and gunners so successfully that they were ineffective at best at the first Battle of Saratoga. The followup, called the second Battle of Saratoga, equally call the Battle of Bemis Heights where Major General Benedict Arnold fearing a British flanking maneuver galloped up to Morgan and said that the British General Fraser, on horseback, was “worth an entire regiment.” Morgan then called for Sergeant Timothy Murphy, his finest sharpshooter (sniper) to climb a tree and kill the General from 300 yards, and some say as far as 500 yards, though 300 sounds more plausible. Shortly Fraser’s aide-de- camp would fall to Tim’s exacting fire.

 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timothy_Murphy_(sniper) quote; “Morgan called on Murphy and said: “That gallant officer is General Fraser. I admire him, but it is necessary that he should die, do your duty.” Murphy scaled a nearby tree, took careful aim at the extreme distance of 300 yards, and fired four times. The first shot was a close miss, the second grazed the General’s horse, and with the third, Fraser tumbled from his horse, shot through the stomach. General Fraser died that night. British Senior officer Sir Francis Clerke, General Burgoyne’s chief aide-de-camp, galloped onto the field with a message. Murphy’s fourth shot killed him instantly. Murphy also fought at the battle of the Middle Fort in 1780.)

Murphy, according to this fascinating article states https://www.thenewamerican.com/culture/history/item/4786 that Murphy continued fighting until the very end of the war. Further it quotes that; “He spent the winter of 1777-78 with the Continental Army at Valley Forge and survived the arctic temperatures and near- starvation of that winter camp.” In the spring, Murphy led small parties of rifleman in harassing attacks on British troops withdrawing from Philadelphia. Murphy’s crack shots dropped British soldiers from great distances and spread panic through the ranks.”

More on Tim and his Revolutionary sniper legacy. Photo from Wikipedia.


I thought this man, Tim Murphy, embodied each of us as the common mans Call to Duty for Freedom and worthy of your knowledge of him.

Good Shooting!


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About Ed Hale

I am an avid hunter with rifle and Bow and have been hunting for more than 50 years. I have taken big game such as whitetail deer, red deer, elk, Moose and African Plains game such as Kudu, Gemsbok, Springbok, Blesbok, and Impala and wrote an ebook entitled African Safari -Rifle and Bow and Arrow on how to prepare for a first safari. Ed is a serious cartridge reloader and ballistics student. He has earned two degrees in science and has written hundreds of outdoor article on hunting with both bow and rifle.