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.

Murphymonument.jpg

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!

 

Thirteen Original Colonies – French and Indian Warfare Tactics gave birth to the wide use of the Pennsylvania Rifle for a new kind of warfare.

In my research on the Pennsylvania/Kentucky Rifle, (America’s first Sniper Rifle) I learned that Continental Congress leaders learned warfare tactics by Native Indians et. al. during the French and Indian war of 1756 also known in Europe as the Seven Years War.

http://www.history.com/topics/seven-years-war/videos/what-was-the-french-and-indian-war

 

“SEE WEBSITE BELOW :

“Riflemen played an important role in the French and Indian War and the American Revolution, wars characterized by irregular combat in woodland battlefields. By the eve of the latter conflict, several patriot leaders believed that American woodsmen armed with Pennsylvania Rifles could easily defeat stodgy, musket-wielding redcoats. In 1775 George Washington recruited rifle companies as the core of his new Continental Army. The Pennsylvania Rifle Regiment and units from southern colonies answered the call.”

http://explorepahistory.com/hmarker.php?markerId=1-A-333

The British had the 13 colonies and wanted expand north and west. The French had Canadian land in Quebec and wanted to expand south and west. It was the native Indians of different tribes that aided both sides in battle.

It was George Washington who learned battle tactics during this time frame.

http://www.history.com/topics/seven-years-war/videos/george-washingtons-early-years

And in New Hampshire, General John Stark learned his new colonial battle tactics under the New Hampshire Provincial Regiment led by Colonel Nathaniel Meserve under British leadership in the French and Indian War as well.

Accordingly, the British won the French and Indian war and concluded with the Treaty of Paris but because Britain’s Secretary of State William Pitt who managed the money, borrowed heavily to win. Accordingly the British taxed the colonist’s too heavily for it and resulted in rebellion. Thus making British leadership and its military unwelcome in the colonies and itching for a Revolution to kick the British and its King George driven monarchy out.

Meanwhile, the German trained, Pennsylvania gunsmiths such as Jacob Dickert, were busy making the Pennsylvania Rifle many know as the Kentucky Rifle (to settle Kentucky) with grooves (called rifling) in the barrel to spin the bullet. Thus making that rifle a superb long range rifle, out to 300 yards, in the hands of a marksman, hunter or soldier. General Washington created Rifle Regiments…and Brigadier General Daniel Morgan

A master of the Pennsylvania Rifle and one the most brilliant battlefield tacticians of the Revolution and trusted by General Washington.

And today we get to honor those men and reenact with that Rifle and Hunt with it.

 

 

Maximize your Flintlock Rifle Hunt Setup

Got my trusty flintlock rifle right? Flintlocks, despite all the movies that show them firing each and every time, need to be attended to in order to maximize the odds that the rifle will fire the charge in the barrel and send the round ball on its way.

I bought into that trusty stuff. Seeing a beautiful Longrifle can do that.

I have fired perhaps 60 rounds from my Lancaster Flintlock and a number of times the either the priming powder did not go off or when it did, the main charge did not. This was mostly my fault.

Since my rifle is new, it is likely my own newness too that needs adjustment.

Research on the internet has lots of advice. What I have done is located several sites that espouse the same things in the set-up of your lock in the deer woods. You only have one real chance to ensure the rifle fires and send the bullet on its way.

1. Keep your lock clean and lubricated.

2. Ensure your flint is tight in the clamp, clean and sharp and even (parallel) with the frizzen. If not you must knap the flint face with a brass rod to sharpen it and make it parallel with the frizzen face. If your leather wrap on the flint is too thick then the leather will absorb energy. Many, including me now use a lead wrap that you can hammer out of a lead round ball. The lead will conform to the flint and hold it in place just as the leather does but will not absorb the hammer energy. This delivers more energy of the flint to strike the frizzen and more sparks result.

On an empty gun, I observe the sparks from the flint to see that they are sent to the powder pan in quantity.

3. The rifle, most flintlock hunters say, needs to be shot just before the hunt and swabbed once without lubrication, maybe a little spit on a cleaning patch.  This is like shooting with a seasoned barrel and the bullet will not encounter lubricant which can change the point of impact.

4. Use a pin to clean the touchhole shaft after you load a round.

5. Don’t over fill the clean pan with powder.

If you shoot to practice it is wise to run a spit cleaning patch after every shot. I have just adopted this clean after each shot method and I like it.

And you can end up shooting like this shot below at a paper deer at 50 yards. I used a large post like tree in the woods to brace the rifle. See the 50 cal Round Ball hole dead center in the lungs just above the heart. The other holes are from different caliber rifles in a previous year. I will try to use a  monopod or bi-pod to shoot or find a good tree to brace.

This image of a deer was about 75% of life size. I do recommend buying these paper archery targets of deer and shooting them with no bullseye to focus on. I think that 40 to 50 yards is my limit without a bi-pod. This is the most common shooting distance encountered here in Northern New England and New Hampshire.

Good Shooting!

© 2017

Sniper Rifle of the American Revolution

The first rifles of the American Revolution were made in Pennsylvania by Swiss and German immigrant gunsmiths based on a German hunting weapon.  The most prolific of these gunsmiths was Jacob Dickert born in Europe and built these rifles in Pennsylvania.  The barrel usually 45 and 50 caliber (1/2 inch) and over 40 inches in length was grooved (rifled) to impart spin to the ball as it left the barrel and was far superior in accuracy to the Brown Bess below in long range accuracy.

Image result for brown bess musket

The Brown Bess musket was first imported from Europe, a smoothbore (no rifling) of .75 caliber (3/4 inch) which was used by local settlers and militia men in New England. The Brown Bess could be fitted with a bayonette and was good in traditional head to head battles of short range but it was the Pennsylvania rifle and guerilla tactics that won the war.

The Pennsylvania  rifle  was brought into the war by one of the first acts of the Continental Congress and called for companies of “expert rifleman” says John W. Wright of  https://historicfloridamilitia.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/the-rifle-in-the-american-revolution.pdf

These are, I believe,  “the first snipers” and armed with the Pennsylvania Rifle, originally made in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and vicinity.

 

The above rifle is a replica of the Lancaster style Jacob Dickert Pennylvania Rifle recently this reproduction in kit as a Lancaster Rifle by Jim Chambers Flintlocks LTD of North Carolina was purchased and built by yours truly.  The daisy patchbox was engraved by a master engraver using a Dickert design.  This is one of America’s first Sniper Rifles and used to provide game and to later settle Kentucky. I will use it to deer hunt and do reenactments.

Recorded in the article, The Rifle in the American Revolution by John W. Wright states in the American Historical Review of 1924 vol. 29, no.2 that “the best American Rifleman (sniper) could, in a good light and with no wind, hit a mans head at 200 yards and his body at 300. We are told that the rifleman (Morgan’s Rifleman) when they joined the army near Boston in August 1775, gave an exhibition, in which a company on a quick advance, placed their shots in seven-inch targets at 250 yards. It was during the battle of Saratoga where General Morgan and his rifleman ended the war by sniping the native Indian scouts and British officers in the Battle of Saratoga.  The British soldiers were left leaderless and without scouts, they were lost. In the battle of Saratoga below, the British lost 1000 men and the Continental Army lost only half.

 

“From the 1760s, Jacob Dickert and others were known both as a military contractors but Dickert more than others perhaps earned more respect as a Lancaster County gun maker. As an arms contractor to the Continental Army and for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, he made and sold rifles to the government, and repaired muskets and other firearms. http://www.customflintlock.com/dickert_history.php

An unnamed military writer in 1811 said “where the musket ends, the rifle begins”.

The History Channel you tube clip goes on to further document in other you tubes the total Battle of Saratoga and is very much worth your time.

Good Shooting!

 

Detailing my 50 Cal. Pennsylvania Flintlock Rifle Build by Ed Hale

A study of patchboxes prompted me to upgrade the one I installed (see earlier articles on this rifle build) and to correctly seat it. The beauty is in the details. Of course this is my first Flintlock Build but I can’t help but be pleased.

Details like correctly recessing my brass patchbox with all of its curves and getting the door to latch perfectly in prep for placing my now engraved patchbox and brass side plate. I did enlist the services of Certified Master Engraver Mark Swanson to recreate the 1770-80 Jacob Dickert design. A masterpiece of engraving! Thanks Mark!

A closer look below.

And the sideplate.

http://gunriflemasterengraver.webs.com/

Of course it is a Patchbox for patches and such for use in the field. And the side plate was for holding the lock, stock and barrel together into position with the two large screws seen in the lower image.

I do intend to deer hunt with this 50 cal rifle this upcoming deer season. It is very accurate so far to 100 yards, where may testing has stopped.

Good Shooting!

© 2017 All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

Time to Prepare for Hunting Season – Now!

If you are a bow hunter, August is a must for practice and tuning your bow, arrows and razor sharp broad-heads, especially if you haven’t been shooting all summer long like at a 3D shoot.

Check out your tree climbing stand and safety harness gear to ensure you have all the parts and practice with a climbing stand to be safe. Try to practice in the dark to strap on your stand making as little noise as possible and climb a few feet up and mount your stand and pull up your bow. A clanky/noisy set up sends the message of warning to deer.

Avoid trees that have smooth bark, like birch and beech as your stand can slip.

Now is the time to put up ladder stands and begin to scout. I made the mistake of hunting in an area that had more ladder stands than deer. Once the deer get the idea there are hunters, paint the deer very wary and will often leave the area. You won’t see those adult deer in daylight either.

Muzzle Loader hunters clean your barrel again! By this time most barrels from muzzle loaders need attention and cleaning to prepare for the deer season. I like to pre-load my bullet and powder if possible in small containers you can purchase. I find in modern muzzle loaders such as my T/C Encore that PowerBelt™ Bullets seem to load easier (even with a barrel that has taken several shots already)  and are very accurate. I have used saboted bullets but find them a pain to load as the plastic does not go down the barrel easily. If that is all you’ve got then it works.

I will surely hunt with my newly created 50 Cal Pennsylvania Flintlock and 44 inch barrel I will stick with round balls from Hornady .490 with .015″ patch and are very accurate as well. Keep shots under 100 yards and preferably closer to 50 yards.

The time for scouting can begin but remember that food sources will shift to acorns and other mast such as beech or apples. Find the does and you will find the bucks.

Practice at the range, after sighting in should be standing, kneeling or using a tree for rifle support.

Good Shooting!

© 2017

My Circa 1770 Lancaster Flintlock Rifle Pictorial Essay by Ed Hale

My finished Lancaster 50 Caliber Flintlock Rifle Custom Build in a Jacob Dickert Method. Shot extremely well in a recent outing, see the last article with video.

The rifle build took over 100 hours of fitting, filing, carving motif’s, mortise and tenon, inlay of the Patchbox and Star using Tiger Maple and is still under way for details. Look back at my recent articles and you can see the plain maple look hiding the Tiger stripes within. I even performed controlled rusting of the barrel.

The Brass Cricket has been hanging around my fireplace for some time. It took great interest in my work so I kept him in the picture. I just may name the rifle “Cricket” it does chirp louder.

I have enlisted a master engraver to do some additional work.

Worth to me? Priceless!

The End

Copyright © 2017

 

First shots from the Pennsylvania Lancaster Flintlock Rifle Built by Ed Hale

Below are the first 4 shots ever taken by this brand new Custom 50 Caliber Pennsylvania Lancaster Flintlock Rifle (CIRCA 1775) that I have invested around 100 hours to build based on a Jim Chamber’s Flintlocks Custom package of top end parts.

CHECK IT OUT!!!

The wood is Tiger Maple and was roughed in as I received it. The barrel is a 50 caliber Swamp Barrel (with rifling) where it it thicker on each end and slender in the middle. And the leather sheath I crafted for it.

A steel custom lock has a very well made mechanism and hammer below.

My first attempt is at this is highly successful with lots of fits and starts along this journey back in time during the Revolutionary war where Jacob Dickert a German Immigrant Gun-maker built them for the Continental Army.

My rifle has no stain on the Tiger Maple wood to grace it at this time but I asked myself, CAN IT SHOOT? It sports a 44 inch barrel and stands almost 5 feet tall.

I tested it using FFG black Powder at 80 grains at 25 yards to see if it will even hit paper at the first shot. So here goes…Click on the video.

Honestly, this is my first ever Flintlock Rifle build and you can read my other articles this past June on this Rifle.

 

Below some of the scroll work I carved just as Jacob Dickert did in 1775. Wait till I stain it!

And the brass patchbox…that needs to be set a bit deeper and has yet to be engraved by me as well. More to see on this patchbox in coming weeks.

I am very pleased with Jim’s Flintlock Product but even more pleased with my success in building an accurate and most beautiful Rifle indeed. In the coming weeks I will stain it and add some additional brass inlay. My 6th great grandfather and many of my Hale Cousins were soldiers in the American Revolution as I and my two sons are society members of The Sons of the American Revolution.

Good Shooting! Happy Independence Day!

© 2017

Update on Lancaster Flintlock : (Kentucky Rifle build) Circa 1780

This is the third article I have penned.  I do have a few photos to share today on the stock end of this rifle. I have carved one side with a Lancaster school Jacob Dickert C Scroll) and inlaid a pre-cut brass Dickert patchbox on the other side. The barrel and lock should be ready to go on soon as I am having some work done on the lock to make it fit correctly. It is all coming together at about 90 hours of work.

 

One of the things that I learned of the German Pennsylvania gunsmiths is that they made their own steel screws from scratch. Hence the steel screws used here on this Jacob Dickert Patchbox I inlaid into the tiger maple. If you recall, just the basic custom kit cost me around $1200. Add 120 hours labor to it and you have an heirloom rifle you can hunt with and show off.

Next update I hope to show you how it shoots.

© 2017

1760 style – Pennsylvania Long Rifle- Build Status

If you have stayed in touch with my writing, I purchased a custom build kit from Jim Chambers (http://www.flintlocks.com/rifles.htm) for a Lancaster Pennsylvania Flintlock Rifle nearly identical to Jacob Dickert’s Rifles who made them for the American Revolution’s Sharp Shooters and for Over Mountain Men.

Rifle Kits Include All This

I am into the build process by 26 hours and have been very happy with my progress without any real errors to speak of thus far. Only 75 more hours to go! I now own 150 dollars worth of carving chisels and a very large 80 dollar vise. I am happy that I purchased them as they made cutting and shaping the wood much easier. The barrel is now mounted, the butt plate is cut in and the lock is being fitted to the already mortised area and needs fitting.

A video provided is helping immeasurably.  I have fitted the 44 inch Swamp Barrel (fat on the ends and thinner in the middle) to the stock using a chisel and files. The barrel tang shape was filed into a spade shape and mortised into the stock and tapped and threaded to the trigger plate.

This all sounds easy but it was not. The lock mortise was shaped for me but had to be hand fitted to the flintlock mechanism and took hours of making minor chisel cuts for fear of barging ahead and making a major blunder.

Patience is the key and an ability to work with hand tools.

I will show pictures at some point. It is all too raw at this stage.

So far so good! Very satisfying thus far!

Good Shooting!