Original Revolutionary War British Short Land Pattern Brown Bess Musket by Clark - Princeton Battlefield Museum

Item Description

Original Item: One-of-a-kind. IMA has acquired a collection of authentic American Revolutionary War weapons which, for the past 20 years, have been on display at the Princeton Battlefield State Park Clarke House Museum located in Princeton, New Jersey. This musket was part of that renowned collection.

This .75 caliber smoothbore weapon closely resembles a Short Land pattern British Brown Bess musket and was made by John Clark of London between 1777 and 1785 (1). It has a 42 inch barrel with four ramrod guides as all Short Land guns, lacks an escutcheon plate, and is equipped with what is termed India pattern furniture. The British East India Company was in essence a private corporation so powerful that it was permitted to organize and equip a private army to protect its' overseas enterprises. By the mid-1770's the weapons made for these forces had evolved to a point where they were similar to the Brown Bess but had a shortened barrel and simplified brass fittings (2). While many British gunmakers of the Revolutionary War era used brass parts similar to those of the India pattern, the British Ordnance Department didn't officially sanction muskets with this style brass furniture until well after the end of the American Revolution (3).


When the American War for Independence started, British weapons were in short supply and thus the Ordnance Department found it necessary to buy guns wherever they could be found. Whether the Ordnance Department purchased weapons from the East India Company is uncertain but it is known that they bought thousands of guns from private British contractors as well as other European countries (4). It is quite possible that the weapons bought from these British contractors contained brass parts similar to those on East India Company pattern guns. The result was that the British soldiers marched off to war with an assortment of muskets that were not always in compliance with Ordnance standards.


This musket is engraved CLARK on the lockplate. It has LONDON stamped on the barrel in addition to the standard private British proofmarks. The buttplate has a N.Y. 24 designation, as well as the number 39 stamped into the stock and sideplate. Since John Clark of London operated both before and during the Revolution, there is reason to believe that this weapon saw use here during the war (5). Several specimens of this type musket are known to exist. Norm Flayderman, perhaps the world's most renown antique arms dealer, has cataloged three examples of these  N.Y. marked muskets. All three lack an escutcheon plate, have 42 inch barrels, India pattern furniture, and New York designations on the buttplates. Two of these muskets have the name "CLARK" on the lockplate and one has the standard " CROWN/ GR ". Mr. Flayderman wrote that these muskets were of the "... type that saw service in Colonial Revolutionary America "(6).


Two other examples of these muskets have been examined. One is marked "N.Y. 25 " and the other is marked "N.Y. 31 " (7). All three muskets which have been examined also have the mark SP on the barrel, together with the word LONDON, and the standard private British proofmarks. When only one musket was available for examination it was thought that this stamp might refer to the "SP" mark placed on the barrels of Revolutionary War era weapons owned by the State of New Jersey. However, now that it is known that all three CLARK muskets are marked like this, it seems reasonable to assume that the SP mark most probably refers to a barrel maker. There is a possibility that these muskets were weapons issued by the British, during the Revolutionary War, to New York Provincial troops loyal to England. On September 1, 1775 the New York Committee of Safety passed laws that embodied the militia to disarm all loyalists and they gave those guns to the patriots.8 When the British seized New York City they found thousands of loyalists willing to fight for the Crown but without arms (some estimates of Loyalists strength would suggest that the Tories constituted nearly 50% of New York State's population and that by the war's end nearly 25,000 loyalists had served the British in New York alone ) (9). Initially these troops were armed with the older, more obsolete, Long Land pattern Brown Bess muskets. However, after France entered the fight, British strategy changed. English efforts were then concentrated in the South in order to protect the trade routes to the West Indies." The Northern theater was to be maintained by a minimum of regular troops, with more reliance placed upon the Tories. These provincials were to be better trained and equipped. Their arms were to be "standardized" and new recruits were issued the standard weapon of the day-Short Land pattern guns (12).


Starting in 1778 the New York Provincial Corps were ordered to have their weapons "appropriately marked", and it's possible that the "N.Y." buttplate designations, with accompanying numbers, could be just such a mark. The possibility does exist that these muskets were manufactured after the Revolutionary War and purchased by New York State. It is known that British contract firearms were purchased in America for state militia use after the war. The " U.S. Militia Act of 1792 " did however direct that state militia aims be of a standardized .69 caliber size.13 Since all of the "N.Y." muskets which have been examined have .75 caliber barrels, it would appear that if these are post-Revolutionary War contract weapons, they were made before 1792. A list of known 18th century militia contractors supplying arms to the States does not show the name of Clark. In any event, it appears that these muskets represent an 18th century New York State contract, one quite possibly that went to arm the Loyalists during the Revolutionary War. Photographs of the marks on this musket appeared in the August 1992 issue of The Gun Report, in an article entitled, "Identifying American Revolutionary War Firearms". The musket was previosuly on display at the Thomas Clarke House, in the Princeton Battlefield State Park, in a special exhibit called, "Arms of the Revolution".


Included with the Musket we provide the original museum printed display card on together with its detailed Inventory description file sheet referring to the Musket as ITEM 33. You can't ask for better provenance than that!


This amazing musket is correct in every respect and shows use commensurate with its age and military service. Offered in wonderful condition having been on public display in the Sate of New Jersey Revolutionary War Museum for over 20 years.


Year of Manufacture: Circa 1777-1785

Caliber: .75" Musket
Ammunition Type: Lead Ball & Powder
Overall Length: 58 inches
Barrel Length: 42 inches
Action: Flintlock
Feed System: Muzzle-Loaded

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1) Darling, Red Coat and Brown Bess, p. 39. Darling stated that the re-inforced collar on the 2nd ramrod guide is an invention of John Pratt, starting in 1777 ( it is however possible that this improvement was used on private contract arms at an earlier date ). This gun has a Pratt improvement. DeWitt Bailey, in his fine work British. Military Longarms 1715-1865, p. 31, states that by 1785 proofmarking was done on the left side of the barrel. The marks on the Clark musket are centered.

2) Flayderman, Flayderman's Guide to Antique American Firearms, 3rd Edition, p. 588.

3) In 1794 the British Ordnance Department sanctioned the use of muskets which in modern times has become known as the Third model or India pattern Brown Bess. Its' .75 caliber barrel had been reduced to 39 inches, only three ramrod pipes were provided, the escutcheon plate was discarded, and the simplified brass furniture of the East India pattern muskets was used. Whether any of these Third model muskets were used here during the American Revolution is questionable. However, some evidence does exist to show that while they were not accepted as the British shoulder arm until 1794, prototype Third model weapons might have been used here during the war. Recent evidence from excavated Revolutionary War battle sites tends to show that some India pattern guns were used here ( Flayderman, Flayderman's Guide to Antique American Firearms, 3rd Edition, p. 588. ). Noted historian and collector Dale Anderson states that the Smithsonian Institute is now certain that Third models appeared about 1777 and that the National Park Service has a complete Third model confiscated from the British at Yorktown (Anderson, Antique Arms Catalog # 83, p. 1 ). There is also some evidence to show that captured Third models might have been stored in Federal armories after the war ( Guthman, U.S. Army Weapons 1784-91, p. 15 ). It is known that simplified India pattern type triggerguards were used on privately made British firearms before and during the Revolution. George Neuman, in his fine work "History of Weapons of the American Revolution ", p. 63, items M-14 and M-15, illustrates two such firearms which he dates as circa 1750.

4) Blackmore, British Military Firearms 1650-1850, p. 62. 5Neal and Back, British Gunmakers Their Trade Cards, Cases, and Equipment 1760-1860, p. 36. 6In his Antique Arms Catalog #88, item 925, Mr. Flayderman offered for sale a musket with a "CROWN/ GR" on the lock and a "N.Y." mark on the buttplate. In his Catalog #92, item 822 and Catalog #96, item 1068 he offered for sale muskets with "N.Y." marks on the buttplates and "CLARK" engraved on the locks.

7) The musket marked "N.Y. 25" was previously in the John Ferris Collection and is now in the IMA collection. The musket marked "N.Y. 31" was offered for sale at the Baltimore Gun Show in the Spring of 1988.

8) New York State Publications, The American Revolution in New York, p. 211.

9) Ibid., p. 218.

10) Darling, Red Coat and Brown Bess, p. 23.

11) Lancaster, The American Heritage History of the American Revolution, p. 322.

12) Mollo and MacGregor, Uniforms of the American Revolution, p. 38. Regarding the arms of the Provincials in the Spring of 1778, the authors state," The weapons were the same as the regulars, although in many cases the Provincials received the older Long Land model of Brown Bess." Apparently both First and Second model muskets made up the armament of the Torries. Also, reference to the Provincials being issued Second model guns is made in the New York State Historical Society Publications, Orderly Book of the Three Battalions of Loyalists Raised by Delancey, p. 77.

13) Moller, American Military Shoulder Arms, Volume 2, p. 194.

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