The Patriot’s Call

The Revolutionary War’s Battle of Oriskany comes alive in the annual recreations of artisans, author.

Story by Frank Jardim
Photos by David Wright

Known as the CLA, the Contemporary Longrifle Association celebrates its 25th anniversary this August. This broadly inclusive organization was started by artists and scholars to promote and support the study and preservation of all the artisanal skills and crafts employed in early America, from making a flintlock Kentucky longrifle from a plank of wood and bar of iron, to the almost lost precolonial decorative art of Native American porcupine quill and moose-hair embroidery.

CLA members are an amazingly diverse and talented group of artists who keep the skills of the past alive in their unique creations. Some are high art, and some are humbly utilitarian, but all of them are made as they were over two centuries ago.
Each year, the CLA ( hosts their annual meeting in Lexington, Kentucky, and sponsors a huge show where member artists gather to exhibit and sell their work. Generous members also donate their art to be auctioned at the show to raise money to support the organization.
Selecting my favorite pieces from this year’s auction, I used my historical imagination to place them into a period-correct setting. My chosen context was the American Revolution, and specifically the Battle of Oriskany. Fought in the early stages of what history recalls as the Saratoga Campaign, Oriskany saw the most savage fighting of the war and the highest percentage of patriot losses.

Battle of Oriskany, by John Reuben Chapin, 1857. This engraving depicts the savage hand-to-hand combat in the woods as Loyalist forces and their Native American allies repeatedly stormed the surrounded Patriot militia and their Oneida tribal allies in the forest.
It was hard to look at this bloodbath as anything other than a disaster, but when the decisions and deeds of men and the acts of God were all weighed in the scales of history, it became clear that without Oriskany there probably would not have been a patriot upset victory at Saratoga to impress King Louis XVI of France.
It convinced him to ally his powerful nation with the American cause, and with no Franco-American alliance, we’d probably all be drinking warm beer and singing “God Save the Queen” at sports games.

THE BATTLE OF Oriskany was fought in New York’s Mohawk Valley, whose settlers were largely of German and Dutch ethnicity. Their collective memory shared no love of their own recent monarchs, and not considering themselves Englishmen, they had no ancestral loyalty to the English crown. They sided heavily with the cause of the American patriots and they drove out their Loyalist, or Tory, neighbors.
The Tories took refuge in Canada, organized their own Loyalist military units and schemed to convince the tribes of the powerful Iroquois Confederation to maintain their allegiance to Britain. Ultimately, only the Oneida sided with the colonies.
The first two years of rebellion against British rule were tumultuous if not disheartening for New York patriots. The invasion of Canada was a disastrous failure that precipitated a massive British counterattack only narrowly derailed by a miracle naval delaying action on the Great Lakes and the arrival of winter. Warm weather in 1777 brought a renewed and more sophisticated British invasion orchestrated by General John Burgoyne with the strategic objective of isolating New England (a hotbed of rebellion) from the other colonies by controlling the Hudson River.

New York was a strategic resource for the Patriot cause and British General Burgoyne was determined to sever it from the New England colonies by controlling the Hudson River from Canada to Albany. He sent a secondary force to attack the Mohawk Valley from the west to force the Patriots to split their forces between two fronts. Today’s Syracuse sits where Onondaga appears on the map. (GUY JOHNSON)
To do that, Burgoyne needed to control all the forts overlooking it, from the Canadian border to Albany. He committed most of his forces to a southward invasion along the Hudson supported by a secondary invasion into the Mohawk Valley from the west. Facing a two-pronged attack, the rebels would have to split their forces. For most of the summer, it looked like Burgoyne’s plans were working perfectly. Fort Ticonderoga was captured (without a fight) on July 5, and his western invasion force, consisting mostly of Loyalist volunteer units heavily supported by Mohawk, Seneca and Cayuga allies, surrounded and laid siege to Continental Army forces at Fort Stanwix on August 3.

Fort Stanwix guarded the strategic portage between the Mohawk River and Wood Creek. At that spot, a boat traveling on the Mohawk River from Albany could be easily carried overland (up to 6 miles) and put down in Wood Creek to make its way by water 1,500 miles through the Great Lakes into Canada and arrive on the eastern seaboard of the continent. Of course it worked the other way too, which is why the patriots couldn’t afford to lose Fort Stanwix. Their problem, as Burgoyne had predicted, was that they didn’t have enough Continental Army troops to fight off both prongs of the British attack. Out of necessity, a great many military missions fell upon the local militia.
On July 17, 1777, Tryon County Militia commander Brigadier General Nicholas Herkimer ordered the numerous local Committees of Safety to call to arms all men still available to defend against the western invasion. On August 4, they began a 50-mile march to Fort Stanwix to break through the British siege lines with supplies for the fort garrison. My narrative begins on August 6, when the patriot force was 8 miles from the fort.

In the cool of the morning, Harmen van der Berg marched along single-file near the end of Colonel Jacob Klock’s 2nd Regiment of the Tryon County Militia. In front of him were 150 of his neighbors, relatives and friends, and a score of Oneida warriors. Marching behind him were his brothers-in-law Carl and Johan Bauer, their sons Franz, Christian and Michael, and then around 40 more white settlers and perhaps a dozen Indians.
In front of the 2nd Regiment, at the head of the column, were another 200 militiamen of the 1st Regiment under Colonel Ebenezer Cox and about 30 more Oneida including Chief Thomas Spencer and his brother. Behind the 2nd Regiment marched the officers and men of the 4th Regiment, with the 3rd Regiment and 15 wagonloads of supplies at the rear of the column.
Deploying a force of this size meant virtually stripping their communities of arms and men aged 16 to 60. Harmen, like many other white settlers, feared they were leaving home and hearth defenseless, but some, like Harmen’s three teenage nephews, were in high spirits to run the scheming traitor Tories and their Indian proxies out for good.
In total, 800 militia and maybe 100 Oneida Indians made up their For 2 miles, the column threaded its way through the forest on the untended military road that looked more like a path. Abruptly, it sloped steeply downward, descended 50 feet to the bottom of a ravine, then leveled off in a boggy flat where cut logs formed a corduroy road running over a small creek. It was shady here. The high ground behind them now blocked the shafts of sun that previously filtered down on them through the dense maple, birch and beech forest.
Recognizing the landmarks, Harmen knew that even at a leisurely walk, they were less than two hours from the fort. It seemed strange they had yet to encounter any enemy pickets guarding the most practical route of attack. As his regiment’s advance again moved them into the patchwork of light breaking through the canopy of branches, Harmen was momentarily terrified by the glint of sunlight off bright iron in the forest only 30 paces to his left. Within a step, he recovered from the hair-raising rush of the shock. “Our flank guard,” he concluded. The underbrush was thick and seemingly unbroken here and he was glad Corporal Schmidt hadn’t detailed him to the exhausting task of screening the column’s flanks. When he turned his eyes forward again, there was the devil himself, Herr Schmidt, standing on the left side of the road looking up and down the column with his usual scowl.

Fort Stanwix on the eve of the siege was a substantial position that controlled access to the Mohawk River, the water route to Albany. The Patriots could not let it fall. (GUY JOHNSON)
Before Harmen’s eyes, the corporal collapsed to the ground simultaneous to the boom of a firelock from the woods to his left. The shot was followed almost instantly by another, and another, and then scores more all along the column in a ragged volley that felled several Tryon County men in the span of a single step. Harmen saw at least eight men ahead of him struck by balls, and within seconds, that many more fell again under the concentrated fire from trees all along the left side of the path.
Parallel to the gunfire, the forest path erupted with the voices of men. The painful cries and screams of the wounded were overlapped by guttural shouts, shrill shrieks and calls to “Gott im Himmel!” of apparently unharmed men surprised and in mortal terror. Men froze up, halting the column in the deadly fusillade. Some militiamen instinctively fired back into the now smoky forest where the powder flashes first appeared. Others crouched on the road attempting to use the heavy underbrush for concealment. A few rushed to aid the injured. Indian war whoops joined the rising din and the dark silhouettes of barely clothed men with feathered heads appeared standing among the cover of the trees, backlit against the white smoke as they stood charging their guns and ramming home their next ball.
Harmen did not freeze. In one fluid motion, he spun in place to face the ambush while cocking, shouldering, sighting down his longrifle’s barrel at the center of a faceless shadow’s chest, squeezing off a shot, and lowering the rifle again to finish his turn facing the rear of the column. Before he refocused his attention to the urgent concerns behind him, he saw his shadow man immediately draw in his limbs like a frightened turtle, become amorphous and begin to fall away into the smoke.
The situation Harmen found behind was worse. Another dozen men lay in heaps around the path and his brother in-law Carl sat on the ground, swearing most profanely and clutching his belly. Carl drew up his knees, blood rapidly staining the midriff of his shirt and leaking between his fingers. His son Franz knelt next to him trying to pull Carl’s hands away to check the wound. Their muskets lay on the ground. Johan and his two boys were still on their feet. Young Christian stood splayfooted on the road, fully upright but rocking backward under the recoil of his musket fired wildly towards the woods. His eyes were closed.
Johan and brother Michael were in a half-crouch, their weapons shouldered and carefully taking aim. They too had spotted the silhouetted Indians and squeezed off their shots before dropping to their knees to reload. Harmen knelt too, but not to reload. Instead he jerked Johan’s shoulder to get his attention. The man’s head whipped around to look at Harmen. There was fear in Johan’s face, but not panic.

“Make for those trees, Johan!” Harmen yelled to be heard over the cacophony of battle, pointing to the right side of the path that as yet appeared quiet. “They’ll slaughter us here.” Then Harmen turned toward Carl, who sat just behind them, and locked his arm through the wounded man’s. Seeing this, Franz perceived the intent and did the same, but before they stood, Harmen pointed the muzzle of his rifle at the two muskets lying on the ground. Franz’s musket was at his feet but his father’s had landed yards behind them when he fell wounded.
As Franz unlocked his left arm from his father’s to stretch out on his hands and knees to reach the musket, the thunder of a massed volley resounded up the path from the head of the column, followed almost immediately by war whoops from what Harmen guessed to be scores of attacking Indians. To him, it was the sound of disaster. When faced with an enemy armed with guns, it was common for the Indians to overrun them while they reloaded. A more urgent concern for Harmen was the steady fire from their left flank pouring into the path since the ambush was sprung.

THEY WERE A minute into the fight before the militia officers, sergeants and corporals could be heard shouting orders to rally their men. Harmen glanced behind them and saw his lieutenant briefly while Franz retrieved his father’s musket.
The officer was standing courageously with his sword held high calling to the men to form a line when a ball tore through his chest. He stood coughing up blood for a moment, dropped his sword, fell to his knees and then over sideways into the brush. Most of the militia were crouching along the path to conceal themselves from the enemy.
Harmen realized this would be their undoing. Lacking standing targets, the Indians fired low into the concealing bushes and undergrowth. The lowest shots got swallowed up in the wet ground. The ones aimed a little higher ricocheted off the path, sometimes wounding men, or re-wounding the supine injured. Blowing bits of leaf and branch onto the path, the deadliest shots cut up the brush at just the right height to hit an unlucky crouching man in the body or head.
This is exactly what happened to Michael as he ducked again to reload. The ball hit him in the crown of his broad-brimmed hat and came out the back of his neck. Michael was dead before his body met the path. In God’s mercy, neither his brother, cousin or father saw Michael killed, despite being within a stride of him.
Johan and Christian were shooting and Franz was taking up his wounded father’s arm with his left arm and struggling to clamp a pair of 9-pound muskets against his side with his right.
As Harmen and Franz rose to a bent-kneed crouch and began to force their way through the underbrush, Harmen finally saw that their column was under attack from both flanks. The right side of the path, especially toward the front of their regiment, hung heavy with smoke, penetrated by muzzle flashes and Indian warriors rushing out to attack the militia with tomahawks, knives and clubs. Suddenly, a trio of shots boomed from the woods just to their left and balls clipped the brush around them.

Twenty yards ahead, at the start of the forest’s large trees, he glimpsed a Seneca warrior nearly concealed by a large maple trunk raising his ramrod to reload. Harmen dived, taking Carl and Franz to ground with him. Mostly hidden in the brush and scrub trees, Harmen reached over for the muskets in Franz’s arms. The boy handed him one silently. Harmen cocked it and raised his head above the leafy branches to aim, but his target was gone.

Instead, a handful of Oneida allies were rushing the woods with muskets and tomahawks. One was felled by a ball but the others continued their charge, screaming fiercely. They were steps away from the trees when a white man in a green military coat exposed himself to fire a rifle at them. Harmen aimed and shot, hitting him squarely in the body and causing him to spin and fall backward into the trees. The Oneida either didn’t notice or didn’t care. They hurled themselves on the enemy hidden in the woods with a merciless fury.
Harmen ducked down again, handed the empty musket back to Franz and quickly reloaded his rifle. Their circumstances called for speed more than accuracy, so he poured powder in the barrel directly from his horn and didn’t waste time patching his ball. He put an extra ball in his cheek for his following shot. Franz reloaded the musket with unsteady hands. Daring a peek at the woodline, Harmen guessed the Oneida warriors had carried the immediate fight, for the Indians were gesturing with their hands and calling to their comrades and Harmen to follow them into the forest.
Now with some cover in the trees, Harmen turned his attention back to the path to shoot at the Indians when they exposed themselves, and Franz was able to tend to his father’s injury. Rather than mortally penetrating him front to back, the shot had gouged a half-inch-deep bloody channel six inches long and nearly a finger’s width across the front of Carl’s belly. It was painful, but survivable. Carl recovered his sensibilities enough to remove his shirt and help cut it into bandages, instructing Franz how to bind the wound.

SECONDS SEEMED LIKE minutes, and minutes hours, as the ambush turned into a series of brutal hand-to-hand personal combats with groups of Cayuga and Seneca Indians seasoned with a smattering of Tories attacking the patriot militia and their Oneida allies. Harmen heard fighting in the forest behind him too, both directly to his rear and to the right. Many Oneida had already fought their way into these woods and were driving back the left wing of the ambush and rallying their warriors to this spot.
In the thick of the fray along the path, Harmen spotted two mounted Indians, the lead rider armed with a rifle and the one behind with a brace of pistols. They boldly charged some Cayuga warriors who infiltrated the brush intent on running down a withdrawing militiaman. The mounted Indians shot down two of the Cayuga, and the third disappeared in the brush. The militiaman reached the woodline as the mounted Indians calmly reloaded on their walking horses. He recognized the lead rider as Hanyery, a very prosperous Oneida farmer and war chief from Oriska, and the pistol-wielder behind him was his wife!

Harmen wondered how the men from the 1st, 4th and 3rd Regiments had come through the initial minutes of the ambush. On and around the part of the path he could see, the 2nd Regiment was scattered, with no apparent command. When an individual militiaman fired, the Indians often raced out to club, stab and chop him down while he reloaded. Then they grabbed up the victim’s gun and horn to continue their attack. Between his quickly aimed shots at the Cayuga, who were no farther than 50 yards away, Harmen reloaded with his back protected by the trunk of a large maple and called out as loudly as he could for Johan and Christian to come to him. They did not respond. When loading his 10th round, or perhaps his 25th, he saw their commander, General Herkimer, wounded in the leg and unable to walk, being carried by two militiamen to some higher ground deeper in the woods.

Harmen found hope in the growing number of survivors from the small bands of militia making fighting withdrawals that were gradually gathering in the woods to form a defendable perimeter around General Herkimer. He prayed that Johan and Christian would appear among the militiamen falling into fighting positions to his left and right. Unable to check his fears that they might lay wounded and helpless on the march route, Harmen decided he must return to that killing ground to check for them. The Iroquois tribes that allied themselves with the British had a long record of torturing and murdering their captives.
Harmen was about to crawl forward when the volume of incoming gunfire suddenly increased and four Cayuga warriors emerged from the brush at a run on his left front. The warriors were so close, so quickly, that the maple tree trunk blocked the swing of Harmen’s rifle. As the forend bumped off the bark, he swore, and in the next moment sensed an attack on his right. His rifle was only halfway back to the target when an Indian kicked down the muzzle and raised his hooked war club high.

Harmen released the rifle and thrust up his arms to deflect a lethal blow to his head. He saw in the eyes of the warrior standing above him an expression of villainous glee, the round ball of the club, as big as a 12-pound solid shot, hovering over his feathered head momentarily and then beginning the deadly downstroke that would conclude on his face. A musket boomed and the Indian’s right cheekbone and eye exploded outward, leaving a gaping hole. Harmen could briefly see the inside of his skull before his remaining features were completely obscured by white smoke.

Harmen sprung to his feet, reached for his belt axe and dashed into the perimeter past Franz, who was just handing off his empty musket to his father and taking up a freshly loaded one. Two of the Cayuga were among the trees with them. The nearest was already furiously stabbing an old militiaman in the stomach with one hand and trying to wrench his musket away with the other. Harmen recognized the mortally wounded old man as Herr Mueller, a cooper from GermanFlats he had done business with.
Swinging with all his might, Harmen buried his axe at the base of the Indian’s neck. It sunk deep with a crunch and the collapsing body almost pulled it from his grip. As he yanked hard on the handle to free the blade from the bone, he glanced up in time to see a musket butt splintered over the head of another Cayuga lunging to stab him. That Indian staggered, and fell face first into the soil at his feet. If he was killed or just stunned by the terrific blow, Harmen never knew. Herr Mueller, lying on his side propped on one elbow, struggling against death on ground soaked red with his blood, shot the prostrate Indian through both lungs with his musket as his final earthly deed.

Left: The combined Tory, British-allied Indian and German Jaeger mercenary force set up a deadly three-sided (south, west and north) ambush, 6 miles east of Fort Stanwix, on the Patriots’ line of march. The trap was sprung too soon and most of the trailing 3rd Regiment escaped and retreated, leaving the 1st, 2nd and 4th Regiments to fend for themselves. Right: Within the first 30 minutes of battle, the surviving Patriots had formed a defensive perimeter in the forest. Surrounded, they held out against repeated, savage attacks for another five and a half hours.
THE SURPRISE ATTACK repulsed, Harmen rushed back to his self-assigned post to contest further Indian attempts to cross the path. In the relative calm, he became aware of the voice of General Herkimer, shouting orders and encouragement to them. Militia that Harmen did not know swiftly emerged from the woods inside the perimeter and took up fighting positions where Herr Mueller had died holding the line. They said they were from the 4th Regiment, had suffered heavily in the ambush, and were then encircled and attacked from the rear by Mohawks who cut them off from the 3rd Regiment at the tail of the column.
One of them had seen the Indians sweeping the road, killing and scalping some wounded and dragging others off as captives. What’s more, among the whites fighting with the Indians, they recognized some of their Tory former neighbors. Before they could say more, a sergeant Harmen didn’t recognize interrupted. Harmen, Franz and Carl, now partially mobile thanks to a half canteen of rum, were needed to reinforce the east side of the perimeter where the Seneca and green-coated Tories were expected to attack.

The short walk to the east flank revealed their defensive perimeter was perilously small, 200 yards long at most, and not as deep as it was long. But it was fairly packed with men on this side at least. If the remaining militia and Oneida were evenly spread, and most likely they were not, Harmen guessed there might be 400 of them, with plenty of big trees for cover.
They were still 50 feet from the perimeter, and Harmen was still calculating their odds, when the Seneca began their screaming war cries mixed with a flurry of gun shots and crashed into the east flank. The Indians charged through the front line, leaping over the stooping militiamen to attack them from behind. For the men on the line, there was time for a single shot. Caught in a deadly hand-to-hand brawl, they could not reload. Harmen and Franz, with Carl reloading, managed to get off five shots between them, thinning the Seneca warriors and shifting the odds in their favor, before they were forced to join the fray. Harmen handed his empty rifle to Carl and rushed into the melee, swinging his belt axe.

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During the reckless close combat, Harmen chanced to see Franz smashing in a Seneca warrior’s skull with a captured war club. They seemed to be giving as good as they got, when the booming gunfire dramatically increased, hitting a number of Seneca from behind, and doing more to break their attack than the militia had thus far. With the Seneca surprised from behind, the militia got the upper hand and drove them off with musket fire. Harmen counted a dozen Seneca dead among the trees, including a war chief.
The fighting continued until the early afternoon, interrupted for an hour by a heavy rainstorm that the militia used to build up their defenses with fallen timber. Harmen checked his bag to discover he was low on ammunition. Of the three score .54-caliber bullets he’d cast for this misadventure, he had only 14 left, and barely enough powder in his horn for 10.
The attacks resumed when the rain stopped, but they didn’t break the defenders’ will to resist. Indians, Tory volunteers, Canadian militia and German Jaeger riflemen in their black cocked hats, arrayed against them and demonstrated repeatedly that they could fight their way into the militia’s defensive ring, but could not take it in the hand-to-hand close combat that followed. And then, in their last assault, it looked like they might.

AS THE LOYALIST forces pushed their way into the perimeter, Harmen sensed this would be a fight to the death. The Loyalists attacked with aggression and viciousness that equaled the worst Indian savagery. The remnants of the Tryon County Militia matched them in kind. Carl, wounded twice more, beat a man down with a stone before he was knocked to the ground. A Tory officer raised a pistol to shoot Carl in the head, but Franz would have none of it. He leapt on the green-coated gentleman’s back, spoiling his aim, knocking off his hat and dragging him to the ground. Someone else cut the gentleman’s throat from behind as he tried to get up.
Harmen was expecting his own demise when he heard the rumble of distant cannon fire as he lay facedown and bloody trying to shake a Seneca warrior off his back while wiggling out of the path of a Tory’s sword thrusts. He managed to twist the Tory’s boot and throw him off balance. When the man fell, Harmen rolled the Indian off. As he got on his feet, he saw the Indian running away. Harmen recovered his axe and rejoined the fight, but soon perceived the attack was faltering. The Indians were withdrawing and the remaining Tories, now outnumbered, were being killed at a rate they found disagreeable. Soon they too had quit the field. As quiet settled over their little battlefield, they could hear the sound of more cannon fire from the direction of Fort Stanwix.
The scouts sent out by General Herkimer reported no enemy in sight but on the road west back to Oriska, they found many dead and scalped 3rd Regiment men. The absence of the 3rd Regiment from the ravine battle led the scouts to conclude the unit fled the fight with the slowest being run down, killed and scalped by the Indians. Rather than risk running into an Indian force on the road, the general ordered they withdraw northward through the forest toward the Mohawk River. They gathered the wounded they could find and made good their escape, thanking God for His mercy. Unable to walk, Carl was carried out on litter improvised from two muskets and hunting shirts.
Unexpected joy came to Harmen, Franz and Carl on discovering Christian alive. It was tempered by heartbreaking news of his father Johan’s death holding off a group of Indians so Christian could escape. After ordering him to run, Johan unsheathed his old fighting knife and charged into the Indians, shouting damnations at them in German. Christian tearfully confirmed his father went down under a storm of tomahawk blows.

The urgency of their withdrawal and the need to help their wounded allowed no time to dwell on the day’s punishing events. It also forced them to leave their dead on the field. Harmen, his relations, and what was left of the Tryon County Militia made it back to their homes in the following days, but close to half of their force was killed, wounded or missing when roll was taken.
Anyone captured by the Indians had to be presumed murdered. They had fought bravely, if not as wisely as they could have, but that didn’t diminish the sting of having failed in their urgent mission to relieve the besieged fort, despite having paid such a painful price in lives. Harmen had lost two of his in-laws but felt himself blessed to be alive to hold his wife and baby. Many families lost all their men and it was all the harder to know their bodies lay in the open to be ravaged by beasts.

As the weeks passed, the Mohawk Valley got no respite from the ravages of war. Indians and Loyalists raided their settlements almost with impunity, looting and burning farms and villages and murdering families. A robust militia might have warded off those attacks. Most of the Continental Army troops in the region had their hands full with the British Army’s advance southward toward Albany.
Though the prospects for the patriot cause in New York looked increasingly grim, Harmen held to his faith in it. As days turned to weeks, with no report about a British capture of Fort Stanwix, his hope was nourished. Then, on August 24, news arrived that the siege was over and combined forces of the English crown that had invaded the western Mohawk Valley were in full retreat. For the larger patriot cause, this meant the Continental Army was now free to concentrate on stopping the British advancing from the north. For Harmen, it also meant a chance to properly bury his kin. Franz insisted on going too, even though it was a risky trek upriver.

THE TRIP TO the battlefield was an unspeakable horror. A vast open grave stinking of corruption, it was the stuff of nightmares. With perseverance, they succeeded in recovering the remains of Johan and Michael. As Harmen wrapped the remnants of their mortal coils, young Franz searched for, and found, his uncle Johan’s fighting knife. It was fashioned from a sword he used in the French and Indian War. Franz knew Christian would want it. Franz also found the fine pistol dropped by the Tory officer he’d fought and stuck it in his belt as a personal trophy.
When the job was done, and Harmen and Franz, Johan and Michael, were back at their canoe, they somehow found themselves rowing upstream. Nothing was said between them, but there was silent agreement that they should complete the journey they started on August 4 and see the fort so many had sacrificed so much for.
The fort was impressively refurbished since Harmen’s last visit in 1774, and above it flew what he assumed was the new American flag he had recently read about. Outside, General Benedict Arnold’s Continental Army relief force was encamped. Learning who they were, the sentries presented them to Fort Stanwix’s sergeant of the guard. The sergeant escorted them into the fort, where an officer questioned them briefly about their observations during their journey. After the interview, the sergeant led them over to the flagpole on their way out of the fort.

“I noticed you couldn’t take your eyes off the stars and stripes,” he said. “Would you like to see the one that flew overhead during the siege?” “That’s not it?” Franz asked in surprise.
“No, lad,” the sergeant replied. “That silk beauty is the new one General Arnold brought us.” Reaching inside his haversack, he withdrew a much smaller, rather crudely sewn twin of the flag on the pole. It was cut and burned in places from shot and shell, and he handled it reverently like a believer would handle Jesus’ burial shroud.
“This is the very one we made ourselves that waved over us in our time of peril. It helped us keep our courage. I just exchanged her for the new one this morn. But she’s special to me … special to a lot of us who were here. I think maybe she might be special to you too, so I’m showin’ ya.”
Franz and Harmen reached out to gently, respectfully touch the battle scars on the roughly sewn pieces of cloth that symbolized the new free nation they had fought for, and felt a bond with it.

The Awkward Sunngard Automatic Pistol

Sunngard modified handgun carried 50 rounds

Early in the 20th century one of the weakness observed by an inventor named Harald Sunngard in automatic pistols was that during reloads while under stress were often bungled by shooters. This would leave them vulnerable to return fire without being able to shoot back. This Norwegian inventor came up with a solution. There were two parts to this, the first was to use a big magazine, second was to store a spare magazine right in the well of the pistol for immediate use.


The grip of the pistol needed to be big enough to store two identical magazines. One in the front and one in the back inside the well. The front magazine sits higher than the rear one, the bolt face on the slide feeds rounds from the front magazine into the chamber. Once the magazine is empty, shooter ejects it and slide the rear magazine to the front position.

This pistol shoots a 6.5mm and the magazine holds 25, with two magazines the shooter has 50 rounds available. Sunngard hypothesize that while in a gun fight with the common handguns which was only 7 to 8 rounds. While the reload is where Sunngard auto pistol would come into play without a reload and win the gun fight.


The Sunngard pistol was a simple design, uses a plain blowback action, with a no locking system for the small cartridge. The barrel is fixed to the receiver and a recoil sprin is located around the barrel and inside the barrel shroud.

Reports has it that Sunngard tried to market the pistol to military forces, but was not successful. There was a story that in the Norwegian military trials that it was tested against the Colt 1911, unfortunately no records of the results. Which would have been interesting to see. Some of the many reasons as to why the pistol never made it big, may be due to its low cartridge power and the reloading was awkward.


Caliber: 6.5mm (also 8mm)

Cartridge: 6.5mm Sunngård (6.5x19mm) (also 8x19mm)

Bullet weight: 28.5 gr (1.85g)

Overall length: 8.0in (203mm)

Barrel length: 6.2in (158mm)

Height: 5.3in (135mm)

Weight unloaded: 26.8oz (760g) (28oz/800g for the 8mm variant)

Weight loaded: 33.8oz (960g)


US Patent 972,087 (Harald Sunngård, “Automatic Firearm”, October 4, 1910)

Here’s Ian McCollum of Forgotten Weapons take on this unique Sunngård pistol.

Source: Wikipedia, PopularMechanic, Ian McCollum

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Death By Black Powder

Story by Frank Jardim

April 9th marks the 155th anniversary of Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia to US Army General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, Va., in 1865. News of Lee’s capitulation triggered a series of surrenders across the far-flung battle lines, and a month later, President Andrew Johnson considered the war over.

Model 1860 Savage north percussion Navy revolver (3) – Model 1860 Savage-North percussion Navy revolver; .36 caliber Engraved: SAVAGE R.F.A. CO. MIDDLETOWN, CT H.S. NORTH PATENTED JUNE 17 1856 JANUARY 13 1859 MAY 15 1860 (Courtesy of Memphis Pink Palace Museum – TAMARA BRAITHWAITE)
From the beginning of hostilities on April 12, 1861 when the Confederates attacked the US Army garrison at Fort Sumter, S.C., the American Civil War lasted just over five years and resulted in a greater loss of American lives than any conflict before or since. Total military casualties numbered 1,125,000, which represented 3.5 percent of the entire US population, in 1861. The total military deaths from all causes, numbered 654,000. Technically, more soldiers were killed in World War II, but the number of soldiers who lost their lives from disease during the Civil War puts that number ahead in overall loss of life. This is the human tragedy of war. The magnitude of this war deeply scarred the people who lived through it.

PHOTO 4 Rifles resting
As was common during the civil war era, rifles were stacked against each other for support. Formed of three central muskets with intertwined bayonets that form a teepee. These stacks are made whenever a unit is at rest after a halt and when in camp but on other duties and a musket is not required. (JIM BAKER)

The Civil War is sometimes described as the last old fashioned, and the first modern, war. It was fought with the final generation of muzzle-loading percussion arms and artillery.

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These were at the apex of their development as well as other new technologies in the form of breech-loaders, repeating rifles (that used self-contained metallic cartridges) and, of course, the first Gatling guns. The armies fought using linear tactics of previous centuries, but generally with less finesse than the highly disciplined soldiers of Europe.

Some historians now believe that artillery fire may have accounted for 20 to 50 percent of all casualties.

Rifled-muskets were eventually the standard infantry weapon for both the North and South. They possessed the speed-loading ability of a smoothbore musket and the accuracy of a rifle, thanks to the ingenious Minié bullet. Minié balls varied in detail, but the type commonly used during the Civil War had a hollow base that formed a thin skirt at the bottom, similar to a sewing thimble. It was cast smaller than the rifle bore so it could be easily loaded down the barrel. When fired, the expanding gas forced the Minié ball’s base outward  and into full contact with the barrel’s rifling, stabilizing the spin. The result allowed the weapon to fire accurately against individual targets at ranges of 600 yards and against massed targets at 1,000. This increased the range 10-fold over smoothbore muskets.

United States—History—Civil War, 1861-1865; Soldiers; Military uniforms
It is still commonly believed by historians that the horrific casualties of war were the direct result of the range and accuracy of the rifled muskets versus the old fashioned linear tactics. These tactics involved maneuvering large bodies of men in close formations around the battlefield. Each group would line up in full view of each other and fire volley after volley, until one side wavered. At that point a bayonet charge would decide the winner.

At the 250-yard point, the bullet would reach the apex of its arch, rising 48 inches above the line of aim on it’s path to the target.

On the surface, the combination of better weapons and outdated tactics seems like a good formula for slaughter but the reality is less clear. It seems unlikely that the full potential of the rifled musket was realized since commanders rarely took advantage of its range and accuracy. For one thing, the field artillery’s ubiquitous 12-pounder Napoleon combination guns/howitzers were deadly effective at ranges well beyond small arms. Some historians now believe that artillery fire may have accounted for 20 to 50 percent of all casualties. Statistics on the effectiveness of small arms vary. Some suggest about one casualty for every 240 rounds fired, which is hardly more than the old smoothbore musket days of Emperor Napoleon. Other estimates state that Union forces expended over 1,000 rounds per casualty. It is worthy of note that a declining ratio of rounds fired to casualties produced is consistent with results found in subsequent wars as weapons technology improved.

PHOTO 9 casualties-by-war
Roughly 1,264,000 American soldiers have died in the nation’s wars – 620,000 in the Civil War and 644,000 in all other conflicts. It was only as recently as the Vietnam War that the amount of American deaths in foreign wars eclipsed the number who died in the Civil War. (Courtesy of

Other factors played a part in limiting the effectiveness of the rifled-musket. The black powder propellants used produced such prodigious amounts of white smoke that at times it completely obscured large parts of the battlefield. The accuracy of the rifled-musket was of little consequence when the soldiers couldn’t see the enemy. Further undermining the myth, military marksmanship training was virtually nonexistent at that time. Soldiers had whatever shooting experience they joined the army with. Rural farm boys grew up shooting while urban laborers had, likely, never handled a firearm before becoming a soldier. Estimates show that 48 percent of the Union Army and 69 percent of the Confederate Army came from farming backgrounds. The figures suggest that the South should have had better marksmen, but keep in mind that the Union fielded twice as many troops as the Confederacy. If the Union had more good shots, it had more bad ones too.

Model 1857 (1) – Model 1857 Smith breech loading carbine; .50 caliber; percussion hammer. The engraving reads: ADDRESS POULTNEY & TRIMBLE, BALTIMORE, USA MANUFACTURED BY AMERICAN MACHINE WORKS SMITH’S PATENT JUNE 23, 1857; 6550; hallmark on stock: JH in small oval (Courtesy of Memphis Pink Palace Museum – TAMARA BRAITHWAITE)

How many of those rural men in the ranks, had experience with long-range marksmanship? There’s no doubt that a shooting background would help, but the real question is, how much?

To this day, typical hunting ranges in the Eastern states are less than 100 yards. To successfully hit a long-range target requires the soldier to understand bullet trajectory and know the exact distance.

The Civil War shooter had to compensate for the high arch of the heavy, slow-moving, Minie ball. A soldier shooting at the enemy from what he determined to be 300 yards would have to fire at the target’s waist. The Springfield Model 1861 had a three-tier notch rear sight (one for 50, 100 and 300 yards). The shooter would flip up the 300-yard sighting mecahnism, called a leaf, to make the shot. When he squeezed the trigger, the hammer struck the percussion cap on the nipple and instantly ignited the main 65-grain powder charge in the barrel. This launched the 505-grain projectile on its arching path towards the opponents belt buckle. At the 250-yard point, the bullet would reach the apex of its arch, rising 48 inches above the line of aim on it’s path to the target. That means it would pass over the head of a man standing 50 yards in front of the target. Let’s say the shooter’s windage was off and he missed. The bullet would carry only another 50 yards behind the target before gravity pulled it to the ground. Correct range estimation was key to success and even a 50-yard error in judgment would cause a clean miss.


In January of 1862, the Union had an army of 527,000 infantrymen, and by the end of the war, that number exceeded 1 million. The United States government purchased 1,565,250 weapons of all types. When the war broke out, the Springfield Model 1855 percussion rifle was the standard weapon of the US Army. It was a .58-caliber rifled-musket with a unique Maynard priming system that didn’t use conventional percussion caps, although it could if necessary. In the Maynard system, the primers were bonded to a thin tape, coiled inside its lock that functioned in the same manner as a roll of paper caps in a child’s cap-gun. Only 7,000 of these were available at the outbreak of hostilities, and though an excellent weapon, it was thought that its complexity would be a hindrance in mass production.

The Springfield Armory made a simplified version using an ordinary percussion ignition system and thus the Model 1861 Springfield was born. It became the most widely used weapon of the Civil War, and the main weapon of the Union Army. Springfield Armory made 250,000 from 1861 to 1863, but another 450,000 were made by private contractors. Design changes to further simplify manufacturing resulted in the Model 1863 Springfield, of which 273,000 were made before yet another round of simplifications resulting in the Model 1863 type 2. Only 255,000 of these were made in 1864.

CW Model 1858 Revolver
Model 1858 Revolver – Model 1858 Allen & Wheelock percussion Army revolver; .44 caliber Engraving: ALLEN & WHEELOCK WORCHESTER, MASS. ALLEN’S PT’S JAN. 13, DEC 15, 1857 SEPT. 7 (Courtesy of Memphis Pink Palace Museum – TAMARA BRAITHWAITE)

The U.S. government also bought 428,292 .577-caliber Pattern 1853 Enfield rifle-muskets and another 8,000 Short Sea Service Pattern1858 models from the British. The Pattern 1853 Enfield became the mainstay of the Confederacy and was the second most common weapon of the Civil War. The American market quickly became a dumping ground for Europe’s obsolete weapons as both sides scrambled to find enough small arms to equip their armies. The Confederates purchased four blockade-runners (seagoing steam-ships used to make their way through the Union water blockades) to facilitate their imports. The U.S. government had no impediments to importation and bought 453,500 old rifled-muskets of various types in addition to 100,000 smooth boremuskets.

The American market quickly became a dumping ground for Europe’s obsolete weapons as both sides scrambled to find enough small arms to equip their armies.

Smoothbores saw considerable use at the start of the war on both sides. The state armories in the Confederacy only had about 160,000 weapons of the same type as the Union, including many Model 1842 percussion muskets. Even several years into the conflict, smoothbore muskets continued to be used, sometimes with buck-ball loads that combined a musket ball with several buckshot for devastating close-range effects.

Model 1864 Burnside breech loading carbine – Model 1864 Burnside breech loading carbine .54 caliber Engraving: BURNSIDE RIFLE CO. PROVIDENCE RI; 14402; R.K.W. stamped into stock; used by Union cavalry (Courtesy of Memphis Pink Palace Museum – TAMARA BRAITHWAITE)

The Union supplemented its rifled-muskets with small numbers of various innovative repeaters and single-shot breechloaders. The lever action Spencer and Henry rifles were the most famous and successful of the repeaters. It’s strange that the most iconic and advanced rifle of the Civil War, the Henry, was the one that held the least interest for the US government. Fewer than 1,800 were purchased, compared to 11,400 .52-caliber Spencer rifles and 94,196 carbines. Among breech-loaders, the standout was the robust and accurate Sharps arms. Nine thousand Sharps New Model 1859, 1863 and 1865 breech-loading rifles as well as 80,512 M1859 and M1863 carbines, were bought by the US government. The Sharps rifles were favored by Union sharpshooters for their accuracy and ability to reload while laying down. It might seem that the Union had gone carbine crazy when you consider that they also bought 55,567 .54-caliber breech-loading Burnside carbines (plus over 21,000,000 of their unique cartridges) in addition to 30,000 Smith, 25,000 Starr and 22,000 Gallagher breech-loading carbines. The fact was the Union had a lot of cavalry.

The Confederates found the utility of captured carbines limited, due to their varied calibers. In the case of Spencer and Henry repeaters, the South lacked the capacity to manufacture their special rimfire ammunition. Confederate cavalry made extensive use of short shotguns and later short rifled-muskets when they became available through capture, purchase or extremely limited manufacturing.

The Confederacy never developed a small arms industry of any consequence, but they were able to purchase weapons overseas and capture them in great numbers on the battlefield in 1861 and 1862. In the latter year alone, we know that 100,000 weapons were captured. It was helpful that the .58-caliber Minié ball of the Springfield and the .577 Minie ball of the Enfield were close enough that they could be used interchangeably. – AmSJ

Wyatt Earp Gun

Lessons on Gunfighting from Wyatt Earp

Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp (March 19, 1848 – January 13, 1929) was an American Old West gambler, a deputy sheriff in Pima County, and deputy town marshal in Tombstone, Arizona Territory, who took part in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, during which lawmen killed three outlaw cowboys.

Here is an interview that Wyatt Earp shares on “gunfighting“. This was dated back in the 1910 he offered to give an interview about his thoughts on using a gun. In his own words, Wyatt is going to explain how he became one of the most feared and accurate gunslingers… even if he was about the slowest.
The interview was originally posted on forum.

The most important lesson I learned from those proficient gunfighters was the winner of a gunplay usually was the man who took his time. The second was that, if I hoped to live long on the frontier, I would shun flashy trick-shooting—grandstand play—as I would poison.

I was a fair hand with pistol, rifle, or shotgun, but I learned more about gunfighting from Tom Speer’s cronies during the summer of ’71 than I had dreamed was in the book. Those old-timers took their gunplay seriously, which was natural under the conditions in which they lived. Shooting, to them, was considerably more than aiming at a mark and pulling a trigger. Models of weapons, methods of wearing them, means of getting them into action and operating them, all to the one end of combining high speed with absolute accuracy, contributed to the frontiersman’s shooting skill.

The sought-after degree of proficiency was that which could turn to most effective account the split-second between life and death. Hours upon hours of practice, and wide experience in actualities supported their arguments over style.

When I say that I learned to take my time in a gunfight, I do not wish to be misunderstood, for the time to be taken was only that split fraction of a second that means the difference between deadly accuracy with a sixgun and a miss. It is hard to make this clear to a man who has never been in a gunfight.

Perhaps I can best describe such time taking as going into action with the greatest speed of which a man’s muscles are capable, but mentally unflustered by an urge to hurry or the need for complicated nervous and muscular actions which trick-shooting involves. Mentally deliberate, but muscularly faster than thought, is what I mean. (What Wyatt meant is that he made the decision to shoot a long time before the trigger was pulled.)

In all my life as a frontier police officer, I did not know a really proficient gunfighter who had anything but contempt for the gun-fanner, or the man who literally shot from the hip. In later years I read a great deal about this type of gunplay, supposedly employed by men noted for skill with a forty-five.

From personal experience and numerous six-gun battles which I witnessed, I can only support the opinion advanced by the men who gave me my most valuable instruction in fast and accurate shooting, which was that the gun-fanner and hip-shooter stood small chance to live against a man who, as old Jack Gallagher always put it, took his time and pulled the trigger once.

Cocking and firing mechanisms on new revolvers were almost invariably altered by their purchasers in the interests of smoother, effortless handling, usually by filing the dog which controlled the hammer, some going so far as to remove triggers entirely or lash them against the guard, in which cases the guns were fired by thumbing the hammer.

This is not to be confused with fanning, in which the triggerless gun is held in one hand while the other was brushed rapidly across the hammer to cock the gun, and firing it by the weight of the hammer itself. A skillful gun-fanner could fire five shots from a forty-five so rapidly that the individual reports were indistinguishable, but what could happen to him in a gunfight was pretty close to murder.

I saw Jack Gallagher’s theory borne out so many times in deadly operation that I was never tempted to forsake the principles of gunfighting as I had them from him and his associates.

There was no man in the Kansas City group who was Wild Bill’s equal with a six-gun. Bill’s correct name, by the way, was James B. Hickok. Legend and the imaginations of certain people have exaggerated the number of men he killed in gunfights and have misrepresented the manner in which he did his killing. At that, they could not very well overdo his skill with pistols.

Hickok knew all the fancy tricks and was as good as the best at that sort of gunplay, but when he had serious business at hand, a man to get, the acid test of marksmanship, I doubt if he employed them. At least, he told me that he did not. I have seen him in action and I never saw him fan a gun, shoot from the hip, or try to fire two pistols simultaneously. Neither have I ever heard a reliable old-timer tell of any trick-shooting employed by Hickok when fast straight-shooting meant life or death.

That two-gun business is another matter that can stand some truth before the last of the old-time gunfighters has gone on. They wore two guns, most of six-gun toters did, and when the time came for action went after them with both hands. But they didn’t shoot them that way.

Primarily, two guns made the threat of something in reserve; they were useful as a display of force when a lone man stacked up against a crowd. Some men could shoot equally well with either hand, and in a gunplay might alternate their fire; others exhausted the loads from the gun on the right, or the left, as the case might be, then shifted the reserve weapon to the natural shooting hand if that was necessary and possible. Such a move—the border shift—could be made faster than the eye could follow a top-notch gun-thrower, but if the man was as good as that, the shift would seldom be required.

Whenever you see a picture of some two-gun man in action with both weapons held closely against his hips and both spitting smoke together, you can put it down that you are looking at the picture of a fool, or a fake. I remember quite a few of these so-called two-gun men who tried to operate everything at once, but like the fanners, they didn’t last long in proficient company.

In the days of which I am talking, among men whom I have in mind, when a man went after his guns, he did so with a single, serious purpose. There was no such thing as a bluff; when a gunfighter reached for his fortyfive, every faculty he owned was keyed to shooting as speedily and as accurately as possible, to making his first shot the last of the fight. He just had to think of his gun solely as something with which to kill another before he himself could be killed. The possibility of intimidating an antagonist was remote, although the ‘drop’ was thoroughly respected, and few men in the West would draw against it.

I have seen men so fast and so sure of themselves that they did go after their guns while men who intended to kill them had them covered, and what is more win out in the play. They were rare. It is safe to say, for all general purposes, that anything in gunfighting that smacked of show-off or bluff was left to braggarts who were ignorant or careless of their lives.

I might add that I never knew a man who amounted to anything to notch his gun with ‘credits,’ as they were called, for men he had killed. Outlaws, gunmen of the wild crew who killed for the sake of brag, followed this custom. I have worked with most of the noted peace officers — Hickok, Billy Tilghman, Pat Sughre, Bat Masterson, Charlie Basset, and others of like caliber — have handled their weapons many times, but never knew one of them to carry a notched gun.

There are two other points about the old-time method of using six-guns most effectively that do not seem to be generally known. One is that the gun was not cocked with the ball of the thumb. As his gun was jerked into action, the old-timer closed the whole joint of his thumb over the hammer and the gun was cocked in that fashion. The soft flesh of the thumb ball might slip if a man’s hands were moist, and a slip was not to be chanced if humanly avoidable. This thumb-joint method was employed whether or not a man used the trigger for firing.

On the second point, I have often been asked why five shots without reloading were all a top-notch gunfighter fired, when his guns were chambered for six cartridges.
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The answer is, merely, safety. To ensure against accidental discharge of the gun while in the holster, due to hair-trigger adjustment, the hammer rested upon an empty chamber. As widely as this was known and practiced, the number of cartridges a man carried in his six-gun may be taken as an indication of a man’s rank with the gunfighters of the old school. Practiced gun-wielders had too much respect for their weapons to take unnecessary chances with them; it was only with tyros and would-bes that you heard of accidental discharges or didn’t-know-it-was-loaded injuries in the country where carrying a Colt was a man’s prerogative.”

NOTE: My great grandfather Captain Fred Newton Scofield was a friend to Wyatt and a judge in Tombstone in 1880. Later they went in business together in Bakersfield California. My Uncle was bounced on the knee of Wyatt Earp as he was a frequent visitor to the home of Great Grandpa Scofield.

Sources: David Burnell, OpsGear, AbesGuns, Wikipedia, Stuart N Lake

M1911 takes down an Enemy Plane

A War Story for the Ages.

During World War 2, the 7th BG’s 9th Bomb Squadron was dispatched to destroy a railroad bridge at Pyinmana, about halfway between Rangoon and Mandalay and near two active enemy fighter bases. The formation was led by Col. Conrad F. Necrason, 7th BG commander. The B-24 on his right wing was piloted by 1st Lt. Lloyd Jensen whose copilot was 2d Lt. Owen J. Baggett. On that mission, Baggett was to earn a distinction believed to be unique in Air Force history.

Before reaching Pyinmana, Burma, to destroy a bridge, the American B-24 bombers were intercepted by Japanese fighter pilots.
Baggett’s B-24 plane took heavy damage with fire taking place at the rear. When smoke and fumes consumed the whole aircraft, aircrew commander (Jensen) ordered the crew to bail out.
Bagget recalls barely jumping out and almost consumed by the smoke inside the aircraft. He remembers floating down with a good chute. He saw four more open canopies before the bomber exploded.
The Japanese planes immediately began strafing the surviving crewmen, apparently killing some of them and grazing Baggett’s arm. As the plane circle Bagget to come in to finish him off. Owen J Bagget did what you would only see from a James Bond movie.

Baggett pretended to be dead, hoping the Zero pilot would not fire again. Anyway, the pilot opened his canopy and approached within feet of Baggett’s chute, nose up and on the verge of a stall. Baggett, raised the .45 automatic concealed against his leg and fired four shots at the open cockpit. The Zero stalled and spun in.
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It must take some sharp shooting and nerves of unbending steel to keep straight aim in the face of certain death, but seems he managed to shoot and kill the enemy fighter pilot with none other than a .45 caliber M1911 pistol. Whether a testament to sharp shooting under pressure or the efficacy of the gun, who knows.


Owen fell to the earth, wounded but alive, he and 2 other crewmen were captured as POW’s, later freed at the end of the war.
While in captive he met Col. Harry Melton, commander of the 311th Fighter Group who had been shot down, passed through the POW camp and told Baggett that a Japanese colonel said the pilot Owen Baggett had fired at had been thrown clear of his plane when it crashed and burned. He was found dead of a single bullet in his head. Colonel Melton intended to make an official report of the incident but lost his life when the ship on which he was being taken to Japan was sunk. Unfortunately, there were no official evidence to support Baggett’s account.

He lived to 85 years old, having reached the rank of Colonel and continued as a defense contractor, and died in 2006. His tombstone tells of his being a POW, a hero, and a father– But sadly, it doesn’t cover his badass airborne feat: being the only person to down a Japanese fighter plane with a pistol.

Whether it was true or not, its still a great story for our M1911 legacy.

by Sam Morstan

Source: Owen J Baggett Wikipedia, and Controversial Times

Unique WWII Facts that you didn’t know about

These Facts Will Give You a Different Perspective on World War II

Historian John Keegan words on World War II, was “the largest single event in human history,” a conflict “fought across six of the world’s seven continents and all its oceans. It killed 50 million human beings, left hundreds of millions of others wounded in mind or body and materially devastated much of the heartland of civilization.”
Much have been analyzed and explored from numerous angles in history books, films and art.
Common figures and events are familiar to the average high school student who is buried in the history books. This era is filled with complex and endless fascinating stories that packs plenty of overlooked or under-appreciated stories, characters, and facts for the rest of us. Here are some unique World War 2 facts.

  1. The Soviets were the only ones that realize just how skilled Finnish snipers were during the war, they were able to kill 40 Soviet troops for every Finnish soldier killed, that is unheard of today.
  2. This photo shows the massive Japanese submarine I-401. This sub was the size of an aircraft carrier and even had three folded up bombers secured inside the sub. The mission of the submarine was to bomb the Panama Canal but instead the behemoth of a sub ended up at the bottom of the ocean.
  3. Bomber crews were signed on to do 25 mission tours but what most didn’t know was that from 1942-1943 air losses were so common that it became statistically impossible for a bomber to complete a full tour.
  4. German U-Boats were a terror in the seas and 795 of them were sunk during the course of the war. Records shows 40,000 men manned those subs and 75% of them lost their lives at sea.
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  6. For those that think being in the Air Force was better than being a grunt, listen this fact. During World War 2 you were more likely to die as a member of the U.S. Air Force than as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps. Pilots were required to complete 30 missions but the odds of dying before completing those 30 missions was 71%.
  7. Tracers were used to help pilots aim their shots, every fifth round was loaded with a glowing tracer. This tracer was meant to help the pilot see if they were hitting their targets. Unfortunately tracers behaved differently from the bullets, so if the tracers were on target 80% of the time, the bullets would be missing it.

  8. Another sad fact about tracers was that pilots would end their rounds with several tracers as a signal to let them know they were out of ammo. Unfortunately, the enemy figured out that they were out of ammo. The pilots who stopped using tracers improved their aim and suffered fewer casualties.
  9. While Japanese Kamikaze pilots flying into ships was well known, the Russians also had Kamikaze pilots who would ram themselves into German planes in midair. Some Russian pilots were quick enough to eject and survive, but the strategy wasn’t entirely effective even though able to bring down hundreds of German planes, but at the cost of a Russian pilot. Near the end of the war, Germany would adopt this strategy as well.

  10. Believe it or not, Koreans were among the first German soldiers captured at Normandy. They were first forced to fight for the Japanese and then the Soviets and finally by the Germans.

  11. Stanislawa Leszczyńska was a Polish midwife who managed to deliver 3,000 babies at the Auschwitz concentration camp.
  12. Another horrific face when the Russians moved through open fields they would force convicts to walk ahead of the troops and tanks. This often cost the convicts their lives but it would spare the Russian army and allow them to continue to advance.
  13. James Hill managed a feat that few thought imagine possible when he captured two tanks with nothing but a revolver. He attempted to capture a third tank with his trusty revolver but was wounded.
  14. La femme, Roza Shanina was a Russian sniper who achieved 54 confirmed hits. She became known as “the unseen terror of East Prussia.”
  15. The Nazis Came Close to Developing Plutonium
    As if the Nazis weren’t sinister enough, they came surprisingly close to developing plutonium—the stuff that makes nuclear weapons go kaboom. When the Germans invaded Norway, they took over a factory in the Telemark region that produced heavy water, which was used to create plutonium. But before they were able to produce anything, a band of 11 Norwegian commandos sabotaged the plant, setting off explosives in the base without suffering a single casualty on their side.
  16. A Downed Japanese Pilot Was Welcomed onto U.S. Territory
    Japanese pilot Shigenori Nishikaichi, among those who bombed Pearl Harbor, crash-landed onto Hawaii. The locals, unaware that the Japanese had just set off hostilities with their country, welcomed the enemy fighter graciously, offering him breakfast and even throwing him a luau—with Nishikaichi grabbing a guitar and treating the crowd to a traditional Japanese song.

Sources: Wikipedia

Apache Revolver

Gangster Weapons of the Past

In the early 1900’s French gangsters used a weapon called an Apache Revolver that functioned as a revolver, a knife and brass knuckles. The Apache operates on the principle of a pepperbox revolver using a pinfire cartridge and incorporates a fold-over knuckle duster forming the grip and also a rudimentary foldout, dual-edged knife.

Apache_revolver2Due to the lack of a barrel, the revolver’s effective range is very limited, but since all of its component parts can be folded inward towards the cylinder, it was easily concealable inside a pocket.
It was common to leave an empty chamber with no cartridge under the hammer to prevent shooting oneself while having it concealed in a pocket or bag, as the weapon has no trigger guard or safety. This weapon is not able to be aimed precisely because of its lack of front and rear sights. Despite its limited potential, the revolver proved deadly at extremely close range. For reloading, the cartridge cylinder must be removed and replaced with a full one.

A 9×19mm Parabellum revolver of similar design (but no official designation) was allegedly used by British Commandos during World War II, though exact statistics about production numbers and technical details have as yet remained undisclosed to the public.

Video Transcript:
[Intro music]
Host: “Hi guys, thanks for tuning in to another video on I’m Ian, I’m here today at the Rock Island Auction House taking a look at some of the guns coming up for sale in our February 2015 regional auction. One of the ones that I figure we should take a look at is this, Dolne or Apache knuckle-duster revolver. We’ve looked at a bunch of this era of pocket defensive pistols, but we haven’t seen this one before, so they have a good example in the auction, I figured I should pull it out.
What makes these a little bit different is, they’re actually three weapons all in one. So, if I go to put this back together here, it is actually a set of brass knuckles, it is also a dagger right there, to be used with knuckles, and a folding-trigger revolver. There’s actually a lot of neat, intricate stuff going on in this gun, so why don’t I take the camera back here, and let’s take a closer look.

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Alright, so a Frenchman by the name of Louis Dolne patented this device in 1869, they were manufactured by a number of different companies in Europe through until about the turn of the century, about 1900. At that point of course they’d been superceded by more typical modern pistols. So, let’s start with this as a knuckle-duster.You can see, obviously, it has space for four fingers.
It also, interestingly, has this little hole in one last finger, and a little pin right here on the frame, so that that gives you a solid position to lock the knuckles into the frame so that they don’t bend if you don’t hit something. The top of the frame here is curved, that’s not an accident, that’s intentional, so that it fits nicely into the palm of the hand like so. For what it’s worth, I find that these knuckle holes are just a hair too small for my fingers.
I can get the thing onto my main row of knuckles, but it’s kinda tricky to get it back off, so I’m not gonna do that on camera. Now the next weapon involved in this is this little flamenbere-style dagger. It has a locking latch right here, so I push this button down, it allows it to go back in. You can see right there, the locking latch pops up and the whole thing is held on by a screw. It is kinda wobbly, but if you tighten it down it’d probably work at least once. Now some people look at this and assume it’s supposed to be some kind of a bayonet-pistol. I’m pretty sure that the knife is actually intended to be used with the knuckles. It’s certainly a lot more practical this way. When the knife is not in use it has a little latch here, a cover that holds the point of the blade.
The blade by the way is not sharp. The point is pointy, but the edge is not sharpened. So there’s the knife blade. And the last element to this is the revolver. So we have a latch here, spring-loaded, and the knuckles lock into the frame like this, the trigger folds down, and we have a functional revolver.

I was a little surprised while handling this just how good of a grip you actually get from these brass knuckles. It works better than I was expecting, and frankly better than most other pocket-pistols of this sort of this era. The revolver itself has no barrel, it’s just a cylender. It holds six cartredges. This particular one is a five-milimeter pinfire. That was probably the most common, they were also made in seven-milimeter pinfire. Unfortunately on this one, the cylendar hand is broken, so it doesn’t properly rotate the cylendar. But you can see we’ve got our hammer there, there’s no way to manually cock this, it’s double-action only, and being pinfire, this simply drops down onto the pin primer extending out from the cartredge. There is no rebounding safety or half-cock, so if you were going to carry this, you’d want to carry it on an empty chamber, You’d carry five loaded rounds and one empty. In order to load it or unload it, what you’d do is rotate this little pin around -you can see there’s a lot of little fiddly stuff going on on this guy- anyway, we rotate that around, and then we can open up our cylendar access pin here. Once this pin comes out, you can see it has this little retention spring on it there, and the cylendar just drops out. So there’s our cylendar. No rifling, just six long chambers. There’s a hole in the front of the frame that you fire through, and you can see the hand right here, and the spring that’s supposed to push it out to engage with this ratchet on the back of the cylendar, that little spring is broken. So. That’s why it doesn’t work. Then at the base of the cylendar here we have the lock, so that prevents the cylendar from rotating while you are actually firing.

Now, the access pin would act as your cartredge ejector. It’s got the spring, so it’s right, but push that in. Eject each cartredge, one after the other, then you would manually re-load them all, put the cylendar back in, put the access pin in, rotate it down, rotate this up to lock it in place, and then you’re ready to go. you can see this right here is the main spring for the trigger mechanism, that’s what’s being acted upon when I pull the trigger, and that’s about it mechanically for these guys.

I mentioned at the beginning that they are often called Apache Pistols, I can’t quite vouch for the veracity of that exact story, but the idea is: These were used by gangs of French -specifically Parisian- roughs and no-goodnicks, Gangsters basically, who got the name ‘Apache’ allegedly for being renowned as being as cruel and violent as the American Apaches. Whether that’s absolutely true, I couldn’t say for sure, but it makes for an interesting story. And apparently this sort of pistol was either a trademark of theirs, or simply something that just became associated with them. I don’t think they were typically called Apache pistols at the time, but it’s a name that they’ve gotten since.

So here are the markings on the front of the frame. You can see there’s a serial number, you can see the word ‘Dolne’, that’s the inventor, then there’s ‘privet'(?), that’s a patent notation. That’s a Dolne-patent gun. We don’t know exactly who manufactured this one. There is a little teeny mark on the frame right there. That’s about it. The majority of these were brass, there were some made with iron frames, the style of the blade varies between different examples, as do the style of the knuckles. Of course, being made by multiple companies, you had a lot of different designs. The only real commonality is mechanically, how they function.

Well, thanks for watching, guys, I hope you enjoyed the video, hope you learned something about another one of these interesting eighteen-hundreds defensive weapons. And if you’d like to buy this and add it to your own collection, you certainly can, this being an auction house it is up for sale. This is lot 1117, you can see it below, there’s a link in the description below to rock island’s catalog page, you can take a look at all of its pictures and place a bid on it. It’s in a lot with ther interesting old revolvers, so definitely something to take a look at.

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Source: Wiki, Unbelievable Facts Facebook,

Japan’s WWII Paratroop Folding Rifle was the worst Idea

The Idea looked better on Paper

In World War Two Japan had a paratroop corps, Germany provided the technical assistance with equipment implementation in the late 1930’s. One of the methods was the use of parachute-equipped containers housing the firearms, this was dropped separately from the paratrooper. In the combat drop at Sumatra (Japanese) and Crete (Germany), both drop zones had problems of weapons containers landing far from troops, resulting being out gunned.
Especially, the experiences of the airborne attack on Palembang in Sumatra, Dutch East Indies, February 13-15, 1942. In that battle, the airborne troops were equipped with standard rifles that were dropped in separate canisters and ended up landing in swamps some distance from the men, who then had to fight with just pistols, bayonets and grenades.

At the outcome the Japanese obviously thought this wasn’t a good idea, and looked at alternatives methods. One idea is to have the paratroops jump with a compact gun. This resulted in a modified Type 38 Arisaka rifle (similar to a Winchester .308) and a folding-stock version. The first proposed plan was the Type 1. The rifle was basically chopped in half at the chamber and McGyvered a hinge door mechanism onto it, thus producing a folding rifle. These rifle were also fitted with bayonet bars under the barrel.

Archives recorded that several hundred folding rifles were used for trials and performance was not very good. Such as the latch system was not very tight, stocks would wobble around, the threaded stud and wing nut would often catch on things and become damaged.

For the full details on the stock mechanism, see the video below from Youtuber Forgotten Weapons:

Wartime Paratrooper Operations
The records are still unclear whether these folding rifle were actually deployed in real operations. Overall, the Japanese paratroopers did not see widespread deployment during the war. All of their operations were primarily raiding operations to seize airfields or strategically vital assets (like oil refineries).

IJN’s paratroopers assembling and arming themselves with weapons stored in canisters (similar to those developed for German paratroopers) (image source: Japanese Paratroop Forces of WWII)

Source: Ian McCollom Forgotten Weapons Youtube, Wikipedia, Nambu World

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Periscope Gun Of WWI

A Way To Keep Your Head Down While Firing At The Enemy

periscopegunWhen fighting stagnates and enemy lines dug into trenches, snipers target anyone whose head pops up above the edge of the trench.

Solution: Keep your head down, but your rifle up. The Germans called it Spiegelkolben. Just mount a rifle to a periscope. That way the rifle could be lifted up to get a clear shot at the enemy trenches while the shooter remained safely out of sight using mirrors to see his sights and a length of wire to pull his trigger. While all the major powers in the war developed devices like this, the one we are looking at today is German. It’s simple, but effective.

Using a pair of mirrors provide sighting while a cable connects the bottom stock’s trigger to the trigger of the rifle. Once the shooter gets acclimated to viewing the sights through the mirrors, the shooter (sniper) became quite lethal.

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Bottom trigger (left) connects to a cable that passes over a roller (center) and connects to rifle trigger (right).
Bottom trigger (left) connects to a cable that passes over a roller (center) and connects to rifle trigger (right).
One downside to using this method, you’d have to drag the gun back into the trench in order to cycle the bolt, although some versions of trench rifles did have articulated mechanisms that allowed soldiers to operate the bolt from below.
The rifle featured in the video also has some other “trench” modifications–like the 20-round fixed box magazine you can see protruding from the bottom of the receiver. This gives the shooter more ammo to fire before needing to reload.

It also had night sights, although the stuff that used to make them glow in the dark ceased to do so long ago. Although this one is one of the more primitive versions of a periscope gun or Spiegelkolben, it sold in October 2015 for a whopping $16,000 PLUS the buyer’s premium.
Although the video refers to some unnamed “cool piece of trench modification that comes with this, that wasn’t installed” that is supposedly described on the auction page, I was unable to find any mention of that on the auction page.

Here’s Ian McCollom of Forgotten Weapons going over this historic piece.

History of Pinkerton Security

Abraham Lincoln’s Private Bodyguard

Article by Kathy Weiser

Founded in 1850 by Allan Pinkerton, the Pinkerton Agency quickly became one of the most important crime detection and law enforcement groups in the United States. Born in Scotland on August 25, 1819, Pinkerton worked as a barrel maker before immigrating to the United States in 1842. Settling near Chicago, he went to work at Lill’s Brewery as a barrel maker.
However, Pinkerton soon determined that working for himself would be more profitable for his family and they moved to a small town called Dundee, some 40 miles from Chicago.
Making barrels once again, he quickly gained control of the market due to the superior quality and low prices of his product. Always thrifty, Pinkerton thought that he could save some money by not paying someone else for poles to make barrel hoops. Before long, he found a small deserted island in the middle of the Fox River and rowed out to cut down a supply of his own.

However, when he got to the island he found signs that someone had been there, and knowing that counterfeiters had been working in the be their hideout. When he returned, he notified the local sheriff of his suspicions and the two teamed up to stake out the island which soon led to the arrest of the counterfeit band.
However, they failed to catch the ringleader. Pinkerton found himself involved in the search for the leader and soon tracked him down, as well.

THIS ACCIDENTAL INVOLVEMENT IN JUSTICE led to Pinkerton’s appointment as a deputy sheriff for Kane County, Ill., and in 1850 he became Chicago’s first police detective. That same year, he, along with Chicago attorney Edward Rucker founded the North-Western Police Agency.
In the meantime, Allan’s brother, Robert, had his formed his own business called “Pinkerton & Co” as early as 1843. Robert’s organization was originally established as a railroad contractor, but somewhere along the line, he began to work as a railroad detective.

Through his contacts in the railroad business, Robert had also secured a number of contracts with Wells Fargo to provide guards on stage coaches. Robert’s business grew so rapidly that he hired several men as railroad and stage coach detectives and guards.
When Allan and Rucker’s business dissolved a year after it was formed, Allan joined his brother Robert in his already established company and the name was changed to the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. The “new” company provided a variety of detective services, from private military contractors to security guards, but specialized in the capture of counterfeiters and train robbers.
Though there were a few other detective agencies at the time, most had unsavory reputations and the Pinkerton Agency was the first to set uniform fees and establish practices, which quickly earned respect for the organization. In 1861, while investigating a railway case, the agency uncovered an assassination plot against Abraham Lincoln, where conspirators intended to kill the just-elected president in Baltimore during a stop on his way to his inauguration.
However, with Pinkerton’s warning, Lincoln’s itinerary was changed. During the Civil War, President Lincoln hired the Pinkerton Detective Agency to organize a “secret service” to obtain military information on the Confederates and sometimes act as Lincoln’s bodyguard.
Working diligently, Allan Pinkerton traveled under the pseudonym of “Major E.J. Allen.” After the war, Allan Pinkerton returned to his duties at the detective agency, which was often hired by the government to perform many of the same duties that are now regularly assigned to the Secret Service, the FBI, and the CIA. The agency also worked for the railroads and overland stage companies, playing an active role in chasing down a number of outlaws, including Jesse James, the Reno Brothers, and Butch Cassidy and his Wild Bunch.
On their three-story Chicago building, their logo, a black-and-white eye, claimed “We Never Sleep.” This originated the term “private eye.”

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WHEN ROBERT PINKERTON DIED IN 1868, Allan assumed full control of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. However, just a year later, in the autumn of 1869, Allan suffered a paralyzing stroke which nearly killed him. Both Robert and Allan’s sons then took on most of the responsibilities of running the business.
However, there was rivalry between them, and the agency struggled without leadership. At the same time, it began to suffer financially. Despite the challenges, by the early 1870s, the agency had the world’s largest collection of mug shots and a “criminal database.” During the height of its existence, the Pinkertons allegedly had more agents than the standing army of the United States of America, causing the state of Ohio to outlaw the agency, due to the possibility of its being hired out as a “private army” or militia.
Fortunes were to decrease once again for the agency when, in 1871, Chicago suffered the Great Fire which began on the evening of October 7th. Before it burned itself out three days later, the entire business district was destroyed, including the Pinkerton buildings and many of their records.
When the fire was finally extinguished, martial law was declared in Chicago and guards from the Pinkerton guards were hired to prevent looting. Robert’s widow, Alice Isabella Pinkerton, and his dependents were also left homeless. When she approached Allan for assistance, he encouraged them to return to Great Britain. Offering to pay for the journey, Alice and her sons accepted his offer and sailed for Liverpool, leaving the agency entirely in the hands of Allan and his sons.
When Allan Pinkerton passed away in 1884, the agency was taken over by his sons, Robert and William. They soon became involved in the labor unrest of the late 19th century when they were hired by a number of businesses to keep strikers and suspected unionists out of their factories.
However, the rapidly expanding agency became known for less admirable activities as they often became the “law” in and of themselves. Accused of using heavy-handed tactics, such as firebombing Jesse James’ mother’s home and using intimidation against union sympathizers, the public began to turn away from supporting the agency.
Many labor sympathizers accused the Pinkertons of inciting riots and their reputation continued to suffer. The most notorious example of this was the Homestead Strike of 1892, when Pinkerton agents killed 11 people while enforcing strikebreaking measures. In order to restore order, two brigades of state militia had to be called out.

Continuing their involvement against the labor movement into the 20th century, their reputation was harmed for years in the public consciousness. However, the agency endured. In 1907, the agency was inherited by the founder’s grandson, Allan Pinkerton II and his great-grandson, Robert II, in 1930. When Robert Pinkerton II died in 1967, without a male heir, family direction of the corporation came to an end.
Pinkerton’s Inc. has since grown to a $1.5 billion organization that provides a wide range of security services. The company has its U.S. headquarters in Westlake Village, Calif., and is a subsidiary of the Securitas Group of Stockholm, Sweden, a world leader in the security industry.