CONFEDERATE ALTERATION OF A STATE OF VIRGINIA SWAN CONTRACT MUSKET MARKED “ORANGE CO.”

$4,000.00

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Item Code: 1000-289

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In 1795 Virginia advertised for a contract to procure 4,000 muskets per annum. Colonel James Swan of Boston offered in September of 1796 to supply 4,000 musket per year for five years for a total of 20,000 muskets. In May of 1797, Virginia and Colonel Swan entered into a contract for Swan to procure on Virginia’s behalf 4,000 muskets of the Brown Bess pattern to be delivered in 1799. Sawn contracted with Germanic arms makers to produce the muskets, but the production was delayed by European wars, political intrigue and European governments seizing the muskets for their own armies. Swan finally delivered 4,000 muskets, which were of such poor quality that only 739 passed inspection. A second 4,000 muskets delivered by Swan were of an even poorer quality. Virginia finally accepted 7,831 of Swan’s 8,000 delivered, but at a much lower price. In 1801, the Swan muskets were stamped with militia unit designations and distribution to the units began.

Swan Contract muskets of the Brown Bess pattern vary in dimensions indicating that they were manufactured by various entities. Usually the locks are unmarked while the barrels carry regimental and county names.

This .69 smoothbore musket was illustrated and described on page 625-627 in Murphy & Madaus’ book “CONFEDERATE RIFLES AND MUSKETS.” The authors describe this weapon as follows: “This musket is one of 7,831 imported muskets delivered to Virginia by contractor James Swan of Boston during the period from 1797-1801. Brazed bolster alteration to percussion was done by S. C. Robinson of Richmond using the characteristic two faceted bolster. Barrel regimental markings “ORANGE” are visible though indistinct. All original throughout.”

Barrel is semi-bright with heavy scattered mottling. The bayonet lug is present on top just back of the muzzle. Breech area is dark and pitted from use. Bore is dark with some scattered pitting. Barrel is held to the stock by pins. As mentioned above the marking of “ORANGE” is indistinct. Only the top portion of some of the letters can be seen.

The lock matches the barrel in appearance. It has a rounded front and a pointed rear that is flush with the stock. Hammer is dark and the hammer screw shows light wear. Action does not work. Hammer can be pulled back but it does not hold at half or full-cock. Nipple is original but peened over some. Lock is unmarked. Conversion to percussion is as described above.

The wood stock is in nice condition with the usual dings, dents and digs consistent with age and use. Stock has small old chips along the right side where the barrel pins are located. Left side is good. Starting at the nose cap and moving back 10 inches the wood is replaced. This looks to be a period replacement and was expertly done. Though the tone of the wood is a bit lighter than the rest of the stock the wear on it matches the stock as a whole. Just forward of the triggerguard there is an elliptical shaped repair. It appears that a piece of wood chipped off and was reset. The wood grain and tone matches perfectly.  The stock also has a brass nose cap and buttplate as well as brass triggerguard with decorative acorn finial at front and four brass ramrod pipes for holding the original buttonhead ramrod. Lower end of ramrod is clipped. Weapon has no sling swivels. Both the escutcheon plate on the left side, the buttplate tang and the triggerguard are stamped with the number “22.”  [ad]

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