FRENCH 1785 CONTRACT MUSKET FOR THE STATE OF VIRGINIA CONVERTED TO PERCUSSION- MARKED “54TH VA. REGT. NORFOLK BOROUGH”

$5,000.00

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Item Code: 1000-253

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After the Revolution and before the adoption of the Federal Constitution, Virginia realized that she had no source of new arms. In 1785, when Patrick Henry was Governor of the state, the Council of State appropriated 10,000 pounds to procure foreign muskets. A contract was entered into with France to purchase 3,390 muskets to be manufactured at the Tulle Armory. These muskets were of the French Colonial Pattern. The first shipment of 1,500 muskets reached Virginia’s Point of Fork Arsenal in December 1786.

The second shipment of 1,890 muskets was received in Virginia in July of 1787 thereby fulfilling the state’s contract for 3,390 French muskets. These were the first muskets procured in the fledgling United States after the Revolution.

Starting in 1801, all Virginia owned muskets that were deposited in state facilities were ordered to have their barrels marked with the regimental numbers and the county name to which they were to be issued.

This .72 smoothbore musket has a barrel that is dark throughout. There are no sights but there is a bayonet lug at the bottom of the muzzle. Breech area has some heavy pitting and moderate surface rust. Top of breech is stamped with “54TH VA. REGT. NORFOLK BOROUGH.”  Except for the digits of the regimental number, which are faint, the rest of the mark is strong. Bore is dark and has some built-up areas of dirt with scattered pitting.

Barrel is held to the stock by two barrel bands, one regular band held by a spring at rear and one small narrow band at the front. The middle band is missing. Both bands are brass. Front band is narrow and looks to have been forged from the remnants of a regular sized band. Due to its narrowness it does not encompass the ramrod.

The lock and hammer are semi-bright with light mottling. The lockplate has a rounded front and a pointed rear that is basically flush with the stock, however some of the wood has been chipped or carved away leaving gaps between the edge of the lock and the wood of the stock. The body of the hammer is wide and flat and looks crude. Action works properly. Forward of the hammer the lock has some faint visible markings from the French “MRE. ??. DE TULLE.” Weapon was converted to percussion by the side drum method. The face of the drum bears an asterisk type decoration. Original nipple is present and worn.

The wood stock is in fair condition. The left side near the muzzle is missing a 7.00 inch section of wood. The rest of the stock is good and exhibits the usual dings, dents and scratches. The right side of the cheek has a faint but visible “V” stamped proof mark for the state of Virginia. The left side of the butt has a concave cheek rest and there is wood loss on either side of the barrel tang. This is more severe on the lock side where there is an open gap between the barrel tang and the edge of the lockplate. Forward of the triggerguard there is a hole worn in the wood exposing the ramrod. This hole is approx. 3.00 inches long by 0.50 an inch wide. There is a closed crack running from the top of this hole to the lower barrel band, approx. 5.25 inches.

The triggerguard has a decorative round pointed finial at front and finger rests at rear. Rear tang is iron but the bow of the triggerguard is brass and fits loosely. Buttplate is also of brass. Iron trumpet head ramrod is full length with the threaded tip clipped and made into a semi- point. Both sling swivels are present.  [ad]

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