A CONTINENTAL ARMY-ALTERED, FRENCH M1717 RAMPART MUSKET WITH BAYONET
Overall length: 63 1/4 in. Barrel length: 47 1/8 in. Bore: 0.78 Weight: 10.6 lbs.
In February 1777, Silas Deane and Benjamin Franklin, the commissioners to France from the Continental Congress, were offered a considerable stock of arms by a French merchant, consisting of "a large Quantity of Fuses ["fusils"], swords, &c. at Nantes, part of which are good & part broken and damaged" which he proposed selling "for a trifle." On 27 March 1777, the contract was concluded and the United States found itself in possession of a considerable "magazine" which included "7700 Rampart fusils good, 18,000 do. to be new mounted", as well as 8200 loose barrels, some of which had corresponding locks and furniture. By January 1778, 1500 of the best rampart muskets were on their way to America, followed by subsequent shipments of complete or repaired ones over the next two years.
When the chests of rampart muskets and parts reached New England ports, they were sent to the Continental Army arsenal at Springfield, where gunsmiths began to alter them for use as infantry arms, rather than their original use in the defense of fortifications. The intact M1717 and M1728 rampart muskets had their forestocks cut back just enough to mount a socket bayonet and a bayonet lug brazed to the top of the barrel, for such purposes.
The capture of Charleston, the defeat at Camden, and Arnold's expedition against Virginia in 1780 led to severe arms shortages for both the Southern Army and in that state. In March of 1781, the Continental Board of War ordered 1000 rampart muskets sent to Virginia from Springfield to arm its militia and state regulars and by June, an additional "four thousand Rampart arms for the use of the Southern Militia" (including Maryland and the Carolinas) was authorized. On 26 June, Colonel William Grayson wrote to General George Weedon for his opinion of the new-mounted, rampart arms sent to Virginia: "...what do you think of them? The Militia cannot grumble about them being heavy", noting that they are "are precisely of the same weight" as a British musket.
This rare M1717 musket is one of those altered at Springfield during 1778-1780 and its associated bayonet is an American-made example made for one of these rampart muskets. It is the only example of an intact, American-altered, M1717 rampart musket configured for infantry use currently known to survive. The lock and barrel bear the stamp 'IFC" of Jean Fournier, who supervised the Royal Arms Manufactory at Charleville during the first half of the 18th century. The cock of the former shows a period, forged repair to the center of its "gooseneck". A Roman numeral 'XIX' is carved on the right face of the butt, probably signifying an American unit or issue number.
Exhibited: Wall Guns in 18th Century America (Best of Show Award), New England Antique Arms Collectors Annual Show, 2015; A Revolution in Arms: Weapons in the War for Independence, The Society of the Cincinnati, Washington, DC, Oct. 2018-Mar. 2019.
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