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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
We are currently in the midst of the Bicentennial of the Napoleonic Wars, 1804 - 1815, the second REAL "World War" ( the first was the Seven Years' War, aka the French and Indian War ) - or as it's disingeniously called here, the War of 1812; and in memory of that and spurred by a current thread ( "???Revolutionary Carbine???" ), I'll take this opportunity to share a little about French arms of the era. Of course they're black-powder flintlocks, so I'll put this HERE; I don't think anyone at the "French" arms section knows there WERE any French Firearms pre-Gras! I'll discuss the 3 in my collection that represent the primary shoulder arms of the Napoleonic-era French cavalry.

During this era, there were THREE different main types of mounted troops: LIGHT, HEAVY, and DRAGOONS. Light cavalry ( hussars, chasseurs, and lanciers or eclarieurs ) were the "eyes and ears" of the army performing scouting and screening duties; Heavy cavalry ( curiassiers and carabiniers ) were the "armored" forces, wearing heavy metal breastplates and helmets, who punched holes in opposing lines of infantry then hounded them from the field; Dragoons ( dragons ) served as "mounted infantry" able to perform some of the shock action of the heavys, scouting like the light, but often dismounting to fight on foot as infantry armed with muskets. ALL of these various types were armed with shoulder arms called mousquetons or fusils, in the SAME .69 caliber as the infantry muskets AND the massive horse pistols carried in saddle holsters or worn on belt hooks.

Here's where my Napoleonic arms normally "live"; top-to-bottom they are: an unknown short musket dated 1815 I'll save for another time; a Dragon Fusil; Mousqueton mlle. An IX; and to the right of the century-old print of charging French Dragoons, a Mousqueton no. 1. mlle 1786.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Regulation French Arms

The French were very concerned with "quality control" and had established a very thorough system incorporating regulation models and strict inspection of all steps in the manufacturing process; most individual parts bore the cartouche of the inspecting official, usually a letter or initial. Notice the deliberate similarities between all 3 of these, though they were manufactured in 2 different locations and over a period of about 15 years! ( I'll describe and picture each in separate entries. )

First up is the Fusil de Dragon . mlle An IX or "dragoon musket, model of the ninth year after the French Revolution" ( 1801 ) shown at top in these photos. Ai 54 1/2" overall, it's a bit long for a mounted man to wield; but remember that these troops were at least SUPPOSED to ride to action, then dismount and fight as light infantry! The mountings are a deliberate mix of brass and iron. The French walnut has been pieced together under the lower band; if done by a collector/restorer or done during one of the at least 3 times during the Empire when arms of all kinds were in short supply, I don't know. The lock - same as on an infantry musket - is marked Manuf Imple de Charleville. Barrel markings are very weak now, but the 777 on the tang indicates it's original model denomination: 1777. Note especially the odd "double" iron middle band that is the distinguishing feature of this being intended for dragoons. The butt is now only faintly marked with the final inspector's marking, so I'll describe it on the musketoon where you can see what I'm talking about. Note also like most other French arms of the era the "cheekpiece" or cutout in the stock to put your face! And of course there's NO rear sight on these; you're just supposed to "point and shoot"!
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Light Cavalry Musketoons

Though produced some fifteen years and probably a few hundred miles apart, you can detect the similarity between these very short ( and short-range! ) musketoons. Originally both were manufactured WITH the sidebar for the ring to attach to the spring-loaded "carbine hook"; for some reason one has been lost to time. That particular model was sometimes used to arm artillerymen, bandsmen, and even in a pinch, light infantry; so that MAY account for it now being missing. Note also that in these small shoulder arms the "cheekpiece" common to larger muskets has been deleted.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Mousqueton de Hussard mlle. 1786 / Mousqueton no. 1 mlle. 1786

The lockplate on this is simply marked Gosuin a' Liege, so it's really Belgian and is just a cut-down fowling-piece; right? WRONG! At the time this was made, there was NO Belgium - it was one of the departments of France and had been siezed during the Wars of the Revolution. The Gosuin in question was an arms-maker who had moved to Liege and gotten a contract from the Revolutionary government to make these. Originally they were intended to arm ONLY the 12 most elite regiments of French light cavalry, the Hussars, each regiment in a bright Hungarian-inspired tight-fitting uniform. Befitting their "light" status, they were given this toy-like musketoon, only 42 1/2" overall and extremely LIGHT in weight. It's NOT cut down; the photos of the carbine bar show how the elongated brass nosecap actually fits BENEATH the steel barrel band! And this was designed to be fitted with a VERY long socket bayonet I unfortunately don't own an example of!

When the Revolutionary government came to power in 1792, like the later Russian Communists a century later, they tried to sever all ties with the former monarchy. That went so far as creating a NEW calendar, dated from the year of their takeover, and renaming things with royalist associations. So this became Mousqueton no. 1 of their "new" systeme of armament. The only other markings on this example are the barely visabile depressions in the flat of the butt where the letters A N ( for Armee Nationale ) flanked a liberty cap on a pole.

When I got this piece, I WASHED the stock to remove old oils - BAD IDEA! I discovered that, like a lot of old European wood, it had been pretty badly WORMED, the holes then filled with WAX. I had no other option than to just oil it up again, which fortunately covered the worst of the wormholes. Sharp eyes will also make out the repair where someone replaced the sliver of wood between the top of the lockplate and the barrel tang, partly obscured by the cock.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
Mousqueton de Cavalerie mlle. An IX

As previously noted the Revolutionaries went crazy renaming everything, so the former Mousqueton de Cavalerie mlle. 1777 was renamed with a very few minor modifications. This is a classic example from late in Napoleon's Empire, dated "1812" on the barrel and "1813" on the stock - not unusual as arms were built up from stocks of pre-existing parts. This is 45" overall, and slightly heavier than the Hussar's model due to the longer stock. Note also that this has swivels for a sling so it's easier to carry when on foot. There's also a lug for the usual socket bayonet, necessary when used on foot while standing guard or doing picket duty ! The lock is engraved much like the Dragoon Fusil, Manuf're Imp'le de Charleville, or "made in the Imperial government armory at Charleville". There is a "B" in an oval still visable on the barrel, no doubt the proof. You can easily see the large name JOUASSE carved into the flat of the butt; a French arms-collecting friend of mine from Alsace assures me this is a common name in France. But most interesting in this well-preserved specemin is the final inspector's mark applied to the butt near the name. Upon approval, a HOLE was drilled into the soft walnut of the stock, and an approx. 1/2" plug of hard cherrywood was pounded in! On the head of this plug are the letters EF denoting government ownership by the Empire Francaise; in a circlet around the plug is the date of acceptance, now back to "normal" as 1813. ( Once Napoleon proclaimed himself Emperor of the French, he repealed many of the silly excesses of the Revolutionaries, like their 10-day-week calendar - sort of like what we hope happens to "Obamacare" and other simillar excesses of the MODERN-DAY Jacobins! )
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
L'Arme Blanche

OK, OK - I KNOW this doesn't belong in this part of the Board; but to "wrap up", I must mention the PRIMARY cavalry weapon of all nations in this era - the SABRE! There were basically 2 types: long, heavy, and straight-bladed for the heavy cavalry and dragoons; and just as heavy, but slightly shorter and curved for the light cavalry. These are an enlisted and an officer's example of the Sabre pour Cavalerie Legere, mlle. An XI, or "Light Cavalry saber, model of the eleventh year of the Revolution" ( 1803 ). Interestingly, the enlisted is stamped on the blade BARISONI, an Italian name making me wonder if this saber, like the musketoon in an accompanying thread, might've been made for one of Napoleon's Italian satellite states.

The probably-Solingen-made officer's model with it's blued-and-gilt blade looks like something a wicked duelist might've carried - it's SHARPENED, but only as far as where the bluing begins; also one branch of the hilt has been carefully removed. Possibly to make it lighter and turn better in the hand while fencing? The enlisted model on the other hand has all the elegance of a boat-anchor. I hope you have enjoyed my little presentation - any questions are most welcome!
 

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James, thanks for sharing the pictures and the history.

These are not even seen in many museums.
 

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Wow James, very nice collection and display. You have amassed a good amount of knowledge too, which to me is just as cool as the toys !! Great job.
 

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"I don't think anyone at the "French" arms section knows there WERE any French Firearms pre-Gras!"

Do you mean that there have been French arms made after the the Model 1857 Percussion Musket? :)

James, a very well done presentation on weapons many never get to see, thank you. There was a good reason why many nations (the US included) copied the French weapons for their own military use. They were extremely well made and the design was usually years ahead of others. Updates to improve the design was frequent and you could always expect the well trained and disciplined French soldier to be well armed with a sturdy and effective weapon.
 

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Outstanding history and presentation, James!

I hope that I'm not being petty, but I don't think that the War of 1812 is a disingenuous name. Though it was certainly a reaction to British actions against the US regarding American trade with France (along with some other perceived British insults), my sense of history is that it was peripherally related to the Napoleanic Wars.

Or maybe I've just misunderstood what you were saying. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed reading your posts. As usual, I've learned more things from this forum that I didn't know before! Many thanks!
 

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The War of 1812 is, from the perspective of the USA, properly so-named. From a broader perspective, it is very much related to (and peripheral to) the Napoleonic Wars, as the circumstances that led to the US having grievances "adequate" to justify armed conflict were part and parcel of that (Napoleonic) conflict.

I will also note that British concentration on the main enemy (France) is about all that saved the United States from taking a licking that could well have led to a return to British control of the former colonies.

To sharpshoot a bit (unfairly, but i can't resist), I thought the French Revolutionary sorts whose excesses Bonaparte replaced with some of his own were Jacobins, not Jacobites (who were the Stuart adherents who tried to get the Stuart dynasty back on the British throne - the 1715 and 1745 rebellions, Jamie the Rover, Jamie the Old Pretender, Prince Charles Edward - Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Young Pretender - and all that).
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
The War of 1812 is, from the perspective of the USA, properly so-named. From a broader perspective, it is very much related to (and peripheral to) the Napoleonic Wars, as the circumstances that led to the US having grievances "adequate" to justify armed conflict were part and parcel of that (Napoleonic) conflict.

I will also note that British concentration on the main enemy (France) is about all that saved the United States from taking a licking that could well have led to a return to British control of the former colonies.

To sharpshoot a bit (unfairly, but i can't resist), I thought the French Revolutionary sorts whose excesses Bonaparte replaced with some of his own were Jacobins, not Jacobites (who were the Stuart adherents who tried to get the Stuart dynasty back on the British throne - the 1715 and 1745 rebellions, Jamie the Rover, Jamie the Old Pretender, Jamie the Young Pretender, Prince Charles Edward - Bonnie Prince Charlie - and all that).
Clyde, you're dead on - Mea culpa! I'll go back and "fix" that little slip; somehow that didn't look quite right. As for the name of the "War of 1812", I've always thought it's held on because Americans didn't want to admit they were allied with the "despot" Bonaparte, and was therefore a little less than honest. ( Personally I don't see anything wrong with an alliance with France, especially in light of all they did to help us during OUR revolution. ) But it was only 20 years since the so-called naval "Quasi-war" with France's revolutionary ( Jacobin! ) government during the administration of John Adams, and I suppose there was still residual anti-French feeling in some quarters, especially New England. And as for your statement about "British concentration on the main enemy ( France )...", of course that's correct since it wasn't until after they thought they'd finally disposed of Napoleon that they mounted a serious invasion of U.S. territory, aimed at cutting off trade on the Mississipi River. ( The notorious burning of the White House in 1814 was more of a raid than a concerted effort. ) And of course Andrew Jackson's frontier army had a little to say about THAT at the Battle of New Orleans...
 

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Clyde, you're dead on - Mea culpa! I'll go back and "fix" that little slip; somehow that didn't look quite right. As for the name of the "War of 1812", I've always thought it's held on because Americans didn't want to admit they were allied with the "despot" Bonaparte, and was therefore a little less than honest. ( Personally I don't see anything wrong with an alliance with France, especially in light of all they did to help us during OUR revolution. ) But it was only 20 years since the so-called naval "Quasi-war" with France's revolutionary ( Jacobin! ) government during the administration of John Adams, and I suppose there was still residual anti-French feeling in some quarters, especially New England. And as for your statement about "British concentration on the main enemy ( France )...", of course that's correct since it wasn't until after they thought they'd finally disposed of Napoleon that they mounted a serious invasion of U.S. territory, aimed at cutting off trade on the Mississipi River. ( The notorious burning of the White House in 1814 was more of a raid than a concerted effort. ) And of course Andrew Jackson's frontier army had a little to say about THAT at the Battle of New Orleans...
I wouldn't say the US was, exactly, ALLIED with Napoleon durng the War of 1812. More a matter of being a co-bellegerant (sp - that doesn't look right at all) in that it was also at war with the same nation (Great Britain) during that period. As far as the attack on Washington basically being nothing much more than a raid, I'd agree, except that IF the attack on Baltimore (stymied by the failure to reduce Fort McHenry) had succeeded, things might have developed in a different direction. What if, what if...

Don't feel bad about the Jacobite/Jacobin thing - i confused them for years (and still sometimes do unless I'm really thinking hard).
 

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I'm looking for a good reference book on French military muzzle loading weapons of the pre-American Civil War period, perferably written in English, since my military French is very poor. I would appreciate it if any members of the site had recommendations.

I already have Captain James E. Hicks' Notes on French Ordnance: 1717 to 1936.

Don
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Of course Hicks', to put it politely, SUCKS; but that's to be expected I guess, even though it IS published by "God's Gift to gun collectors everywhere" - Norm Flayderman! ( I have Hicks' worthless book too. ) I tend to rely on Vol. I & II of a WONDERFUL set of books - all intricately rendered drawings of regulation arms, Armes a Feu Francaises - Modeles Reglementaires 1717 . 1836 par Jean Boudriot. which I bought in Paris in the mid-1980's when I was actively collecting. ( I'd made the pilgrimage to the Musee de L'Armee to see their matchless collection of authentic French arms! ) As you can tell it's NOT in English; but since it's mostly drawings and laid out in chronological fashion ( mostly ), it's pretty understandible. ( Moi Francais, ces tres MAL! ) There are 4 vol. altogether; I only got Vol. I & II because they go up through the Empire.
 

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James,

Thank you for the information.

I would agree with your opinion of the French Army museum. Very impressive. It was also interesting that their museum notes were in both French and English. Are there any American museums that have museum notes in the display cases in anything but English?

Regards,
Don
 

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James,

Thank you for the information.

I would agree with your opinion of the French Army museum. Very impressive. It was also interesting that their museum notes were in both French and English. Are there any American museums that have museum notes in the display cases in anything but English?

Regards,
Don
None that i can recall being in.
 
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