August 1814: In Want of: Muskets vs. Rifles

On August 15, 1814 in a letter to Lt. Colonel Edward Lloyd, 9th Cavalry District of “Wye House” Maryland Eastern Shore,  Brigadier General William Henry Winder newly appointed commander of the 10th Military District (Maryland. District of Columbia to the Rappannock River (Va.,) on the subject of the want of rifles for the various companies in his district  gave the following:

“There are several rifle companies of this district without arms at all fit for service & since I have received the command of the 10th Military District I have made application to procure them rifles but the number of that arms on hand in the public stores is not sufficient for the supply of the recruits for the regular rifle regiments and the Secretary of War is therefore unable to draw from the stock  given his opinion “that muskets would be much better and more effective for your purpose than rifles,” assigning the accuracy of aim which renders them servicable; the greater range of the musket; the more rapid fire of the latter; it is lighter; requires cleaning less frequently and is adapted to different classes of movements. The advantage of the bayonet is also refered to. Supposses Maryland can supply muskets; if she cannot he will endeavor to supply them from the stores of the United States.”

The want of rifles prompted the two companies of the 1st Battalion of Maryland Riflemen under Major William Pickney, Sr. to enter the Bladensburg battle with only muskets and not the popular arms their battalion name emplies. Given the excited state of military affairs with the expected arrival of a large British invasion fleet and the mobilization of the militia and distribution of arms and supplies many militia were withoutout arms and in the end a want of disciplined resistance to the British on the field of battle.  

Source: William H. Winder Papers, Maryland Historical Society

Published in: on December 12, 2011 at 3:19 pm  Comments Off on August 1814: In Want of: Muskets vs. Rifles  
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