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After the execution of Louis XVI in 1793, Britain was drawn into the French Revolutionary Wars which lasted until 1802, and afterwards, the Napoleonic Wars from 1803 to 1815. Coinciding with the beginning of this period of conflict with France, the 1793 Brown Bess India Pattern Musket was adopted by the Board of Ordnance. At this time the British Army was severely undermanned. A rapid expansion of the Army commenced prompting a spike in demand for muskets which the Board of Ordnance could not cope with. As a result the Ordnance sourced muskets from the East India Company (EIC).
These EIC muskets were robust, reliable firearms, of slightly less exacting specifications compared to the Ordnance patterns that had gone before, but cheaper and quicker to produce, and definitely up to the job. Supply into the Army by the Ordnance of new and existing muskets from EIC stores commenced in 1794. By the end of the year just under 30,000 muskets had been supplied. The preceding Short Land Pattern Musket started to be phased out and this “Type 1” India Pattern became the standard longarm for the British Army and the EIC combined. This was replaced with the “Type 2” India Pattern in 1809 which was different only in that the cock changed to a ring-neck type, and the pan deepened, to accommodate more priming powder. Up to 800,000 “Type 1” muskets were produced and up to 2 million of the “Type 2”.
The musket discussed here is of full regulation specification with a rounded 39 inch barrel, mounted with a dual purpose sighting and bayonet lug, Tower Proof Marks at the breech, barrel inspector’s mark on the tang and touch hole inspector’s mark near the pan. The full walnut stock is carved with an apron around the barrel tang, handrail wrist and a high comb. It accommodates standard brass furniture of a butt plate fastened by two screws, trigger guard and three ramrod pipes which contain the ramrod, and the brass protective terminal to the fore end. The storekeeper’s mark is clearly stamped and dated 1800 on the lock-side of the butt and the inspection mark is stamped just beyond the brass tail tip. A vague mark near the right side terminal of the side plate may be the stock maker’s The stock retains its sling swivels. The border engraved lock is of rounded form stamped with “TOWER” on the tail, and with a crowned “G R” cypher in front of the cock, and the crowned broad arrow government ownership / inspection mark to its right, and mounted with a swan-neck cock.
An interesting fact about this musket is that it had two lives. The stock on the off-side has been stamped with the number 32,023 and a roundel containing the letters “P D L” with a cockerel above. This is a French mark most usually interpreted as an abbreviation for Propriete de Letate (Property of the State).
The end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 saw a reduction in the size of the British Army. Its surplus arms were held in store and many were sold off to foreign governments. In 1830 over 88,000 India Pattern muskets were sold to France. This musket was obviously one of those. It is an ironic observation that the musket should end its working life serving those is was originally manufactured to fight.
Further unidentified marks consist of the letters “C A ” near the storekeeper’s mark and “F G” underneath the butt in line with the trigger plate tail.
Condition: The musket is fine, original condition, retaining encrusted grease and dirt in the recesses, and is a superior surviving example of its type. All of the metal parts are smoothly aged to the touch, with no significant repairs or damage, all seemingly original other than the replaced ramrod. The cocking action is in order. The spring retains its original strength. The stock is in excellent condition, with no apparent cracks or repairs, but with some age-related dings and bruises as would be expected, and a very minor loss of a sliver of wood at the barrel tang apron.