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GUNS Magazine March 2013 Digital Edition - Page 34
SurpluS, ClaSSiC and TaCTiCal FirearmS HOLT BODINSON tHe militia aCt oF 1792 tHe new england flintlock militia musket armed state militias in tHe country’s earliest days. A button head iron ramrod and a socket bayonet lug were required features of the militia musket. L Holt bodinson ike most post-war periods, the years following the end of the American Revolution saw our small standing army reduced to a skeleton force. With the British still in control of Canada, the French in control of the area that someday would be defined as the Louisiana Purchase and Europe in constant turmoil, the Congress passed the 1792 Militia Act—“an Act more effectively to provide for the National Defense, by establishing a Uniform Militia through the United States.” The Act required white male citizens between the ages of 18-45 become members of their state militias and that every militiaman was to “provide himself with a good musket or firelock” within 6 months after passage. The catch in the Act were the words “provide himself” since neither the Federal nor the state governments were capable of supplying sufficient muskets to arm all the members of the expanded militias. In short, many militiamen had to buy their own muskets. As a result, what evolved between 1790 and 1840 was an elegant pattern of a musket made by local gunsmiths, which today are referred to as the New England Flintlock Militia Musket. The requirements placed on a militiaman were very specific when it came to his equipment. In Massachusetts, for example, the “Laws for Regulating and Governing the Militia of the Commonwealth of the Massachusetts” stated that: “Every non-commissioned officer and private of the infantry shall constantly keep himself provided with a good musket; with an iron or steel rod; a sufficient bayonet and belt; two spare flints; a priming wire and brush, and a knapsack; a cartridge box or pouch with a box therein, to contain not less than 24 cartridges, suited to the bore of his musket, each cartridge to contain a proper quantity of powder and ball; or with a horn; and shall appear so armed, accoutered and provided, whenever called out, except that when called out to exercise without cartridges loaded with ball, provided always that whenever a man appears with his rifle all his equipment shall be suited to his weapon; and that from and after five years from the passing of this act, all muskets for arming the Militia, as herein required, shall be of bores sufficient for balls of the eighteenth part of a pound; and every citizen enrolled and providing himself with arms, ammunition and accoutrements, required as aforesaid shall hold the same exempt from all suits, distresses, executions or sales for debt or for payment of taxes.” Also, under the Massachusetts Militia Law, towns were required to “maintain a supply of 100 pounds of powder, 300 pounds of musket and rifle balls of various sizes and 300 flints for each sixty militiamen.” How times have The New England Militia Musket both guarded the homeland and put game on the table as every “able-bodied man” was required to have one. 34 W W W. G U N S M AG A Z I N E . C O M • M A R C H 2 0 1 3