From the American Revolution: Short Land Pattern Brown Bess

The standard weapon of the British Army in the American War of Independence was the “Brown Bess”, and today we are looking at a 1769 Short Land Pattern example of the Brown Bess. This was a smoothbore .75 caliber, 10.2 pound flintlock with a whopping 42 inch barrel (the Long Land Pattern it superseded had a 46” barrel). Adopted in 1769, it would serve as the British standard infantry arm until 1797.

This particular example was issued to the 53rd Infantry Regiment, otherwise known as the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. This regiment arrived in Quebec City in May 1776 and participated in the fighting at Ticonderoga and Saratoga, where several of its companies were captured and interned until the end of the war.

Jonathan Ferguson’s explanation of “Brown Bess”:


  1. 1) The “ramrod holders” are called “pipes”

    2) It would be interesting to have a video comparing it with the Charleville Mle 1763/1766 which became the standard US musket due to French aid during the War of Independence

    3) Bayonet fighting was extremely rare, one (or both!) sides would break and run away before making contact. There was an an incident in the Peninisular War where both the British and French unit ran out of ammunition. Did they fix bayonets and charge? No!! They then threw rocks at each other! Bayonets are much more useful against cavalry At the command “Prepare to receive cavalry” the unit would form a square with the front rank kneeling and the second rank with firelocks level
    A company grade officer with his sword level encourages the men. The colonel is at his proper place astride his horse alongside the colors in the center of the square
    Horses are intelligent creatures and will NOT charge something as obviously dangerous as a glistening row of sharp spikes – they will balk and if you try to force them they will buck, rear and even throw their rider instead.

    • The bayonet is one of those weapons whose utility is still argued over, and I really have to disagree with the methodology by which they’ve determined their supposed utility. You go looking at the numbers, and what you find is that you’re mostly looking at things derived from what they treated back in the field hospitals, not necessarily what was doing the killing out on the battlefields.

      My issue with that is that you can’t really tell from what made it to medical treatment, because the bayonet is such a personal weapon. You’re right there; you know you’ve killed your opponent, or else you’d keep right on poking him with your bayonet until he was no longer a threat. This militates against the vast majority of bayonet victims making it into the casualty treatment chain. As well, the men using the bayonets are necessarily going to have their blood up, and anyone they actually get to bayonetting is likely not going to survive the experience.

      I’ve yet to see anyone actually do the research out on the battlefields, looking at what wounds were mostly present on the skeletal remains from the mass graves at places like Waterloo. The gravesites are also problematic, because there was so much use made of the bones for agricultural and dental uses afterwards that it’s not even funny.

      I think the bayonet is likely mostly a morale-effect weapon on people, but I remain unconvinced by much of the research I’ve seen that tries to get to real numbers on the matter. Casualty treatment records aren’t going to get at the reality of things, given the nature of the weapon. As well, given that it’s a morale-effect weapon, what weight do you put on “Scared the sh*t out of the enemy, who broke formation/left fortifications” and then got run down by cavalry or killed by artillery in the open? Would they have broken or departed field fortifications absent some band of nutters showing up with sharp pointy things, intent on poking them?

      There’s a lot we still don’t know about how combat really works, down at the very tippy-tip of the spear. I think we’d be surprised at some of the answers; what we’ve always assumed may well be totally at odds with reality.

      • I believe you’ve stumbled upon the problem of deciding if bayonets are effective weapons. If you’re talking about killing or wounding, there aren’t a lot of good statistics, just because bayonets went out of favor around the time armies began collecting casualty statistics. The evidence is from eyewitnesses or actual bayonetees who survived to write their memoirs.
        If you’re talking about battle field effectiveness, there’s a lot of historical works about heavy infantry combat during the black powder era. It comes down to who breaks and runs first – the defenders or the attackers. Whoever runs first will probably get bayoneted later.

        • I’d wager that most bayonet wounds were in the back, TBH. Same way saber wounds were…

          I think our perspective on this stems from the era when rifles became dominant; after the Minie ball and all that, it became increasingly difficult to get good effect from the bayonet. When it was musketry? The bayonet still had its tactical uses.

          One of the things I think a lot of people forget is that there was real meaning to what Napoleon said about “…the moral is to the physical what three is to one…” He wasn’t talking about the troops having high spirits and good morale so much as he was talking about the influence that the purely psychological had on the physical components of combat. In other words, if you manage to put a scare into your enemy, then that has three times more effect than something purely physical in nature, like more troops or a better position. They didn’t have a conception of psychology as we do, so that “moral” thing was as close as he could come.

          And, I think he was right. Defeat or victory, it exists mostly in the mind of the leader involved in a particular engagement. If he’s too stubborn to admit defeat, then he may well pull a victory out of something that resulted in him losing half or more of his command, simply because he wouldn’t admit defeat.

          Illustrative example from naval combat? The Last Stand of the Tincan Sailors at the Battle of Samar. By all rights, and any sane reckoning, they were defeated before the enemy even started shooting at them; that’s how badly they had been “overmatched” by the Japanese Navy. But, because they were unable to admit or acknowledge defeat, they pulled a victory out of their asses and drove off a vastly superior force.

          That’s what Napoleon was talking about, when he made that statement. If you think you’re defeated, you likely are. If you think you won, well… They’re going to have to come kill you, and that’s not always all that easy.

  2. This tactic brought us the beautiful & ridiculously long bayonets for the early repeaters going into the 1st WW. There was no need for long bayonets against horse when you have a clip-fed bolt action sighted past 500 yds. By the 2nd WW, bayonets against men are much shorter, and today, the Brits are one of the last practitioners of the bayonet charge w/ one of the world’s worst bayonet platforms – albeit perhaps b/c it’s also one of the worst service rifles.

    • As far back as the Napoleonic Wars, experts such as General Sir David Dundas, who wrote the British Army’s drill manual for infantry, saw little use in the bayonet. He stated that he had never seen a soldier wounded by a bayonet but had seen several attempted bayonet charges end abruptly due to musket volleys from their intended “victims”.

      In the American Civil War, less than one half of one percent of wounded soldiers treated in field hospitals on both sides were wounded by bayonets. even inaccurate volley fire by men armed with rifle muskets broke up bayonet charges at ranges beyond “cold steel” distance. Out of 7,302 Union soldiers wounded in Grant’s Wilderness campaign, including Shiloh and the Seven Days, the total number of men suffering bayonet wounds was six.

      Col. Joshua Chamberlain and the 20th Maine Volunteers’ “bayonet charge” at Little Round Top on the third day of Gettysburg was a desperation move- because the Volunteers were completely out of ammunition. And even then, it was downhill, at a walk, and the Confederates either broke and ran or threw down their weapons and surrendered before anybody got “perforated”.

      The bayonet ranks with the cavalry saber as the least useful weapon in warfare after the advent of rifled infantry arms. Long before an infantryman or cavalryman could get close enough to use either one, he likely had already been shot.

      clear ether


      • I think you’re right in saying that there was a distinct inflection point after the advent of the rifle.

        I’m still of the opinion I state above: I don’t think the methodologies we’ve used to make this supposed determination of “bayonet ineffectiveness” are necessarily either accurate or valid.

        And, I think you make my point for me, with regards to Chamberlain and Little Round Top: The bayonet was a morale-effects weapon. The Confederates broke not under fire, but under the effect of a bunch of maniacs with sharp pointy things coming at them. Would they have done that, had said group of maniacs been running at them without bayonets on their rifles…?

        We can’t say that the bayonet was useless, if the thing that broke the Confederates at Little Round Top was a bunch of guys with bayonets running at them. They hadn’t broken or given up before that, so the bayonet must have had some sort of effect, yes?

        I think this whole issue of “what works in combat” is highly problematical, because nobody has really done the necessary research to determine the realities of things down where the mud sticks to the boots. There’s all sorts of pseudo-scientific conjecture, based on what stats we have, but the reality? I don’t think it is at all clear. I mean, OK… We say that we were “overmatched” in Afghanistan, right? What, exactly, did that constitute in real numbers, things we can actually quantify? Why did our troops perceive this “overmatch”, and what specific weapons produced that effect? How much of what we saw as “overmatch” really only existed in the minds of our rather inept and inexperienced leaders who were on the ground, and who had no idea how to really use their own small arms?

        You go shooting at a squad or a platoon out in the field. What is your actual target? Are you seeking to kill the men, or influence the minds of the leaders? Which is more efficacious? Could you perhaps have zero “overmatch”, and yet still overawe your opponents into giving you your desired tactical effect? Or, could you also actually have “overmatch”, and still lose because your enemy doesn’t perceive the situation the way you do?

        You get down to it, and the reality is that we really and truly do not know a lot of things about what goes on down there, between the men actually engaging in combat. Most of what we think we “know” is purest conjecture, based on subjective things whose objective reality we haven’t bothered to try and capture.

        There are things you can tell, from what we’ve got, that are based on statistical aggregates. The problem is, that stuff is so rarefied and far from the actual point of contact that it’s of little to no value, when you start asking questions about whether or not the bayonet is worthwhile to have along in combat, or whether the 5.56mm cartridge is a good choice for the individual weapon.

        • I think the punji pit and “tiger gate” encountered so often in Vietnam showed rather conclusively that nasty sharp pointy things still have a place on the battlefield. Especially if covered with something to induce sepsis in the wound.

          In the wars of the 18th and 19th centuries, the bayonet probably did most of its actual killing when somebody was caught in the middle of reloading. And in that situation, the soldier is definitely going to keep sticking it in until the other guy stops twitching.

          In WW1, the French put great emphasis on the bayonet in trench fighting, and it’s hard to argue that “Rosalie'” wasn’t effective at sweat and bad breath range.

          The thing is that the bayonet is essentially an up-close-and-personal defensive weapon. One intended mainly to keep the other guy from grabbing your weapon out of your hands and using it on you. A foot and a half of razor-sharp steel on the business end of even a TSMG makes playing this sort of “flag football” very difficult for an ambitious enemy.

          Seen as a weapon to save your ass when the enemy is close enough to poke you in the eye, the bayonet makes very good sense. In a mad dash over a meadow against a rifle line, not so much.

          The latter is almost certainly going to end in a firefight before the two sides are (as they said about boys and girls at a square dance) close enough “for all practical purposes”.




          • I think the bayonet did most of its killing whenever it achieved the requisite morale effect that stemmed from crazy bastards running at you. Once a formation was broken, it rarely reformed itself.

            The bayonet charge was more of a punctuation point to an already-lost engagement, particularly during the Napoleonic War in Europe. The British would blast apart the French columns making the attack, and then the final stage of that was utterly breaking the morale of the French via the bayonet charge into the shot-up formation. Not that that was always necessary, either.

            Like most weapons, the actual weapon effect you have to worry about is in the mind of the enemy; if he doesn’t perceive and interpret what you’re doing as a defeat, you’re not achieving a damn thing, no matter what or how much you shoot at him. Likewise, you can do things that you’d think were utterly useless, and there he goes, running away like a madman… Simply because his perception of what he faces is beyond his ability to cope.

            I think you can see a lot of this as being more in the realm of psychology rather than pure technology. Sure, the bayonet may not be as effective as we were told in terms of actual physical effect, but when you start looking at the sheer psychological effect on troops that were already under stress…?

            As well, you can’t discount the effect on the friendly forces, either. Men who tell themselves that they are preeminent with the bayonet are going to be incredibly difficult to convince that they are defeated and they’re also going to be extremely dangerous when it comes to dealing with their own fear by “getting it into” the enemy.

            I honestly don’t think that the bayonet was as ineffective in the attack as people currently think. It put the cherry on top of the sundae, and convinced the enemy that they’d lost. I don’t think there were too many units that managed to reform effectively after being subject to a bayonet attack as the final blow delivered, much the same way that the cavalry saber served to destroy broken troops in the open.

            Yeah, you’re not going to be able to wrap your head around this stuff, coming from a perspective where you’ve got a magazine-fed rifle that you can defend yourself with, but if you’re a guy whose only weapon is one of these Brown Bess muskets, a bayonet, and you’re subject to a cavalry charge or bayonet charge after your unit has broken around you? I don’t think we can discount what effect that would have, even if the blades never break skin.

          • Going back to defense, the bayonet can definitely stop a cavalry charge. Horses aren’t stupid and won’t run into a lot of shiny, sharp, pointy things.

            Heinlein (who actually went through bayonet training at Annapolis back in the day) observed that bayonet fighting is one of the deadlier “martial arts”- or would be if it were taught correctly, which most forces don’t. They’re too focused on teaching it purely as a psychological means to develop aggressive mentality in the infantry rifleman.

            They overlook the fact that someone who is taught counters, parries and etc. is a much more effective combatant at arm’s-length range, as per Patton’s axiom.

            Heinlein noted that a counter is more deceptive than a “straight” parry, and sets the opponent up for a cut throat, if not decapitation (actually doable with the M1917 Enfield bayonet).

            Most armies today don’t have bayonets. They have short-bladed utility knives that happen to be fitted to be attached to the rifle.

            Similarly, the epee’ pattern of the 19th century and earlier is excellent for thrusting but doesn’t cut worth two cents. Theodore Roosevelt, on seeing the first pattern M1903 Springfield fitted with a retractable “rod” bayonet, gave Ordnance the business in no uncertain terms.

            Probably the most sensible all-around bayonet was the M1905 as used on the M1903A1 and the M1 Garand. It thrusts, slices, dices and etc.

            Naturally, in 1943 Ordnance decided its blade was “too long” and shortened it to 10 inches. By 1951, it was shorter than the M3 fighting knife and pretty much lost all relevance as a bayonet.

            I would argue that the shorter they make the rifle, the longer the bayonet needs to be if they’re serious about using the bayonet in an actual fight.

            But of course they aren’t. It’s just for psyching up the troops by lunging at paillasses hung on frames.



          • I can’t say that I necessarily agree with any of the various “experts” about the bayonet. I think the current lot of multi-purpose POS tools as bayonets is both ludicrous and renders the whole argument for having them moot. They’re terrible bayonets, terrible wire cutters, and usually utter sh*tshows as knives, to boot.

            I think I’ve recounted the experience I had when we decided to run some tests of our own when the M9 POS came in. The only bayonet that actually worked as a bayonet was a Chinese cruciform spike bayonet on an SKS; everything else broke or got incessantly stuck in the sides of beef we were using as proxies (the meat was condemned cryopacks that had either gone over-age or been contaminated… Good to have friends in the DFAC, ya know?). The M9 and the Soviet AKM bayonet were the worst out of the lot; they’d get stuck in between ribs. You’d try and slash with the M9, and it’d fly off the end of the rifle, because the locking system was shiite. The AK had it’s own issues, and I’m here to tell you from sad past experience, you don’t want to be doing any kind of wirecutting with either one of them.

            I think the French were on to something with the Lebel spike bayonet. I note that the Brown Bess had a triangular socket bayonet on it, and did quite well for all bayonetting purposes. If I were going to do a modern take on any of these, I’d have them made up out of titanium, make ’em a spike, and then be able to use them for mine probes as necessary.

            The stuff Heinlein was talking about? I tried some of that, and my conclusion is this: For 99.9% of the use-cases, you’re simply not going to be getting into any elaborate bayonet-fighting. You’re either going to be running into a mob which will be overawed and terrified that someone is confronting them with sharpened steel, or you’re going to get shot by someone who isn’t at all intimidated by the idea. As such, I think a simple spike bayonet that can be used as a non-magnetic mine probe would do just fine for most uses. The rest of the things we have crammed into the M9 or the Soviet AKM bayonet would be better served by single-purpose tools like wire cutters and knives. The bayonet trying to do all that is just ridiculous and winds up with a half-fish, half-fowl thing that does none of its jobs at all well.

            Thing is, if you’re running into guys who all that Heinlein-esque fancy crap would be useful against, they’re likely not going to play around and bother with the bayonet. They’re just going to shoot you, and you should be shooting them before it gets to that point.

            The aggression training aspect of it all? I think that’s actually a valuable thing to be considering. Too many of today’s couch potatoes just don’t have a clue; they don’t fight, and they’re physically timorous. The combatives training is valuable for getting them to change their mindsets, TBH. That said, I do find an awful lot of that “Spirit of the Bayonet” BS to be both useless and tiresome… But, then, that’s me. Your mileage may vary, etc.

      • The answer to the question of why there were so few bayonet wounds treated at field hospitals throughout the era of bayonets being primary infantry weapons is simple: Those ‘wounded’ with bayonets weren’t ‘wounded,’ they were instead ‘dead,’ or, as we now call it, ‘killed,’ and there wasn’t any point in dragging their corpses off to a nearby field hospital, as their chances of recovery from a fatal bayonet puncture from which they had already been rendered deceased was minimal, given the limited ability of medical science of the time to resurrect the dead.
        For this reason, the standard treatment of those casualties with bayonet wounds was to check their pockets for loose change and other valuables, and to then cover them up with earth before the smell became too bad. Sadly, few benefitted from this level of care.

      • >>In the American Civil War, less than one half of one percent of wounded soldiers treated in field hospitals on both sides were wounded by bayonets.<<

        – this might have been a classic example of survivorship bias ; like (sorry for an anachronism but the scenario might have been very similar):

        In other words, the chaps who lost in a bayonet fight did not have a chance to get to the field hospital…

        • That’s precisely the point I’m making. We only have data derived from what reached the hospitals, and the graves registration guys (when we had them…) weren’t exactly qualified to be doing forensic determinations as to what killed whom.

          I honestly doubt that we’re ever going to know what the hell actually went on in musket-and-bayonet combat, back in the day. I mean, we can speculate, we can calculate, but… The raw data we’d need just isn’t there.

          Kinda the same way it still isn’t. I’m not convinced we have any better idea what the hell went on at the Battle of Mogadishu, let alone Waterloo. Not to the point where we should be doing anything based on what we think we know, anyway.

          I know guys who were in the Ranger detachment there, who actually fought in that battle. One says one thing, the other says the exact and nearly diametric opposite. What’s worse? They were quite close to each other at different points in the battle.

          I had a hard time wrapping my head around that fact until I did an assignment at the National Training Center as an Observer/Controller. That taught me that subjective eyewitness reports and even personal experience don’t always tell the truth in a given engagement; you are only seeing that which is going on around you through what is, at best, a pipestem-sized view of the total battlefield. Even with all the instrumentation available, and everything wired for sound? You still have to really pay attention when trying to trace out what goes on in even a small-scale engagement.

          Wellington’s quote on the issue is instructive: “The history of a battle, is not unlike the history of a ball. Some individuals may recollect all the little events of which the great result is the battle won or lost, but no individual can recollect the order in which, or the exact moment at which, they occurred, which makes all the difference as to their value or importance…”

          • The little and effectively bankrupt Warsaw Dutchy won a short but bloody war against might Austria (an episode almost completely forgotten by European history scholars).

            During the decisive battle the Polish troops were ordered to puff off the powder from the priming pans. Which was a standard procedure, at that time, in this part of Europe.

            …then you rely solely on the cold steel.

            In 1939, an SS embryonic unit was nipped in a bud by Polish bayonets (which of German design, to be honest).

            …and till quite recently my older son had a honour to serve in an Army which made the last successful bayonet charge in the recent history:

            Though obviously my lad (with ‘The Micks’) did not participate 🙂

            We just returned form a local epee tournament. Cold steel works.

          • I’ll grant you that cold steel still works. However, comma…

            Somewhere out there is an after-action report from the US Marine Corps, wherein a platoon or so of Marines were tasked with performing checkpoint duties somewhere in rural Vietnam as a support to the Marine Strategic Hamlet program.

            Said element was attacked one day by an outraged group of locals spurred on by their VC cadre. They were armed mostly with agricultural tools. The Marine leadership on the scene chose to engage them with bayonets; there were five or so Marine casualties, and a bunch of villagers.

            Now, I don’t know what factual considerations went into that decision; maybe there were Rules of Engagement that forbade the use of firearms against peasants with agricultural implements. All I know is that the Army convoy that happened upon the scene put rather swift resolution to the whole thing via the salutary use of the .50 caliber M2HB from their ring-mounts. The Marines were less than happy with having their fun broken up, or so I was told.

            Personally, I respect and honor the guys that take it down to the blade, when absolutely necessary. But, I question anyone that does so without it being utterly “exigent circumstance”. You’ve got machineguns; use them. If you’re seeking out opportunities to use the bayonet, I think you’ve got more than a few screws loose upstairs, and are likely in need of a Brummagem screwdriver to tighten them up a bit…

  3. Being a smoothbore, it could also be loaded with buckshot or buck-and-ball loads for very close quarter fighting like ship-to-ship encounters against boarders. It was also useful as a shotgun for foraging food in the field.

    • That’s an interesting point. .75″ (well, .69″–the balls were smaller to make loading the paper cartridge easier and extend the time between cleaning) vs. .729″, 1oz. vs. 1oz, muzzle velocity and energy about the same (between 1300 and 1600fps, around 2400ft-lbs) out of a smooth-bore barrel–300 years of progress, and we seem to have gotten nowhere when it comes to 12-guge shotguns.
      I teach Polar bear deterrence in a place where there ARE such things, and often remind students that when they go out armed with a 12-gauge shotgun loaded with slugs, they’re going out to do battle with a half-ton, irritable, apex-predator carnivore, while armed with a Brown Bess musket–a repeating one, but still at bottom a musket.
      It’s not very comforting.

      • Even less comforting is the idea of using a Magnum revolver on ol’ Ephraim. Unless you are incredibly lucky and get a brain hit, most likely you will simply irritate the beast still more than he already is.

        Marlin (now a division of Ruger I believe) had the right idea with the Guide Gun. A lever-action carbine firing the .457 Marlin, launching a 350 grain slug at 2,300 F/S. Or in other words very close to .458 Winchester Magnum performance but with a faster second shot than a bolt-action.

        Never choose a pistol or a shotgun to do a rifle’s job.

        clear ether


      • Anyone in either Polar Bear or Kodiak territory should take little comfort in much of anything. The bear vs. human equation has only recently been somewhat equalized.

        Although, the human mind may well be the most important thing. My stepdad fished up in Alaska for years, and he once made friends with some indigenous Inuit types not long after he went there, who invited him on a Polar Bear hunt. He, being from Europe, had zero idea what he was getting into, and the rest of his crewmates didn’t see fit to enlighten him.

        So, he’s going out with this little old Inuit guy. They start stalking a Polar Bear, one that’s apparently stalking a seal out on the ice. The Inuit guy has gotten them up in close, behind some sort of screen thing he’s got with him, and then he takes out an ancient lever-action Winchester rifle, which has been inside this cover affair. My stepdad has no idea at all about what is going on, but because he’s got some common sense, he’s rather alarmed to observe the Inuit hunter using his foot to effectively beat the action open, whereupon he then loads a single cartridge into the chamber, and takes aim at the bear with the rifle. He shoots the bear, killing it, kicks open the rifle again, and puts it back into the case, whereupon he starts skinning the bear. My stepdad helps him out with everything, still kind of unaware of what they’ve just done, and is aghast at the size of the bear. He later takes a long, hard look at the rifle: It’s an ancient lever-action, and from what he later described to me, I think it must have been an 1873 in .38-40. The hunter’s grandfather had helped out a whaling ship back in the 1890s, and they’d gifted him a rifle and a case of cartridges. The hunter was still using it, and I think he might have been reloading or still on the original case of ammo… Details were a little fuzzy.

        My stepdad didn’t really recognize what he’d been involved with up until he went back to the boat and the other guys asked him what he’d been doing, that day. He told them, and they’re all like “What? Are you mad? You went out on the ice with him?”, using that Inuit hunter’s name. Apparently, he had a well-known reputation for a.) crazy, b.) senility, and c.) being a bit of a risk-taker. The other Inuit hunters wouldn’t go out with him because he insisted on getting so close to the bears, and using his ancient rifle. Apparently, the trip with my stepdad was close to his last hurrah, because the kids took his rifle away.

        I heard that story for years, thinking he was bullshitting me. Then, awhile back, I was talking to an old friend of his who’d been on that fishing boat when he was, and he basically confirmed it all and added details he’d never told my stepdad about because he didn’t want to scare the crap out of him.

        Apparently, ancient .38-40 rounds covered in verdigris will take down a Polar Bear, provided you get your shot placement juuuuuust right, there in behind one of the ears…

        I’m firmly of the mind that the smallest caliber I want to go Polar Bear hunting with begins and ends with something along the lines of a .50 Browning. I also don’t want to get within more than about 300m… I have seen a large male charge, before, and I’m really glad I wasn’t anywhere he could get at me.

        • I’m pretty certain more polar bears have been killed with .303 than any other cartridge up here in Canada, and maybe overall. That being said, I certainly wouldn’t want to try it! I think I’drather have something starting with a 5 and ending in “nitro express” if I were to go after one!

  4. Of course, Ferguson is dead on regarding the name Brown Bess which I had years ago put in the Wiki page of Brown Bess. But he did not quote Kipling and he ought to add it to his excellent article.
    From Kipling’s “Brown Bess” “In the days of lace-ruffles, perukes and brocade
    Brown Bess was a partner whom none could despise –
    An out-spoken, flinty-lipped, brazen-faced jade,
    With a habit of looking men straight in the eyes –
    At Blenheim and Ramillies fops would confess
    They were pierced to the heart by the charms of Brown Bess.”

  5. At the time of the American Revolution the regiment was referred to as the 53rd (Shropshire) Regiment of Foot. It did not garner it’s ‘Light Infantry’ designation until 1881 when it merged with the 85th (THe Kings) Regiment of Light Infantry (Buck’s Volunteers) to become The Kings Light Infantry (Shropshire Regiment).

  6. During WWII, the Japanese Army put emphasis on the bayonet and the sword being the most important weapons-note that they were machine-made mass-producing replicas of Samurai Katanas for non-coms and considered the rifle and carbine as shafts for the bayonets to be used for close quarters killing of their opponents and were pretty successful until they encountered the U S Marine Corps at Guadalcanal. Machine guns definitely limited the effectiveness of the bayonet/sword wielding charge. Also, the Japanese had held on to the code of Bushido long after developments from WWI rendered it less practical and feasible as combat doctrine.

      • As do most soldiers, throughout history, and long before the invention of the firearms upon which to mount them. In fact, such things were extremely popular in Christian European history, with massacres of prisoners a popular pastime. Nobody’s hands are clean in this regard. It’s what we DO.

    • I don’t know that I can really agree with your statement about the Japanese putting emphasis on the bayonet and sword being the “most important weapons”. Were that the case, then you’d have a damned hard time explaining their Type 96 and 99 light machine guns and the Type 89 “knee mortar”. They had a decent small arms suite that in some was was superior to our own; the problem they had was that they didn’t have enough of the heavier weapons, and were forced to substitute “elan”. Which worked for them, fairly well, facing peer-level enemies. It didn’t work out so well against modern combined arms-capable peers like the Soviets or the US, but then again, we only ever faced their expeditionary armies that were operating at the end of some rather unfortunate logistics chains. We never faced the Japanese Army on their terms, on their ground. Something a lot of WWII-era vets are profoundly glad of.

      Your typical Banzai! charge looks nuts to our eyes. From the Japanese perspective, knowing they’d lost and wanting to die for the Emperor rather than surrender? The whole thing starts to look a lot less “tactically stupid” and rather more “politically/culturally stupid” than anything else. If they’d had the resources, I don’t think they’d have been making the bayonet charges there at the end of everything the way they did. The typical Japanese combat technique at their peak in the Philippines and Malaya was a lot more subtle and about dislocating road-bound Allied forces than it was about “Hey-diddle-diddle, straight down the middle…” with the ol’ bayonet. Yeah, the resorted to the bayonet and the katana when they got desperate, but it wasn’t the default, nor was it the way they meant to operate.

      And, against the Chinese? They had a lot of success with it. It wasn’t until meeting the Soviets and the US that they experienced defeat on the ground. Later in the war, you can add the UK to that mix, but the Malaysia/Singapore campaigns definitely saw them winning, just like against the US in the Philippines.

      It’s never a good idea to just stereotype an enemy, even just in historical or scholarly terms. That tends to short-circuit thinking, and the Japanese were a lot more sophisticated and effective an enemy than you would think from just looking at the later campaigns in the war, after they were meeting better matches.

      If anything, both the Philippine and Malaysian campaigns demonstrate rather more ineptitude on the Allied side than anything else. Neither campaign should have ended the way they did.

      Of course, that’s true everywhere you look in WWII. You have to wonder what the war would have looked like, had the Czechs not been betrayed at Munich, and had everyone decided to get on board with strangling Nazism in its cradle. Of course, we’ll never know.

  7. I had the opportunity to fire one of these when I was 12 years old, it was dated “Tower 1765”.
    It was a thrill I’ll never forge

  8. Not generally known, as a Revolutionary War reenactor, I learned how to rapidly reload a Brown Bess. I could load and fire in about ten seconds. The rifle-musket used in the Civil war took longer, about twenty seconds due to removing the bullet from the cartridge paper, and fumbling a percussion cap out of the pouch.

  9. Awesome!
    I had an ancestor in the 53rd Reg of Foot:
    Sgt John Tucker.
    From what little survives, I know he was in Gibraltar, Ireland, Quebec, and NY.

    The 53rd Foot was not identified with Shropshire until 1782.
    The 53rd and a couple other units were amalgamated into the KSLI in 1881.
    The 53rd was not so designated during the RevWar.

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