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"The Kentucky Rifle – How America’s Famous Frontier Long" Topic

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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP31 Dec 2020 9:48 p.m. PST

… Gun Changed Warfare

"ZZZZZPT! The angry hornet-like sound of a rifle round in flight caused anxious redcoats to cast their eyes toward their general. They could not see the shooter; the gun smoke of battle and the dense woods of upstate New York masked his position. They nonetheless guessed he was one of Daniel Morgan's riflemen. British general Simon Fraser clutched his breast and slowly tumbled from his horse: dead before he hit the ground.

An American frontiersman named Timothy Murphy fired the shot that killed Fraser on Oct. 7, 1777. A well-liked and capable leader, Fraser was in the act of rallying his troops when he was struck down. Had he succeeded, he might well have delayed the decisive American victory at Saratoga…."


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Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP01 Jan 2021 4:54 a.m. PST

Too much myth and legend, and not fact, have been woven into this article which makes it both factually and historically inaccurate.

Pennsylvania rifles achieved their greatest fame at the Battle of New Orleans, fought on January 8, 1815; three weeks after the Treaty of Ghent had been signed. One third of General Andrew Jackson's 4,700 men were Kentuckians; many carried long rifles. The designation "Kentucky Rifle" first appeared in an 1822 poem celebrating their achievements.Pennsylvania rifles achieved their greatest fame at the Battle of New Orleans, fought on January 8, 1815; three weeks after the Treaty of Ghent had been signed. One third of General Andrew Jackson's 4,700 men were Kentuckians; many carried long rifles. The designation "Kentucky Rifle" first appeared in an 1822 poem celebrating their achievements.

Unfortunately, this is legend and myth, not fact. The big killer at New Orleans in early 1815 was the American artillery. The second factor was the smoothbore musket. The use of the rifle was not a major contributor to the victory.

From Amateurs, To Arms! by John Elting, 308:

'Though New Orleans has come down in American tradition as a victory for the Kentucky rifle, it was the American artillery that did most to crush the British attack. Next was the smoothbore musket with which the regulars and most of the Louisiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee militia were armed. Coffee's riflemen, being on the far left flank, were not heavily engaged. In fact, the musket's higher rate of fire made it superior to the rifle for such fighting.'

Further, though the Treaty of Ghent had been signed it had not yet reached the United States to be ratified by the time the battle of New Orleans on 8 January 1815 took place. The war was still ongoing when the battle was fought.

From The British at the Gates by Robin Reilly, 329:

'Analysis if the British casualties on January 8 does much to support claims that it was the American artillery which won the battle and goes some way toward justifying [British General] Lambert's precipitate decision to abandon the right bank and order a general retreat. Losses among regiments out of range of rifle or musket fire were disproportionately high-the 44th Regiment, which led Gibbs' column, suffered less than the 4th, which was last in the line of march-and almost every British account stresses the effect of heavy gunfire. It is particularly noticeable that the 95th Regiment, extended in skirmishing order in front of Gibbs' brigade and offering the most difficult target to artillery, lost only 11 killed, the same number as the 43d Regiment, which was (apart from its light company) in reserve, and less than a quarter the number of any other assault regiment. This does not support the later stories of deadly musket fire from the American breastwork. Indeed, it is clear from all accounts that Coffee's division of excellent marksmen scarcely fired a shot, and according to Latour the battalions of Plauche, Daquin, Lacoste, with three-quarters of the 44th US Infantry did not fire at all. The best-trained men could not load and fire the muskets of the period at much better than two shots a minute, and it is plain from [British General] Dickson's account that the British assault brigades were within musket range for little more than five minutes.'

British casualties for the attack on 8 January were 285 killed, 1,186 wounded and 484 taken prisoner.-Reilly, 328.

Regarding the use of the rifle in the War of the Revolution, the following is quite sobering:

From Harold Peterson's The Book of the Continental Soldier, 42-43:

'[The rifle's disadvantageous were serious. It was not equipped with a bayonet, and it was slow to load. The lack of a bayonet left the rifleman helpless in the face of a charge and powerless to charge himself…'

'[Washington] believed there were too many riflemen in the army. General 'Mad' Anthony Wayne said he never wanted to see another rifle, at least without a bayonet, and even then he would prefer a musket.'

LtCol John Simcoe, who commanded the Queen's Rangers stated that 'The riflemen, however dexterous in the use of their arm, were by no means the most formidable of the rebel troops; their not being armed with bayonets, permitted their opponents to take liberties with them which otherwise would have been highly improper.'

British Colonel Hanger, an admirer of the rifle's accuracy, stated that 'Riflemen as riflemen only, are a very feeble foe and not to be trusted alone any distance from camp; and at the outposts they must ever be supported by regulars, or they will constantly be beaten in, and compelled to retire.'

Hanger further commented that '…meeting a corps of riflemen, namely riflemen only. I would treat them the same as my friend Colonel Abercrombie,…treated Morgan's riflemen. When Morgan's riflemen came down to Pennsylvania from Canada, flushed with success gained over Burgoyne's army, they marched to confront out light infantry, under Colonel Abercrombie. The moment they appeared before him he ordered his troops to charge them with the bayonet; not one man out of four, had time to fire, and those that did had no time given them to load again; the light infantry not only dispersed them instantly but drove them for miles over the country. They never attacked, or even looked at, out light infantry again, without a regular force to support them.'

From The Battles of Saratoga by John Elting, it is quite evident that Morgan's riflemen worked hand-in-hand with Henry Dearborn's light infantry, a regular musket-and-bayonet armed infantry unit. The comment on page 85 of this volume reinforces what other authorities on the War of the Revolution have stated:

'Though the rifle had been employed as a military weapon in Europe since the early 17th century, the Revolutionary War saw its first large-scale use. A skilled rifleman could hit an individual target at as much as 300 yards, but the rifle was slower to load than the smoothbore musket and had no bayonet. Riflemen therefore made excellent skirmishers and snipers but were at a serious disadvantage when caught by regular infantry at short range. European practice was to employ them with infantry in mutually supporting units-a technique that the Americans had to learn for themselves the hard way at Long Island and elsewhere in 1776, and were just developing during the Saratoga campaign.'

doc mcb01 Jan 2021 5:00 a.m. PST

Much the same point would also apply equally at, say, the Alamo. No doubt there were some hunters with rifles, but it was the cannons that did the killing.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP01 Jan 2021 6:09 a.m. PST

And you point is…what?

The difference is the defenders of the Alamo lost and the US at New Orleans won – and won big.

And what is your evidence for your conclusion of the Alamo fight?

doc mcb01 Jan 2021 8:55 a.m. PST

Kevin, you are snarky even when I agree with you.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP01 Jan 2021 9:00 a.m. PST

Whether you agree with me or not is completely irrelevant.

WillBGoode Supporting Member of TMP01 Jan 2021 9:45 a.m. PST

Kevin, I think Doc mcb made a most excellent point. From my reading I agree with him.

I do not understand why you take offense at the drop of a hat. It makes coming here to these boards and joining a discussion very unpleasant. Here no one was arguing with you and no one was disagreeing with you. But still you have to throw down a snarky come back.

Why? Not arguing with you but just trying to understand.

Personal logo brass1 Supporting Member of TMP01 Jan 2021 9:59 a.m. PST

The Kentucky Rifle – How America's Famous Frontier Long Gun Changed Warfare.

The title should warn readers that the guy doesn't know what he's talking about.


42flanker Supporting Member of TMP01 Jan 2021 11:13 a.m. PST

And if they aren't persuaded by that, this:

"British general Simon Fraser clutched his breast and slowly tumbled from his horse: dead before he hit the ground."

-should give them pause.

The mortally wounded Fraser, shot through the intestines (aka"his breast"), was carried from the field to a house in the rear where he lay in agony until 8 o'clock the following morning when he breathed his last.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP01 Jan 2021 11:34 a.m. PST



doc mcb01 Jan 2021 12:19 p.m. PST

WillBGoode, yes, thank you, that is precisely how I feel.

WillBGoode Supporting Member of TMP01 Jan 2021 2:41 p.m. PST

You are welcome. Kevin is a mystery, wrapped in a riddle and enclosed in an enigma.

And yes, you are certainly correct about the Alamo in that example.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP01 Jan 2021 2:45 p.m. PST

Please explain the comparison between New Orleans and the Alamo. I would be very interested in that explanation.

Personal logo PaulCollins Supporting Member of TMP01 Jan 2021 3:14 p.m. PST

It looks to me like the point being made is that in both instances more casualties were caused by artillery than by rifled firearms, despite mythology that would suggest otherwise. If I misunderstood, I apologize, but if I have correctly understood doc mcb then I am not sure why Brechtel198 felt the need to respond in a rude and defensive manner since it seems to support his point.

doc mcb01 Jan 2021 3:49 p.m. PST

PaulCollins, yes, that is it exactly. Though I am a rifleman and politically and socially a supporter of an armed society, I know myth when I see it, even when it is MY myth. One need only look at "The Hunters of Kentucky" (and its role in Jackson's political fortunes) and then at the Davy Crockett almanacs of his time. (And recall that he was a Congressman.) There were reasons for emphasizing the individual riflemen and their weapons over the artillery, but superior lethality were not among them!

WillBGoode Supporting Member of TMP01 Jan 2021 4:00 p.m. PST

Paul Collins, no you understood the point perfectly in each and every point!

In fact you said it far better then I could have. Thank you!

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP01 Jan 2021 7:43 p.m. PST

Ah, Timothy Murphy. grin He's accumulated more myth than Betsy Ross.
The legend of the lone rifleman picking off Fraser didn't appear until 1835.
From the eminently respectable blog/site Journal of the American Revolution. grin (Thought I'd work that in.)
His name didn't come up for another decade or two. And it was always with the dramatis personae making Shakespearean declarations, with flourishes, "That Brave gallant man must die!" Or "I cannot decline to inspire the men! ARRRRGH…!"
Someone shot him. But, Timothy Murphy didn't accrue that fame until relatives and descendants got involved writing the story.
Closer to the truth is that Morgan picked out a dozen men for that task. Isn't that more logical?
Google "Timothy Murphy myth". There's more.

Deleted by Moderator

42flanker Supporting Member of TMP02 Jan 2021 12:03 a.m. PST

It seems it took three shots, from who knows how many individual rifles, before Fraser was hit. Two clipped his horse for and afte before he received his messy abdominal wound- having declined to make himself less conspicuous.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP02 Jan 2021 7:27 a.m. PST

…you are snarky even when I agree with you.

Kevin is a mystery, wrapped in a riddle and enclosed in an enigma.

I am not sure why Brechtel198 felt the need to respond in a rude and defensive manner since it seems to support his point.

You three are to be congratulated on your superb collective display of 'keyboard courage'-well done!

It is too bad that the three of you cannot answer in the discussion instead of making unnecessary personal attacks. Yet, that is the way of ad hominem comments-no substance, merely pejorative personal comments.

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP02 Jan 2021 7:39 a.m. PST

As John Belushi said to Blair Brown in some otherwise forgettable movie, "Now now! No call to use big words!"

Please explain why you threw down the gauntlet about the Alamo, and so belligerently. Then get back to us.

Personal logo PaulCollins Supporting Member of TMP02 Jan 2021 7:47 a.m. PST


Perhaps if you read my response you would see that I did in fact answer. Since I evidently did so in too obscure a manner I will try to simplify for you. The gentleman who responded in support of you indicated that at the Alamo, similar to New Orleans, artillery accounted for greater casualties than the rifled musket, despite popular myth. Having apparently supported your point he was then treated rudely for doing so, much to the confusion of most of the readers here. It also seems, still, that you are looking for an academic fight where none exists. Sorry.

WillBGoode Supporting Member of TMP02 Jan 2021 8:02 a.m. PST

Wow Kevin, that was a display that evan for you is over the top. You personally attack a poster here and challenge them for no reason and then are surprised when they respond in kind. Doc agreed with you, yet like the individual in the Python sketch you hit them over the head with sarcastic phrases. Your response is noted by all here.

As to not contributing to a discussion I had done so many times. I have added research and politely joined posts. Tango has seen fit to "borrow" from my blog and post my research (with no credit)here often. Perhaps a sign I have something to contribute?

But you? You attack left and right and add snarky responses. You bury us with walls of text which glaze the eyes and make people turn away. You take your club and hit bash left and right until exhausted we all flee from the post. And then you have the gaul to say we are the problem? An individual like 42flanker has contributed to our collective knowledge with intelligent and to the point text. Historygamer has positively added to each and every discussion with positive insight and up to date information. And both John and doc have contributed more then you have and too often have gotten me reaching for books to learn more or rethinking my position.

We, on this board have lost many contributors like Super Max who have been driven away by your snarky responses and insults, and it is a poorer place for that. An author like him had contributed more by his books, by his research and by his willingness to share his knowledge with us all.

Kevin, you are obviously well read and very knowledgeable. But you do not have to always let us know you are the smartest man in the room.

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP02 Jan 2021 8:08 a.m. PST

What Will said. 100%
And, speaking of "keyboard courage", look in the mirror when you say that, Kevin.

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP02 Jan 2021 8:13 a.m. PST

Oh, by the way. You are The Man when it comes to artillery. Had to say that.

doc mcb02 Jan 2021 9:13 a.m. PST

This is very sad. I respect Kevin's erudition, although I think he overdoes it at times. (That is a teacher's occupational hazard; I have had many say to me, "Doc., that is really more of an answer than I needed or wanted.") I will try to restrain myself, and I hope other will do the same.

Swampy Terrain02 Jan 2021 9:46 a.m. PST

Good God, does the academic badgering never cease? Kevin, your use of language followed up with quick rhetorical digs is sad. If someone doesn't either agree with you or kowtow, you immediately lash out and pull the Kevin's Life Matters card.
Though you are a fine scholar and author, you sir, are by no means a good leader or educator, and I seriously doubt you ever were one.

I'm sure my judgment and execution will be swift, and I accept the consequences.

Most who engage here are knowledgeable, as well as entertaining in the form of bantering, and I have enjoyed reading what those individuals have to say. But the incessant bullying and such? No thank you.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP02 Jan 2021 12:24 p.m. PST

Thank all of you for proving my point. Well done.


Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP02 Jan 2021 12:36 p.m. PST

As you have proven ours.
Neurse Schivosk.

WillBGoode Supporting Member of TMP02 Jan 2021 1:06 p.m. PST


Personal logo PaulCollins Supporting Member of TMP02 Jan 2021 1:23 p.m. PST

Brechtel198 stated "Thank you all for proving my point."

Now see, if this had been your response to doc mcb in the first place, you would have avoided looking foolish and confused.

Basha Felika03 Jan 2021 6:04 a.m. PST

I've learnt a lot from the contributors to both the Napoleonic and AWI boards over the years. But I have to say, my enjoyment of many informative threads is often marred by Brechtel's unnecessarily belligerent and confrontational contributions.

It certainly deters me from contributing (and thereby exposing my intellectual inadequacies compared to some of the titans here), and I'm no thin skinned snowflake.

I always liken these threads to a chat amongst fellow gamers around a table in the local bar after a weekend game – I can remember a couple of occasions over the years when one of the group has been similarly snarky and argumentative especially on subjects which they believed they were the most knowledgeable. In both cases, their inappropriate attitude killed the mood of the evening just by the manner of what they were saying, rather than it's content.

So, please, Brechtel, tone it down a bit and don't spoil the good thing we have going here – maybe you care not whether you are liked by other ‘club' members here but would be nicer if we could all get along and show basic courtesy to one another.


Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP03 Jan 2021 8:14 a.m. PST

Your 'observations' go both ways. And not recognizing that fact clouds the issue, unfortunately.

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP03 Jan 2021 8:42 a.m. PST

Kevin, when you turn on docmcb when he AGREES WITH YOU, that says all that needs to be said.
You are often right, but not always. (Will that set him off again?)
You claim your opinions are facts. Belligerently so.

Ok. Fine. We're picking on you.

Swampy Terrain03 Jan 2021 9:02 a.m. PST

@Basha Felika
Being deterred from contributing due to these circumstances is probably the most unfortunate aspect of this entire argument. Kudos to you for expressing your sentiments on the matter, which are no doubt shared by others.

John Switzer Supporting Member of TMP03 Jan 2021 9:58 a.m. PST

+1 Basha Felika

Basha Felika03 Jan 2021 11:23 a.m. PST

Thanks Swampy, it would be a real shame if fewer people actively participated in the forums because of the actions of a small minority whose social skills and self-awareness are, maybe, less well developed than their evident knowledge of their subject.

It's a pity because Brechtel does post some very interesting and informative stuff, just can't interact well with people – in gaming terms, he's the one who struggles to get an opponent at the club each week, because life's too short to spend most of the game arguing the toss about the minutia of the rules.

Basha Felika03 Jan 2021 11:26 a.m. PST

As a complete digression, Brechtel, are you a gamer and if so, which (presumably Napoleonic) rules do you use?

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP03 Jan 2021 11:53 a.m. PST

Basha, we have your back. Go ahead and contribute. We're all friends here, or should be. Heck, this is supposed to be a GAMING site! Not a "gotcha you dummie!" site. We're (the supposed "experts") here to help.
Maybe. grin
Illegitimi non carborundum. *evilgrin*

42flanker Supporting Member of TMP04 Jan 2021 2:20 a.m. PST

"Illegitimi non carborundum"

What does that mean? Oh, wait-

historygamer Supporting Member of TMP04 Jan 2021 10:11 a.m. PST

The Kentucky Long Rifle, aka, the Pennsylvania Long rifle, was a 19th century firearm (Gloden Age rifles – due to all the brass fittings on them).

While rifles existed and were used by both sides in the AWI – the longer ones being American – aside from Daniel Day Lewis in the movie, Last of the Mohicans, no one carried anything like the ones in the title of this post till later.

AWI rifles, but comparison, were fairly plain, and not as long with those that followed them.

RudyNelson04 Jan 2021 4:04 p.m. PST

The KY/Pennsylvania Rifle of the American Revolution was used by both sides since Loyalist militia volunteers used them, mainly in the Carolinas and Georgia. A tight rifling wad was slower to load but their were reports of quicker loading by using a small ball or smaller wad. Field expediency but preferred since the barrel would be damage. Another issue with the American rifle was they were custom, one off pieces. No mass production so no inter changeable replacement part.

The German rifle was known for being shorter and having both a smooth bore and a rifled barrel.

historygamer Supporting Member of TMP05 Jan 2021 8:16 a.m. PST

"The KY/Pennsylvania Rifle of the American Revolution was used by both sides …"

There was no such rifle at the time, only rifles. The terms you used are 19th century weapons and nomenclature.

"The German rifle was known for being shorter and having both a smooth bore and a rifled barrel."

The rifles made at the time period, largely in PA, were largely made by German gunsmiths. The Jager rifles were shorter, but they were not smoothbore. There is no such thing as a smoothbore rifle. :-)

WillBGoode Supporting Member of TMP05 Jan 2021 8:40 a.m. PST

Quick question here. Did it take longer to load and fire a American long rifle then a Jager rifle? I have fired American long rifles and am familiar with how they work and how to load and fire them.* But I have never fired a Jager type rifle so I cannot compare and contrast them. In my mind there should be nothing different; but then again I am often wrong about a number of things.

* reproduction weapons.not original.

doc mcb05 Jan 2021 8:50 a.m. PST

Asking here, not saying, but didn't the ball essentially have to be screwed down the barrel, if it was to benefit from the rifling? If so, or partly so, then the additional length would require more time?

historygamer Supporting Member of TMP05 Jan 2021 10:59 a.m. PST

So it depends on whether you are patching the ball or not. Did they do that in combat? I doubt it. Too laborious to load carefully under fire. The problem was that they had to be careful not to break the wooden ramdom too.

The ball wasn't screwed down there, it was either just rammed on top of the power and cartridge (if using cartridges), or just powder from a horn. The patch (small cloth square) was what seated teh ball tigher to the rifle grooves, lessening the windage (gap between ball and barrel).

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP05 Jan 2021 3:05 p.m. PST

There are two publications, both by the same author, Harold Peterson, which give both illustrations of the Kentucky/ Pennsylvania rifle as well as description of the rifles themselvves.

-The Book of the Continental Soldier, pages 38-44.

-Arms and Armor in Colonial America 1526-1783, pages 192-203.

Both volumes show, by photographs of the American long rifle, that it was indeed longer than the German jager rifle and the text clearly demonstrates that the weapons were not standardized by caliber of round or construction, though most of them looked quite similar.

The American long rifle as developed had a longer barrel than its German antecedent for greater accuracy and to improve the balance.

The German jager rifle is also covered in the second referenced volume.

RudyNelson05 Jan 2021 3:25 p.m. PST

When I referred to the German rifle, I WAS referring to the German Jaeger short rifle. NOT the PA German rifle which was called the Pennsylvania rifle. The Jaeger rifle was I stated was a double barrel not a smooth bore rifle as history gamer wrongly stated.
In the American Revolution any rifle produced in America and had a longer barrel than the Jaeger rifle was often called a long rifle. This meant that it had a longer range than the Jaeger rifle.
You are correct historygamer that KY rifle tends to be a term used in the 19th century which was less than two decades after the AmRev. Weapons used in the Ar of 1812, did not change much, if at all, from the AmRev.
Long rifles would be a better term for both eras over KY or PA rifles.

historygamer Supporting Member of TMP05 Jan 2021 7:50 p.m. PST

"he Jaeger rifle was I stated was a double barrel not a smooth bore rifle as history gamer wrongly stated."

Ahhh, I'm struggling to understand this sentence. Double barrel? Not throwing stones, as I am king of typos.

Swampy Terrain05 Jan 2021 9:34 p.m. PST

Ah the return, or should I say part II.
A disturbing resemblance.
YouTube link

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