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ARTICLE | The Third (India) Pattern Brown Bess Musket

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ARTICLE | The Third (India) Pattern Brown Bess Musket

Postby Mark » December 25th, 2011, 6:11 pm

The following article is intended to be a brief introduction to the India Pattern Brown Bess musket that was used by British soldiers throughout the Napoleonic Wars. It is not comprehensive but should give the reader, who is new to the subject, a basic understanding of the weapon. However, if you feel anything should be added or corrected please do so by replying to this thread with the information below.

The Third (India) Pattern Brown Bess Musket

The Third Pattern Brown Bess musket is perhaps better known as the India Pattern. It was adopted by the British Army in 1797 replacing the previous Long Land and Short Land Patterns. The name Brown Bess is actually an unofficial nickname given to the musket carried by British troops although the origins of the name remain uncertain. Some cite it was in reference to Queen Elizabeth I while others believe ‘Brown’ was derived from the colour of the stock and ‘Bess’ from the arquebus or blunderbuss which predated the musket.

During the 1790s the Honourable East India Company wanted a musket based on the Long and Short Land Patterns but with the aim of producing one easier and cheaper as well as more quickly than the patterns in use by the British Army at the time. The result was the Third or India Pattern Brown Bess in 1795. With the French Revolutionary Wars raging in Europe and elsewhere the British Army adopted this design in 1797 as a replacement for the more costly previous pattern muskets which took longer to produce at a time when the army was expanding. As a result the Third or India Pattern became the standard British musket in use throughout the remainder of French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars and was used in almost every theatre in which the British were present. It was the musket that the British soldier carried during the Peninsular War and the Hundred Days campaign including both the battles of Quatre Bras and Waterloo. It was also used in the War of 1812 in North America.

The overall length of the India Pattern musket was 55.25 inches (making it 7.25 inches shorter than the Long Land Pattern and 3.25 inches shorter than the Short Land Pattern.) Its barrel was 39 inches and the total weight was some 9.68 pounds being designed to fire a .75 calibre ball. It was said that a highly trained soldier could fire 3 or even 4 shots a minute while less experienced troops averaged 2 shots. As with most muskets of the day accuracy was not great and it is often said that its effective range was between 80 to 100 yards although it was most effective under 50.

The drill for firing the musket included three steps. Firstly the soldier would put the weapon into half-cock then open a pre-prepared cartridge (made of a lead ball and gun powder contained within paper) by tearing one end open with his teeth and pouring a small amount of the powder into the pan before closing it by pulling down the frizzen. Secondly the musket was stood upright and the remaining powder poured down the barrel from the muzzle. Thirdly the ball and the remaining paper cartridge were rammed down the barrel using the ram rod housed within pipes under the barrel itself. Once this operation was completed the musket would be put into full-cock and fired when ready. The cock itself contained a flint which, when the trigger was pulled, would hit the frizzen causing it to open and spark. The sparks would set off the small amount of powder in the pan which would then burn sending a flame into the barrel via a small hole which would then set off the main charge discharging the musket ball.

As with its predecessors the India Pattern Brown Bess was designed to take a triangular socket bayonet which could be affixed to the muzzle of the musket. The blade of the bayonet measures approximately 17 inches although along with the socket measured some 22 inches. Once fixed to the musket this gave the British soldier a weapon in excess of 6 feet in length.

It should be mentioned that the India Pattern Brown Bess is often encountered with either the ‘Tower’ (Tower of London) markings on the lock or the markings of the Honourable East India Company (sometimes seen in the form of a lion.) Those marked with Tower were made under the Ordnance System for issue to British troops while those of HEIC were destined for service with their troops in India. That said it has been noted that some intended for the HEIC were diverted when there were shortages and found themselves in the hands of British troops. Some privately made examples also exist and are usually marked with the gun-maker's name.

The India Pattern would remain in service for many years after the end of the Napoleonic Wars and was not replaced as the standard musket of the British Army until after the introduction of a purpose designed percussion musket in 1842. Indeed many India Pattern muskets saw themselves converted to the percussion system in the 1830s and some continued in service until at least the 1850s or even beyond.

Almost three million India Pattern Brown Bess muskets were produced.

Third_(India)_Pattern_Brown_Bess_Musket.jpg
Third_(India)_Pattern_Brown_Bess_Musket.jpg (13.42 KiB) Viewed 10937 times


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ENGLISH HERITAGE | How to fire a Brown Bess musket

Postby Mark » December 25th, 2011, 9:10 pm

Kevin Hicks from The History Squad demonstrates how to fire a Brown Bess musket at an English Heritage event at Bolvsover Castle.

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Re: ARTICLE | The Third (India) Pattern Brown Bess Musket

Postby Waggoner » December 25th, 2011, 11:59 pm

Mark,

What an excellent overview of the india Pattern musket! There are a few things that I would like to add. First, the muskets were not "made" at the Tower. Under the Ordnance System, the metal bits and pieces were purchased and stored at the Tower. When muskets were needed, the bits and pieces were sent out to a gunmaker who "stocked" them. The name of the stocker frequently appears on the stock. Besides Tower and HEIC marks on the locks, the names of private contractors can also be found. For example, Ramsay Sutherland is said to have had a contract to make India Pattern muskets for the New Brunswick militia. Only his name appears on the locks on these muskets. At one time the locks were dated but this practice stopped when the Colonels of regiments complained of receiving old muskets. Of course, they were newly assembled using locks that had been received into stores some years ago.

All the best,

Gary
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Re: ARTICLE | The Third (India) Pattern Brown Bess Musket

Postby Mark » December 26th, 2011, 12:20 am

Cheers, Gary! No idea why I put 'at the Tower' as I meant to write 'under the Tower system' but actaullay 'under the Ordance System' is the accurate description so thanks for the correction. I have now amended the article above to reflect this. Also thank you for the fact that Ramsay Sutherland made this pattern of Brown Bess for the New Brunswich Militia as I hadn't got this noted. I believe Moore was one of the makers who produced this weapon for the HEIC?

Mark :)
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Re: ARTICLE | The Third (India) Pattern Brown Bess Musket

Postby albatrosdva » September 26th, 2012, 9:18 pm

Hello Mark,
Just a very minor note on you wonderful description. The EIC started making their private purchase India pattern muskets in 1771. Some of these stores were captured during the American Revolution and used in limited quantities. I have a Richard Wilson made from 1779. It contains many of the same features as to 1797 accepted pattern but it never had a bayonet lug. The barrel is thin and cheap and the stock does not have the comb cut out so distinctive on the various Brown Besses. The metal furniture is the same but thinner and approximately 1/3 smaller.
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Re: ENGLISH HERITAGE | How to fire a Brown Bess musket

Postby John Waller » September 26th, 2012, 9:43 pm

Mark wrote:Kevin Hicks from The History Squad demonstrates how to fire a Brown Bess musket
Badly :roll: !
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Re: ARTICLE | The Third (India) Pattern Brown Bess Musket

Postby CMH » June 25th, 2013, 6:08 pm

As already noted, the East India Company 1771 pattern musket, sometimes now referred to as the "Windus Pattern", was the basis for the Board of Ordnance India Pattern. There are no significant differences between the East India Company muskets and those made for the Ordnance, except the markings, with the length, weight and furniture all being the same. The stocks on early pre-Napoleonic examples perhaps tend to be a little bit more slender.

The Board of Ordnance bought a total of 117,640 muskets from the East India Company between 1793 and 1813, with particularly large quantities being acquired in 1794, 1795, 1796, 1797, 1799, 1803, 1808 and 1813.

Few 1771 Pattern muskets (either those sent to India or those bought by the Board of Ordnance) have survived intact, although many barrels and locks of those sent to India have, and these have often been restocked and rebuilt in the East at some point before returning onto the collector's market. Some of these composites may have been put together by Indian Princely states for actual service, while others have been assembled far more recently. Either way, none of these composite pieces can be considered as Napoleonic-era service muskets. Anyone who fancies buying an East India Company Napoleonic-era or pre-Napoleonic-era musket should be very careful and do the necessary research before taking the plunge, ensuring that the piece in question matches one of the patterns exactly and that all the markings are correct for the time period.

I have gathered a few images of genuine East India Company muskets which may be of interest:

This is an overview showing the similarity between the Ordnance and EIC muskets, from top to bottom:
An East India Company p1771 with swan-necked cock.
An East India Company p1771 with ring-necked cock (The EIC changed to the ring-necked cock in 1813).
A pre-1809 Board of Ordnance India Pattern with swan-necked cock.
A post-1809 Board of Ordnance India Pattern with ring-necked cock.
A Board of Ordnance New Land Pattern.

Image


This shows the locks and markings in greater detail. The date is the date of manufacture. While the William Wilson musket is pre-Napoleonic and unlikely to have seen service with the British army during this era, the 1813-dated piece is probably one of those bought by the Board of Ordnance. Between 1804 and 1807 the EIC heart shaped marking and date appeared in the centre of the lock and the maker's name on the tail. The lion in the centre and date on the tail was applied to locks from 1808.

Image

This shows the style of markings that appeared on the barrel from 1771 until 1804. The date and maker's name should always be the same as that on the lock.This particular example was made by Henry Nock and was one of those acquired by the Board of Ordnance. All EIC barrels had to pass proof and inspection and were marked accordingly. This particular example has Tower private proof marks, which occasionally appear on EIC weapons, particularly in the 1790s and early 1800s during the Ordnance weapons crisis. Apart from the proof marks (the twin crown over crossed sceptres) there are crown over number inspection marks and the mark of Henry Nock between the proofs.

Image

This shows the markings that appeared on the barrel after 1804, with no date or maker's name. This one has the London private proof marks that are more commonly found on EIC weapons. As usual, additional inspection marks stamped by EIC inspectors are present as well.

Image
Last edited by CMH on June 4th, 2015, 9:09 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: ARTICLE | The Third (India) Pattern Brown Bess Musket

Postby Mark » June 25th, 2013, 6:14 pm

Thank you for the additional information and superb pictures, CMH!

Mark
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Re: ARTICLE | The Third (India) Pattern Brown Bess Musket

Postby terry1956 » April 16th, 2014, 12:26 pm

Hi, , interesting, but a bit wrong in places.due to the need for higher output of weapons . licence was given to a few gun manufacturers to make brown bess muskets.A proofing house was set up in Birmingham ( can still be seen today).note only the barrel was tested, a double load of powder was placed in the barrel and then the barrel was inbeded in a sand bed along with 8 or more other barrels.a single fuse fired all the barrels.it was then stamped and returned to the gun maker.other parts like the stocks, locks etc got made by s army of out workers paid on peace work or for smaller fittings like screws on the weight made.in the gun makers workshop the various parts got fitted together and the weapons when made got send by bargel to london. On the 3rd patten the action was reinforced in the french way.michael
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Re: ARTICLE | The Third (India) Pattern Brown Bess Musket

Postby Waggoner » April 16th, 2014, 12:52 pm

Private contracts were let for many muskets. For example, the New Brunswick militia was armed with Ramsey Sutherland contract muskets. The reinforced cock was a later improvement to the swan-necked one that was introduced circa 1803 if memory serves right.

All the best,

Gary
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