The American Revolution pitted colonists versus British soldiers and loyalists. How much do you know about the weapons used in these history-altering battles?
Which country supplied the Americans with many weapons during the war?
The colonists were in dire need of weapons, particularly early in the conflict. France stepped in and supplied many thousands of muskets, cannons and other guns to help the colonists in their fight against the British.
Siege guns were the biggest cannons used during the war, and they blasted large, solid metal shot into enemy fortifications. They were also extremely heavy and hard to move, meaning armies typically used them only for protracted engagements like sieges.
Paper cartridges contained both black powder and metal shot. Troops tore open the paper, put a bit of powder near the flintlock and then rammed the rest of the cartridge down the gun's barrel in preparing for firing.
Which type of artillery piece fired projectiles at the highest trajectory?
Mortars were short-barreled guns that fired bombs at high trajectories meant to loft explosives over enemy fortifications. Mortars fired bombs that were intended to explode in midair, causing shrapnel to spread over long distances.
What kind of gun technology was most common during the war?
By this era, matchlock guns were outdated, but percussion guns were still decades from reality, meaning flintlock guns were the most common technology. When soldiers pulled the trigger, a piece of flint would strike steel, creating a spark that ignited black powder that fired the weapon.
British flintlock guns worked better in wet weather than those used by the Americans.
Both sides tried to avoid fighting during rain showers because flintlocks were notoriously unreliable in wet weather. The flints had no problem creating a spark, but the spark would fall onto wet black powder, which didn't ignite when moist.
During a battle at Rugeley's Mill, one American unit created a fake cannon from a log. The so-called Quaker gun was convincing enough that some British soldiers surrendered rather face a cannon's roar.
During the Revolutionary War, cannonballs and bombs referred to the same thing.
Cannonballs were solid metal and typically fired at flat trajectories towards fortifications or enemy infantry. Bombs were filled with gunpowder and meant to explode during flight, raining down sharp metal on unlucky targets.
Why were Brown Bess muskets often fired in massive, simultaneous volleys?
to create a wall of gunpowder smoke
to make sure some shots hit their targets
Because muskets weren't very accurate, their firepower was often more effective when many men fired at once. The tactic maximized muskets' potential damage and sometimes created vulnerabilities in enemy lines.
to give other soldiers time to clean their gun barrels
Bayonets were effective even in the hands of inexperienced troops.
Many Revolutionary War battles were fought in close quarters, with bayonets as the primary weapon. Even inexperienced troops could quickly learn to stab enemy soldiers with a bayonet, making it an effective (and horrifying) weapon throughout the conflict.
Why did musket balls often veer off course when they emerged from the end of the gun barrel?
uneven gas expansion
As the black powder ignited and propelled the shot, the hot gases sometimes expanded unevenly, causing the musket shot to spin unpredictably. This fact made it difficult for troops to consistently hit their marks.
Muskets of the American Revolution typically had fairly accurate sights.
Many muskets of the era had no sights at all, meaning soldiers relied on experience (and luck) to hit a target, especially one that was moving. Even a slight deviation in aim meant that a musket ball might veer wildly off the intended course.
Chain shot was frequently used against which target?
Chain shot was essentially two cannonballs attached by a chain. When fired, the contraption would spin through the air in a manner that was exceptionally good for tearing down a ship's mast and rigging. At times, the weapon was also used to mow down groups of infantry, too. Welcome to war, gentlemen.