butt of the barrel for the escape of the bul. THE probabilities of a general war in Eu- lets in case of explosion, whilst others had I rope invest the subject of the following evidently been destroyed by this action. In paper with an unusual interest. It is worthy a brass model of a pistol of the time of Charles of notice that America has furnished so large II., from the United Service Museum, there a proportion of the improvements in war-en- was an ingenious attempt to cause the chamgines of every description. Fulton's schemes ber to rotate, by mechanical action, in some are well known; we all remember something degree similar, but more complicated than the of the guns invented by Perkins; there is a arms constructed by the author. The “Coolgentleman now in daily conference with Maz-idge" and the “Collier” guns, both flint guns zini and the revolutionary committees, in of comparatively modern manufacture, exLondon, who proposes the noiseless discharge hibited the same radical defects of liability to of twenty thousand missiles in a minute, by premature explosion. means of a machine invented in Ohio; and The invention of Nock's patent breech, and we find in the Times an abstract of a paper the Rev. Mr. Forsyth's introduction of the deread at the Institution of Civil Engineers, on tonating or percussion guns, which latter printhe 25th of November, by our famous coun- ciple, with the necessary mechanical arrangetryman Colonel Colt, “On the Application ments for the caps, was essential to the safe of Machinery to the Manufacture of Rotating construction of repeating fire-arms, constitutChambered-Breech Fire-Arms, and the Pecu- ed a new era in these weapons. liarities of those Arms." The communication Colonel Colt gave a detailed and interestcommenced with a historical account of such ing account of his experiments, which resulted rotating chamber fire-arms as had been dis- in the invention of his celebrated revolvers. covered by the author, in his researches after | His communication, the first that had been specimens of the early efforts of armorers brought before the institution, by an Amerifor the construction of repeating weapons, can, was received with acclamations; and in the necessity for which appears to have been the discussion which ensued, in which our long ago adinitted; and with the attention of Minister, the lion. Abbott Lawrence, Captain such an intelligent class devoted to the sub- Sir Thoinas Hastings, R.N., Captain Sir Edject, it is certainly remarkable that during so ward Belcher, R.N., Captain Riddell, R.N., Mr. long a period so little was really effected to- Miles, and the members of the council took wards the production of serviceable weapons part, the most flattering testimony was given of this sort. The collections in the Tower of of the efficiency of the revolvers in active London, the United Service Museum, the Ro-service, and the strongest opinions as to the tunda at Woolwich, Warwick Castle, the Mu- necessity of their use in all frontier warfare; sée d'Artillerie, and the Hotel Cluny, at Pa- and that without this arm it was almost imris, as well as some ancient Eastern arms possible, except with an overwhelming force brought from India by Lord William Ben- of troops, to cope with savage tribes. The tinck, demonstrated the early efforts that had discussion was resumed at a meeting of the been made to produce arms capable of rapidly Institution, held on the second of December. firing several times consecutively, without the A new, and, we understand, a very impordelay of loading after each discharge. Draw- tant invention, in this line, is also described in ings of these specimens were exbibited, com- the following interesting article by a contribuprising the match-lock, the pyrites wheel-lock, tor to the International: the flint-lock, down to the percussion-lock, as | SKETCH OF THE PROGRESS OF INVENTION IN OFFENSIVE adapted by the author. Among the match

ARMS: JENNING'S RIFLE. lock guns, some had as many as eight chambers, rotating by hand. Some of the pyrites

BY W. M. FERRIS. wheel-lock guns had also as many as eight It may be justly considered that mechanichambers, and rotated by hand; one of them, cal invention has been the most prominent made in the seventeenth century, had the pe- characteristic of history for the last four cenculiarity of igniting the charge close behind turies. The application of science to the usethe bullet, burning backwards towards the ful arts has been pushed to an extent of which breech-an arrangement identical in principle preceding ages never dreamed. In poetry, with that of the modern Prussian "needle in painting, in sculpture, the great masters of gun," for which great merit has been claimed. ancient times are still the teachers of manThe flint-locks induced more determined ef- kind. But in all those arts which adininister forts, but all were abortive, as the magazines to the necessities, increase the comforts, or for priming and the pan covers were contin multiply the enjoyments of men, the present nally blown off on the explosion of the charge. is marvellously in advance of every former Indeed, from the earliest match-lock down to age. Prominent among those arts which the present time, the premature explosion of have shared in this advancement, is that of several chambers, owing to the simultaneous / war. At first sight it may appear improper Ignition of the charges, from the spreading of to distinguish as useful, improvements in the the fire at their mouths, had been the great method of taking life. But, experience and source of difficulty. In some of the most an-philosophy unite in teaching that every imcient specimens, orifices were provided in the provement in military skill tends to render


war less frequent, and the nearer its opera-, with which Pandaros shot at Menelaus an tions approach to those of an exact science, arrow which would have sent to Hades the the more reluctant is each nation to engage hero dear to Mars, had not the daughter of in it, and the more careful not to commit | Jove brushed it aside with her hand, as a. those offences which render a resort to it on mother doth a fly from her sleeping child. the part of other nations unavoidable. | The bow does not appear to have been ex

We purpose to trace a brief sketch of the tensively used in later times in either the progress of invention in offensive weapons, Greek or Roman armies. The ferocious Sparand more particularly in that class of firearms tan preferred the close combat with manual used either in hunting or war, by a single in- weapons, the Athenian won his glory upon dividual, and generally denominated small- the sea, and it was with the pike that Alexarms, in contradistinction to artillery. Such ander overcame the hosts of Persia. The a sketch will be interesting, not only in its Cretans, who were the most celebrated archsubject-matter, but also as a chapter in the ers in Europe, sometimes formed a separate general history of human progress.

division in the Grecian and afterward in the The learned reader who is curious in such Roman arinies. The Romans, however, gematters, will find in the Natural History of nerally preferred heavy-armed troops. But Pliny (vol. vii. cap. 56, 57), a statement of it was a peculiarity of Roman policy always the source whence originated most of the me- to adopt every improvement in the art of chanical implements, the manners and cus-war with which they became acquainted, toms, and the political and religious institu- whether it originated with friend or foe. Rome tions known in the author's time. It is to be never let slip any opportunity to add to the presumed that Pliny did not intend to vonch efficiency of her legions, and they repaid her for the truth of all he has there stated. He care by carrying her eagles in triumph from probably meant merely to give a synopsis of the Thames to the Euphrates, and from the the traditions most generally received, and Danube to the Nile. which assigned to a divine energy almost It was in the west of Europe, and from every thing that contributed to the happiness about the eleventh to the fifteenth century, of men. He tells us here that “the first that archery flourished in the greatest perfeccombats were made by the Africans against tion. The early chronicles are filled with the the Egyptians with a kind of stick, which exploits of the English archers, and old and they called phalanges." The evident Greek young still read with delight those ballads

rigin of this word renders the story absurd which tell of the wondrous achievements of xnough, and doubtless most of our readers “Robin Hood and his merry men.” Indeed, will continue to acquiesce in the account with the name of that famous outlaw are congiven in Holy Writ, that the origin of war nected all our ideas of perfect skill in the use was but little subsequent to the origin of the of the bow, and in the directions which in race, and that fraternal blood first stained his dying hour, he gave to his faithful man, the breast of our mother earth. But this “Little John," we seem to hear the dirge of stateinent of Pliny contains a grain of truth. archery itself: The stick, or club, was undoubtedly the first

* Give me my bent bow in my hand, weapon made use of by men in their combats

And a broad arrow I'll let flee,

And where that arrow is taken up, with each other, though the spear and the

There shall my grave digg'd be. sword followed at a period long anterior to any known in historical records.

“And lay me a green sod under my head,

And another at my feet, But from the earliest ages men have sought

And lay my bent bow by my side, to avoid hand-to-hand conflicts, and to make Which was my music sweet." skill supply the place of strength. In con- We shall not stop to dwell on the defects tests with wild beasts this was indispensable. of the bow. The great and insuperable one Nature had provided man with no weapon was its want of power. The strength of a with which he could contend against the man was the limit of its capacity, and someboar's tusks, the lion's teeth, or the tiger's thing more was necessary to pierce the ironpaw. Hence, the substitution of missiles for clad breast of the knight. But, until the inmanual weapons, has been the end towards vention of gunpowder, it stood at the head which ingenuity has been constantly directed. of missile engines.

The conversion of the spear into the jave. When and where gunpowder was invented lin, as it was the inost obvious, so probably it is impossible now to ascertain. It seems it was the earliest step in advance. Close to be described in the pages of Roger Bacon, upon this followed the sling, and last the ar- while many are of opinion that the returning row and the bow. The invention of the lat- Crusaders brought it from the east. Certain ter weapon is ascribed by Pliny, in the chap- it is that it had been known in China for ter above cited, to a son of Jupiter. In the many oenturies, and applied to the blasting days of Homer it was the weapon of the gods; of rocks and other useful purposes, thongh and thousands of years after, it was the pride never to the art of war. But the latter appliand glory of the English veoman. The clas- cation of it was made by the Europeans almost sical scholar will remember the description contemporaneously with their knowledge of in the fourth book of the Iliad, of the bow its properties, and for war it has been chiefly

employed until the present time. The inven-1
tion of cannon preceded by a century that of
small-arms, and it was by a gradual reduction
in the size of the former that the latter were
produced. Barbour, in his metrical Life of
Robert Bruce, says, that cannon were used
by Edward III. in his first campaign against
the Scots, in 1827. He calls them “ Crakys
of war.” They are also supposed to have
been employed by the French in the siege of
Puy Guillaume, in 1338. But the first use of
them which rests on unimpeachable evidence,
and which seems to have been productive of
much effect, was at the battle of Cressy, in
1346. It is from this epoch that it is most
usual to date the employment of artillery.
That day which witnessed the first efficient
use of a weapon destined to revolutionize the
art of war, also witnessed the most splendid
achievements of the archers of England.
The bowstrings of the French had become
useless by the dampness of the weather, while
those of the English, either on account of
greater care or the different material of which
they were made, were uninjured. The cloth-
yard arrows of the English bowmen, directed
with unerring skill, made terrible havoc in
the ranks of their enemies, while four pieces
of artillery stationed on a little hill contribut-
ed to their victory. The French troops had
none of them ever seen, and most of them

B.cER. never heard of such a weapon, and the terror inspired by the noise and the smoke did more gress of improvement from this the first gun than the balls to hasten their defeat.

until we reach the repeating rifle. The first cannons were rude in the extreme. If we analyze the manipulation of fire-arms, They were made of bars of iron hooped to- it will be found to consist of three principal gether like the staves of a barrel, and were operations-namely, to charge the piece, to larger at the muzzle than at the breech. The direct it toward the object of attack, and to size was very soon decreased, so that two discharge it by in some manner igniting the men could carry one, and fire it from a rest. powder; or more concisely, to load, take aim, The 400 cannon with wbich Froissart said and fire. That gun with which these operathat the English besieged St. Malo, in 1378, tions can be performed inost safely, accuwere probably of this kind. Nearly a cen- rately, and rapidly, is the best. tary elapsed before small-arms were invented. The process of loading has continued to be Sir S. Meyrick, to whom subsequent writers essentially the same from the invention of the have been indebted for most of their know- gun to the present time. The charge is put ledge upon this subject, has given, upon the in at the muzzle, and rammed down to the authority of an eye-witness, the time and lower end of the barrel. At a very early place of their invention. “It was in 1430," period, efforts were made to construct guns says Bilius, "that they were contrived by the which would load at the breech; but hitherto Lucquese, when they were besieged by the no such gun has been able to supplant those Florentines." A French translation of Quin- which load at the muzzle. The great comtus Curtius made by Vasqua de Lucene, a plication of their parts, their liability to get Portuguese, in 1468, preserved among the out of repair, their insecurity, and the long Burney MSS. of the British Museum, exhibits practice required to learn their use, have been in one of its illuminations the earliest repre- among the reasons which have prevented sentation of hand fire-arms which has yet any of these inventions from being adopted. been discovered. The following engraving is Hence it is that the inuskets with which our from a copy of this illumination, contained in soldiers are armed at the present day, posthe Penny Cyclopædia.

sess no advantage in this respect over the It will be observed that this gun much re- rude little cannon fastened to the end of a sembles one of those small lead cannons with stick, used by the soldiers of Europe fonr cenwhich patriotic boys, upon each return of our turies ago. But in other respects the pronational anniversary, manifest their apprecia- gress of invention has been steady and secure. tion of the blessings of liberty. It was fas- With the gun represented in the above entened to a stick, and fired by a match held in graving it was impossible to take aim. Being the hand. We proceed to sketch the pro-perfectly straight, it could not be brought in the range of the eye. The most that could like a lady's work-bag, the strings of which be expected was, that by pointing it in the he was obliged to draw in order to get at direction of the enemy, it might chance to them. In his hand were his burning match hit some one, in a crowd.

and musket rest, and after discharging his The inconveniences attending the discharge piece he was obliged to defend himself with of the piece were almost as great. A puff of his sword. The match was fixed to the cock wind, or the slightest motion of the soldier by a kind of tongs. Over the priming-pan hinself, would throw the priming from the was a sliding cover, which had to be drawn touch-hole, and it is almost unnecessary to add, back with the hand before pulling the trigger. that in rainy or even very damp weather,

It was necessary to blow such a gun was utterly useless. The first

the ashes from the match, step in improvement was to place the touch

and take the greatest care hole on the right side of the barrel instead of

that the sparks did not fall upon the top, and to attach a small pan which

mpon the prining. After held the priming. By this ineans the priming

each discharge the match was kept from being blown away by the

had to be taken out of the wind, though scarco any other advantage

cock and held in the hand was attained.

until the piece was reloadAbout the year 1475 a great advance was

od; then, in order that it made by the invention of the arquebus or

might come down exactbow-gun. A spring let loose by a trigger

ly upon the priming, the threw the match, which was fastened to it,

greatest care and nicety forward, into the pan which contained the

were required in fitting it priming. It was from this spring that the

again to the cock, Other ingun took its name.

conveniences attended the The arquebus is mentioned by Philip de

use of the match-lock musComines, in his account of the battle of

ket. The light of the burnMorat, in 1476. It appears to have been

ing match betrayed the poused in England in 1480.

sition of the soldier, and But as yet no improvement had been made

hence it could not be used by which the soldier was enabled to take

by sentinels or on secret aim. The butt of the arquebus was perfectly

expeditions. Various constraight, and placed against the breast when

trivances were resorted to the gun was fired. The danger of being

in order to obviate these knocked over by the recoil of the piece was

difficulties. Walhuysen, a great, that of hurting the enemy very small,

captain of the town of DanThe Germans first conceived the idea of

zig, in a treatise entitled bending the butt downward, and thus ele

L'Art Militaire pour l'Invating the barrel so as to bring it in the range

fantrie, printed in 1915, of the eye. They also sloped it so as to fit

says: “It is necessary that the shoulder instead of being held against the

every musketeer should breast. The arquebus constructed in this

know how to carry his manner was used in England in the time of

match dry in moist or Henry VIII., and was variously called haque

rainy weather, that is, in but, hakebut, hagbut, and hagbus, names all

his pocket or in his hat, derived from the hooked shape of the butt.

by putting the lighted A small sized arquebus, with a nearly semi

match between his head circular butt, and called a demihaque, was

and hat, or by some other probably the origin of the modern pistol.

means to guard it from the The musket, invented in Spain, was intro

weather. The musketeer duced into France in the reign of Charles IX.,

should also have a little tin by De Strozzi, Colonel-General of the King's

tube, about a foot long, big infantry, and thence into England. At first it

enough to admit a match, was so heavy that each musketeer was ac

and pierced full of little companied by a boy to assist him in carrying

holes, that he may not be it. It was, however, soon decreased in

discovered by his match weight sufficiently to enable the musketeer to

when he stands sentinel or carry it hiinself, though it was still so heavy

is gone on any expedition." that he could only fire it from a rest. This

The learned captain does rest, which each musketeer carried with him,

pot state whether the hair consisted of a stick the height of his shoulder,

of those soldiers who carpointed at the lower end, and having at the

ried their lighted matches upper an iron fork in which the musket bar

between their heads and rel was laid. In a flask the musketeer carried

hats, was insured. These inhis coarse powder for loading. His fine pow

conveniences were so great der for priming was in a touch-box. . His

that many able military bullets were in a leathern bag, shaped much | JENNINGS'S RIFLE. men regarded fire-arms as

[ocr errors]

a failure, and recommended a return to the tions was the lock which, after its inventors, long-bow, which had been so terrible a wea- was called the snaphause. It consisted of a pon in the hands of the English archers. But flat piece of steel, furrowed like the edge of the art of war, like every other, never goes the wheel in the wheel-lock, which was backward, and men were not disposed to screwed on the barrel beyond the primingabandon the use of so mighty an agent as pan in such a manner as to be movable. By gunpowder, merely for the want of some bringing it over the pan, and pulling the weapon adapted to its use.

trigger, the flint in the cock struck against The fire-lock, named from its producing the steel, and the spark was produced. The fire by friction, was the first improvement simplicity and cheapness of this lock soon upon the match-lock. Its earliest form was rendered it common, and the transition from that known as the wheel-lock, which is men- it to the ordinary flint-lock followed almost tioned in a treatise on artillery by Luigi as a matter of course. The last improvement Collado, printed at Venice in 1586. He says which we shall notice was the percussionthat it had been lately invented in Germany. lock. This is due to the Rev. Mr. Forsyth, This lock consisted of a solid steel wheel, of Belhelvie, in Scotland, though the original with an axle, to which was fastened a chain. form of the lock has been entirely changed The axle was turned by a small lever, and by the introduction of the copper cap. thus winding around it the chain, drew up a Whilst these improvements were being very strong spring. By pulling the trigger made in locks, the other parts of the gun the spring was let go, and the wheel whirled were gradually approaching in lightness, around with great velocity. The cock was strength, and accuracy of finish, to the moso constructed as to bring a piece of sulphuret dern standard. The most valuable improveof iron down upon the edge of the wheel, ment was the invention of the rifle barrel. which was notched, and touched the priming It is mentioned by Pere Daniel, who wrote in the pan. The friction produced the sparks. in 1693, as being then well known; but the It was from this use that the sulphuret of time and place of its origin has never been iron derived the name of pyrites, or fire-stone. ascertained. It was first employed as a Afterwards a flint or any common hard peb-military weapon by the Americans, in the ble was used. The complicated nature of Revolutionary war, and it is in their hands this lock, and its uncertainty, prevented its that it acquired its world-wide reputation. general adoption. The next improvement It would be impossible, in an article like was due to the Dutch. About the year 1600 the present, to detail all the various attempts there was in Holland a band of marauders which have been made, during the last half known as snaphausen, or poultry-stealers. century, to increase the efficiency of the However free they were in using the pro- rifle. The efforts of scientific men and meperty of others, they were yet unable to incur chanics have been constantly directed towards the expense of the wheel-lock, and the the invention of a gun which should fire, with match-lock, by its burning light, exposed the greatest possible rapidity, a number of them on their nightly expeditions. The wit times without reloading, and which should which had been sharpened by laying "plots" | possess the indispensable requisites of safety, and "inductions dangerous" against unoffend-durability, and simplicity, both in construcing hens and chickens, was turned to the in- tion and in use. Hitherto no invention has vention of a gun-lock better adapted to combined these advantages in a sufficient detheir purposes. The result of their cogita-gree to supplant the common rifle.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


« VorigeDoorgaan »