Ticonderoga, NY – Through the keen eye of a museum supporter and generosity of an important donor, a rare British musket that may have seen use at Fort Ticonderoga has recently joined the museum’s collection enabling Fort Ticonderoga to more completely interpret the site’s remarkable history.
Fort Ticonderoga’s Curator of Collections, Christopher Fox said “The donation of this Wilson musket fills an important and long-standing gap in the collection. It is a type we know was used by troops who served at the Fort. It is also an important reminder of the struggles armies sometimes faced in arming their troops in wartime and the great diversity of arms that found their way into military service as a result.”
The Wilson musket will be placed on exhibit this season in the museum’s highly acclaimed exhibit Bullets & Blades: The Weapons of America’s Colonial Wars and Revolution. The exhibit, featuring over 150 weapons, tells the story of the use of military and civilian weapons in America during the 17th and 18th centuries. Fort Ticonderoga’s collection of 18th-century military objects is celebrated as one of the best of its type in the world.
During the French & Indian War, the London gun maker Richard Wilson produced muskets to arm the militias of several American colonies including New York, New Jersey, probably Massachusetts. Though they bear similarities to muskets produced for the British army, the weapons produced by Richard Wilson are not “army” muskets, they are “commercial” or “contract” muskets.” Their brass parts, stocks, and barrels resemble British army guns, but are simpler and lighter overall. Of the estimated 4,000 contract weapons that may have been produced by Wilson, only a handful has survived through today.
The potential connection with Fort Ticonderoga’s history stretches back to the British army’s planned invasion of Canada and the disastrous attack on the French lines on July 8, 1758. As British General James Abercromby was preparing his 17,000-man army, he had considerable difficulty obtaining enough weapons to arm his troops. Among the weapons he was eventually able to acquire were 1,000 muskets owned by the City of New York. These weapons had originally been purchased by the city from Richard Wilson in 1755. While it is not known with absolute certainty, it is thought that at least some of those weapons were issued to New York Provincial troops. Many of those troops took part in the battle before the French lines on July 8. It is known, however, that many of Wilson’s muskets were used at Ticonderoga as numerous brass pieces of these guns have been recovered on the site during various periods of reconstruction.