18th Century Rifle Parts ID

Discussion in 'The Ask the Pros & What's It Worth? Forum' started by DSmith, Jan 4, 2011.

  1. DSmith

    DSmith New Member

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    Hello,

    I am one of Dr. William Kelso's archaeologists at Historic Jamestowne in Jamestown, Virginia. During an excavation at Kingsmill a few years ago he found a few rifle parts 27 feet down in a well. The rifle buttplate was found and had writing engraved on it. We've been trying to use the engraving to find any information about the rifle, such as what kind of rifle, what forces may have used it, possibly even the owner (or at least the commanding officer of the soldier who used it).

    At first it was thought the engraving was spelling "COL. VERLIAC," and researchers speculated it was a reference to the commanding officer of a French soldier fighting on the side of the American forces in the American Revolutionary War. Closer inspection of the engraving has revealed that the second word is probably "Werliac," and the first three characters may be something like "COT," "COI," or "COJ." Looking at the "C," though, it doesn't match the character at the end of "VERLIAC," so we're thinking it may be a "G." There is a village in southern Poland named Goj, and the Werliac may have been a Polish officer, place of manufacture, or manufacturing business, or something entirely different.

    I've posted the best images we have of the artifact at http://www.preservationvirginia.org/rediscovery/page.php?page_id=442. Although the artifacts in the images were found in the same layer, implying they may be related, we're not sure they are from the same weapon. Since we can't be certain, we've been focusing on the engraved buttplate.

    If anyone has any ideas about the items at the link above, we would very much appreciate knowing what you think.

    Thank you,

    Dan Smith
  2. grcsat

    grcsat Member

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    Hi, and welcome to the forum.

    I myself don't think I can be of much help , however there are some very knowlegable people here who may be able to give you a helping hand.

    Gary

    What even happened that these parts were thown into a well?
    Why is there only a portion of the "rifle" ?
    Why would someone dispose of valuable parts as opposed to recyling them?

    There are a lot of questions that beg for an answere?
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2011
  3. Popgunner

    Popgunner New Member

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    As Mike Barbieri seems to have told you there doesn't appear to be any Colonel by the name Verliac related to the revolutionary war. Verliac is a french name & could be the name of the maker. Nothing comes up on the net for me.
  4. DSmith

    DSmith New Member

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    Hello Gary,

    Thank you for the welcome, and the response. This does appear to be a very rich forum, both in numbers and knowledge. I'm hoping someone here has some ideas.

    Your questions are good ones, the kinds archaeologists have to ask ourselves (and others) about artifacts like these. Artifacts are usually found in wells for many reasons, but the two most often appear to be that they were dropped in accidentally, or the well had gone bad and was then used as a trash pit (we recently excavated two here at Jamestown that fit both of those scenarios). The reason there is only a portion of the rifle, as far as we can tell based on the position and location of the artifacts, is that they were loose parts that were no longer going to be used--either because they were no longer functional, or a use couldn't be found for them. That's kind of hard to imagine, but we find many "pieces" of tools, weapons, toys, etc., that appear to be in good shape, but it's obvious from where and how they were found that they were just thrown away. That kind of answers the third question, too--for whatever reason, they didn't find it useful to recycle them. As yet, we don't have enough information on the artifacts in the images on the webpage to be able to determine the exact causes for their disposal. We still working all that.

    Again, thank you very much for the reply.

    Dan
  5. DSmith

    DSmith New Member

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    Hello Popgunner,

    Thanks for responding, and for the web search. You must be a member of the RevList, too. I've been corresponding with Mike Barbieri and have come to the same conclusion. After nothing could be found by anyone about a "Col. Verliac," I started looking for new solutions in different directions. As I wrote in the post, we don't think it refers to anyone by that rank and name now. So were still looking for any possible leads or ideas.

    Thanks for the efforts.

    Dan
  6. Popgunner

    Popgunner New Member

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    Welcome to the forum Dan.

    With maybe a days time someone with some experience as to time period & likely country of manufacture will be able to help here.
  7. Buffalochip

    Buffalochip Active Member

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    The buttplate appears to be very early--perhaps an early 17th century matchlock, late 17th century wheelock, or very early flintlock. The width of it indicates a very heavily stocked firearm, perhaps a musket. This might explain why it was thrown away--as firearms developed, that buttplate was probably very obsolete by the time it had outlived its usefullness and much too wide. Assuming that the parts are related, the fact that the barrel was not found, but more delicate pieces such as the trigger did, indicates the barrel may have been salvaged--a common practice--and the rest tossed.

    I'm thinking the hole for a sling indicates military heritage. If so, I think the type of musket can be narrowed down and then perhaps the engraving solved.
  8. DSmith

    DSmith New Member

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    Thanks very much, again, Popgunner.
  9. DSmith

    DSmith New Member

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    That's great information, Buffalochip. Thank you very much. I'm not sure what sort of analysis was done on it when it was found years ago, and we're trying to track it down (it's been on display in a few places, and we're trying to find the most recent), along with any information that may indicate whether or not the other parts are related. A case bottle bottom was found beneath it, indicating it was discarded some time around or after the Revolutionary War, so your suggestion that it was far out of date makes much sense, as does the idea of why the barrel is missing.

    Again, thank you very much for these leads.

    Dan
  10. Buffalochip

    Buffalochip Active Member

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    Dan,
    Check out this link: http://www.11thpa.org/neumann.html

    You may be able to track down authors of some of the source material and they may be able to help you. A photo of the bottom side of the trigger guard would be helpful as it probably has a unique profile that may further narrow things down. If you read the article, you will see that many guns of this period were cobbled together from parts of much earlier firearms.
    Chip
  11. Rocketman1

    Rocketman1 Well-Known Member

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    Hi, welcome to the forum.

    That trigger looks very similar to a standard British issue 1768 Short Land Bess.
    The hole in front of the trigger guard would have held a ring for a sling.
    The butt plate could be from a completely different gun.

    Darrell
  12. Rocketman1

    Rocketman1 Well-Known Member

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    Heres a picture.
    [​IMG]
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2011
  13. 22shot

    22shot New Member

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    DSmith

    Assuming these parts are from the same rifle:

    The buttplate is of the German Jaeger (hunter) style; a short barreled BP musket of heavy caliber (.75!).

    The ram rod thimble was mounted in the stock; if it had others, they may have been re-used.

    The trigger guard has a hole for a sling swivel, as previouslly posted.

    Here is what I don't know:
    The trigger is of a type I haven't seen; but I am sure it is NOT from a flintlock or precussion caplock, Both of these had quite similar locks; they were "tripped" by a "tab" on the trigger pressing against the tumbler of the lock mechanism.
    The trigger shown does not have this "tab", but some sort of vertical attatchment.

    Maybe a trigger for a type of "wheel lock"?

    As to why they wound up in the well; American gunsmiths were making fliintlocks at the time; and this trigger could not be used? Perhaps what was left of the musket was tossed; the wood long since rotted away?

    I think these pieces are more from the 17th Century.
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2011
  14. Buffalochip

    Buffalochip Active Member

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    I don't think there is enough left of the trigger to categorize it as non-flintlock or non-percussion. The thin tab that tripped the lock has rusted away and it would have pivoted on a pin. It appears that the triggerguard is a good match for the trigger--an elongated guard would indicate doubleset triggers. It may just be coincidence, but ALL of the pieces seem to have come from the same type of firearm--probably an early musket (because of the sling swivel hole in the triggerguard) rather than a fowler. Measuring the remnants of the front screw, which appears to be full length, would indicate the width of the stock at the wrist.
  15. 22shot

    22shot New Member

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    DSmith

    I couldn't recall the type of wheel lock in my post; had to do some backtracking...
    I think the trigger came from a "snaphance" musket; the predesesor of the flintlock.

    I know it's not much to go on; but I don't have the actual part in my hands to examine; just a photograph.
  16. Jim Hauff

    Jim Hauff New Member

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    I am surprised that anyone, in those days, would intentionally throw away brass, which was a valuable commodity. It seems to me that anyone salvaging parts (barrel, lock, stock, appointments, etc.) from an obsolete or worn out firearm would have recylcled the brass (and possibly the iron parts also) into the melting pot to cast NEW parts rather than throw them in a well or trash midden. Back then, people actually recycled NAILS - pulling them from burned or demolished buildings. There was no such thing as "throw aways" in colonial days - it cost too much to bring things over the BIG POND before colonial smelters and forges began domestic production.
  17. DSmith

    DSmith New Member

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    Great site, thank you Buffalochip. The images I've put on the webpage are the best we have so far. The artifacts were found a few years ago (and are being considered for a new compilation) and have been on display at a few different places--we're trying to get them back now. Once we get them in hand, I'll try to get better images to post, if the IDs haven't been figured out by then. I'll try to find the authors you suggested in the meantime.

    Thanks, again.
  18. DSmith

    DSmith New Member

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    Hello Darrell,

    Thank you for the welcome and the suggestions. I've been looking at images on the web and the trigger does appear to be like many Brown Bess rifles' triggers. I'll try to find an image of the one you mentioned to compare.

    We've been trying to find out if all of these parts are related--the artifacts and images are from work years ago. Your idea of the parts being from different weapons is one we're looking at now. Thanks very much for the suggestions.

    Dan
  19. DSmith

    DSmith New Member

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    Thanks, Darrell, but I didn't see the picture in the post. Possibly my settings aren't right?
  20. DSmith

    DSmith New Member

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    Great information 22shot--this gives us many more options to consider. Thank you. I will pass the information on to the others here, too, so we can follow those leads.

    Your idea of items that were still functional, but no longer being used and instead being tossed, is something we come across very often in archaeology. Wells and cellars are full of what we consider to be items in good condition (at least at the time of disposal), but they are found among other trash and broken items.

    Thanks for the help.

    Dan
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