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Thomas McDonald
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PostPosted: Tue 19 Apr, 2005 5:53 pm    Post subject: Brown Bess         Reply with quote

"Brown Bess"
The Army Musket 1700-1815

In the days of lace-ruffles, perukes and brocade
Brown Bess was a partner whom none could despise -
An out-spoken, flinty-lipped, brazen-faced jade,
With a habit of looking men straight in the eyes -
At Blenheim and Ramillies fops would confess
They were pierced to the heart by the charms of Brown Bess.

Though her sight was not long and her weight was not small,
Yet her actions were winning, her language was clear;
And everyone bowed as she opened the ball
On the arm of some high-gaitered, grim grenadier.
Half Europe admitted the striking success
Of the dances and routs that were given by Brown Bess.

When ruffles were turned into stiff leather stocks,
And people wore pigtails instead of perukes,
Brown Bess never altered her iron-grey locks.
She knew she was valued for more than her looks.
"Oh, powder and patches was always my dress,
And I think am killing enough," said Brown Bess.

So she followed her red-coats, whatever they did,
From the heights of Quebec to the plains of Assaye,
From Gibraltar to Acre, Cape Town and Madrid,
And nothing about her was changed on the way;
(But most of the Empire which now we possess
Was won through those years by old-fashioned Brown Bess.)

In stubborn retreat or in stately advance,
From the Portugal coast to the cork-woods of Spain,
She had puzzled some excellent Marshals of France
Till none of them wanted to meet her again:
But later, near Brussels, Napoleon - no less -
Arranged for a Waterloo ball with Brown Bess.

She had danced till the dawn of that terrible day -
She danced till the dusk of more terrible night,
And before her linked squares his battalions gave way,
And her long fierce quadrilles put his lancers to flight:
And when his gilt carriage drove off in the press,
"I have danced my last dance for the world!" said Brown Bess.

Where old weapons are shown with their names writ beneath,
You will find her, upstanding, her back to the wall,
As stiff as a ramrod, the flint in her teeth.
And if ever we English had reason to bless
Any arm save our mothers', that arm is Brown Bess!
- Rudyard Kipling

'Gott Bewahr Die Oprechte Schotten'
XX ANDRIA XX FARARA XX
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G. Scott H.




Location: Arizona, USA
Joined: 22 Feb 2005

Posts: 410

PostPosted: Tue 19 Apr, 2005 8:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

For those two or three of you out there who don't know what she looks like, here's Miss Bess in all her glory (1756 1st Model from Military Heritage):



A mighty fetching lass, if I do say so myself. Laughing Out Loud Happy
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Stephen A. Fisher




Location: Kentucky USA
Joined: 17 Oct 2003

Posts: 455

PostPosted: Tue 19 Apr, 2005 10:12 pm    Post subject: Re: Brown Bess         Reply with quote

Hey Mac,

Cool That was great.

Some more on the Brown Bess...


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Steve Grisetti




Location: Orlando metro area, Florida, USA
Joined: 01 Mar 2004
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PostPosted: Wed 20 Apr, 2005 5:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If I recall correctly, the Brown Bess continued in active service in the Mexican Army up through the US-Mexican war in 1845. Can anyone verify that?
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Gordon Frye




Location: Kingston, Washington
Joined: 20 Apr 2004
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PostPosted: Wed 20 Apr, 2005 9:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Steve Grisetti wrote:
If I recall correctly, the Brown Bess continued in active service in the Mexican Army up through the US-Mexican war in 1845. Can anyone verify that?


I certainly can. Mexico received thousands of "military surplus" muskets, i.e. Brown Besses, from Great Britain in the 1830's and used them not only in her interminable "revolutions" and civil wars, but also in Santa Ana's suppression of revolts in Northern Mexico and the attempted suppression of the Texas Revolution. Large numbers of them continued in use through the Mexican-American War of 1846-47, and were still to be seen fighting the French (yet again!) in the early 1860's. There are a number of good resource books which document these facts.

A good friend of mine had a Mexican-marked India-pattern Brown Bess which had been made around 1812. (He also had a gorgeous Mexican-marked Baker Rifle as well, used by the Cazadores!) Mexico used all sorts of surplus weapons after the Napoleonic Wars (as did the US) but the British ones seemed to predominate.

BTW, thanks Mac for the nice verse! And here I thought I knew a fair amount of Kipling!

Cheers,

Gordon

"After God, we owe our victory to our Horses"
Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada
http://www.renaissancesoldier.com/
http://historypundit.blogspot.com/
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G. Scott H.




Location: Arizona, USA
Joined: 22 Feb 2005

Posts: 410

PostPosted: Wed 20 Apr, 2005 9:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gordon Frye wrote:
Steve Grisetti wrote:
If I recall correctly, the Brown Bess continued in active service in the Mexican Army up through the US-Mexican war in 1845. Can anyone verify that?


I certainly can. Mexico received thousands of "military surplus" muskets, i.e. Brown Besses, from Great Britain in the 1830's and used them not only in her interminable "revolutions" and civil wars, but also in Santa Ana's suppression of revolts in Northern Mexico and the attempted suppression of the Texas Revolution.


Indeed. Santa Ana's men used a mix of Bakers and Besses at the Alamo in 1836. Many (if not all) of these had been converted to percussion by this time. Happy
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David Wilson




Location: In a van down by the river
Joined: 23 Aug 2003

Posts: 774

PostPosted: Wed 20 Apr, 2005 11:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gordon Frye wrote:
Large numbers of them continued in use through the Mexican-American War of 1846-47, and were still to be seen fighting the French (yet again!) in the early 1860's.


Also, a few of them showed up during the American Civil War, primarily early on, as the Confederacy hastily attempted to arm it's new military with whatever they could find.... some of these had been converted to percussion, some had not....

David K. Wilson, Jr.
Laird of Glencoe

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