Artifacts bring War of 1812 to life
February 28, 2013
FORT SILL, Okla. -- The Army Field Artillery Museum at Fort Sill has added to its display of artifacts from the War of 1812.
The artifacts are a period musket, cavalry pistol, sabers and knives used by soldiers. They are now presented alongside their original display of an artillery piece and infantry uniform. The display represents a critical time in the history of the United States.
"The War of 1812 was a unique war. Some say it was a war that didn't need to be fought, but there were some very good reasons why we went to war with Great Britain in 1812," said Gordon Blaker, FA Museum director and curator. "When the war ended with the Treaty of Ghent, basically everything went back to where it was; no boundaries changed or anything like that. But the war resulted in the 'Star-Spangled Banner,' our national anthem, and the burning of the White House by British forces. Also, the Battle of New Orleans propelled Andrew Jackson onto the national stage and led to him becoming a U.S. president a few years later. The war also established U.S. sovereignty from Great Britain, having gotten through a second war with them.
"This is the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, which went from spring of 1812 until the very end of 1814, with the Battle of New Orleans being fought in 1814, after the war had ended. Of course, we didn't know that on this side of the Atlantic."
The new artifact display has several items that make it a particularly unique collection.
"One of the new items we put in the display is a model 1795 musket, the very first U.S. Army production musket," said Zane Mohler, museum exhibits specialists. "It was an exact copy of the French Charleville musket that was used by American forces during the Revolutionary War. They were produced originally at the Springfield (Mass.) Arsenal and then later at the Harpers Ferry (Va.) Arsenal.
"This particular musket has the date '1811' stamped below the flintlock mechanism. That was the year it was made at the Springfield Arsenal. It was likely used during the war," Mohler added.
"It was a very good, reliable musket, so we copied it. It was used by the American Army from 1795 up through and beyond the War of 1812. The museum got this musket with some year-end funds last year from a military shop in Indiana," said Blaker.
The display also has a British New Land Pattern light dragoon (cavalry) pistol. Forces on both sides of the war used it. The pistol fired the same .69-caliber ball as the Springfield musket.
"The ball cartridges for these weapons come in a prepared paper packet. The soldiers would tear the end off and pour a little powder in the pan, close the cover and then drop the rest down the barrel. The ball, the paper and the rest of the powder were dropped down the barrel and tamped down with the ramrod. The musket balls we have on display are actual battlefield finds from the War of 1812," Mohler said.
The swords and knives in the new War of 1812 display were in the collection of the Fort Sill Historical Museum and were transferred along with the British cavalry pistol to the FA museum. The rest of the display has an iron 6-pounder cannon, the principle light artillery piece used during the war. It is on a reproduction carriage and limber. There is also a full reproduction uniform of a War of 1812 artillery private.
The War of 1812 display can be viewed, along with the rest of the Field Artillery Museum collections, Tuesdays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The museum is closed Sundays and Mondays.