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Hammer caps / Frizzen covers

Currently reading "Dragon Rampant" by Donald E. Graves, the story of the 23rd RWF during the Napoleonic period.

"On the morning of 21 December 1808 the 2/23rd Foot was approaching the village of Sahagun when firing was heard in front. Lieutenant Colonel Wyatt immediately gave the order, 'Off hammer caps' which, Thorpe recorded, 'caused a thrilling sensation of delight, expectation, and ten thousand other thoughts and feelings impossible to describe'. (11) This was followed by the command, 'Prime, and load!' and 'the ramrods rattled gaily in the barrels, bayonets were fixed, and as if their musical jingle had raised the spirits of all', the battalion moved forward at the 'double quick', eager to see action."

(p. 88 )

Roy Najecki writes the following on :

Hammer Stall - Brown Bess or Charleville $5.00 each. Made of leather with matching thong. The free end of the thong is slit for inserting onto the musket swivel or can be tied to the swivel or trigger guard. Available in black, natural light brown (pictured), or buff leather. This item is sometimes called a "Frizzen Cover" (Frizzen being a term used in 18th C. civilian context).

"Hammer stalls and flash guards are authentic and did exist in the 18th Century. Regarding hammer stalls, Cuthbertson wrote (pg 93, XIII), "...On Service, leather Hammer-stalls are undoubtedly an advantage to a Battalion, when loaded, and resting on their Arms, as accidents may be prevented by having them fixed upon the hammers of the Firelocks..."

The following are orders for the Royal Artillery Regiment, issued at Philadelphia on 2 June 1778 in anticipation of the march to New York which culminated in the Battle of Monmouth. "It is left to their [officers] discretion in time of real Action to disencumber such men as they may think proper entirely of them [arms], taking care that they be lodged in their Ammunition Carriages and to prevent any possible Accident happening therefrom, thumb stalls have been ordered to be provided which the men are constantly to keep on the hammer of their pieces except when posted centrys." Source: Great Britain, Royal Artillery Regiment Library, Woolwich, Brigade Orderly Book, James Pattison Papers."

Is there anything known about the type of hammer caps used by the 95th, or the British infantry in general?
Was use down to regimental or battalion commanders?

As far as I've seen, there seems to be three overall types, one that ties by a thong to the trigger:

(from http://woodsrunnersdiary.blogspot...ct-way-to-load-flintlock-gun.html)

The integrated hammer cap and sling:
This russian type, currently in Stockholm, has unfortunately been separated from the musket sling. It would have been attached to the musket sling (that was not supposed to be loosened anyway) close to the trigger, either by a slit in the sling and a knot on the end of the strip going through the sling, or by the strip being sewn to the sling.
Have been looking for a picture of an original prussian musket with the full sling and integrated hammer cap still on that I saw some time ago, but have not been able to find it. The dano-norwegian model seems to have been integrated, the inventory classification is always "musket sling and/with hammer cap".

There could also be a third type, similar to number one, but with no attachment thong, that was to be put in the cartridge box or in a pocket when not in use.

Also, I'm wondering if any of you have ever encountered, in picture, original or writing, a kind of leather covering for the barrel, probably a leather square, about the size of a palm when folded, sewn together, thereby forming a sleeve, that was meant to provide painfree handling of the musket when the rate of fire had heated up the barrel?


Ola JM
Ben Townsend

This is the first instance in which I have come across a mention of a hammer stall quite so late. It seems to peter out late C18th. We have any number of references indicating the use of lock covers for the early C19th British infantry and the 95th in particular. It was considered an absolutely essential piece of accoutrement kit, but was sourced at regimental level, and not supplied by ordnance.
The item you describe to save the hand from a heated barrel- this isn't something I've come across at all!

I've seen at least two mentions of accidental/negligent discharges mentioned in british memoirs that would indicate that they were either not issued or not applied by units in the peninsula, but that could again be down to sloppy soldiers in the situation.

Based on my own experience, the one tied to the trigger guard will go missing the moment you set foot in a forest, so in the 23rd RWFs case, it could be that they were fresh from the UK and still had them.

As for the barrel-sleeve thing, I've seen it mentioned once in an obscure Da-No regulation, so a bit wondering myself. If it's not just local initiative, I would have thought it came from Prussia, since they were the main source of developments for most western european countries up until 1806.

The interesting thing is how a musket got up with a hammer stall, lock cover, barrel sleeve, tompion, and possibly browning or other kinds of surface treatment/laquer would look quite different from the stereotypical image of a brightly polished one with just a sling, a bit like the difference between todays service weapon issued out of the box and in actual use I suppose.

One could also imagine that all these extras would be the first things to get lost in the field, or taken off when weapons were put into storage/auctioned off.

The problem with little things like these is that they might have been seen as so small and insignificant, or integral and given, even back then, that they were not counted or mentioned separately, the lock cover excepted since it's rather big and sometimes made of "special" material.

According to your research, could the above mentioned little articles be included in the "stand of arms" term, or would they always be mentioned and counted separately?


Ola JM
Ben Townsend

Period Standing Order books for the period often details lockcovers, brush and picker etc as 'necessaries'. Supplied at regimental level to the soldiers. There was a minimum regulated quantity of necessaries laid down by HG regulation, but  Standing orders reveal that in practice, many more items were included. Worms and other essential musket tools also come under this bracket, which is why one still hears historians saying that the British soldier did not carry these items.

For instance, in the attached docs from the standing orders of the 13th Foot in 1808, one sees it specified that spare necessaries should be stored in chests, but these are not to be combined in chests with the 'stands of arms'. So they were clearely considered, and stored as seperate items in this instance.

See also the item detailing misfire procedure, this would indicate the absence of the lock stall.
I know that a member of this board has received an early Xmas present consisting of a copy of The Green Book, Standing Orders for the Rifle Corps 1800, perhaps he could comment on the Lock cover etc information contained therein?
Ben Townsend

For a different view, try the 1813 Standing Orders of the 85th Light Infantry (google books).

These detail the picker, muzzle stopper and oil rag (sometimes used as a lock cover?) as part of the appointments connected to the arms. This would indicate some regimental peculiarities- hence the issue of official guidelines: ignoring, for the purposes of!

Finally found the specimen I was looking for to show the sling with integrated cap/stall. The Prussian musket seems to be a later get-up with original parts, so sling might not be original, but it does not seem to differ much from the detached piece in Stockholm.

So, if the tendency for the British army seems to be that they disappear from use towards the Napoleonic wars, what could be the reason? Pennypinching or improved locks?
Ben Townsend

A fairly late reference in the 2nd (Queen's) Regt standing orders 1802  that may merely muddy the waters further.

"Serjeants, bands and drums, to be always provided with white leather swordknots and gloves; the men with black leather cap for the hammer of the firelock."

Through quote from article by laurence Spring, pp31-2 First Empire Magazine 38

Following from a 95th rifleman's account of the retreat of Moore's army.

'Here I had the misfortune to lose my hat,cap and forage cap, and the lock cap of my rifle'

Where Duty Calls Me
The Experiences of William Green of Lutterworth in the Napoleonic Wars
Edited by John and Dorothea Teague
Synjon Books 1975
Ben Townsend

We always wondered quite what was going on here. If his cap is the regimental cap, and the forage cap is self explanatory, then what the hell is the hat? He is not an officer, so wouldn't have a cocked hat. So what is it?

A body of 150 British riflemen is mentioned as guarding the Louvre during the agitation about the repossessing of various pieces of artwork.

'They proceeded to untie the oil-skins from the locks of their rifles.'

Paris Revisited in 1815
by John Scott
Published 1816
Ben Townsend

Further to John's observation, from the reference archive,

From Paris Revisited in 1815, by Way of Brussels, John Scott, Longman etc 1816.
He is in Paris during the occupation, and the allies are preparing to remove art from the Louvre as war reparations..

p.324 "On going up to the door of the Louvre, I found a guard of 150 British riflemen drawn up outside. I asked one of the soldiers what they were there for? "Why, they tell me, Sir, that they mean to take away the pictures".

p.326 "I was called from the marbles.. by a sudden rushing of feet from without, and on going to the great staircase, I saw the English guard hastily tramping up its magnificent ascent:- a crowd of astonished French followed in their rear,- and, from above, many of the visitors to the Gallery of Pictures were attempting to force their way past the ascending soldiers, catching an alarm from their sudden entrance".

p.327 "The alarm, however was unfounded,- but the spectacle that presented itself was very impressive. A British officer dropped his men in files along this magnificent gallery, until they extended, two and two, at small distances, from its entrance to its extremity. All the spectators were breathless, in eagerness to know what was to be done, but the soldiers stopped as machines, having no care beyond obedience to their orders. They proceeded to untie the oilskins from the locks of their rifles."

p.328 "The work of removal now commenced in good earnest".

Anyone fancy recreating this famous account next time we are near Paris? Would make some great pics, and I'm sure the Louvre would be up for it- good publicity.

EDIT: Mercer also describes this incident, p.281 Journal of the Waterloo Campaign, Mercer, Greenhill, 1985
Ben Townsend

On which note, there is a possibility that The Infantry will be invited to Malmaison 2017. That's close enough to Paris for an afternoon trip...
John Waller

ben wrote:
On which note, there is a possibility that The Infantry will be invited to Malmaison 2017. That's close enough to Paris for an afternoon trip...

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