EIC Pattern 1779 Musket by William Henshaw, acquired by the State of Massachusetts in the War of 1812 era or earlier.
This is another East India Company 1779 “Windus” Contract musket made by William Henshaw under contract from 1772 to 1821. In all aspects this musket conforms to the pattern seen in other 1779 muskets. The lock plate and the .75 calibre barrel are both engraved with the “Quartered Heart” bale mark of the East Indian Company along with the date “1779.” Forward of the cock, and on the top of the barrel is engraved “HENSHAW.” The 6 3/4 inch rounded lock plate also has another Windus proof beneath the pan.
The breech has both London proofs with William Henshaw’s proof, “WH” under crown, and “W” under crown for Edward Windus, a Lt. Col. on half pay from a disbanded British regiment, then employed as an arms inspector for the EIC.
The walnut stock bears the stamp of the EIC on the right sight of the butt stock, and has all of the original brass furniture nicely fitted. During its period of use, the trigger guard was broken with the last inch or so either lost or discarded, then the broken area was filed smooth and remounted in place (the patina strongly suggests that this repair is of the period of use). On the left side of the forestock, wood has been knocked out of place by driving in the barrel pin incorrectly. Although never repaired, it’s wound looks ancient as well. A large sliver of wood has broken away on the right fore end of the stock (about 6 inches- more old damage).
The ramrod is a replacement, but aging shows a discoloration of the metal lying under the “Pratt’s Improvement ramrod pipes, showing its being with the musket for a long time. The front sling swivel is missing.
The overall condition is very good, with a good deal of original patina remaining in protected areas on metal surfaces, having been cleaned some time ago, and darkening again. Before acquiring the musket, a bayonet had left evidence in the form of protected brighter metal under its presents for some time.
Overall length is 54.5 inches.
Now we get to an interesting aspect of this Henshaw musket, with its adopted parentage by the Massachusetts Militia. Look at the top barrel markings, the date and maker name is engraved, and the addition of “To MS” has been stamped (yet both have the same old patina sunken in the crevasses). The state “MS” marking is stamped on the left side lock facing behind the rear side plate screw, and a boldly stamped “MASS” forward of the EIC stamp.
No case can be made for this musket being used in the American Revolution; first of all, prior to the adoption of the Massachusetts Constitution in 1780, it was known as Massachusetts Bay Colony (or simply leaving off “Colony’), therefore “MS” would not have come into existence, as “MS” markings on weapons stands for “Massachusetts State” I can’t recall when “MS” is first used but probably after the War of 1812. Certainly these muskets were here prior to 1812, as Massachusetts arsenals were virtually empty of arms.
Massachusetts was one of those states lacking in firearms when the build-up began in 1808 and the renewed tensions between the U.S. and Great Britain. (see my notes and questions listed on the listing for the Nicholson EIC musket on site). Actually, Massachusetts may have been short on muskets or began to see the need for more caused by Shay’s Rebellion in 1787.
Not knowing how or by whom this musket was obtained, that party most likely was the one that stamped the musket barrel, “To MS.” Having possibly made a case that this musket could have been made as early as 1779, (see notes and questions in other write-up on Nicholson musket) then the likely supplier may have been the Spanish with the capture of tens of thousands stands of this muskets headed for India.
A most interesting musket with a full history yet to be discovered.