Made by Nicholson in the 1779 Pattern, and matching bayonet made by Harvey.
I am offering a most interesting Contract 1779 musket made by William Nicholson under contract with the East India Company, with some intriguing questions. These questions also apply to another EIC musket made by Henshaw in another current listing on our site.
Needing to supply its army in India, and ships with good serviceable muskets, the East India Company chose to adopt a musket similar to the British Army’s Short Land pattern musket, but with 39 inch barrels, otherwise known at the “Windus” pattern (named for Lt. Colonel Edward Windus, inspector of arms for the EIC). This musket made by William Nicholson of London was made under contract with EIC from 1779 to 1794 according to Howard Blackmore’s, Gunmakers of London.
The lock and barrel are both engraved with the “Quartered Heart” bale marking, and “1779,” along with “NICHOLSON” forward of the cock, and on the top of the barrel, forward of the breech. Colonel Windus’ proof (“W” under the crown) is found under the pan on the lock plate, and “WN” (Wm. Nicholson’s proof) under the crown, is found between the London proofs. The interior of the lock has a odd repeated stamping of the letters “SG.” I don’t know what they stand for, unless that of a hired lock maker or perhaps an apprentice. The only replaced part is found here, the cock is likely a French flat goose neck type that has been with this musket from the days of its service.
The barrel is 38.5 inches long and is the original length, as the matching bayonet leaves just a hint of muzzle confirming its full length. The socket is engraved “NICHOLSON,” along with the EIC markings (the bayonet maker’s name “HARVEY” is stamped on the flat of the blade), The blade is 15 1/4 inches, with the socket being just under 4 inches. There is a locking spring applied preventing the bayonet’s loss.
The walnut stock is complete with its well fitted brass furniture all similar to the British Short Land pattern musket. The butt plate is engraved with the rack number “No. 47.” The wood shows some damage occurring most likely in the period of use; a crack about 13 inches beginning just forward of the lock with a period box nail used to hold the thick splinter in place. There is some wood loss at the balance of the stock and at the last 3 inches of the crack. The lower barrel pin is missing. The butt stock is stamped with the EIC bale mark on its right side. Another area of damage is in the wood behind the cock, and toward the back of the lock extending upward through the “Beaver tail” (forgive my American definition).
The ramrod is definitively the original, and full length, as it bears the same number as found on the butt tang (47). Usually gone on a good deal of military musket of this era, but present here are the original sling swivels.
The overall length is 54 inches.
A most pleasing and untouched patina blankets this musket in its complete originality.
Now for some questions.
- If Nicholson is granted his contract in 1779, why is it assumed by many, that the short brass side plate is not of the Revolutionary War period (not having the extension behind the rear side screw. If this is true what or why would Nicholson change the design of the side plate? One would likely assume that this abbreviated rear side plate is part of the original 1779 pattern. I am not suggesting EIC contract muskets were used in the American Revolution, I am questioning the allowance of these side plates having this period of use.
- Has one of the British Short Land pattern type side plates (full side plate with extension behind rear side screw) been observed on a 1779 EIC contract musket?
- Would the EIC being a business not a military, opt to reduce the size of the lengths of barrels and brass side plates in order to reduce cost, which I have read was one of the main goals in producing good quality muskets yet not to the full measure required by the military? With the number of weapons being produced by the EIC, this measure must have saved them untold thousands of Pounds.
- If so many of these 1779 pattern muskets have ended up in America, who was the major supplier? I doubt if the East India Co. would overtly sell muskets to America, but perhaps it was Spain, they having captured tens of thousand stands on a ship bound for India
- With this musket displaying a French hammer, might that suggest repairs done in America, using old worn out parts from the Revolution?
I’m sure given more time, I can come up with more questions, but my intent is to sell this musket to one of you with the interest to research further.
Look for the Henshaw To MS (Massachusetts) musket listed on this site.