Whitworth Research, More on Maryland - Bad & Good

Tom Negiebauer has forwarded a request from Bill Curtis and De Witt Bailey, two Whitworth researchers in England, who are seeking information on original (not reproduction) Whitworth rifles. If you own one of these rare guns, or know someone who does, they would appreciate your input for their forthcoming book. I have reproduced their request, which also contains some interesting information, in its entirety:
"We are working on the definitive history of the Whitworth Rifle in its original period and confining our interest to the original types of ammunition. The great majority of the rounds shot during the 1860s were paper patched cylindrical soft lead which, when fired with a service charge of from 75 to 90 grains would expand into a hexagonal form. We find that these make clearly hexagonal holes in the target. We have also found from the evidence of surviving original Whitworth Bullet moulds that the standard brass pot mould with the side handle was much more common for the cylindrical bullet than for the hexagonal bullet.

From the written evidence it is also clear that commercially produced Whitworth ammunition made by the specialist suppliers and also by the Whitworth Company was overwhelmingly cylindrical. The hardened hexagonal bullets were mainly bought by long-range specialists for use in the Match Rifles. The very earliest military style full stocked rifles seemed to have had hexagonal moulds more commonly than the later ones.

If anyone on this group has an original Whitworth would they please notify me of the Serial Number and the prefix letter (from B to F) that goes with it in all cases except for the first 1,000.

We have recorded the details of 515 original Whitworths made by Whitworth or his Manchester Ordnance & Rifle Company, from an original production of less than 5,500. New ones to be added to the Register are always very welcome.

We should be very pleased to hear from anyone with an original Whitworth and also of any news of known surviving Whitworth Artillery. Address information to W. S. Curtis, Museum of the National Rifle Association of Great Britain. PO box 493, RHYL, WALES. LL18 5XG U.K. Email address: wsc@wscurtis- books.demon.co.uk

There's more from Washington County Maryland, where Raleigh Boaze (see last issue) is gathering support from Civil War reenactors in his battle to use historical firearms in living history classes in county schools. Rex D. Hovey of the North Carolina South Mountain Monument fund has expressed his solidarity with Raleigh. Dennis Eastland, a reenactor from Smithsburg, Maryland, who regularly appears with his muskets as a guest lecturer in other Maryland counties, but unarmed in Washington County, told the Hagerstown Herald Mail, "It's a shame Washington county has to be that way. They're losing."

I received an email from reenactor Tom Clemens, who teaches history at Hagerstown Community College, and is just plain disgusted with his county's school board. Clemens advises that he has "frequently been asked to put on demonstrations and talk to elementary and middle school classes," and that he performs "in my Civil War gear with a rifled musket in hand." Clemens noted that he has followed the Raleigh Boaze issue closely, and that the "it redefines the word 'bizarre.'"

According to Clemens, "This Board of Ed is so illogical and so bent on micromanaging the classroom teachers it is unbelievable. I have written letters to the editor of the local paper and contacted the Board of Education all to no avail. The only other thing to do that might get their attention is to ask all Civil War enthusiasts who visit Antietam to spend their money elsewhere. Don't stay in Hagerstown and don't eat in Washington County establishments. Send a message that banning history won't work in a county so richly blessed with history."

I would like to stress once again that the principals and teachers of Washington County schools are not responsible for the situation that Mr. Clemens so accurately describes as "bizarre." The Washington County School Board is the culprit. Recent information, however, suggests that it might not even be the entire school board. In a January interview with the Herald Mail, School Board President Edwin Hayes admitted that the full board had never voted on the ban, but that it was "an administrative policy." He did not specify who initiated this policy, but it must be assumed that he is the culprit. Board member Doris Nipps contributed another classic quote to the article. According to Ms. Nipps, "I don't see why weapons need to be brought into schools whether historical or otherwise. They are still handled by students [untrue] who don't know anything about them. I just think it sends a real bad signal to kids." Other than to comment that the phrase "a real bad signal" indicates that Ms. Nipps has a rather loose grasp on the grammar her school district allegedly instills in its students, I will not parse her statement further. It speaks for itself.

In more elevating news from Maryland, reenactor Doug Dobbs of the 15th New Jersey is busy planing a two day campaign-style preservation march of 12-20 miles (depending on which unit you fall in with) this September. Dobbs' march will retrace the movements of the First New Jersey Brigade (1, 1, VI) to Crampton's Gap in September, 1862. Marchers will bivouac overnight in Pleasant Valley, and continue on to the site of the Battle of South Mountain reenactment, near Boonsboro. Aside from commemorating the movements of one of the finest brigades in the Union army, participants will raise $100 each in contributions toward preserving and displaying the battle flags of the brigade and other New Jersey Units at the State Archives in Trenton. As a member of the Board of Directors of the New Jersey Civil War Historical Association, an organization founded to save the state's battle flags, I have a particular interest in Mr. Dobbs' success.

The dates of Doug's march are Friday and Saturday, September 10-11, 1999. Contact: Doug Dobbs, 1133 Hamilton Blvd. Hagerstown, MD 21742 (301-733-7450). Email address: dougdobbs@nfis.com Website: http://nfis.com/~dougdobbs/somoma1.htm

1999 by Joe Bilby

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