The Patriot Marksman

British Colonel George Hanger fought the American Continental Army in the Revolutionary War. He later said he had never seen better rifles than those made in America, nor men who could shoot better.

The British troops used the Brown Bess rifle, which could hit a man at 80 to 100 yards. It was unusual for a man to be even wounded by one if hit at 150 yards. But Hit a man at 200 yards?  

About that, Hanger wrote,

“you may just as well fire at the moon and have the same hopes of hitting your object.”

As to British marksmanship, he thought little of it:

“excellent as they are to discipline the soldier and form him for parade and actual service in the line, the serjeant is just as capable of teaching him how to solve one of Sir Isaac Newton’s problems as to teach him to be a marksman.”

But the Americans with their weapons and abilities, were a whole other story. Colonel Hanger wrote:

“I have often asked what was the most they thought they could do with their rifle.  They have replied that they thought they were generally sure of splitting a man’s head at 200 yards, for so they termed their hitting the head.  I have also asked several whether they could hit a man at 400 yards.  They have replied certainly, or shoot very near him.”

The Colonel experienced this Patriot marksmanship firsthand. He tells the a story of an American Patriot firing at him from 400 yards. The rifle ball missed him by a foot, but behind him a “horse staggered, fell down, and died.”

Sorry about the poor horse, but good shot, indeed!


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