October 22-23, 2019 Extraordinary, Sporting & Collector Firearms
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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 10/23/2019
This musket is probably the most significant identified Revolutionary War long arm in existence. The well-documented musket, bayonet, and commission have been passed down in the family from John Simpson to the current owner, who is a Simpson descendant. John Simpson was born in 1748 and died in 1825 in Deerfield, New Hampshire. Private John Simpson was the only man who received a court martial for firing the first shot, against the famous order of Colonel William Prescott: "Don't shoot until you see the whites of their eyes!". He was only lightly reprimanded for his enthusiastic and patriotic mishap and went on to serve with honor throughout the war, eventually becoming a Major. A historical marker stands in Deerfield, New Hampshire today. It reads "MAJOR JOHN SIMPSON: Born in Deerfield and buried in Old Center Cemetery on road west, he gained fame by the unauthorized first shot at Bunker Hill while serving as a private in Captain Dearborn's Company of Colonel Stark's Regiment. Although reprimanded for this disobedience, he afterward served his country with honor." Major John Simpson was the grandfather of Ulysses S. Grant and the great grandfather of Meriwether Lewis. The musket was passed down to his son, Samuel Simpson, Sr. then to his grandson, Samuel N. Simpson, Jr. The musket then went to the current owner's maternal great-grandfather Charles Lyon Simpson. It was then given to his grandmother, then his mother, and finally, to the current owner. The musket was featured in an article from "The Granite State Magazine" Volume 11, in 1906, on pages 14-19, where it is photographed with the commission and captioned "The gun that fired the first shot at Bunker Hill". The musket itself is a Dutch Type III musket. For an identical example, see page 390-391 of "American Military Shoulder Arms, Volume I: Colonial and Revolutionary War Arms" by George D. Moller. Moller states that that thousands of Dutch muskets were shipped to the colonies before and during the Revolutionary War. In a 1797 inventory of small arms at the Schuylkill Arsenal near Philadelphia, there were 525 Dutch muskets listed as the arms remaining from the Revolutionary War. It is also known that with the help of Benjamin Franklin, several thousand Dutch muskets were purchased by the colony of Massachusetts. One of these Type III musket is known with "CITY OF BOSTON" branded on the buttstock. In 2009 George C. Neumann wrote an article titled "Dutch Arms in the American Revolution" for the NRA magazine "American Rifleman". The article states that this Type III pattern saw service in the American colonies as early as the 1750's and that this type was altered with barrel bands added by the salvage contractors when the muskets were shipped. He dates the Type III muskets between 1750 and 1770. Neumann states that Dutch muskets were common from the very beginning of the American Revolution and were employed through the end of the epic conflict and played a significant role in our independence. Under the section of the article titled "Firearms Characteristics" he describes the Type III muskets and discusses their predominance in the war. The musket features a tapered round smoothbore barrel inscribed "No. 696" on top, near the breech. There is a bayonet lug on the bottom. This musket is one of those probably altered by the salvage contractors, as the barrel retaining pins were removed as well as the ramrod ferrules, and four brass bands were added during the period. The flat banana lockplate has beveled edges and is stamped in the center with a small rectangular "FC" cartouche. Standard Type III brass furniture, buttplate tang inscribed "G", which is probably an inspection mark. The walnut stock is of typical early Dutch form with carved teardrops around the lock, sideplate, and barrel tang. The comb is high and pronounced in the early Dutch and German fashion. The musket is complete with its original matching numbered bayonet inscribed "G - No. 696" on the socket. It has a faceted double edged blade of 12-1/8" and measures 16-5/8" overall. CONDITION: Barrel and lock retain an undisturbed heavy brown patina, lock is in its original flintlock configuration. The post on the cock was broken off during the period and is absent. Brass has been partially polished and shows some marks from use and darker areas. Stock shows some scattered marks from use and light areas around brass furniture from polishing. Stock retains an original undisturbed surface. Complete with original iron ramrod. Bayonet retains a matching dark heavy patina with some minor period nicks to edges. All markings on musket are excellent. The musket comes with several copies of a 50 page book of extensive professional research compiled and written by Jonathan Holstein for the current owner. The encompassing and well-written book outlines the provenance, history of Simpson and the Simpson family, photographs of the musket, history of the battle of Bunker Hill and Simpson's court martial, and a history of the musket being published. It includes photographs of John Simpson's home, his gravestone, historical marker, and other pertinent images and documentation. The musket is accompanied by Second Lieutenant John Simpson's original commission dated March 13th, 1778 from the state of New Hampshire. The appointment is in "Captain Simon Marston's Company in the Battalion of troops raised within said state for the Defence of the States of New England & New York Commanded by Lieut. Col. Stephen Peabody, Esq." It is signed by E. Thompson and M. Weare and has the pressed seal of New Hampshire. The commission is mounted in a 16" x 11-1/4" gilt frame with glass. The commission itself measures 13" x 8-1/4". CONDITION: Commission shows some minor losses along creases. Shows some minor staining and fold marks but is clearly legible and complete. The musket is also featured in a 7 page article in "U.S. Martial Arms Collector" and "Springfield Research Newsletter" in Number 160 from September, 2019. This grouping has indisputable provenance and extensive documentation. This musket made a certain contribution to achieving this country's independence and is a national treasure worthy of the most important institution or advanced collection. DMG CORRECTION: Simpson family tradition had it that John Simpson was a direct antecedent of Meriwether Lewis and Ulysses S. Grant, but further research has indicated that is incorrect. While a Simpson of John's family did marry a Meriwether of the explorer's family, John Simpson was not a direct antecedent. All other information that we have presented is accurate.
Bayonet, Commission
Barrel Length
40 - 3/8"
.79 Smoothbore
FFL Status
Type III Musket
Framed Commission, Catalogs of History & Provenance
Serial Number
Current Bidding
Minimum Bid: $50,000.00
Final prices include buyers premium: $480,000.00
Estimate: $100,000 - $300,000
Number Bids: 39
Auction closed on Wednesday, October 23, 2019.
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