Weapons of the Seminole War

The primary weapon of the United States soldier during the Seminole War was the Model 1816 Springfield, manufactured in Harpers Ferry. This was a .69 caliber, smoothbore flintlock which measured 58 inches and weighed a heavy 10 pounds. The most skilled of soldiers could average 3 shots per minute at best, with an effective range on most days of less than 100 yards. This was not a formidable weapon in the swamps of Florida.

Since the 18th Century, the Seminole people had been trading with Europeans. One of the most sought-after commodities was what became known as “trade guns”. Unlike the 1816 Springfield the soldiers were using, these weapons had been in use since 1670, and were the most widely available weapons on the frontier. Shot size was consistent, between .35 to .45 caliber with most of these rifles being percussion caps. Often these trade guns were much shorter. By the 1820s, the 30-inch barrel was standard, with an overall length ranging from 40 to 45 inches and weighing in at less than 8 pounds.

At one point, Wiley Thompson insisted that the Seminole only be given percussion cap versions of the Deringer Rifle that the government was now supplying to the Seminole. This would ensure that traders could control the inventory of percussion caps sold to the Natives. Thompson hadn’t thought through the unintended consequence of this directive and the Natives were soon better equipped than his own troops. He would soon come to find that out.


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