Revolutionary War Gun Surfaces After Being Stolen 50 Years Ago
Nearly fifty years ago, a thief broke into the museum at Valley Forge and swiped a rare Revolutionary War gun. The FBI was recently notified that it had been found at a “barn sale” and it was returned the its original owner, the Pennsylvania Society of the Sons of the Revolution (PSSR), according to the Smithsonian.
The weapon was created by Johann Christian Oerter, whose craftsmanship was among the finest of the Revolutionary Period. The gun was made in 1775… a year all of us know as important – the year of the creation of the Continental Navy and Marines. Oerter made guns out of his Pennsylvania workshop for the”rebels” of the American Revolution. Only a very few rifles that are signed and dated by this master gunsmith have survived.
“The Christian Oerter rifle exhibits exemplary early American artistry and is a reminder that courage and sacrifice were necessary to secure American Independence.” Dr. R. Scott Stephenson, President and CEO of the Museum
The gun was “stumbled upon” by antiquities dealer Kelly Kinzle, of Philadelphia. At first it didn’t seem possible that a Revolutionary weapon could be at a barn sale in today’s day and age, or even in that condition. Kinzle thought it was a reproduction. But he purchased the gun anyway and after some research realized it was from the Valley Forge burglary in October of 1971. They informed the FBI, who returned the gun to its rightful owner. An investigation is in play, but it’s a cold case after almost 50 years.
The military advantage
Oerter was a member of the Moravian church; his shop was named “Christian’s Spring” and was near modern day Nazareth, Pennsylvania. His gun had something that the British army did not have: a specific twist in the barrel that gave the colonial army the decided advantage of accuracy and range.
The gun has the name of its owner, “W Goodwin,” carved into the wooden stock. A historical search is on to find out about him
If this find is nothing more than a fantastic piece of history, unearthed from the items found in a barn sale, that’s one thing. But coming now when there is extreme contention over guns, that’s significant.
“Thanks to long rifles, colonial sharpshooters were able to practice guerilla warfare, hiding in the trees and shooting targets from afar.” Ryan Thomas in the Pennsylvania Long Rifle, 2009
Featured photo: screenshot of the Christian Oerter Flintlock, circa 1775