Black Rifles & Tactical Guns

Guns & Politics: Scottish Sniper

Susan Smith Columnist
Font Size:

As we observe the revolting leftist cowards running things in the U.S. right now, we long for real men to be in charge, men who lived by an unshakable code of honor and love of country.

This is a story of one of the more remarkable of them, Patrick Ferguson.  But there is something you should know before you embark on this brief tale of his life: he fought for the British in the Revolutionary War.  His story, however, is so extraordinary that those of us who pay homage to men like Colonel Ferguson do so no matter for whom they, or he, fought.

Colonel Ferguson, known as the best shot in the British Army, could have used his talent at one particular occasion against General George Washington, and he chose not to, as he found it dishonorable to “fire at the back of an unoffending individual, who was acquitting himself very coolly in his duty – so I let him alone.”  At that particular time Ferguson did not know it was the General he could have killed, though he was told later.  He still did not regret his decision, which he found to be the honorable thing to do.

Ferguson was born near Aberdeen, in Scotland, in 1744, and joined the Royal North British Dragoons at the age of 12.   He fought in the Seven Years War, among other conflicts, and eventually found himself in the West Indies to help put down slave uprisings.  This enabled him to become familiar with “disorganized, small-unit warfare,” i.e., guerilla warfare, which stood him in good stead in many parts of America when he joined the British troops in the Revolutionary War.

Colonel Ferguson, who was nothing if not a Renaissance man, discovered that the marksmanship of American hunters and soldiers, and the accuracy of their long rifles, was formidable, so he took it upon himself to produce a weapon that would enable British troops to outshoot the rebels. The standard “Brown Bess” musket issued to soldiers of the Crown was a long, heavy, inaccurate, smooth-bore flintlock muzzle-loader, and using it involved a series of elaborate steps that forced the shooter to remain upright thus constantly exposed to enemy fire.  Ferguson wanted a weapon that was safer, faster and more deadly.

So he decided to make one.  He then proceeded to perfect the first practical breech-loading rifle in the history of warfare.

The first thing Ferguson wanted to do was do away with awkward manipulation of the ramrod.  The key to his new rifle’s success was “a screw-type breech-lock, operated by simply rotating the trigger guard.  It could be loaded safely and quickly in four steps: turn the guard to open the breech; lean the muzzle forward; drop the ball, then the powder charge into the chamber; and turn the guard to close the breech.”  A rifled barrel made the weapon much more accurate, and as a bonus, the Ferguson (as the rifle became known) weighed only 7 ½ pounds, nearly 3 pounds less than the “Brown Bess.”

After some practice with his newly designed weapon, Ferguson became so adept that he could “get off seven aimed rounds in a minute, more than twice the average soldier’s rate with a muzzle-loader.”   The story of his first demonstration of this invention in England goes as follows:  “Though lashed by high winds and drenched by heavy rain, Ferguson fired a series of rounds at different distances, some at six a minute.  He got off four shots a minute while advancing at 4 miles an hour.  He poured a bottle of water into the weapon, thoroughly wetting his powder, then got off another shot within 30 seconds, without extracting the ball.  Finally he lay on his back and hit the bull’s eye.  In his entire performance, he missed his targets only three times.”

The previously skeptical officials were so impressed that they told King George III, who witnessed another such exhibition and promptly awarded Ferguson a patent for his amazing new rifle.

As it took time to mass produce these new rifles, Ferguson was able to outfit and train only 100 men in his newly formed company, and thus had only that limited number of troops to take to fight in America.  It was during one of these first battles that he spotted General Washington, making that momentous decision not to fire.  The very next day Ferguson was shot in his right elbow, losing the use of his right arm even after eight surgeries, the majority of them without any anesthesia, (the stories of which he recounted in humorous terms to his family in Scotland).  Undaunted, Ferguson taught himself to shoot, write, and wield a sword with his left hand, and it was back to the battlefield.  In a subsequent battle, involving a friendly fire incident, Ferguson’s left arm was sliced open by a bayonet, rendering him unable to use that arm in battle, either.

For three weeks, as long as it took for his left arm to heal enough to resume wielding a sword and shooting a rifle, he rode with his reins in his teeth.

The war was becoming more vicious, and “chivalry and ferocity were in serious contention” on both sides; they were also in conflict within this honorable gentleman.  He worked with large contingents of American loyalist troops, trying to convince them to remain steadfast to England.  It didn’t always work, and he fought in some ferocious battles with increasingly partisan troops, vowing to “march his army over mountains, hang their leaders, and lay their country waste with fire and sword.”  He did exactly that, as a last resort, in the South Carolina backcountry.

It was said of Ferguson that “though slim and scholarly in appearance, in combat he was inspirational.  He wore over his uniform a bold black and white plaid duster to be seen by his troops, and signaled them with a silver whistle to be heard in the chaos of battle.”

At the battle of Kings Mountain, on the border of North and South Carolina, in 1780, the only British soldier among his troops, Colonel Patrick Ferguson fought his last battle at the age of 36.  His final command to his men was: “Let each man be his own officer.  If in the woods, shelter yourselves and give them Indian play!”  Ferguson was hit by eight or more balls, at least one to the head.

As additional information about Colonel Ferguson, he taught himself to play the fiddle, suffered from occasionally crippling arthritis from a young age, bought a plantation in the West Indies, wrote a series of satirical essays for ‘Rivington’s Royal Gazette’ (they were very amusing), wore his hair in a braided queue (considered very dashing at the time), and had two women named Virginia living with him in his tent at the time of his death.  One of the Virginias died and was buried with him, the other disappeared, but was reputed to have loved him as much as the other Virginia did.

They truly don’t make them like this anymore.

Just try to picture any one of our contenders for president in 2016, on either side, possessing and acting on that kind of courage, bravery, nerve and steadfastness:  Hillary?  Bernie?  Ted?  Trump?  Kasich?  The only one I can think of who could approach Colonel Ferguson in this regard is Rick Perry, but he went back to Texas.

Both America, and Britain, could do with a massive dose of Colonel Patrick Ferguson.

Click on the link to read Susan’s Guns & Politics column.

Guns & Politics: A Warrior And A President

Guns & Politics: The Shooting At Mayerling Changed The World

Guns & Politics: Gouverneur Morris And The Income Inequality Revolution

Gun & Politics: What Andrew Jackson Did When His Wife Was Insulted

Guns & Politics: Alexander Hamilton Vs. Aaron Burr In The Days Of Political Honor

Susan Smith brings an international perspective to her writing by having lived primarily in western Europe, mainly in Paris, France, and the U.S., primarily in Washington, D.C. She authored a weekly column for Human Events on politics with historical aspects.. She also served as the Staff Director of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Children, Family, Drugs and Alcoholism, and Special Assistant to the first Ambassador of Afghanistan following the initial fall of the Taliban. Ms. Smith is a graduate of Wheeling Jesuit University and Georgetown University, as well as the Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris, France, where she obtained her French language certification. Ms. Smith now makes her home in McLean, Va.