Tools and Weapons of the Colonial Americans

Image of a rifle/musket.
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The people of Colonial America faced many hardships, such as harsh weather, wild animals and hostile natives. Homes, furniture and household goods were mostly built by hand. Farmers had little access to machinery. Colonial Americans depended on their wits, their tools and their weapons for daily survival and eventually used them to win freedom from British rule.

1 Farm Tools

Colonial farmers worked their land with a combination of hand tools and primitive machines. Farmers used horse- and ox-drawn cultivators, plows, spiky rollers and harrows for breaking up the ground before planting. Seeds were either planted by hand or with a machine called a barrel seeder designed by George Washington. Fields were fertilized with manure spread on the soil with long pitchforks called dung forks. Crops were harvested with bladed tools called reap hooks or a process cradle. The process cradle combined a scythe with finger-like rods that allowed farmers to pile up their grain. The grain was separated from the chaff with a threshing tool called a flail and a dutch fan.

2 Construction and Woodworking Tools

Colonial craftsmen and builders had a wide range of tools in their toolboxes and sheds. Augers, braces and gimlets were used for drilling holes. Chisels and gouges were used for shaping wood. Important measurements and accuracy checks were made with calipers, squares, bevels and compasses. Drawknives and spokeshaves were bladed tools for making round implements such as tool handles or flat products such as shingles. Construction tools included hammers, saws and planes.

3 Civilian Weapons

Colonial Americans protected their homes and put meat on the tables with their guns. One of the most popular was a fowling piece that could be loaded with small lead balls for birds and small game or large balls for deer and large game. Another popular gun was the swivel gun that had two barrels, one on top of the other. A hunter could choose the best ammunition for a particular target by rotating the barrels. One was smooth bored for firing pellets at birds and small game. The other was rifled for targeting large game. Spiraled grooves inside the barrel called rifling improved the bullet's accuracy by spinning it in much the same way as a quarterback spins a football when he throws it.

4 Military Weapons

When the American Revolution began, many colonial men belonged to local militias, which met once or twice a year to train. Militia regulations required members to own at least one firearm and one bladed weapon such as a sword, hatchet or bayonet. One of the more popular styles was the long rifle used by early frontiersmen in Pennsylvania, Virginia and Kentucky. Invented in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, by Martin Meylin, the long rifle was known for accuracy up to 300 yards. Members of the Continental Army were issued weapons by the government such as the British-made "Brown Bess" musket. Originally manufactured for the British Army, "Brown Bess" was used by both sides during the American Revolution. It could be fitted with a bayonet and used as a spear while its heavy stock made it a useful club in close quarters combat.

Frank B. Chavez III has been a professional writer since 2006. His articles have appeared on numerous websites including WitchVox and Spectrum Nexus as well as in the e-magazine Gods and Empires. He has his associate degree with an emphasis in theater arts from Chabot College, where he received the theater department's Joeray Madrid Award for Excellence in Dramaturgy.