Marin le Bourgeoys created the first true flintlock weapons for King Louis XIII shortly after his accession to the throne in 1610.Throughout the 17th century, flintlock muskets were produced in a wide variety of models.
In 1717, a flintlock musket for the French infantry was standardized. This became the first standard flintlock musket to be issued to all troops. While it is more correctly called a French infantry musket or a French pattern musket, these muskets later became known as "Charleville muskets", after the armory in Charleville-Mézières, Ardennes, France.
The standard French infantry musket was also produced at Tulle, St. Etienne, Maubeuge Arsenal, and other sites. While technically not the correct name for these muskets, the use of the name Charleville dates back to the U.S. Revolutionary War, when Americans tended to refer to all of the musket models as Charlevilles. The naming of these muskets is not consistent. Some references only refer to Model 1763 and later versions as Charleville flint lock muskets, while other references refer to all models as the Charleville.
The 1763 model French Infantry Musket underwent a number of changes 3 years later in 1766 including lightening the musket, reducing the size of the lock, and utilizing the button-head ramrod design . The French main arsenal producing the 1766 model was the one at Charleville in North Eastern France in the Champagne-Ardenne region. Tens of thousands of this musket were made for the royal army of France, however this was not its claim to fame.
In 1776, with the revolution against British under way, the United States were desperate for muskets. That spring Congress sent Silas Deane to France to plead for assistance in the form of arms, equipment, and financing. Looking to even the score against Britain, France came to the Americans side with shiploads of muskets. Because were not officially at war with Britain until 1778, a fake corporation had to be set up to mask the French government's direct involvement. In addition, ship log destinations were falsified to hid the fact the muskets were being shipped to American ports. Because of the British presence on the high seas, some French ships had to sail to the West Indies, drop off their cargo, and American vessels then picked the muskets up.
In studying the numerous surviving muskets of French manufacture but with U.S. surcharge markings, the vast majority are the 1766 Model with the button style ramrod. Contrary to popular belief, the flared trumpet style ramrod was not used with the 1766 model. So dominant was the presence of the 1766 model in the American forces, that when U.S. began to mass manufacture its own army muskets, the first model off the arsenal at Springfield in 1795 was an exact copy of the 1766 Charleville.
While the 1777 model began to be issued to French Regiments almost immediately, the 1766 model continued to be carried by some French soldiers all the way up into the time of Napoleon. The Charleville musket's design was refined several times during its service life. Later models of Charleville muskets remained in service until 1840, when percussion lock systems made the flintlock mechanism obsolete
|U.S. Continental Marines illustated here armed with this musket during|
John Paul Jones' daring raid on Whitehaven, England in 1778 (by Col Charles Waterhouse - USMC)