Object Lesson: The Battle-Tested Cliveden Musket
Inside the orderly Georgian entrance hall at Cliveden, a National Trust Historic Site in Philadelphia, three muskets rest against a fluted column. One, a Palmer musket, was likely used in a Revolutionary War battle on October 4, 1777.
The Battle of Germantown occurred on and around Cliveden’s grounds—and even inside the house. While the Continental Army suffered a defeat to the British, their composure during battle and the army’s success at the Battle of Saratoga three days later motivated the French to join the colonists’ war effort the following year.
The Palmer musket at Cliveden features the markings of Philadelphia gunsmith Thomas Palmer. Today there are only two known surviving muskets made by Palmer (the other is at the Museum of the American Revolution). The barrels of both were engraved with the words “Palmer Philada” and both brass wrist plates were numbered by hand. Like many of the city’s master gunsmiths in the early days of the war, Palmer carried out orders for the fledgling militia in place of his more customary civilian orders. In 1774, Col. John Cadwalader of Pennsylvania, who was later present at the Battle of Germantown, ordered 100 muskets made of American walnut, steel, iron, and brass from Palmer.While the original owner of Cliveden’s Palmer musket is unknown, historians say it probably belonged to a soldier from Cadwalader’s Philadelphia regiment. Today it serves as a tangible reminder of the battle that happened on the site 240 years ago.