I saw this book just today in a bookstore. Couldn’t even get past the start of Chapter 2 when it suddenly claimed Interchangeable parts was a British invention that we Americans only began using after 1840. Even the worst histories state a Frenchman was the first to develop the premise, work that was followed by Eli Whitney in his arms factory in Connecticut. Granted the book mentions Whitney’s work in the first chapter, talking about the demonstration he gave Jefferson in the early 1800s. This is strange given the subsequent statements of it being a British invention and developed after the 1830s, which she makes in chapter two.
Of course she got the Whitney demonstration wrong too by stating Whitney assembled a rifle for Jefferson from random parts he brought with him. The demonstration only involved parts for gun-locks: By the way, Whitney’s government contract was to make smoothbore muskets, not rifles. She then seems to go on a tangent suggesting Whitney only survived as a gun maker through his Federal contract. She completely paints over the fact that Whitney was making arms for the Federal Government, the individual States and for Civilians. During the War of 1812 he was given a Federal contract to build a musket for the government that he had already been building for the state of New York. She in turn mentions this in an off handed manner by mentioning the Wickham Musket of 1812 and Callender Irvine’s attempts to cancel musket contracts issued by his predecessor Tench Coxe to people like Whitney. She of course is ignorant of the fact that within a year of trying to end these contracts, Irvine was frantically trying to find any gun he could to arm the Federal Army as it now faced the cream of the British Army at Washington, Baltimore, Plattsburg and finally New Orleans (AKA the missing War of 1812).
Regarding the contracts, she only mentioned one civilian gun contract, the 1798. Probably because this was the contract Whitney was in. She then uses this one contract to make the argument that the vast majority of Arms in America were made at Springfield and Harpers Ferry. This is in line with the argument there were few American gunsmiths, and that even the ones we had during the Revolution had gone into other trades. She supports that claim by mentioning a “gunsmith” that ran a powder mill during the revolution, who supposedly then went into the Coffin business. When I saw that reference I remembered the story of a Powder Mill on the Brandywine river that exploded late in the Revolution. I’ll have to see who managed that powder mill.
I am being mean here, since any good gun historian knows that after DuPont immigrated to the United States to escape the French Revolution his powder milling operations would effectively corner the Black powder market by the Civil War, supplying half the powder used by the Union Army (and Navy). And of course, in her quest to separate the federal arms from civilian contractors at this time in American history, she clean forgot that Springfield Armory and Harpers Ferry didn’t make powder. So where then did the Federal government get the power for not just its muskets, but all its cannons (both land and sea based) if it didn't have any civilian contractors.
Back to the contracts for guns, she obviously missed the 1792 rifle contract, the 1807-1808 rifle and pistol contracts, and finally the musket contracts in 1808-1810. But again, its so much easier to say there was no civilian manufacturing when you won’t even recognize all the Federal and state contracts to these civilian contractors. Simpler also to suggest we were heavily importing arms from France, or even England, during this time when both nations were fighting each other in the Napoleonic wars. Federal records show many State and Federal arms purchase requests to Europe in the early 1800s were never filled. And of course I doubt she ever mentioned the Federal Tariff on importation of arms from Europe, one of the first laws ever passed by Congress. Why have a tariff if there is no industry to protect.
Again, this is just what I saw in the first one and a half chapters. It will be interesting how the media, which so far is supportive of this book deals with my forthcoming book on the War of 1812 were I list the number of arms in the militia returns. Arms people like Ms Haag, say did not exist.