American soldiers were armed with rifles, as well as smoothbore muskets, even before the official birth of the United States army. Spiral grooves cut in the rifle barrel's interior spun and stabilized a round-ball projectile and gave it far more range and accuracy than the same type of projectile fired from a smoothbore musket. Strange as it may seem to many Americans, nurtured on stories of Revolutionary riflemen, Europeans invented the rifle before there were colonies on this side of the Atlantic and were the first to issue rifles to their troops. Rifled arms saw limited use in the hands of seventeenth-century French dragoons and eighteenth century German Jaegers.
Many Americans, in fact, were totally ignorant of the rifle and its capabilities at the outbreak of the Revolution. John Adams commented with surprise on the accuracy of "a peculiar kind of musket, called a rifle" carried by Virginians and Pennsylvanians who joined the New England militia force besieging Boston in 1775. Although sharpshooting riflemen subsequently contributed to America's struggle for independence on a number of fields, most notably Kings Mountain (where Americans fought each other), the overall tactical importance of early American riflemen has often been grossly exaggerated. 1
General George Washington, a more perceptive analyst of his army's needs than latter day commentators, actually rearmed some rifle units with smoothbore muskets. Contrary to song and story, well-served artillery was far more of a factor in Andrew Jackson's 1815 victory at