This original 18th century cased set of flintlock pistols are both signed by French gunmaker, Adriaene Reynier, a Dutch-born gunmaker in Paris, France. The box, and one of the accessories inside, are engraved with the initials, “LMS.” They represent more than just the beautiful work of the finest French gun-makers, but also the little-known activities of the Spanish in late 18th century America, including plots against the U.S. government with both hostile Indian tribes, and American spies and frontier leaders.
Adriaen Reynier, dit Hollandois
In 1724, Adriaene Reynier succeeded Bertrand Piraube, who in the golden age of French gun-making (the late 17th and early 18th centuries) received the privilege of occupying a workshop in the Galleries of the Louvre, established by Henri IV in the first decade of the 17th century to provide accommodation for the most highly skilled court craftsmen. A brevet de logement was granted to Piraube in 1670 and the appointment was confirmed the following year. The privilege established Piraube as the primus inter pares of the gunmakers of Louis XIV. On January 18, 1724, another gunmaker was appointed to succeed Piraub in the Louvre Galleries. This was Adriaen Reynier, dit Hollandois. See Bertrand Piraube – Gunmaker to Louis XIV, by John Haward, American Society of Arms Collectors Bulletin 39:43-51; see also Nouvelles archives de l’art français, Volume 2, p. 86.
These French royal gunmakers would produce varying degrees of fine firearms – especially pairs of pistols – on commission from, and for, royalty, or other VIPs, in numerous European countries, such as Sweden, England, Poland, and of course, France. According to some accounts, Adriaene Reynier’s father was Jean Reynier, a Paris gunmaker who was a contemporary of Piraube. A pair of small pistols made by Jean Reynier, also mounted in silver, now housed in the Musee de L’Armee, Paris, signed Jean Reyniers a Paris.
Many of Piraube’s late 17th century pistols can still be found in some of the royal armories and museums around Europe. I was able to locate some of Adriaene Reynier’s as well, from various French sites on the internet. I found this French firearms magazine issue, which has some photos of one of Reynier’s pistols. The rough translation from French follows:
Flintlock pistol, signed on the plate “Le Hollandais à Paris 1716” is the pseudonym of the gunsmith Adrien Reynier, son of the partner of Thuraine. In 1723, arquebusier of the King, on January 18, 1724, he received his housing certificate in the Galeries du Louvre where he succeeded Sieur Boyer, painter to the King….
On September 1, 1716, in his hotel, Marshal de Villars presided over the Council of War established on the proposal of Mr. Daguessau, Attorney General, appointed by the Regent shortly after the king’s death. To this Council are submitted the offers of the arms factories of Saint-Etienne, Charleville and Maubeuge, for the supply, to the Royal Army, of 20,000 rifles of soldiers and 10,000 rifles of rampart.
On January 4, 1717, the War Council, assisted by expert gunsmiths Languedoc and Reynier, examined the models proposed. Who were these experts? In 1685, Claude Simonin, engraver, published in Paris a series of “… Several pieces and most popular arquebuzerie ornaments taken from the works of Laurent Le Languedoc, Arquebuzier du Roy …” (Torsten Lenk: Flintlaset, Stockholm 1939, pl. 119). As it takes several years for the creations of a gunsmith to achieve sufficient notoriety, it is assumed that Laurent Le Languedoc had started his activity about ten years earlier, ie around 1675….
Marshal de Villars’ second expert, Adrien Reynier – known as the Dutchman – bears the same name, first name and nickname as his father. The latter, with his partner Thuraine, was Louis XIV’s arquebusier.
However, during the interviews of 1717, Reynier the younger was not yet in the ordinary service of the king. He will become so in 1723 and will receive his Housing patent at the Louvre on January 18, 1724. He succeeds Sieur Boyer, painter to the king, in the 16th dwelling which he will occupy until his death in 1743. It is therefore a man in his prime (about 40 years old) and in full possession of his means who took part in the development of the first prescription rifle.
Reynier’s creations are still in many collections and can be admired, among others, in a few major museums: that of the Army in Paris, the Weapons Museum in Liège, in Dresden, in the Kremlin in Moscow. The participation of these two famous gunsmiths in the work of the Council of War, tending to give French soldiers the best possible rifle, shows that these weapon designers whom we admire for the beauty of their decorative work, were sought after not only for their qualities of master ironworkers, but also – and above all – for their knowledge of gunsmithing….The loose translation from French into English.
Here’s a Fusil de chasse made by Reynier, followed by the rough translation of the French description:
Flintlock hunting rifle, one shot. Long round barrel with flat flattened sides and thunderous sides, hallmarked on a gold background. Platinum signed “Hollandois” and hammer with chiseled and engraved flat bodies. Cut iron fittings decorated en suite. Light walnut stock. Baguette in dewlap. Around 1730-1740. A.B.E. REYNIER Adrien (Charles?). Son of Adrien known as “Le Hollandois”, he was arquebusier of HRH the Regent then Ordinary Arquebusier of the King in 1723. He was in charge of the examination of the 1717 model. He will be housed in the Galeries du Louvre, in place of Piraube.The loose translation from French into English.
A fine pair of silver mounted pistols with superimposed barrels by Reynier, ex collection of Joe Kindig, sold at auction for 22,000 Euros, followed by the rough translation from French:
Pair of flintlock pistols, rotating superimposed barrels, with sides then round damascened with gold with thunders on the three upper sides and on the band decorated with foliage, with a trophy of arms and monogrammed with thunders: “LH”, caliber 14.5 mm; half-plates engraved with a trophy of arms and signed: “Le Hollandois À Paris aux Galleries”, hammers engraved with foliage, the two front half-plates are fixed on the barrels; cut-out silver counter-plates, engraved with foliage and a dragon, silver caps engraved with trophies and chiseled with foliage and grotesque masks, cap nails adorned with a bust of a Roman emperor, engraved silver baguette loops , engraved iron bridges, movable, allowing the locking and unlocking of the barrels; veined walnut butts, filigree silver, oval silver thumb pieces chiseled with a bust of Minerva; wooden chopsticks on one of the sides, finished with an iron nail; length 44.5 cm. (Blued posterior guns; small crack in a barrel).
Period first quarter of the 18th century, around 1720/1725. Good condition.
Loose translation from French into English.
REYNIER Adrien, known as “LE HOLLANDOIS”, born in Maastricht in Holland, around 1630, became the King’s ordinary arquebusier in Paris around 1650/1680 (?); his son, also named Adrien, ordinary arquebusier of Mgr le Duc d’Orléans in Paris, act of July 20, 1714, cited as a witness in an act of May 11, 1719. On an act of 1725, we can see: “REYNIER Charles et Adrien son and father, arquebusiers in the Louvre galleries ”.
It appears as if there were several Reynier family gunsmiths in Paris during the 17th and 18th centuries – possibly two of which were father and son, both named Adriaene (or Adrian) Reynier, and both of which may have been “archebusiers” to the French King and housed in the Louvre galleries. There’s mention of both a “Jean” and a “Charles” as being the elder, who was apparently a partner with another Paris gunsmith named “Thurain” who also produced fine firearms in Paris. I take it that the signature line of “Le Hollandois,” means something to the effect of, “The Hollander.”
Back to the pistols
This original case, into which the pistols are perfectly fitted, upside down, as if to display their ornate silver trigger guards and carved Griffins on the grip. The case includes all of the original accessories: mini powder flask, oil bottle with integral applicator brush, silver monogrammed turn screw, a mother of pearl touchhole needle, and a case hardened bullet mold. The case is constructed of Bird’s Eye Maple, with the original polished finish and original brass hardware. It retains the original lock and key.
The pistols are of Queen Anne style, with rifled cannon style screw-off barrels. Both have Paris proof marks. The flintlocks themselves are in almost perfect condition, with a crisp, snap back action, as well as a two-point position. They obviously saw little use, as far as firing goes. One of the pistols, however, shows more wear than the other – indicating that it was carried, probably in a pocket, while the other remained in the case.
The trigger guards are of high grade sliver, as are the fore and rear straps, which are embellished in French rococo style. The unique wood stocks of the little pistols are made from exotic rosewood, and are highly and beautifully carved. The forestocks are decorated with intricate floral designs, especially around the tang, while the butt ends are carved with mythological gryphons.
The initials engraved onto the case, as well as onto the silver turn screw inside the case, are inscribed, “LMS” for Louis Maureese Sabater, who was the brother, and official Secretary, to the Spanish Colonial Governor of Lousiana, Esteban Rodríguez Miró y Sabater, (1744 – June 4, 1795), also known as Esteban Miro and Estevan Miro, was a Spanish army officer and governor of the Spanish American provinces of Louisiana and Florida.
Miró was one of the most popular of the Spanish governors, largely because of his prompt response to the Great New Orleans Fire (1788), which destroyed almost all of the city. Actually, it destroyed 856 of the 1,100 buildings in the city.
After the great fire in New Orleans, Miro oversaw the construction of a more fire-resistant city, which includes the historic remnants of the French Quarter, as it appears today. He also oversaw the construction of the Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France, also called St. Louis Cathedral.
This is how it appeared in the 1830s. The middle tower was added after the War of 1812:
This is apparently how it originally appeared in Miro’s time:
During the American Revolution, Miro was an officer serving under his predecessor, Governor of Spain’s Lousiana Territory, Bernardo de Galvez (i.e., Galveston, Texas), serving in the war’s longest battle, the Battle of Pensacola, a.k.a, the “Siege of Pensacola.” Spain was an ally of France, and when France entered the war as an ally of the American colonists, Spain immediately acted to regain lost territory in West Florida, including the British fort at Pensacola.
In 1782, at the close of the war, Miro was named the acting Governor of Louisiana. He served there at an extremely interesting time, and had much interaction with the fledgling United States, as well as some of the Indian tribes, and conspiring traitors seeking to form a new nation in the West.
While serving as Governor of Louisiana, a large volume of the personal correspondence of Esteban Miro survives, presumably written, at least in part, or with the assistance of, Miro’s brother and secretary, Louis. The correspondence evidences a conspiracy by the trans-appalachian border inhabitants in what is now Tennessee and Kentucky.
Some of Governor Miro’s correspondence is quite interesting. Perhaps surprisingly, much of it centers around communication around arming a half-Creek Indian, half-Scottish tribal warlord and slave-holding plantation owner for hostilities against Americans, as well as enabling traitorous Americans to pursue corruption against the United States.
July 16, 1787: From Esteban Miro, to Aurturo O’neill, Pensacola, FL: “Confidential: McGillivray (Creek Chief) wishes an additional 1000 pounds of (gun) powder in order to give each warrior 1 lb.”
August 3, 1787: To Esteban Miro, from Aurturo O’neill, Pensacola, FL: “Confidential: Gifts of arms and ammunition cannot be made secretly, as they are in the royal magazine and removal is checked by many officials; Indians boast of our protection, and America complains of our liberality; have no means of communication with McGGillivray; orders in English will be passed on to him….”
“Ing: informed a Creek chief with 100 warriors, and carrying Spanish flag, has gone against Cumberland.”
August 12, 1787: From Esteban Miro, to Aurturo O’neill, Pensacola, FL: “Received from several sources notice of death of Davenport, and attack on American settlement; also informed of Indian plans against Cumberland.”
August 14, 1787: From Esteban Miro, to Aurturo O’neill, Pensacola, FL: “Concerns distribution of powder to the Indians; any American protest will be answered by saying: ‘I cannot deprive the Indians of their existence, since they live by the chase and dress themselves from their produce.'”
Note: the following account appeared in the Augusta, Georgia “Gazette”:
On the 5th day of July 1787 a party of Creek Indians killed Captain William Davenport, Agent for the Government in Georgia, wounded three Chickasaws that were with him and took a white companion prisoner. The people are drawing together in large stations and doing everything necessary for their defense.
William Davenport had been sent out by Georgia in 1785 as one of the commissioners to organize Bourbon County and to regain the Indian trade for Augusta. Alexander McGillivray (1783-1789) was the son of a Scottish trader and a Creek mother, who came to be sort of a tribal warlord within the Creek nation – though not necessarily a “chief,” per se.
Resenting [Davenport’s] presence there, McGillivray sent out a party in 1787 to get his scalp, and, when they returned with it, boasted of their bravery in murdering the Georgian in the midst of his friends. Miro remonstrated with McGillivray, but to O’Neill he wrote that Davenport’s death “cannot fail to be very useful to us in keeping the Indians in our devotion.”ALEXANDER McGILLIVRAY, 1783-1789, by Arthur Preston Whitaker, The North Carolina Historical Review, Vol. 5, No. 2 (April, 1928).
In May of 1787, Miro wrote McGillivray a letter requesting that, “I wish you could make up matters with our neighbors the Americans . . . .” Miro continued to approve deliveries of powder and lead to him as late as November of that year, but withheld approval for the delivery of actual guns for attacks, stating that wile Spain would support defensive operations, “she did not wish to encourage aggression on their part.”
It would be difficult to find anywhere in the lurid annals of the Old Southwest a more striking figure than Alexander McGillivray. During his lifetime he was a terror to the frontiersmen of the Carolinas and Georgia, whom he harried with the combined ferocity of a British loyalist, an agent of the jealous Spaniards and a half-breed chief of the Creek Indians. Long after his death the Georgians continued to curse his memory, and one of their historians assures us that his instinct for making money, his faithlessness and his malignity “gave obvious indications of his Scotch, French and Indian descent.” . . . . .
His garb was sometimes that of an Indian, sometimes that of a white man, sometimes a mixture of the two, but his mode of life on his estates at Little Tallassie, the Hickory Ground and Little River was that of a prosperous Southern planter. In 1776, when Louis Milfort first saw him at the Creek town of Coweta, McGillivray, seated on a bear-skin in the midst of an assembly of warriors, appeared to be simply an Indian chief….
After vainly trying his own tongue, he finally made himself understood in broken English, and was warmly welcomed and taken to McGillivray’s home, Little Tallassie, on the Coosa River, about six miles above its junction with the Tallapoosa. There he found that the half-breed had a substantial plantation with about sixty negroes, each family living in its own cabin, “which gave his place the appearance of a little village.”. . . .
David Humphreys, who conducted a negotiation with him in 1789, described him as so addicted to debauchery that he looked as if he could not live another four years.ALEXANDER McGILLIVRAY, 1783-1789, by Arthur Preston Whitaker, The North Carolina Historical Review, Vol. 5, No. 2 (April, 1928).
Believe it or not, there was an American general who was a Spanish Spy over the course of four U.S. presidential administrations. It had to do with the westward movement of American settlement following the American Revolution, into what was then Spanish territory.
Governor Miro was contacted by several leading settlers from the Tennessee territory, looking to create a new relationship between their territory and the Spanish government in New Orleans. Spain needed citizens, and bringing settlers from Spain proved financially unrealistic. But converting American settlers to Spanish seemed possible. Miro proposed that the Tennesseans break relations with the United States and take an oath of allegiance to His Catholic Majesty, King of Spain. In return, the Tennesseans would be allowed access to the Mississippi, as well as the right to manage their local affairs.
Between July of 1788 and April of 1789, a small faction of Tennessee Valley leading men entered into secret backcountry negotiations with Spanish colonial officials. The details of the Spanish conspiracy reveal a shadowy plan to unite the trans-Appalachian settlements of the Tennessee Valley with Spain’s Louisiana Territory.The Spanish Conspiracy on the Trans-Appalachian Borderlands, 1786-1789, by Kevin T. Barksdale.
It came to an end with North Carolina ratified the constitution of 1789, thus bringing the Tennessee settlements within the protection of Congress. In 1795, Spain ceded the Lousiana Territory east of the Mississippi above the 31st parallel to the U.S., and granted the U.S. free navigation of the Mississippi River. But there was more.
James Wilkinson was an American General who served during the Revolution. He was twice the Senior Officer of the U.S. Army. Afterwards, he was a prominent citizen in early Kentucky. He would later serve as the first Governor of the (American) Lousiana Territory, and would serve again as a general in the War of 1812. In 1854, following extensive archival research in the Spanish archives in Madrid, Louisiana historian Charles Gayarré exposed Wilkinson as having been a highly paid spy in the service of the Spanish Empire. It was through his correspondence with Governor Miro, that his corruption was exposed.
In order to pay Wilkinson, the Spanish floated coins hidden in coffee and sugar barrels up the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers (Linklater, p. 155). The Spanish-speaking boatmen figured out that there were coins hidden in the barrels, murdered the courier, and spread out across the Kentucky countryside. After they were apprehended, they were brought before a magistrate in Frankfort, Kentucky. The magistrate sent for an interpreter named Thomas Power, who unfortunately for the boatmen, was also a Spanish spy (Linklater, p. 146). When the magistrate asked the boatmen to account for themselves, they responded by explaining to Power that the coins were a payment for Wilkinson from the Spanish crown. Power “interpreted” their testimony by explaining to the magistrate that the men stated they had committed a cold blooded murder and were motivated by greed. As a result, one of the boatmen was hung, and Wilkinson was spared.General James Wilkinson, the Spanish Spy Who was a Senior Officer in the U.S. Army During Four Presidential Administrations
April 21, 2020 by Robert Brammer
In April 1787, Wilkinson made a highly controversial trip to New Orleans, which was the capital of Spanish colonial Louisiana. At that time, Americans were allowed to trade on the Mississippi River, but they had to pay a hefty tariff. Wilkinson met with Spanish Governor Esteban Rodríguez Miró and managed to convince him to allow Kentucky to have a trading monopoly on the River; in return he promised to promote Spanish interests in the west.
On August 22, 1787, Wilkinson signed an expatriation declaration and swore allegiance to the King of Spain to satisfy his own commercial needs. The “Spanish Conspiracy“, as it is known, was initiated by Wilkinson’s “First Memorial”, a 7,500-word report written before he left New Orleans for Charleston, to the Spanish concerning the “political future of western settlers” and to convince Spain to “admit us [Kentuckians] under protection as vassals”. This was encoded with myriad symbols, numbers, and letters that was decoded via a complex English-Spanish cipher code-named “Number 13”, which became the basis for his pseudonym, “Agent 13“.
Wilkinson eventually approached Miró with a proposal. His intention was to obtain a grant of 60,000 acres in the Yazoo lands, at the junction of the Yazoo River and the Mississippi (near present-day Vicksburg). The land was to serve as payment for Wilkinson’s efforts on behalf of Spain, and to serve as a refuge in the event he and his supporters had to flee from the United States. Wilkinson asked for and received a pension of $7,000 from Miró, while requesting pensions on behalf of several prominent Kentuckians, including: Harry Innes, Benjamin Sebastian, John Brown, Caleb Wallace, Benjamin Logan, Isaac Shelby, George Muter, George Nicholas, and even Humphrey Marshall (who at one time was a bitter rival of Wilkinson’s).
However, by 1788 Wilkinson had apparently lost the confidence of officials in Spain. Miró was not to grant any of the proposed pensions and was forbidden from giving money to support a revolution in Kentucky. Furthermore, Wilkinson continued to secretly receive funds from Spain for many years. Here’s an original letter written by Wilkinson from Pittsburgh in 1798, which apparently sold for just $750.00, with the transcription below:
The Miro correspondence contains many of the secret messages received from Wilkinson regarding American military plans. They also contain the enticements and conspiracy to attract settlers from Kentucky and Tennessee to become Spanish settlers:
February 28, 1789: from Governor Miro at New Orleans, to Josef Valliere: “Confidential: The King has sent his ‘royal order’ that settlers from Kentucky and other settlements ‘whose rivers empty into the Ohio’ may come and establish themselves, provided that non-Catholics have their religious rites in private; no duty on goods at first entry, except fruits from Kentucky; import tax of 15% on all good shipped in; urges Valliere to promote commerce and emigration; especially with leather goods.”
April 22, 1789: from Governor Miro to Gen. Daniel Smith: “Anxiously awaits the results of the matter to be taken up in Assembly of North Carolina next September; have induced MGillivray to make peace with your district; McGillivray says he has promised Governor of North Carolina that Creeks will not fight there; honored that people of ‘your distrct’ have named it for me.
April 30, 1789: from Governor Miro to Antonio Valdes: “Arrival of James White at ‘this capital’ (New Orleans); State of Franklin working independently of United States; John Sevier’s son in prison in North Carolina; post of Illinois also depends on North Carolina though distinct from Franklin; Cumberland changed to “Miro” by act of Assembly of North Carolina; deputies will be sent to North Carolina to ask for separation, and, if granted, district will be offered to Spain.
In 1803, when Thomas Jefferson was serving as President, James Wilkinson renewed his treasonous relationship with Spanish colonial officials, offering them advice on how to contain American expansion, in exchange for the restoration of his pension. Among other things, he tipped off the Spanish to the object of the Lewis & Clark expedition. In 1804-05, he met in person with Aaron Burr and exchanged letters regarding Burr’s conspiracy.
In 1806 Burr is supposed to have sent a coded, unsigned letter (the “Cipher Letter“, which Burr later denied having written) to Wilkinson, which stated that he was ready to commence his movement to Texas. Burr’s subsequent efforts to recruit participants in his plans became public, raising fears that he was conspiring with England to start a war with Spain. Wilkinson became fearful that his role in Burr’s plans and/or his spying for Spain would be exposed. In October 1806 Wilkinson sent to President Jefferson a letter in which he painted Burr’s actions in the worst possible light, while portraying himself as innocent of any involvement. Jefferson ordered Burr’s arrest, and Burr was apprehended near Natchez, Mississippi.
Wilkinson testified at Burr’s trial, and the documents presented as evidence included the “cipher letter”, which Wilkinson had given the prosecution. However the letter was clearly altered to minimize Wilkinson’s culpability. This forgery, coupled with Wilkinson’s obviously self-serving testimony, had the effect of making Burr seem to be the victim of an overzealous government. The grand jury nearly produced enough votes in favor of indicting Wilkinson for misprision of treason, and foreman John Randolph said of Wilkinson that he was a “mammoth of iniquity”, the “most finished scoundrel”, and “the only man I ever saw who was from the bark to the very core a villain.”
Here’s Burr’s actual ciphered letter to Wilkinson, with the translation below:
During Burr’s trial, Wilkinson placed New Orleans under martial law, against the will of Governor Claiborne, and imprisoned several people whom he thought may be able to connect him to Burr, along with attorneys who tried to defend them.
Wilkinson was removed from the Territorial Governor’s office after being publicly criticized for heavy-handed administration and abuse of power (and replaced with Meriwether Lewis). In addition, his actions around the Burr conspiracy became public, which aroused the public against him and led to two Congressional inquiries into his private ventures and intrigues. President James Madison, who had succeeded Jefferson in 1809, ordered a military court of inquiry in 1811, which resulted in a court-martial that exonerated Wilkinson.
Those are quite a few rabbit holes of interesting American history, just by virtue of the engravings on a couple of small flintlock pistols……