” . . . he says the only satisfaction you can get out of a fellow of that kind is to come out here and shoot him through the navel with a Mississippi Yangur, nobody will say anything to you; or if there is an investigation it will be brought in justifiable homicide.”

So wrote William Murray in 19th May 1854 from San Francisco, to his brother Andrew back in Edinburgh, about botanical collector John Jeffrey. Andrew Murray was Secretary to the Oregon Botanical Association – the sponsoring organisation for John Jeffrey’s plant hunting expedition to North America.

During research for my latest book GREEN GOLD I had searched online in vain for more information about a firearm known as the ‘Mississippi Yangur’ but had drawn a blank. Then I heard from specialist John Spangler from www.oldguns.net who kindly provided the following which I think suggests that the spelling ‘Yangur’ is likely to have been a transcription error in the minute book of the Oregon Botanical Association.

Mississippi Yaeger rifleMississippi Yaeger rifle
Mississippi Yaeger rifle

“. . . it almost certainly refers the U.S. Model 1841 .54 caliber percussion rifle. These are exceptionally handsome pieces, with most of the hardware made from brass, a nice walnut stock, and the barrel a brown color and the lock sort of a mottled mix of black, gray, blue and straw colors.

Adopted in 1841, these first saw action during the Mexican war where a regiment of volunteers from Mississippi under command of Colonel, later Secretary of War and even later President of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis. Hence the “Mississippi” name which helped distinguish them from 2 or 3 other models of rifles then in use by the Army. Also, the brass appearance and rifled bore resembled (to some extent, but not a lot) the German rifles used by hunters or elite rifle armed German regiments known as Jaegers, often written Yaegers, or just Yagers.

Since both Yaeger and Mississippi were both unofficial nicknames, their use would be inconsistent and vary with whoever was telling the story and used as a single descriptive term, or combined to perhaps make the term clear to an audience who was only familiar with one of the terms, but not all knowing the same term.”

My sincere thanks to John Spangler of Antique and Collectable Firearms and
Militaria Headquarters for a superb answer and for solving a 163-year-old mystery: www.oldguns.net

Green Gold: The lost journals of John Jeffrey

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