The only rifle confirmed to have been used in the Battle of New Orleans has been returned to the museum at Confederate Memorial Hall over 30 years after it was stolen.
“Not even the Smithsonian has one of these,” Keith Cangelosi, the president of Confederate Memorial Hall’s board of directors, told the New Orleans Advocate. “We’re glad to have it back.”
The .38-caliber Kentucky flintlock rifle originally belonged to William Ross. A Louisiana militia member, Ross fought in the Battle of New Orleans. Ross’s grandson, Elijah Ross, fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War. After which, he donated his grandfather’s rifle to Confederate Memorial Hall’s museum three years after the museum opened in 1891, according to the Advocate.
Cangelosi and other museum authorities say the rifle can be traced in museum inventories until the 1960s, at which point it disappears. Neither museum officials nor the FBI have determined who stole the rifle or precisely when it was stolen.
Cangelosi says he saw the rifle profiled in a National Rifle Association magazine in 2013. The article describes how a couple named Robert and Linda Melancon had acquired the gun in 1982 from a famous antique store in New Orleans’ French Quarter.
Museum officials first considered going to court to get the rifle back. But later decided to ask the FBI to launch an investigation.
The feds declined to identify the Melancons by name, but one official said that “the people who possessed the rifle for the past 30 years were extremely cooperative” during their investigation. The official also said that the most recent possessors of the rifle are not under criminal investigation. Adding that “we may never know” who first took the rifle.
The Battle of New Orleans was the decisive battle in the War of 1812. General Andrew Jackson led U.S. forces to victory against the British. The big win made Jackson a national hero and paved the way for his eventual presidency.
Renowned Virginia gunsmith John Jacob Sheetz built Ross’s rifle. Mr. Sheetz was an expert in the kind of Kentucky long rifle that proved so effective against British forces. The gun features a 42-inch barrel. It is engraved with an inscription reading, “this rifle was used by my father Wm. Ross, a member of Cap. Thos. Beals company of New Orleans Riflemen in defense of N Orleans in 1814 and 1815.”
The rifle could fetch as much as $650,000 according to FBI officials, but Cangelosi says it’s priceless.