Thursday, July 4, 2019

Daniel Smith's "Long Tom"

Visiting Our Past: More WNC artifacts in Mr. Smith's musket and a WWII poster

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Daniel Smith's Musket

"Long Tom" is the name that Buncombe County pioneer Daniel Smith gave his 6-foot-long flintlock musket.

He had it during Rutherford's Campaign against The Cherokee in 1776. He used it at the Battle of Kings Mountain, the decisive defeat of the British by Revolutionary "Overmountain Men" in 1780.

He "was sentimentally proud of his revolutionary services, (and) frequently referred to that in conversation," his friend David Lowry Swain, state governor and then UNC president, testified in 1845 in support of the Smith children's pension application.

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"Long Tom" went with Smith to Western North Carolina, where he settled in 1785, avenging the murder of his wife's uncle, settler Col. Samuel Davidson, by Indians in Swannanoa. After building a home on a hill (probably at the site of present-day Fernihurst) above what is now called Nasty Branch south of Depot Street, Smith took his rifle with him to the public square in newly created Asheville, where he was "almost daily seen," historian Foster Sondley noted in 1912, "mounted on his large white horse," acknowledged as a legendary "Indian killer."

For two generations, leading up to and after the Revolutionary War, Western North Carolinians had lived with constant violence, fighting a civil as well as a frontier war.

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Smith had been assigned command of several forts that guarded the upper Catawba frontier against the attacks of the militant faction of the Cherokee. The primary fort under his command was Davidson's, located on the plantation of Samuel Davidson (at present day Old Fort, NC).

Smith "maintained a warfare, generally single-handed, against the Cherokee Indians for many years, and not less than one hundred are said to have 'bitten the dust' from the effects of his unerring rifle," J. P. Davison wrote in the "Asheville City Directory and Gazetteer of Buncombe County" that he compiled for 1883-84.

Smith's firearm was presented at the unveiling of the monument for Samuel Davidson's grave in 1913, and historian Foster Sondley described it in his speech.

"This gun," Sondley said, "is as a smooth bore, or musket, with flint lock and rifle sights, the bore being a little larger than that of an ordinary fowling piece. The length of the weapon is six feet, and that of the barrel alone is fifty-six inches; while the stock, smaller than usual at the butt, extends underneath the barrel clear to the muzzle. 'Long Tom' was capable of carrying a large ball or several shot, and was a most formidable engine of destruction."

Some say that Smith had gotten his rifle from Europe, but Steven Riess in his book, "Sports in America from Colonial Times to the 21st century," states, “In the early 1720s, German and Swiss gunsmiths in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, began to manufacture flintlock rifles, a model that became popular by the 1740s, especially among market hunters and Indian fighters, because of its long range accuracy."

The rifle, which got the names "long," "Pennsylvania," and "Kentucky," was accurate to 200 yards.

The rifle hangs in a case on a wall at the Smith-McDowell House and Museum, originally built by Smith's son, James McConnell Smith, in 1840.  It is operated by the Western North Carolina Historical Association (, 828-253-9231). Find good information about Daniel Smith at

Rob Neufeld writes the weekly “Visiting Our Past” column for the Citizen-Times.  He is the author of books on history and literature, and manages the WNC book and heritage website The Read on WNC. Follow him on Twitter @WNC_chronicler; email him at; call 828-505-1973.

Asheville Citizen-Times (Asheville, North Carolina), 22 October 2018.

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