Jacob Dickert and the “Dickert Rifle”

The earliest American school of rifle making that we know of today developed in Christian's Spring, a small Moravian village near Nazareth, Pennsylvania. Andreas Albrecht, a trained gunsmith, had immigrated from Germany in 1750. In 1771, he moved to the Moravian settlement in Lititz and resumed his gun-making profession, thereby influencing the Lancaster School as well. Many of the famous Northampton / Lehigh County gunsmiths apprenticed under Albrecht. Jacob Dickert of the Lancaster School, himself a Moravian, seems to have also had associations with Albrecht.

Jacob Dickert is well known as an important gunsmith having a long career as a rifle maker in Lancaster County, PA, who worked there from 1769, and possibly earlier, until his death in 1822. He was born in Metz, Germany in 1740 and came to America in 1748. He apprenticed at age 15 (1755), and probably became a journeyman in 1761 at age 21. Where he worked from 1761 until 1769 is not known, for the earliest tax records for Lancaster begin in 1769. He was a Moravian and it is possible that he had some association with the Moravian gun shop at Christian's Spring and with its master, Andreas Albrecht. However, it is very possible that Albrecht made his rifle after 1771 in Lititz, just a few miles from where Dickert applied his trade. Jacob being an accomplished gun-maker made his own locks and supplied other makers as well. As the United States expanded westward, be found new markets in the frontier trade for slender, elegant rifles.

From the 1760s, Jacob Dickert was known both as a military contractor and respected Lancaster County gun maker. As an arms contractor to the Continental Army and for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, he made and sold rifles to the government, and repaired muskets and other firearms. Jacob also owned a gun barrel boring mill in the 1790s, located a few miles from his gun factory. The Deckard “Dickey” rifle, was an American-made rifle although the flintlock is of Germanic styling and doubtless of continental European origin. Considered the very best at that time, the owner of a Deckard rifle of that day rejoiced in its possession. It was the weapon in prominent use among the mountaineers of the South during the period of the Revolution. It is, perhaps, not so generally known that, along the dividing ridges of the two Carolinas, there have been manufacturers of the rifle famous for the excellence of this weapon from a very early period. Even in the Revolution, the native rifle has been known to kill across a river 250 yards wide. This range, at that period, was held to be almost astonishing.

Its nickname was “Kentucky long rifle” and was carried by the "Over Mountain Men," who most every member of this little army was equipped with a Deckard rifle, a tomahawk, and a scalping knife, in which they were experts. Giving good account of themselves at the battle at King’s Mountain, North Carolina, in which backwoods hunters defeated Major Ferguson’s professional British soldiers. This being a major turning point in the Revolutionary War. Most of these men came mounted and armed with their Deckard rifles and no bayonets. This rifle was to play a significant role in many upcoming battles. The Dickert/Deckard rifle was also used in defense against the Mexican infantry who surprised the outnumbered Texans in a pre-dawn assault against the Alamo fortress walls in 1836 and one is on display in the Long Barracks Museum in San Antonio. It is said that Colonel David Crockett used a Deckard rifle in combat at the battle of the Alamo.

Visitors there can view an old flintlock rifle with brass patch-box and barrel markings strongly suggestive of a specific gunsmith, Jacob Dickert, as being the maker of the rifle. This display rifle, according to the museum curator, was re-constructed in the 1920s by a local gunsmith using various parts donated by many Texans, and reported to come from rifles once used at the Alamo. This rifle makes a powerful statement that Dickert rifles were used by the Alamo's defenders. Original siege reports from Mexican officers at the Alamo reported the use of long-barreled rifles having deadly accuracy at 100 and 250 yards.