NEW ORLEANS, LA (WAFB) - Monday, January 8 marks the 203rd anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans, and just in time for that, Louisiana State Police was able to participate in a press conference with FBI New Orleans about the recovery of an historic artifact.
More than 35 years ago, a Kentucky-style flintlock rifle made by John Jacob Sheetz of Virginia, which was the only known weapon fully documented and traced back to the Battle of New Orleans in 1814, was stolen from the Louisiana Historical Association (now known at the Confederate Memorial Hall Museum). Sheetz's name can be found on the top of the rifle's barrel. The rifle's patchbox bears the following engraving:
The rifle was donated back in 1894. The donor was listed as an E.S. Ross of New Orleans. Then in January of 1895, the donation of the rifle was mentioned in a newspaper article, which was printed in the New Orleans Daily Picayune. The article said the rifle was carried by William Ross, a member of the Captain Thomas Beale's Company of New Orleans Riflemen in the the "defence of New Orleans in 1814 and 1815."
During the investigation, it was found the museum's records did in fact indicate they had possession of the rifle.
William Ross was a flour inspector in New Orleans and his company did see action during the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812. Ross' oldest son was James Ross, who was also a flour inspector in the city. James Ross had several children, including a son named Elijah Steele Ross, who is believed to be the donor of the rifle.
Elijah Ross was also a Confederate soldier in a Louisiana light artillery battle during the Civil War. He died in New Orleans in February of 1897.
In the fall of 2017, a member of the FBI's Art Crime Team was contacted by the New Orleans Confederate Memorial Hall about the missing rifle. The FBI then learned the rifle disappeared from the museum at an unknown time and was sold in 1982. In November of 2017, the FBI, in coordination with LSP, obtained a search warrant to recover the rifle from a private home in Louisiana. Those who bought the rifle in 1982 appeared to have no knowledge that it was stolen and cooperated fully with the FBI's investigation.
The historic rifle will now be kept at the museum where the original owner intended it to reside for all to see.