Revolutionary War musket returned to museum, 50 years after being stolen

From left to right, FBI Philadelphia Special Agent in Charge Wayne A. Jacobs, Special Agent Jake Archer of the FBI Art Crime Team, and Assistant Special Agent in Charge Jamie Milligan pose with a Revolutionary War-era musket that was returned to the

It’s a patriotic case, solved just in time for Independence Day thanks in part to the eagle eye of a firearms appraiser: A Revolutionary War-era musket is now in the hands of a museum after being stolen in 1968.

The .78-caliber musket was stolen during a 1968 heist and is just the latest piece of American history the FBI has helped recover.

Years-long investigation

In March of 2023, the FBI returned dozens of antique weapons to the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia following an investigation that dated back several years.

The firearms were initially stolen during a string of thefts in the 1960s and 1970s in and around Valley Forge Park, which was the site of George Washington’s Continental Army winter encampment during the Revolutionary War. 

After their latest investigation started in 2009, the FBI says, three men – Michael Corbett, Scott Corbett, and Thomas Gavin – admitted taking the items. But they no longer had most of them in their possession.

A Museum of the American Revolution employee handles two firearms recovered during the art crime investigation. Members of the Royal Highland Regiment, part of the British Army sent to suppress the American rebellion, carried these steel pistols. (FB

Investigators were eventually able to track down about 50 of the stolen weapons – including pistols, muskets, rifles, and other pieces of battlefield history – and return them to several museums. But the historic musket was among 10 items still missing.

The missing musket

According to the FBI, a detective shared the story of the returned weapons with historical firearms expert and appraiser Joel Bohy, who’d worked with the local police department on a past case. Only minutes later, Bohy said he’d seen the missing musket.

The piece had caught his eye at an event because of its rarity and he’d even snapped a photo of it. "There’s only two others known," he explained.

Bohy shared that photo with police and met with the FBI’s Art Crime Team the next day. From that tip, investigators traced the musket to an antique firearms collector in Maryland who didn’t know the musket was stolen and wasn't connected to the heist. He willingly turned over the musket to the FBI. 

At that point, Chubb – the insurer whose predecessor company paid the insurance claim back in 1969 – became the owner of the musket. The company donated it to the Museum of the American Revolution, signing over the deed at a July 1 ceremony.

Investigators pose alongside Revolutionary War-era firearms they collectively helped recover. The photo was captured in January 2024 at the museum in Philadelphia. (FBI photo)

Dr. R. Scott Stephenson of the Museum of the American Revolution says historians believe the musket was cobbled together from parts of other weapons in 1774 by a Rhode Island gunsmith who was "getting ready to to arm someone to defend American liberty."

"Whatever its story, we relish the opportunity and the responsibility of making pieces of history like this once again available to the public," he said.

The search continues

The FBI is still looking for several more historical firearms and other items that were stolen during those initial heists. Tips from the public have been key in cracking the cases so far, and investigators hope that continues.

LINK: You can read more about the missing items and see photos on the FBI’s website.