Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Confederate Bilharz, Hall & Co. Breech Loading Carbine





This rare Confederate carbine was manufactured by Bilharz, Hall and Company, Pittsylvania Courthouse, Virginia. (known today as Chatham)
The first deliveries made to the Confederate Ordnance Department by Bilharz, Hall & Company were in the late summer or early fall of 1862, and on September 16 of that year they were paid $4,500 for “100 Breech-loading carbines”.
Research indicates that no other breech loading carbines were manufactured, as shortly after Bilharz received a new contract to manufacture Confederate copies of the US M-1855 Rifled Carbine. 

Coined as a  "Rising Breech Carbine" by collectors, it is an iron frame single shot breech loading percussion carbine in .54 cal. with a 21" round barrel. 
The breech consists of a breech block, frame, lock plate and side plate with a hinged lever which doubles as a trigger guard. The breech block rises vertically when the trigger guard/lever is lowered at which time a paper cartridge is inserted into the block from the front.









Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Springfield M1842 Musket has the distinction of being the first regulation percussion firearm manufactured in a national armory.




The Model 1842 musket was technically a continuation of the Model 1816 line of muskets but is generally referred to as its own model number rather than just a variant of the Model 1816.

A great emphasis was placed on manufacturing processes for the Model 1842.
The 275,000 muskets that were manufactured by Springfield Armory and Harpers Ferry from 1844 to 1855 were the first firearm manufactured at the U.S. Armories at Springfield and Harpers Ferry with completely interchangeable components. They were also the last .69 caliber, smoothbore musket issued by the U.S. Army. Some Model 1842 muskets were also made by private contractors. However, these were few in number. One of those contractors was A.H. Waters and B. Flagg & Co, of Millbury, Massachusetts. These were distinguished by having brass furniture instead of iron. Waters & Flagg went out of business due to a failure of contracts in New England.

Flagg then entered into a partnership with William Glaze of South Carolina at which time they relocated the machinery to the Palmetto Armory in Columbia, South Carolina. Most of the output of the Palmetto Armory went to the state militia of South Carolina. There were only 6,020 muskets produced on that contract and none manufactured after 1853.


Waters & Flagg M-1842



The Model 1842 musket was the primary infantry weapon of both the Union and Confederate Armies during the first two years of the Civil War. It was still carried in significant quantities by both armies as late as 1863 and was not fully replaced by the .58 caliber rifle-musket at the end of the war. 




Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Wesson 2nd Model breechloader would see service by both the North and South.


Frank Wesson and N.S. Harrington were granted patent 25,926, 'Improvement in Breech-Loading Fire-Arms' in 1859. The rifle is a “tip up” design with two triggers, the front trigger opened the rifle, the rear trigger fired it. Fired case extraction is manual by pulling the knob on the right side of the breech to the rear.


In 1862 Frank Wesson was granted a second patent 36,925, 'Improvement in Breech-Loading Fire-Arms' this patent which added the use of a slotted link to stop the barrel from pivoting too far, which made the gun much easier and quicker to load.




The carbine with a 24 inch barrel weighed only 6 pounds, low weight being desirable in a weapon to be carried by cavalry. They were manufactured between 1859 and 1888 in Worcester, Massachusetts and were one of the first rifles to use rimfire metallic cartridges.

As many as 8000 of these carbines are said to have been used by the military during the war. They were purchased by many state governments during the American Civil War, including Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, and Ohio. Many were purchased by individuals through a company called Kittredge & Co, of Cincinnati, Ohio, who have their name stamped on the barrel of these weapons. Purchases made directly from the factory were marked "Frank Wesson Worcester Mass.

The Wesson carbine was used primarily by the Union armies, as the Confederacy did not manufacture rim fire cartridges. However, in November 1862, the Confederacy did arrange for the smuggling of 10 Wesson rifles, and 5,000 cartridges to Texas, via Cuba. These rifles were smuggled by Harris Hoyt, who was later brought to trial in January 1865.

Some of the notable battles where Wesson carbines were in use are Battle of Gettysburg, Battle of Westport and Battle of Ezra Church. 












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Sunday, August 27, 2017

The English Tower Pattern 1856 Short Rifle saw service with both the North and South.


This ‘Short Rifle’ was manufactured in Birmingham, England, for export to the United States in 1862. The blued, iron, forearm tip, trigger guard and buttplate distinguish the Pattern 56 Short Rifle from the Pattern 53 Rifle-Musket which had brass furniture.

Popularly known, with British troops, as the "Sergeant's Rifle", the Pattern 56 Short Rifle was adopted by the British Army in 1856 and issued to the 60th Rifle Regiment, the Rifle Brigade and Sergeants in line infantry regiments. These light, handy, rifles were popular with troops.

During the Civil War, Pattern 56 Short Rifles were imported by both the United States and Confederate governments.
The Ordnance Department and northern state governments (notably Massachusetts) purchased approximately 8000 Pattern 56 Short Rifles during the Civil War. Approximately half of these rifles were imported by Colt and Schuyler Hartley & Graham.
By February 1863, the Confederacy had imported 9,715 Pattern 56 Short rifles from Great Britain.

In comparison with the more than 900,000 Pattern 1853, Enfield Rifle-Muskets imported for issue to the Union and Confederate Armies during the Civil War, Pattern 56 Short Rifles are seldom seen.



These rifles are stamped with three British export proof and view marks on either side of two "25" gauge marks. These are the correct view, proof and gauge markings for rifles and muskets exported from Great Britain to the United States during the Civil War.
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Sunday, August 20, 2017

Following the Civil War, the federal government was experimenting with adopting some form of breech loading rifle based on the experiences of the war.



Erskine Allin was the master armorer at Springfield, and he developed this conversion design based on utilizing the 1863 percussion rifles left over from the Civil War.

The conversion was designed to take advantage of the sizable quantity of muzzle loading Model 1863 Springfields that were stockpiled following the Civil War. The overall design and philosophy of the conversion (remove a section of the breech, mill a chamber into the barrel, install a hinged breech block) remained consistent through all produced versions of Allin's system.

The first models (left and above) retained the 58 caliber bore, a mechanically ingenious spring loaded extractor/ejector assembly; opening the breech extends a cam-driven extractor, while retracting an ejector pin mounted in the bottom of the cutout, and when the breech is fully opened the extractor snaps back and the pin strikes the extracted cartridge, ejecting it from the weapon.

The second model, 1865 (below), had a simplified and improved extractor and the barrels being relined and rifled to .50 caliber and chambered for the powerful centerfire .50-70 Government cartridge.




The conversions were significant and key to martial rifle development as it ushered in the trapdoor rifle series and actually brought the US military solidly into the breech loading era. 

Both conversions amounted to approximately 25,000 Springfield Model 1863 rifled muskets that were converted by Springfield Armory for use by U.S. troops.

Wm. Cody with a 2nd Model in his lap


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Trenton Locomotive and Machine Company Model 1861 rifle-musket.



The U.S. Model 1861 Springfield rifle musket was the primary infantry weapon of Federal Forces at the start of the Civil War. 
Springfield Armory could not keep up with the demand for muskets at the start of the war, and sub-contracted to a number of private manufacturers. 

On December 26, 1861, James T. Hodge and Addison M. Burt each received separate contracts calling for 50,000 Model 1861 rifle-muskets at $20.00 each. 
Shortly thereafter Burt approached Hodge with the suggestion of joining their respective arms-making venture, but without forming an actual partnership or corporation which would have voided their contracts. Both felt that a combined effort would prove highly beneficial. 

In mid-January of 1862, Burt and Hodge leased the extensive facilities of the well known Trenton Locomotive and Machine Company, Trenton, New Jersey, at which place they planned to fabricate the rifle-muskets of their respective contracts.

In the following May, Hodge and Burt requested that their contracts be reduced from 50,000 to 25,000 each. This request was approved and so ordered by P.V. Hagner of the U.S. Ordnance Department. 
In spite of the complete and extensive machinery and equipment at their disposal, neither contractor was able to deliver more than about half of their already reduced contracts. Mr. Burt delivered 11,495 rifle-muskets, and Mr. Hodge, 10,500. All were typical Model 1861's in all respects.

The 'Trenton' marked rifle-muskets are excellent examples of a wartime product manufactured through the facilities of what had been a successful peacetime operation, and exemplified the ability of Northern industry to retool for war production." - Reilly

"...many Trenton marked muskets were delivered to the State of New Jersey and perhaps to other states. In 1863 the legislature and governor of the State of New Jersey decided to purchase 10,000 stands of the Springfield rifled musket." - Hartzler, Yantz, Whisker.




Sources & References:
Springfield Armory Museum
Hartzler, Daniel D., Larry W. Yantz & James Biser Whisker. THE U.S. MODEL 1861 RIFLE-MUSKET. Tom Rowe Publications. 2000.
Reilly, Robert. U.S. MILITARY SMALL ARMS 1816-1865. The Eagle Press. Baton Rouge, La. 1970.


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Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Whitney Model 1861 "Plymouth" Rifle


February 7th, 1856, Commander John Dahlgren requested permission from the acting Chief of Bureau of Ordnance to develop a rifled musket, for Naval use, also to hold trials in order to determine the proper design for Naval service. The "Plymouth" rifle, named after the U.S.S. Plymouth, came into being, after several years of Dahlgren’s persistent efforts.

10,000 of these "Plymouth" rifles were manufactured between 1861 and at the 1864 Whitneyville Armory and Whitney Arms Company under contract with the U.S. Navy.


Dahlgren believed that the short 34” barrel and the .69 caliber was best suited for the Navy’s requirements than the standard 40’ barreled .54 caliber adopted by the Army. The short barrel was better for climbing in and out of small boats, climbing up masts to the ships fighting tops and for boarding and landing actions. The large .69 heavy ball could deal with a ship’s wooden bulwarks plus the larger bore was more amenable to buckshot. He felt buckshot would be better suited for close quarter fighting that sailors would likely be confronted with.

He had little concern about the extra weight of the .69 caliber rifle and ammunition since sailors acting as naval infantry would not normally be called on to make long marches.
Dahlgren also wanted to employ more precise sights suitable for ship to ship sniping. Last but by no means least was the Collins & Company saber type bayonets used only on this model.

The rifles saw use on various U.S Navy warships during the war and were highly sought after. A commanding officer reportedly requested Plymouth rifles in exchange for the Spencer rifles his crew was issued because the harder hitting Plymouth with its distinctive saber bayonet was more useful than the Spencer's rapid fire at close range hand to hand fighting.
Variations are found throughout the Plymouth rifle contract due to Whitney's penchant for using leftover parts from other weapon production runs.







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