Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Henry Rifle

Colonel Allen L. Fahnestock

This Henry lever-action rifle, manufactured in January 1864 by the New Haven Arms Company, was one of an 800 rifle contract for the U.S. Ordnance Department. Most of the 800 Henry rifles purchased under this contract went to arm the 1st District of Columbia Cavalry regiment.

The 1st D.C. Cavalry was the only Federal unit that was completely equipped with Henry rifles during the Civil War. In May 1864 it was assigned to Kautz's Cavalry Division, Department of Virginia and North Carolina and remained part of that division for the remainder of the Civil War. Many of the Henry rifles issued to the 1st D.C. cavalry were lost in action during 1864 and a number of these rifles were known to have been captured by Confederate forces.

In March 1865 the Henry was issued to 3rd U.S. Veteran Volunteer Infantry Regiment (3rd VVI). The 3rd VVI rifles were part of a group of Henry, Sharps and Spencer rifles purchased by the Ordnance Department to arm four VVI regiments of the Veteran Volunteer Corps raised in early 1865. These regiments were composed of veteran soldiers armed with the most advanced firearms who would serve as an elite infantry unit. As an incentive for enlistment, the VVI soldiers were authorized to retain their rifles when they mustered out of Federal service. The VVI regiments were organized too late to see any significant action.