The M-1855 Joslyn Carbine, known today by collectors as the Monkey Tail carbine, was the first of a series of Civil War era firearms to be designed and patented Benjamin Franklin Joslyn of Worcester, Massachusetts.
In 1855 Joslyn had filed for and received his first firearms related patent. The patent, issued August 23, 1855, was for a percussion breechloading carbine.
The gun had a 22 ½” round barrel, secured to the stock with a single brass barrel band and screws in the breechblock. The carbine was .54 caliber and utilized a nitrated paper cartridge.
Operation was by pushing the large oval ring at the rear of the action forward, this unlocked the breech lever and allowed it to be swung upward exposing the breech for loading.
A long pin at the rear of the breech lever actuated a trigger safety mechanism that locked the trigger and prevented it from releasing the hammer, even if it was cocked, while the breech was open. This system prevented accidental discharges while the breech was open, and only allowed the trigger to work while the breech was securely closed.
Once that Joslyn had a design and a patent, he only needed two more things: a way to manufacture his new carbine and customers for it, preferably the US military. Joslyn subsequently approached Asa H. Waters Firearms Company of Millbury, Massachusetts to manufacture his carbine and then hired William C. Freeman of New York City to help market and distribute the design.
Freeman was apparently well connected with the US Ordnance Department and managed to arrange for Joslyn’s design to be included in the 1857 and 1858 Army Board Trials for breechloading arms. While the Joslyn did not win the trials, it came in second to the Burnside design, it did well enough for Joslyn to receive an order for 1,200 carbines. The Navy was apparently impressed as well, and they further ordered 500 of the guns as long barreled rifles, with a saber bayonet lug under the barrel. While it appears that all of the carbines ordered by the Army were delivered, it is generally believed that only about 200 of the rifles were ever manufactured. Some arms historians theorize that the balance of the Navy order was filled with remaining carbines on hand.
The carbines seem to have seen the most field use with Ohio volunteer cavalry regiments, with the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 6th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry all receiving “monkey tail” carbines.
This blog is filled with interesting weapons from the 19th Century so be sure to look through the "Blog Archive".