Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Civil War Era Grosz Altered M-1841 Rifle

Image result for m 1841 musket

At the outbreak of the Civil War, the New York State legislature authorized the mustering in of 30,000 volunteers for the state militiaThe state had already set about updating their arsenal of weapons. One of their first steps was to issued a contract to Remington to upgrade 5000 of their existing, Remington made, M-1841 “Mississippi” rifles. This upgrade consisted of converting them from .54 to .58 caliber, replacing the ramrod with a one-piece one better suited for .58 caliber Minie balls as opposed to .54 round patched balls, and adding a bayonet lug of the 1855 type with no rails for the 1855 style saber bayonet made by Collins & Co. of Connecticut. (the M-1841 had no provision for fixing a bayonet)

Due to the inability of Collins & Co. to deliver enough bayonets, Remington had to end the contract early, after only having delivered 3,268 rifles so converted.

New York state then turned to a NYC gunsmith named F.H. Grosz to complete the contract. City directories listed a Frederick H. Grosz as smith and whitesmith located at 43-45 Greene Street.

This rifle is one of 1,600 Remington M-1841 Rifles altered by F.H. Grosz.

The Grosz alterations feature a turned down barrel muzzle with a small square bayonet stud added to the underside near the muzzle and a repositioned blade front sight behind the turn-down area. This alteration allows the barrel to accept the Model 1842 socket bayonet. The Grosz rifles retained the .54 caliber. All the rifles in the New York state contract with Grosz, were delivered by December 1861.

Some of these rifles are known to have been issued to Federal units and N.Y. 7th, 10th, 12th, and 192nd Regiments.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Robinson/Richmond Sharps Carbine

Fashioned after the Robins & Lawrence, Hartford-made M-1859 Sharps, which were being used used by mounted Federal troops, these S. C. Robinson, Richmond-made firearms were quite serviceable and were much sought-after.

Among collectors there is a lot of speculation, with little documentation, as to the number of carbines that were manufactured.

It is felt that in 1862/1863 S.C. Robinson manufactured an estimated 1900 copies of the carbine for the Confederacy. In March 1863 the Confederate government purchased the Robinson factory and manufactured an estimated 3000 additional carbines. 

The carbine generally resembles the Model 1859 Sharps Carbine but has some significant differences; (1) the barrel has a tapered iron front sight, (2) the rear sight is a fixed V-notch, (3) there is no provision for a pellet primer, (4) the lock plate has a low profile, (5) the sling bar is attached to an iron plate inletted into the left side of the stock and the edge of the receiver and (6) the stock does not have a patch box. The forearm has a brass barrel band. 
Workmanship on Robinson and Richmond Sharps carbines typically lacked the refinements found on Hartford Sharps carbines. The Robinson/Richmond Sharps carbines were important Confederate weapons. Original examples are rare and inevitably display the effects of hard wartime service.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Confederate Bilharz, Hall ML Carbine

Late 1863/early 1864 the Bilharz, Hall & Company of Pittsylvania Courthouse Virginia received a contract from the Confederate States for a cavalry carbine similar to the Springfield Model 1855 carbine.

Why this particular pattern of musketoon was chosen as the basis for the Bilharz, Hall & Company guns is not known, but the design of the Confederate carbine generally conformed to the overall appearance of its pre-war US counterpart the US M-1855 Springfield, with some minor changes.

The gun was iron mounted with the exception of a *brass nose cap and instead of the conventional carbine sling bar and ring on the stock opposite the lock, a sling ring was secured to the rear of the trigger guard bow. The carbine retained the iron-mounted design with a swivel ramrod, but dispensed with the adjustable rear sight, opting for a simple fixed one. The 22” barrel was .58 caliber, making it compatible with the .577 and .58 ammunition used by most of the Confederate infantry. The Bilharz carbines initially utilized a brass nose cap like their US counterparts, but after about 350 were manufactured the *brass piece was replaced with a pewter nose cap that remained in use through the end of the manufacturing period. It is generally believed that the Confederate War Department agreed to purchase 1,000 of these carbines from Bilharz, and it is believed that between 500 and 750 were finally completed.


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Alsop Percussion Revolvers


The Alsop is one of the rarer of secondary martial US percussion revolvers, with an interesting lineage. The Alsop Navy percussion revolver was based on patents granted to Charles R. Alsop, and was produced in the Middletown, CT factory of his father, Joseph Alsop Sr. The revolver was based on patents granted to Charles R. Alsop and Charles H. Alsop, Joseph’s sons.

Charles R. Alsop was granted eight firearms related patents during his career, including four related to revolvers (2 in 1860, 1 in 1861 and 1 in 1862). Charles H. received only two firearms patents, one related to revolvers in 1861 and one for a breechloading firearm in 1868.

At first glance, there are clearly some similarities between the Alsop Navy and the Savage revolver. Likely due to the fact that members of the Alsop family were listed as members of the Savage Revolving Firearms corporation in the Savage incorporation papers, so it makes sense that some design similarities exist between the revolvers of the two firms.
Both have an awkwardly shaped grip, with an odd hump or spur near the top of it. They both have center-hung hammers that ignite the percussion cap through the top of the frame of the revolver. Approximately 500 Alsop Navy revolvers were produced, likely all in 1862. The first 100 were produced with a fluted cylinder and a frame mounted safety and the following 400 were produced without the safety and a non-fluted cylinder. There were also about 300 pocket revolvers were manufactured around 1862 to 1863.
I find no mention of Alsop submitting revolvers to the U.S. Ordnance Board so I assume the revolvers were all sold to the civilian market. 

The Alsop featured a complicated and somewhat fragile single action lock work. The cylinder engages a rotating plate at its rear that indexes the cylinder. This system is similar to the system used on some of the Allen & Wheelock side hammer

Pocket Model Alsop

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Warner Carbine

The Warner Carbine is an example of the many styles of innovative, breechloading, metallic cartridge arms that were procured in relatively small numbers by the US Ordnance Department during the American Civil War.
The brainchild of James Warner of Springfield, Massachusetts. Warner received two patents related to his newly designed carbine and after submitting samples to the Ordnance Department he was awarded a contract of 1,501 carbines. These carbines were manufactured for him by the Springfield Arms Company and delivery was completed June 23, 1864.
Apparently the Ordnance Department was sufficiently satisfied with the initial deliveries that in in the latter part of 1864 they contracted for 2,500 more of the guns. This second contract was manufactured by the Greene Rifle Works.
All told, Warner delivered a total of 4,001 carbines to the Ordnance Department in 15 months, a feat not matched by many patent arms manufactures that contracted with the US government during the Civil War.

The Warner carbine holds the distinction of being the only brass frame single shot carbine that was purchased by the Ordnance Department during the war.
The carbines produced by Springfield were in the original .50 Warner caliber, but the guns produced by Greene were in the newly adopted .50 Government rimfire caliber (.50 Spencer or 56-50).
The unique action featured a hinged breechblock that is opened by depressing a latch, on the left of the hammer and swinging the block clockwise. The extractor is manual and located on the underside of the forend. It had the typical carbine 20” round iron barrel.
The majority of the Warner carbines were issued to two US volunteer cavalry regiments, the 1st Wisconsin Cavalry and the 3rd Massachusetts Cavalry.


Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Confederate Kerr Revolver

With the outbreak of the American Civil War, the Confederacy's, primary purchasing agent in England, Caleb Huse, engaged the London Armory Company to produce all of the Kerr’s Patent revolvers that they could for delivery to the South. It is believed that nearly all of the London Armory’s output of Kerr revolvers from April of 1861 through the close of the Civil War were produced on contract for the Confederacy. However these weapons had to pass through the Union blockade and the number that actually reached the Confederacy is unknown.

Based upon the extant examples with Confederate provenance or marks, which exist in the 1,500 to about the 10,500 serial number range, about 9,000 pistols were produced and shipped to the South during that time. (although a handful of legitimate CS inspected Kerr’s do exist in the 7XX to 1,5XX range).
To date, at least three separate Confederate government contracts have been identified for the purchase of Kerr revolvers. Two were army contracts, and one was a 1,000-gun contract for the Confederate Navy, dated August 6, 1861.
Many of the army contract Kerr revolvers were financed through the Charleston, SC based firm of Fraser, Trenholm & Company and delivered by their subsidiary John Fraser & Company. A minimum of 3,160 Kerr revolvers were delivered directly to Confederate arsenals by Fraser. In addition to the 3 government contracts, an unknown number of Kerr’s Patent revolvers were acquired speculatively for sale privately.
As a result of the contracts, London Armoury Company became almost completely dependent on sales to the Confederacy. The company would dissolve in the Spring of 1866, only a year after the end of the war.

The five-shot Kerr revolver, while appearing to be a double-action handgun, is actually a single-action revolver that requires thumb-cocking for firing, but pulling the trigger would rotate the cylinder. This was a byproduct of the cylinder locking system, which relied on a pivoting arm that was actuated by the trigger. This arm locked the cylinder in place when the gun was fired. This was very different from the standard spring-loaded cylinder stop found in frames of most American made revolvers. This system also eliminated the need to machine stop slots in the cylinder, as the rear face of cylinder was where the arm locked it into position.

The Kerr also featured a unique, frame mounted cylinder arbor that was removed from the rear of the pistol (much like on the Colt side hammer, aka “Root” designs), instead of the more common location at the front of the cylinder. This made the pistol easier and safer to manipulate when the cylinder had to be removed from the pistol.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Keen, Walker “Tilting Breech” Carbine

Pittsylvania County, Virginia seems to have been a hot-spot, during the course of the Civil War, for a number of little known Confederate manufactured arms. 
Danville was the location of two Confederate arms making companies, Keen, Walker & Company and Read & Watson. 
Just a few miles to the north, in Pittsylvania Courthouse, Bilharz, Hall & Company would be established. 
Keen, Walker and Bilharz, Hall would both produce limited quantities of unique breechloading carbines. 
Read & Watson would spend their energies altering pre-war US made breechloading Hall rifles for Confederate use. 

The Keen, Walker “Tilting Breech” carbine was a percussion ignition carbine that had a 22 inch round, .54 caliber iron rifled barrel. From outward appearances, it looks quite similar to the 1st Model Maynard carbine, with a very narrow, flat wood stock, small frame and a round barrel without a forend. The lever that operates the action of the carbine, and doubles as its trigger guard, also has a distinctly “Maynard” like appearance.
The operation of the gun is more like that of the Perry carbine, as lowering the lever tilts the breechblock down in the rear, raising the front of the breechblock and exposing the chamber for loading.   

One has to believe that these characteristics were the influences of which lead to the Keen,Walker design. 

The first delivery of the Keen, Walker & Company Tilting Breech Carbines was on 5/10/1862, 101 of the carbines submitted to the Danville Arsenal. A second delivery of 100 carbines 9/3/1862 and 81 more 9/16/1862. With a production of only 282 of the guns.
The Keen, Walker & Company ceased to exist in 1863.

See my previous post on the Bilharz, Hall carbine. HERE

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Spiller & Burr Revolver

In 1861 as the Confederacy attempted to arm itself. Several armories and factories were created in the South to help meet these needs. One such factory which was created, at the suggestion of the Confederate government, was the Spiller & Burr factory in Richmond, Virginia. It was a joint effort Edward N. Spiller and David J. Burr plus small arms expert Lt. Col. James H. Burton.

The Confederate Chief of Ordnance granted, the private manufacturing firm of Spiller & Burr, a contract to manufacture 15,000 revolvers over two and one half years for the Confederate cavalry. The contract called for a .36 caliber Navy revolver, Colt's model. Colt's Navy revolver had been adopted by the Confederate government as a standard revolver, but Lt. Col. Burton felt another type of revolver was superior to Colt's.
Burton selected the Second model Whitney revolver as a model arm for Spiller & Burr.
Burton based his decision on the merits of the Whitney performance, stability, design, and ease of construction. This model was in production at the Whitneyville factory outside of New Haven, Connecticut in 1861. Burton adapted this pattern in its entirety except for a few minor substitutions.

Due to material shortages, the Southern Whitney differed in two ways. Brass was to be substituted for iron in the fabrication of the lock frame, and iron was to be substituted for steel in the fabrication of the cylinder. Strength was added to the iron cylinders by heating and then twisting the round bars of iron. This process prevented any single chamber from being in parallel alignment with any fault lines in the bar iron.
Shortly after getting started the Spiller & Burr factory moved from Richmond to Atlanta, Georgia. In Atlanta, the company encountered difficulty producing the revolvers in quantity due to a shortage of labor and problems with raw materials and the factory was sold to the Confederate government and moved to the Confederate States Armory in Macon, Georgia.
By war's end slightly more than 1,500 revolvers fabricated, fulfilling only one tenth the number called for in the original contract.

The Spiller & Burr had a solid brass frame, an octagonal barrel, which was rounded off at the muzzle, was screwed into the frame. The loading lever was held adjacent to the barrel with a spring and ball type catch. The rammer entered the frame, which had been angle cut to allow insertion of powder and ball. 
The grip straps were integral with the frame. An oval capping groove was cut out of the right recoil shield. 

A thumb bolt was located on the left side, which when turned properly would allow the removal of the cylinder axis-pin.

A rear sight groove was cut in the top strap.

Updated 8/3/2016

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Confederate Morse Carbine

This unusual breech loading brass frame carbine was of a design invented by George W. Morse.

Manufactured in 1862/1863 era at the State Military Works in Greenville, SC. They were made using some of the machinery that was captured from the U.S. Arsenal at Harpers Ferry in 1861. Less than 1,000 of these carbines were made during the Civil War. There were also rifles produced.

The carbine has a 20” round barrel in .50 caliber, with an upward tilting breechblock. The elongated frame is of brass along with all other furniture. The trigger guard is cast integral with the frame with a small looped grip behind. Stocks were of butternut. Iron cleaning rod with segmented circular tip is housed beneath the barrel. 

There seems to be some confusion as to model changes of the Morse. Collectors feel there were two and possibility three models made with only minor changes being made. Some of these changes were with the breech block latch and hammer spur. You will note that the photos show two different hammer profiles. 

Confusion here also. Calibers that have been stated .50, .52 and .54 all of which were of some metallic cartridge variety. This may also account for the model changes?

Most of the Morse carbines were issued to the South Carolina Militia; with limited numbers of the carbines issued to other Confederate forces.

As a side note, George W Morse was a nephew of Samuel F.B. Morse, inventor of the telegraph.