On March 25, 1856 Ambrose E. Burnside was awarded patent # 14490 for the .54 caliber breech loading Burnside carbine design. For the next several years the Burnside carbine went through a number of design improvements, mainly in the breech system, until the Fifth Pattern was perfected. The Burnside Rifle Company produced about 44,000 Fifth Pattern carbines from 1861 to 1865.
Roughly 55,500 Burnside carbines of all models were produced and delivered to the US government, making it the 3rd most used carbine model of the Civil War.
The carbine used a unique tapered cartridge with a foil or brass case and was ignited by a traditional percussion cap.
A 1863-64 survey of some 185 US military officers rated the Burnside as follows: 17 – Best, 125 – Good, 12 – Fair, 28 – Poor and it was rated “worthless” by 3 officers. This meant that 77% of those officers surveyed had a positive opinion of the gun.
Some of the cavalry regiments that received the Burnside as part of their supply of small arms were the 1st Michigan, 3rd Indiana, 5th, 6th & 7th Ohio, 3rd West Virginia, 14th & 18th Pennsylvania, 14th & 21st New York and the 2nd, 12th, 14th & 16th Illinois and 4th Wisconsin Cavalry.