Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Confederate Cook & Brother Rifles

Late 1860 or early 1861, the brothers Ferdinand and Francis Cook established the Nashua Iron Company for the production of arms. This company was established on Canal Street in New Orleans proper. According to the Cooks, the firm was established to prove “that rifles could be made here as well as in Yankee land or in Europe.”

Not very long after establishing this new manufactory, the name was changed to Cook & Brother and would remain so through the rest of the war. Initially the firm concentrated on the manufacture of “short rifles” based upon the English Pattern 1856 rifle. Early orders included rifles for the “Sunflower Guards” (Company I, 21st Mississippi Volunteer Infantry) and for the state of Alabama, which ordered 1,000 Cook rifles. While the company clearly focused on producing “Enfield pattern” rifles and bayonets, it also manufactured a small number of carbines and musketoons (also based on “Enfield” patterns) before the Federal capture of New Orleans forced the Cook brothers to relocate. It is believed that firm produced about 1,000 rifles and 200 cavalry carbines in New Orleans, prior to their forced evacuation in April of 1862.

The Cooks took as much machinery, finished parts and raw materials as they could and escaped by river to Vicksburg, MS and then traveled by wagon to Selma, AL. Here they completed another 1,000 rifles still using the New Orleans lock markings.

In early 1863, they again moved, this time to Athens, GA and established their new factory there. With the many finished parts on hand they were able to assemble completed arms prior to the factory really being up and running. The new manufactory was up and running by mid 1863, but in addition to making rifles there was new emphasis on producing carbines and musketoons. Here they continued to manufacture arms until August of 1864, at which time the Confederate Government could no longer afford to pay them. Athens production is estimated at 5000 rifles and a like number of carbines.

As stated above the Cook & Brother Rifle was based upon the British made Enfield Pattern 1856 “Short Rifle”. The Cook rifle followed the general profile of the British made guns, and were similar in size, barrel length and caliber. Both had 33” barrels and nominal overall lengths around 48”. (carbines 21" barrels)

The British rifle was .577 caliber (25 bore) and the Cook rifle was nominally .58 caliber. 
Like the British made rifles, the Cook was rifled with three lands and grooves.  
Also, like the British rifle, the Cook variant used a jag-head ramrod, threaded at the end for implements to be used in cleaning and extracting unfired bullets. 
While the British rifle was iron mounted, the Cook rifle utilized cheaper and easier to manufacture brass furniture for the buttplate, trigger guard and nose cap. The Cook rifle even used brass for the barrel bands and sling swivels, unlike the British guns whose barrel bands were iron. 
Another primary difference between the rifles was that the Cook utilized a fixed rear sight on most of their guns rather than the adjustable leaf sight found on the British made guns.


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