Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Whitney Model 1861 "Plymouth" Rifle

February 7th, 1856, Commander John Dahlgren requested permission from the acting Chief of Bureau of Ordnance to develop a rifled musket, for Naval use, also to hold trials in order to determine the proper design for Naval service. The "Plymouth" rifle, named after the U.S.S. Plymouth, came into being, after several years of Dahlgren’s persistent efforts.

10,000 of these "Plymouth" rifles were manufactured between 1861 and at the 1864 Whitneyville Armory and Whitney Arms Company under contract with the U.S. Navy.

Dahlgren believed that the short 34” barrel and the .69 caliber was best suited for the Navy’s requirements than the standard 40’ barreled .54 caliber adopted by the Army. The short barrel was better for climbing in and out of small boats, climbing up masts to the ships fighting tops and for boarding and landing actions. The large .69 heavy ball could deal with a ship’s wooden bulwarks plus the larger bore was more amenable to buckshot. He felt buckshot would be better suited for close quarter fighting that sailors would likely be confronted with.

He had little concern about the extra weight of the .69 caliber rifle and ammunition since sailors acting as naval infantry would not normally be called on to make long marches.
Dahlgren also wanted to employ more precise sights suitable for ship to ship sniping. Last but by no means least was the Collins & Company saber type bayonets used only on this model.

The rifles saw use on various U.S Navy warships during the war and were highly sought after. A commanding officer reportedly requested Plymouth rifles in exchange for the Spencer rifles his crew was issued because the harder hitting Plymouth with its distinctive saber bayonet was more useful than the Spencer's rapid fire at close range hand to hand fighting.
Variations are found throughout the Plymouth rifle contract due to Whitney's penchant for using leftover parts from other weapon production runs.

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