23rd MASS Marked P-1853 Enfield Rifle Musket
- Product Code: FLA-1600-SOLD
- Availability: Out Of Stock
This is a wonderful example of a scarce Massachusetts marked P-1853 Enfield Rifle Musket, as used by the 23rd Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. The musket is marked 23D MASS on the left side of the buttstock and is company & solider marked on the brass buttplate tang: A 7. This would indicate the gun was issued to solider #7 of Company A of the 23rd Massachusetts Infantry regiment. While it is difficult to be absolutely sure who appeared on line 7 of the Company Descriptive Book of Co A, 23rd Mass, it appears to have been a soldier named Joseph Blake. Blake is the 7th name listed alphabetically in the roster of Company A, 23rd Mass Infantry and the gun was more than likely issued to him sometime after he joined the regiment in September of 1861. The gun was almost assuredly one of the guns purchased by Francis B Crowninshield on the authority of Governor John Andrew of the state of Massachusetts. Crowninshield was appointed by Andrew to procure 25,000 stands of arms and related equipment for the state in April of 1861. Crowinshield arrived in England on May 6, 1861 and during his visit managed to procure approximately 19,000 Enfield rifle muskets and about 10,000 sets of accoutrements. Crowinshield was competing with US and CS arms purchasers, as well as various other state representatives. In the end, he managed to procure or contract for about 15,000 P-1853 rifle muskets directly from various Birmingham arms makers, and purchased an additional 1,000 from the State of New York. Crowninshield managed to place an additional order for nearly 6,000 Enfields the following year. These arms were issued to the 2nd, 7th, 10th, 12th, 13th, 16th, 19th, 20th, 21st, 22nd, 23rd, 25th, 27th & 28th Massachusetts Infantry Regiments. The state directed that the arms were to be marked by the regiment with the regimental number, company letter and soldier number. The style of markings appears to have varied by regiment, as 28th Mass guns are known with all of the markings on the buttplate tang, typically with the Company Letter / 28th MASS / Soldier #. Apparently the 23rd placed their regimental mark in the wood of the buttstock, with the Company Letter & Soldier # on the tang of the buttplate. This might explain the scarcity of Massachusetts marked Enfields; with 25,000 guns purchased, they ought to be found more often than they are. The regimental markings in the wood could easily be worn or obscured, leaving only the Letter / Number marks on the buttplate that do appear on Enfields with some regularity, but with no indication as to what regiment the gun may have been issued to. The 23rd Mass Infantry was organized on September 28, 1861 and spent much of their service in North Carolina area, initially serving there as part of Burnside’s Expedition to Hatteras Inlet and Roanoke Island. After seeing active service in that area, the 23rd moved back to the Richmond area in mid-1864 and took part in the battle of Cold Harbor and proceeded to be involved with the Petersburg Campaign through the summer of 1864. At that point they returned to their service in North Carolina and were mustered out on June 25, 1865. Joseph Blake was a 22-year-old tanner from Daversport, MA who enlisted on October 25, 1861 and was mustered into Company A of the 23rd Mass Infantry. He was promoted to Corporal on August 17, 1863 and was mustered out of the service on October 13, 1864. A small binder of historical information about the 23rd Mass Infantry and Joseph Blake is included with the musket.
This 23D MASS marked P-1853 Enfield Rifle Musket is in about VERY GOOD ATTIC condition, and is completely fresh to the market. The gun has a deep, dark chocolate brown patina over all of the iron components, and dark mustard patina on the brass furniture. The gun is complete and retains both of the original sling swivels and the original rear site. The ramrod is an original M-1861 Special Model or M-1863 straight shank rod that has clearly been with the musket for a very long time and has a perfectly matching patina. The rod is almost certainly a period replacement and has been cut to 39” (from its original 40” length) and has been re-threaded at the end for cleaning implements. The lock and hammer show moderate pitting over their entire surface, and the (CROWN) mark to the rear of the hammer and the 1861 / TOWER markings forward of the hammer are somewhat faint due to the pitting. The lock still functions correctly on all positions, with the hammer holding at both half and full cock and responding to the trigger as it should. The dark brown barrel shows light to moderate pitting in the breech and bolster area, which becomes light peppering and pin pricking forward of the rear site all the way to the muzzle. The Birmingham commercial proof marks on the left side of the breech are partially obscured by the pitting in the breech area. As is typical of Birmingham manufactured arms, the gun shows many maker and assembly marks on the interior surfaces. The bottom of the barrel is marked JR COOPER for Birmingham gun maker Joseph Rock Cooper, who operated during the Civil War era at Woodcock Street and 77 Baggott Street (1859-1863). The bottom of the barrel is marked with the assembly marks K 17, 11 Y, the initials JB (Joseph Bourne perhaps) and the matching assembly number 141 on the bottom of the breech and the bottom of the breech plug. The inside of the barrel channel is marked by stock maker J COLESBY. Joseph Colesby operated in Birmingham as a stock maker at 28 “ Sheep Street in the late 1850’s and early 1860’s. The barrel channel is also marked K 17, matching the mark under the barrel and as well as CB 7. Unfortunately, I could not remove the lock for examination of the interior for maker marks, as the rear most lock mounting screw has a damaged head and cannot be removed without using vise grips or other means that will likely damage the screw. The gun has a dark and dirty bore, with visible rifling and pitting the entire length of the barrel. The middle and upper barrel bands retain the original screw protecting & retaining “doughnuts”, but the rear most band has lost that protector from the end of the tension screw. The stock is in about FINE overall condition and retains sharp edges and crisp lines. As previously mentioned, the 23D MASS mark on the left butt stock is crisp and clear. There is also a less defined mark on the top of the stock in front of the buttplate. This appears to be an I S (or possibly S I in a small circle. This is similar to the small circular mark seen with the Confederate CH / 1 mark and the script J S mark. It could be a block J S, but appears to be an I S. A nearly identical mark was noticed on the stock of the 28th MASS marked Enfield that I sold recently. This once again raises the question as to whether this block letter mark in a circle is a Confederate mark (indicating Massachusetts use of captured CS arms) or rather a mark indicating US purchase “ and possibly Massachusetts state purchase. More samples will need to be examined to draw more confident conclusions. The stock is full length and solid with no breaks or repairs. It does show a significant number of bumps, dings and minor wear marks over its entire length. The wood to metal fit is excellent and the stock had a nice dark tone that matches the patina of the metal very well.
Overall this is a really lovely example of a scarce Crowninshield purchased, Massachusetts regimentally marked Enfield Rifle Musket. Further research into Company A of the 23rd Mass should be able to verify that the musket was issued to Joseph Blake. Regimentally marked Enfields are scarce and this is a lovely, untouched and fresh to the market example that any collector would be glad to add to their collection.