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46th MASS Marked M-1841 Mississippi Rifle

46th MASS Marked M-1841 Mississippi Rifle

  • Product Code: FLA-2860-SOLD
  • Availability: Out Of Stock
  • $1.00

This is a VERY GOOD+ to NEAR FINE example of a US M-1841 Drake Alteration Mississippi Rifle unit marked to the 46th Massachusetts Infantry. This rifle was produced by the Robbins & Lawrence manufacturing company of Windsor, VT. Some 66,500 US M-1841 Mississippi Rifles were manufactured by contractors for the US government, with Whitney providing the largest number of the guns. Robbins & Lawrence was the second largest provider, producing 15,000 guns between 1848 and 1853. Their output represents about 22.5% of the total contractor production. The National Armory at Harper’s Ferry produced another 25,296 of the rifles, taking the total production to 91,796 rifles. As such, Robbins & Lawrence guns account for about 16% of total US M-1841 Mississippi Rifle production. Other makers who produced Mississippi Rifles included E. Remington & Sons (10,000), Robbins, Kendall & Lawrence (10,000), Tryon (5,000) and Eli Whitney Jr. (26,500). With the coming of the Civil War, many of the M-1841 Mississippi Rifles in storage in state arsenals were re-furbished and altered, and then issued to troops serving both the North and the South. During the alteration process, most were modified to accept some form of bayonet, with most being modified to accept a number of different brass handled saber bayonet patterns. Only a small portion of the altered rifles were modified to accept a socket bayonet. Many of the guns were further enhanced with new, long-range rear sights, and these sights often dictated the addition of new front sights as well. Many of the rifles were also re-bored to .58 caliber, allowing them to use the same ammunition issued for use with the M-1861 Springfield and P-1853 Enfield rifle muskets.

With the coming of the Civil War in April of 1861, the state of Massachusetts had some 560 US M-1841 Rifles in their state inventory. These guns were a mixtures of Harpers Ferry and Whitney produced arms, and according to state records, 558 had been altered to accept saber bayonets, and all of the Harpers Ferry arms were “long range” rifles, probably guns that had been altered at Harpers Ferry for the use of saber bayonets and equipped with long range rear sights. Sometime in the second half of 1861, the state of Massachusetts received an additional 4,000 US M-1841 Rifles from the US government. These were identified as “Windsor” rifles, indicating that they were Robbins & Lawrence produced arms, and were all in their original .54 caliber configuration with fixed sights and no provision to accept a bayonet. It appears that Massachusetts agreed to alter these guns to accept bayonets and then transfer them to other states, in return for keeping some of the guns for their own use. Before the end of 1861, a total of 2,161 of these rifles were transferred from the state of Massachusetts to the State of Maine (1,000 with sword bayonets), the State of New Hampshire (961, without bayonets) and to General Butler at the New England Ordnance Department (200), where they were altered to the Linder breechloading system. In early 1862, the state of Massachusetts contracted with A.J. Drake & Company to alter the balance of the Robbins & Lawrence rifles (1839 of them) to “long range” models with a long-range rear sight, new front sight and a long, angular (socket) bayonet which is now known to collectors as the “Drake” bayonet. A small portion of those guns (97) and 6 additional M-1841 rifles from state stores were subsequently altered to Linder patent breechloaders as well. A total of 1,984 long bladed socket bayonets were ordered from Drake to go with the 1,845 altered rifles, giving the state 139 “spare” bayonets to replace lost or broken ones. The Drake alteration included the installation of a long-range rear sight, similar to the US 1858 pattern sight, and the attachment musket style combination front sight/bayonet lug. The barrels were not turned down to accept bayonets for .69 or .58 caliber muskets, so the sockets of the Drake contract bayonets are exceptionally large, in order to fit the thick M-1841 rifle barrel. The rifles were left in their original .54 caliber configuration and no additional modifications were performed. It appears that nearly all of the Drake altered M-1841 rifles were issued to the 46th and 51st Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.

This particular Robbins & Lawrence contract US M-1841 Drake Alteration Mississippi Rifle is in about VERY GOOD+ to NEAR FINE condition. The brass buttplate tang is marked in the usual way for the 46th Massachusetts Infantry, in three horizontal lines: CO. G / MASS 46 / 7. This indicates that this rifle was issued to Company G of the 46th Massachusetts Infantry and was gun number 7, which typically meant that it was issued to the 7th man on the alphabetical roster for Company G. In this case, the 7th man on Company G’s roster was Edward Bliss of Brimfield, MA. Edward was a typical Civil War recruit, in that his occupation was that of a farmer. However, he was atypical in that he enlisted at the age of 32. Edward bliss was born on June 17, 1830 and spent his life in Brimfield as a farmer. The 1860 Census showed that he owned $500 worth of real estate, but no other wealth was noted. On August 20, 1862 Bliss enlisted in the Union Army, and on October 15, 1862 he was mustered into Company G of the 46th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. The 46th was a 9-month regiment that spent most of its service in North Carolina. After officially mustering in, they were quickly sent to New Bern, NC. They participated in the Goldsboro Expedition in December of 1862, operating against the Wilmington & Goldsboro railroad, and fighting at Kinston, Whitehall and Goldsboro. They remained in the New Bern area through the spring of 1863, fighting skirmishes as Deep Gulley, New Bern, Kinston, Gum Swamp, and Bachelor’s Creek. In June the regiment was moved from Fortress Monroe to Baltimore to join with the Union Army of the Potomac, was assigned to the 1st Corps. They participated in the pursuit of Lee’s Army after the Battle of Gettysburg, and at the end of July were sent to Boston, and then Springfield, MA, where they were mustered out on July 29, 1863. The regiment lost 1 man killed in action and 35 to disease during their 9 -months of service. Edward Bliss mustered out in Springfield with the rest of his regiment and returned to his life as Brimfield farmer. He was a member of G.A.R. Post #173 in Sturbridge, MA, and lived to the age of 73, dying on December 27, 1903.

As noted previously, the rifle is in VERY GOOD+ to NEAR FINE. The rifle is clearly marked on the lock in four horizontal lines, forward of the hammer: ROBBINS / & / LAWRENCE / U.S. and in two vertical lines behind the hammer: WINDSOE VT / 1850. The date on the barrel tang is quite legible and shows the matching date 1850. The breech is crisply and clearly marked with a correct set of inspectors marks for a Robbins & Lawrence contract guns: U.S. / SM / P. There are no visible cartouches on the stock flat opposite the lock. The brass buttplate is marked on the top with a crisp U.S to the rear of the buttplate screw, as well as with the 46th MASS regimental markings already discussed. The lock is relatively crisp, fully functional and appears mechanically excellent. The lock appears to have been cleaned and retains no case coloring. It is a medium silver color, with crisp markings and some lightly scattered freckles of surface age oxidation and some light pinpricking. The metal of the rifle is in very nice condition and appears to retain much of its original (or at least a period) brown finish. It has a pleasing, smooth chocolate color over the entire barrel that shows some freckled age oxidation mixed with the brown finish and age thinning and wear. The color looks quite correct when viewed with the naked eye under normal light, and under strong photographic lighting, with a good lens, the age, thinning and wear is quite apparent. If the barrel is refinished, it was done a very long time ago and very skillfully. All markings remain crisp and sharp and show on indications of being polished or smoothed during a refinish. The barrel retains about 85% of this wonderful (probably period) browned finish with some thinning and fading form handling and use. The metal is primarily smooth, with only some very minor pinpricking ad minute surface oxidation around the breech and bolster area and some lightly scattered pinpricking present. The bore of the rifle is in about FINE condition. It retains its correct, original .54 caliber the standard 7-groove rifling typical of M-1841 rifles. The bore is mostly bright, with only some lightly scattered pitting along its length, as well as a couple of smaller patches of more moderate pitting. The bore retains very crisp, sharp rifling, and with a light cleaning would probably be a great shooting barrel. The brass furniture has a medium golden patina that is quite attractive. The brass was probably cleaned sometime in the last 20-30 years and is toning down very nicely. The two-barrel band retaining springs both retain some of their original blued finish, although it has faded and dulled with age. The rear sight of the rifle appears to be a correct Drake alteration rear sight base, with a non-standard leaf in the sight. Most Drake alterations have a 3-leaf sight patterned after the US M-1858/1861 type rear sight. This one has a 2-leaf L-shaped leaf with a notched short leaf and a single tall leaf that is pierced with two apertures. The sight leaf is similar to those found on some Whitney contract arms (the Whitney “mid-range” rear sight). The leaf shows great age and surface oxidation, fits the base perfectly and looks wonderful. It might be a previously unrecorded variant rear sight blade that is correct for the Drake, but I will call it a very old, period of use replacement. The original Drake alteration front sight base is in place on the rifle, 1 3/16” from the muzzle, exactly where is should be. When the rifle was discovered, the sight base had been modified to accept a larger brass sight blade. That blade was trimmed back down to correct proportions for the Drake, but it is a brass replacement blade (likely from post-war use) and not the original steel blade that was integral to the sight base. The brass is darkened with age and the sight appears completely correct. The remnants of the original brass blade that was on the barrel of the gun prior to the Drake alteration are visible forward of the Drake front sight. The original brass tipped, trumpet shaped M-1841 pattern ramrod is in place. The rod is full length and retains excellent threads on the end. The rifle also retains both of its original sling swivels. The stock is in about VERY GOOD condition. The stock is full length and has no breaks or repairs noted. The stock has been refinished and a coat of varnish or some other clear protectant is present over all of the wood. The stock does appear to have been sanded at point in time, likely when it was refinished, and the edges of the stock flat show some softening and rounding as a result. Any rounding of edges or smoothing of lines appears to be from real handling and use. There is a small wood grain crack running from the rear lock screw to the barrel channel, a common place for Civil War era guns to have a minor crack due to the screw being over tightened. As would be expected, the stock does show a number of bumps, dings, rubs, mars and minor scratches from use and handling use during the period, but nothing significant and no abuse is visible, other than the refinish previously mentioned.

Overall this is a very nice example of the always desirable and very attractive US M-1841 Mississippi Rifle, as produced on contract by Robbins & Lawrence. Drake alteration guns are not commonly encountered and nice, complete, regimentally marked examples are even more rare. Although I am not 100% convinced the browned finish is original, it looks so good and displays so well, it really doesn’t matter. While there are a few minor issues like the refinished stock, replaced rear sight leaf and slightly altered front sight, the reality is that they are minor and other than the stock finish, most collectors would never even notice. Rarely do you have the opportunity to purchase a regimentally marked and likely identified Mississippi rifle that displays like a $4,000+ rifle for 2/3 of the price. This is a great example of a scarce, regimentally marked US M-1841 Drake Alteration Mississippi Rifle that you will be glad to own, at a very reasonable price.


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Tags: 46th, MASS, Marked, M, 1841, Mississippi, Rifle