City of Philadelphia Home Guard M1816 Percussion Conversion Musket
- Product Code: FLA-3583-SOLD
- Availability: In Stock
With the firing on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861 and the subsequent outbreak of hostilities that was the American Civil War, a concerted effort was made in cities, counties and states on both sides to organize and arm the militia. Such activities had been going on since the late 1850s, particularly in the south, where the coming war was no surprise. However, after April 12, 1861, the attempt to organize military forces were redoubled. In the northern states that bordered the southern states that had seceded, that effort often focuses on establishing a significant force of “Home Guard” to protect the state in case of a Confederate invasion.
According to the 1860 Census, Philadelphia was the second largest city in the United States, with a population of more than 500,000 people; some 180,000 more people than in the ten largest southern cities at the time combined! The Pennsylvania boarder with Virginia (later to be West Virginia), the strong southern sympathies in bordering Maryland and the fact that slave holding Delaware was just across the river, combined with the manufacturing and economic power of the city all made Philadelphia an attractive target for a southern attack. This fear lead to the City Council of Philadelphia to propose a measure on April 18, 1861 to spend some $10,000 to arm and equip a local militia for the defense of the city. The bill also authorize the creating of a special committee to oversee the expenditures and to create the organization that would become the city’s Home Guard. The next day, the council officially voted to approve the measure, appropriating five times as much money, some $50,000, “for the use of a Home Guard or any other company hereafter to be formed for defense of the city.” Very quickly thereafter, on April 20, Augustus Pleasanton was appointed colonel of the Home Guard by Mayor Alexander Henry and less than thirty days later, on May 16, 1861, the Pennsylvania state legislature codified the Philadelphia Home Guard. This act formerly authorized the creation of five regular infantry regiments, one light infantry regiment, one cavalry regiment and two artillery regiments. The next step was to arm the new Home Guard. The city soon received authorization to obtain up to 5,000 percussion muskets on loan from the Frankford Arsenal, with the understanding that the arms were subject to recall as needed by the Federal Government. Some 3,800 arms were temporarily issued from the arsenal for use of the Philadelphia Home Guard, but by October of 1861 the Ordnance Department was already officially recalling the guns and by January of 1862 they had all been returned.
These were not the only small arms that had been obtained by the Home Guard. As soon as the force had been officially authorized, established and was funded, agents started to purchase arms for the group. The buyers looked to long time Philadelphia based arms retailer Joseph C. Grubb & Company, as well as international arms dealer Herman Boker & Company. From sources such as Grubb and Boker the city managed to purchase some 3,400 long arms. These included 600 Prussian Muskets (mostly M1809 and M1839 "Potsdams", some rifled), 500 Prussian M1849 German Federation Naval Muskets, 1,000 Enfield rifles with saber bayonets and 1,300 “chambered breech muskets with Maynard primers.”It is generally believed that these last 1,300 guns were sold to the Home Guard by Grubb, likely along with other arms as well. All of the purchases were inspected by long time Philadelphia based gunmaker and retailer Andrew Wurfflien, who stamped his name near the breech of the guns that he inspected. The guns were also marked with a three-line ownership stamp: CITY / OF / PHILADA, with the lower line in an upward arc.
Among the 1,300 “chambered breech muskets with Maynard primers”were some interesting variants of the standard Remington-Maynard Altered US Model 1816 Muskets. As the guns were apparently sourced from Grubb, it is not clear exactly how the company obtained them, or in what configuration they were originally obtained. A description of the standard Remington-Maynard altered guns and the unique Philadelphia guns is necessary to proceed with the story and then to analyze them.
The Philadelphia guns were later production US Model 1816 Muskets (mostly Type II and Type III guns; really US Model 1822 and M1828 muskets) that had been altered to percussion using the chambered breech pieces and Maynard automatic priming locks that had been supplied to Frankford Arsenal by E. Remington & Sons of Ilion, NY. The standard Frankford Arsenal Remington-Maynard alteration took the gun, cut approximately 1” off the rear of the barrel, threaded on the Remington made chambered breech, rifled the bore, added a long range US M1855 pattern rear sight, a new taller iron front sight blade and installed the Remington manufactured Maynard automatic priming lock in association with a US arsenal produced M1855 style hammer. The locks were marked by Remington at their tails, along with the date of manufacture, and the tangs of the breeches were dated as well.
The Philadelphia guns were dramatically different. Typically, the locks were unmarked, the Maynard magazine door was welded and/or pinned shut, a civilian sporting style percussion hammer was installed on the lock and the top of the Maynard primer’s lock “hump” was ground down to allow the civilian hammer to clear the area and hit the percussion cone. Since the hammers used on the Frankford conversions were US Arsenal and not contractor produced hammers, these were not likely available as surplus, thus the necessity to use civilian pattern hammers that were readily available. The guns were not rifled, received no long-range rear sights and no new front sights either. In most cases, the internal feed parts of the Maynard lock were never installed, and while the unique Maynard tumbler was used for many of these locks, the tumbler was never fitted with the feed arm or any other Maynard parts. The work is clearly not up to arsenal specifications or quality, suggesting that the alterations were performed by Grubb or a contractor for Grubb. Although the section on these muskets in George Moller’s American Military Shoulder Arms Volume III is quite good, Moller makes no attempt to investigate or hypothesize about actual origin of these guns, beyond the fact that they were purchased from Grubb.
Analyzing a couple of known examples, as well as the example offered here, it is clear that these are not modified US Remington-Maynard altered muskets, but rather US M1816 pattern muskets that have been altered using some surplus parts from the Remington project, parts that were likely obtained from Frankford Arsenal and possibly directly from Remington. The chambered breech pieces appear to be standard delivery Remington breeches that are dated on the tang. These parts bear numeric mating marks that mate them to their barrels that are separate and different from any other mating marks that may appear on the muskets. The locks appear to use what may have been unfinished or possibly condemned Remington-Maynard locks that were then adapted for use in these guns. The lack of external markings, the lack of internal tape priming parts in most examples, as well as the lack of facility to attach these parts to the tumbler, suggests that many of the locks were assembled from available components on hand, which were in various stages of finish. The guns typically bear assembly or production numbers that appear to be in addition to any original assembly marks, often with a number stamped on the barrel and a matching one written in pencil in the barrel channel of the stock. Buttplates are often devoid of “US” markings, and the stocks are often void of cartouches or percussion alteration rating marks. This suggests that Grubb may have obtained some (or all) of these guns from state inventories of flintlock muskets, where they guns had originally been purchased by a state and not the US government. The guns were then altered to percussion using a combination of surplus parts from Frankford Arsenal and Remington, then reassembled, inspected by Wurfflien, marked and issued to the Philadelphia Home Guard.
The example of a City of Philadelphia Home Guard M1816 Percussion Conversion Musket offered here is in about VERY GOOD condition. The gun is solid and complete with only a replaced sling swivel that is likely not original to the period of use, as well an old replaced ramrod and a single lock screw, both of which are likely of the period. The gun is clearly marked on top of the chambered breech: CITY / OF / PHILADA and is also marked with theA. WURFFLIEN inspection below it on the left breech quadrant. As is typical of these guns, the lock is unmarked. The tang of the breech is dated 1856, a normal date for Remington chambered breech. The gun is marked with the assembly number 8on nearly every part, with the exception of the rear lock screw, which is marked 3, and the lock which has no assembly mark. The lack of an assembly mark in the lock suggests that the “8” is an original assembly mark from the flintlock manufacturer of the gun. The top of the barrel is stamped with the number 143behind the rear barrel band and the matching number is written in the stock’s barrel channel in pencil. This number is likely from the conversion process, serving as both a reassembly number and a way of tracking the number of guns altered. There are no visible cartouches on the stock, nor any indication that there ever were, there is no US on the buttplate and the usual plethora of small US Ordnance Department sub-inspection marks are not present either, all indicative of a gun that was originally produced on contract for a state, not the Federal Government. The only other markings are a small F on the triggerguard and the number 4 stamped over another mark on the socket bayonet stud, clearly a mating mark for the accompanying bayonet.
As noted, this City of Philadelphia Home Guard M1816 Percussion Conversion Musket is in about VERY GOOD condition. The metal has all been lightly cleaned, leaving a dull pewter gray patina, with all markings in the metal clear and legible. The metal is mostly smooth, with some scattered pinpricking, particularly around the breech area, as well as some lightly scattered pitting. There are scattered flecks and patches of minor surface oxidation and discoloration here and there on the barrel as well. The musket is in FINE mechanical condition and operates perfectly on all positions, remaining quite crisp, with the original heavy flint mainspring still in the lock. As with most examples, the Maynard Tape system is incomplete and was never made to be functional, the primer magazine door has been pinned and welded shut and the top of the lock hump ground down to allow the civilian pattern hammer to clear the hump. The bore of the musket is in FINE condition as well. It remains mostly bright with some scattered light surface oxidation and some minor pinpricking. A good cleaning might remove most of the oxidation present in the bore. It is still smooth and was never rifled. A long range rear sight was never added to the gun, as was done with most of the Frankford Arsenal altered muskets and the original brass blade front sight is present on the rear strap of the upper barrel band. Both sling swivels are in place, but the one on the triggerguard may be an old replacement. A full-length, button head ramrod with threads at the end is present in the ramrod channel. The rod is not exactly like most 1816 style rods but has good age and patina that matches the gun well, suggesting it is a period of use replacement. The stock of the gun is in VERY GOOD condition and were it not for a single issue would rate “fine”. The stock is solid and full-length with no breaks or major repairs. The stock retains crisp edges and lines and shows no indication of having been sanded. The one condition issue worth mentioning is an old, repaired, diagonal crack running from the front lock mounting screw up to the barrel channel. This crack is about 2 ½” long and appears to be solid and stable. Otherwise, the stocks shows only the usual assortment of scattered bumps, dings, mars and minor scars that would be expected from a 150+ year old military musket.
Overall, this is a very nice and solid example of a rather scarce City of Philadelphia Marked US M1816 Percussion Alteration Musket. With only 1,300 “chambered breech muskets with Maynard primers.”acquired by the Philadelphia Home Guard, these guns are scarce is any condition. This one remains crisp with clear markings and a very attractive appearance. Maybe further research will reveal the real source for these guns that were sold to Philadelphia by J.C. Grubb & Company. For the time being, they remain somewhat of an enigma that are not often seen for sale on the market and which would be a fine addition to any collection of Civil War period long arms.