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Confederate CH1 Marked British Pattern 1851 Minié Rifle

Confederate CH1 Marked British Pattern 1851 Minié Rifle

  • Product Code: FLA-3668-SOLD
  • Availability: Out Of Stock
  • $1.00

The Pattern 1851 Minié Rifle is one of the least often encountered of all general issue British military percussion long arms. The gun was the first rifled percussion arm to be widely issued to the British line infantry, replacing the smoothbore Pattern 1842 percussion musket, and foreshadowing the end of the Napoleonic Era “rifle regiment”. The gun was adopted in 1851 and was manufactured from 1852 through 1855, with some 35,000 total rifle muskets being produced. It appears that nearly every one of the Pattern 1851s saw service, as arms researcher and author DeWitt Bailey notes that by April of 1855 approximately 34,000 P1851s were issued for service. At the beginning of the Crimean War, the P1851 was the most advanced weapon in the British military small arms arsenal. It retained much of the styling of the earlier P1842 musket, with a barrel secured by keys (wedges), and three brass pipes to retain the ramrod. Unlike the .75 caliber P1842, the gun had a slightly smaller bore, measuring .708” rather than .75” and a 39” long barrel that was rifled with four broad, fairly deep grooves of uniform depth. An adjustable long-range rear sight was affixed to the upper rear of the barrel, which was graduated to a maximum distance of 900 yards. The balance of the gun was essentially the same as the earlier pattern smoothbore percussion muskets that it was designed to replace. 


The P1851s performed fairly well during the opening months of the Crimean War but were quickly supplanted by the newly adopted Pattern 1853 “Enfield” Rifle Musket. This gun was a major advance in infantry long arm design and featured a reduced caliber bore of .577”, a more advanced rear sight and a barrel secured by clamping barrel bands, instead of the P1851’s wedges. The P1851 was so quickly replaced by the new technology of the “Enfield” that at the conclusion of the Crimean War the guns were considered completely obsolete. The hierarchy of the British military expected long arms to have a useable service life of 10-years and required even obsolete weapons to be held in reserve for emergency issue for at least that long before being offered for sale. However, the Pattern 1851 Minié Rifle was held in such low regard after the adoption of the P1853 that the many of the guns were “stored” outside, exposed to the weather in an area adjacent to the Tower of London known simply as “the ditch”. More than likely this “storage area” was in fact the old moat that surrounded the Tower in earlier days, and it appears that due to a poorly managed and somewhat corrupt ordnance supply system, much of the surplus materiel from the war in the Crimea suffered a similar fate. 


With the coming of the American Civil War, and the urgent need for infantry long arms by both sides, a large number of obsolete British arms were sold as surplus, most of which were sold to the Confederacy by S. Isaac, Campbell & Company. According to Confederate purchasing records, some 14,900 British Pattern 1851 Minié Rifles were purchased during the early days of the war. Most of these arms were purchased between August of 1861 and January of 1862, with a handful purchased in the summer of 1862. Records indicate that at least 10,000 of these arms (and probably all of them) were purchased from J.E. Barnett & Sons of London, who had acquired the guns from the British Ordnance Department. Due to the fact that the arms had been left exposed to the elements in the Tower ditch for several years, Barnett refurbished the guns to make them functional. This apparently included the replacement of worn, damaged or missing parts and also involved re-proving the guns at the London Proof House. All known examples of Confederate imported Pattern 1851 Minié Rifles show a set of London commercial proofs, applied during the Barnett refurbishment process, in addition to their original British military proofs, or their remnants. Barnett sold the majority of these arms to S. Isaac & Campbell at a rate of 40 shillings each, including the socket bayonet, and the Confederacy was charged 44 shillings. 


The summer of 1862 purchases were sold to the Confederacy at the lower rate of 40 shillings each. The guns were inspected by Messrs. Curtis and Hughes, who had been hired by S. Isaac & Campbell to act as viewers of arms. The Pattern 1851s inspected by Curtis & Hughes bear the inspection mark of CH / 1 in a small circle, on the upper comb of the stock, forward of the buttplate tang. Confederate documents refer to the Pattern 1851 rifle muskets by a number of different names, including “Old Army Pattern, rifled”, “Second Hand Government Rifles”, “Minié Rifles”, “Second Hand Rifles 1851 Pattern”, “Brown Bess Rifles 1851 Pattern” and “Rifled Brown Bessies”. Pattern 1851 Rifle Muskets were arriving in Confederate ports no later than January of 1862, with deliveries continuing throughout most of that year. According to the McRae Papers, P1851s were included in the cargos of the blockade runners GladiatorHarriett PinckneySouthwickStephen Hart and Ella Warley. While the guns that were aboard the Ella Warley and Stephen Hart(some 3,520 guns) were lost to capture by the Federal blockading squadron, 11,380 Pattern 1851 Minié Rifles were successfully delivered to Confederate ports and were subsequently issued for service. These guns had already seen hard use in the Crimea and saw additional hard service in Confederate hands. The end result is that the Pattern 1851 Minié Rifle is now a rarely encountered weapon and to my knowledge, less than a dozen Confederate marked Pattern 1851s are known to exist today.


The Confederate marked and imported Pattern 1851 Minié Rifle offered here is in about VERY GOOD+ condition. Like most arms that saw Confederate service during the war (especially those that were in use early in the war), the gun shows numerous signs of wear, tear and use in the field. The gun still has a visible and mostly legible CH / 1 Confederate inspector’s mark on the top of the stock comb, forward of the buttplate tang. The lock is engraved in the typical manner for the P1851 and has the usual {CROWN} / VR at the tail of the lock and the date 1854 / TOWER forward of the hammer. The usual British military {CROWN} / {BROAD ARROW} acceptance mark is present on the lock, as well as a {CROWN} / B  / 6 inspection mark. The interior of the lock is marked with a {CROWN} / B  / 6 inspection mark, and the initials T&L indicating that Tipping & Lawden were likely the makers of the lock and based upon other marks were likely the master maker of the gun. There are also two dots, the initials J.B, as well as IC and a T. The two dots may be Barnett reassembly marks, as this same mark is found under the barrel and is not typical of British military or other British gunmaker marks. The top edge of the lock has the mating mark \ | | |. The two sets of original British military proof marks are still at least partially visible on the breech, with the set on the top being quite legible and the set on the left quadrant weaker as a result of the refurbishment process. The newly applied London commercial proof, view and definitive marks from the Barnett rebuild are still quite clear and visible. The bottom of the barrel is marked with the initials T&L as well, with two dots, and with two older sets of mating marks; \ \ / and \ \ | | | |. There is also a 14 stamped in the bottom of the barrel. These are almost certainly gauge marks indicating the barrel is about .695” a little smaller than the standard .708” caliber. The barrel channel of the stock has two sets of mating marks as well, a \ \ | | | | and a \ \ /, both of which match the mating marks found on bottom of the barrel. There are also a pair of J.R. initials in the barrel channel.


The metal of the gun’s barrel shows a mottled salt and pepper patina, with most of the dark patches associated with areas of very light pinpricking and peppering. The condition of the metal is consistent throughout the barrel and lock. The bore of the gun is in about NEAR VERY GOOD condition. The bore retains well-defined rifling and is lightly to moderately pitted along its entire length. A good scrubbing could well improve the overall condition of the bore. Unlike most Pattern 1851 Minié Rifles, this gun is 100% complete, correct and original. It retains both of the original sling swivels, as well as the complete long-range rear sight, including the delicate ladder and adjustable elevating slider. The gun also retains its original and correct ramrod. The rod is full-length and retains good threads on the opposite end. The original Lovell’s Pattern bayonet catch is in place under the barrel. This is another delicate piece that is usually missing when a P1851 is found available for sale. The lock of the gun is mechanically excellent and functions perfectly on all positions. The brass furniture has a lovely, dark and untouched ochre patina that is very attractive. The buttplate has a small hole drilled into its bottom, where a rod was inserted to hang the gun in a display. This musket originally came out of a collection of Civil War era arms that was on display in a bar in Gladwyne, PA north-west of Philadelphia. The stock of the musket is in about NEAR VERY GOOD overall condition. The stock is solid and sound, with no breaks or repairs. However, the stock shows a significant number of bumps, dings and mars from its life of combat in the Crimea and during the Civil War. There are couple of small holes with some wood filler on the counterpane between the two lock mounting screws. These may be from the time the gun spent hanging on display in the bar it hung in for years. The musket clearly saw significant use but was never really abused.


Overall this is a really wonderfully complete, correct and original example of a very scarce Confederate imported Pattern 1851 Minié Rifle. Considering the hard life that the gun likely experienced between the Crimean War and the Civil War, the gun is really in remarkably good condition. The 1854 lock date indicates that the gun almost certainly saw service during the Crimean War. The CH / 1 mark, although worn, in combination with the British military and London commercial proof marks on an otherwise British military gun, are absolute proof that the musket was subsequently purchased and imported by the Confederacy. As previously noted, only about a dozen of these Confederate marked P1851 rifle muskets are known to exist today. As such, even the most advanced collections of Confederate purchased British import arms are lacking this scarce and important weapon. The scarcity of any type of P1851 on the collector market cannot be understated, and even pure British military guns with no Confederate markings or provenance bring at least mid-four-figure prices when found available for sale. This gun is every bit as Confederate as a Richmond or Fayetteville rifle or musket, and is much, much rarer and difficult to find. Many collectors have sought a Pattern 1851 to purchase for years and have not been able to do so. I am very proud to be able to offer this extremely rare and 100% complete, correct and original Confederate marked P-1851 Minié Rifle for sale, and I doubt that I will be able to offer another one for quite some time. This is a gun that could truly become the centerpiece of your Confederate imported arms collection, and for the price of a mid-grade Richmond rifle musket. I am confident that you will be extremely pleased with the addition of this gun to your collection.


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Tags: Confederate, CH1, Marked, British, Pattern, 1851, Minié, Rifle