Fine & Scarce Unaltered Remington Model 1841 "Mississippi" Rifle
- Product Code: FLA-3656-SOLD
- Availability: Out Of Stock
This is a fine and untouched, unaltered example of a US Model 1841 Mississippi Rifle. The M1841 was the first general issue percussion long arm to be adopted by the US military. The rifle was adopted in 1841 and production began in 1843. As had always been the tradition since the inception of the US military, the military rifle of the early to mid 19th century was a special purpose arm, intended for limited issue and use. The rifle was not designed to accept a bayonet, as the tactics of the time called for riflemen to be deployed as skirmishers or to take long range shots at specific targets of opportunity (such as officers, artillery crews, etc.) and then retreat behind the main infantry battle line prior to an assault. The riflemen would then harass the enemy from the flanks. The US M1841 Rifle earned the sobriquet “Mississippi Rifle” in the hands of the 1st Mississippi Rifles during the Mexican-American War. The regiment was led by future US Secretary of War, and later Confederate States President, Colonel Jefferson Davis of Mississippi. The riflemen under his command turned in yeoman’s performances at the battles of Monterrey (September 1846) and Buena Vista (February 1847) and from that time on, the gun was known as the “Mississippi Rifle”.
The rifle was a single shot, percussion ignition rifle that produced with a 33”, .54 caliber barrel that was rifled with 7 deep grooves with a moderate rate of twist at 1:72”. The barrel was secured to the rifle with a tang screw and two brass barrel bands, the upper of which was double-strapped. The rifle was designed to fire a patched round ball of .535” diameter. The rifle had an overall length of 48 ½” and weighed 9 pounds, 12 ounces. The rifles were produced with a lacquer brown finished barrel, a color casehardened lock and hammer, brass furniture and screws that were fire blued during their drawing process. The furniture was of polished brass, with a large brass patchbox in the obverse of the buttstock for the storage of lubricated patches and tools for the maintenance of the rifle. The rudimentary fixed notch rear sight was optimized for a point of aim / point of impact of 50 yards, but proved to be effective out to 300-400 yards, with a number of period accounts referring to the successful use of the rifles at those distances, especially against Native American combatants in the west. With the adoption of an expanding base conical projectile (Minié style) for the rifle in 1855, a variety of experimental alterations were tried in an attempt to find a more effective rear sight design. At the same time, many of the rifles were additionally altered to accept bayonets, mostly of the saber variety. As the decade of the 1850s ended, and the new .58 Minié ammunition became the standard for use by the US military, many of the M1841 rifles in store at the various national and state arsenals were altered to the new caliber and were also re-rifled. At this time even more of the guns were altered to accept bayonets, with some of the alterations being adaptations to use socket bayonets. At Harpers Ferry alone, some 9,800 M1841 rifles were altered for use with expanding base, conical ammunition of either .54 or .58 caliber.
In the months leading up to the opening of Civil War hostilities, Secretary of War John B Floyd ordered that 10,000 .54 caliber M1841 Rifles be delivered to the southern arsenals at Fayetteville, NC, Charleston, SC, Augusta, GA, Mount Vernon, AL and Baton Rouge, LA, with each location receiving 2,000 of the rifles. Floyd was an ardent supporter of the south and wanted to help make sure that arms would be available for the coming conflict, which he felt was inevitable. As the Civil War began, even more M1841 rifles were altered to .58 caliber in both the North and South, further reducing the number of arms remaining in their original .54 caliber configuration.
During the production of the US M1841 Rifle from 1843 to 1855, some 91,796 rifles were produced. Of those, the National Armory at Harpers Ferry produced 25,296 of the rifles (roughly 28%) and the balance of the 66,500 guns being produced by contractors for the US government. Eli Whitney Jr. produced 26,500 (about 29% of total production), Robbins & Lawrence produced 15,000 (16%), E. Remington & Sons produced 10,000 (11%), Robbins, Kendall & Lawrence also produced 10,000 (11%) and Tryon produced only 5,000 (about 5%). Due to the large number of arms that were altered and adapted to the new caliber and to accept bayonets from the mid-1850s through the Civil War, unaltered M1841 rifles can be extremely difficult to find on the collector market today. Additionally, due to the heavy use and the fact that nearly every one of these rifles saw use during the American Civil War, high condition examples are extremely scarce today.
Eliphalet Remington Jr. first entered the US military contract arms market in the mid-1840s by essentially acquiring another maker’s contracts. In 1845, he negotiated the acquisition of a contract for 5,000 US Model 1841 Rifles. This contract had originally been let to gunmaker John Griffiths of Cincinnati, OH. The Ordnance Department had pursued Griffiths as a maker of US M1841 Rifles in order to have a “western” supplier who would be able to deliver arms to the St. Louis Arsenal at a more reasonable cost than shipping them from the makers in the north east. Griffiths’ original contract had been executed on December 5, 1842, but as of the summer of 1845 Griffiths had been unable to produce any rifles and seemed unlikely to be able to do so. As a result, Griffiths sought to be released from the contract and Remington sought to take it over. Remington approached the Ordnance Department offering to produce the rifles from Griffiths’ contract for $12.00 each; $1 less than the original contract price. Remington also offered to produce the guns with cast steel barrels, a significant improvement over iron and a new technology that was just starting to see use in gun barrel making. The Ordnance Department agreed to allow Remington to take over the Griffiths contract at the standard rate of $13 but did stipulate the use of cast steel barrels. As a result, the Remington became the only maker of Mississippi Rifles who only delivered guns with steel barrels. The other two sources of steel barreled Mississippi Rifles, Whitney and Harpers Ferry, transitioned to the use of cast steel after initially producing iron-barreled guns. Remington’s contract to produce 5,000 M1841 Rifles was dated September 8, 1845, but it would be nearly five years before any rifles were to be delivered. Remington apparently encountered difficulties in setting up production of the guns, and during this same time period purchased the Jenks rifle and carbine making machinery from the Ames Company in order to produce a run of 1,000 Jenks Naval Carbines with Maynard Patent tape priming locks, which were delivered during 1847 and 1848. It is not clear if this naval contract directly inhibited the production of the M1841 Rifles or if the problem was with setting up the tooling, machinery and jigs to manufacture the rifles. As some locks and barrels are known that are dated 1849, it is clear that Remington was producing major components during that year, and possibly completing guns that were simply not delivered until the following year. The first 1,240 Remington manufactured M1841 Rifles were delivered in 1850, with 2,000 additional rifles being delivered the following year and the last 1,760 rifles from the 1845 contract being delivered in 1852. Remington received a second contract for 5,000 rifles on November 3, 1851 and 740 rifles from that contract were delivered in 1852 as well. Remington went on to deliver 2,000 more rifles from the second contract in 1853 and finished the second contract by delivering 2,260 rifles in 1854. In all, Remington delivered a total of 10,000 US M1841 Rifles between 1850 and 1854, making them one of the smallest of the M1841 contractors, with only George Tryon delivering fewer guns; 5,000. Robbins, Kendall & Lawrence delivered the same number of rifles as Remington but went on to deliver an additional 15,000 rifles as Robbins & Lawrence.
On April 25, 1861 5,000 Remington produced US M1841 Rifles were issued to the State of New York to help arm the volunteer regiments being raised by the state, pursuant to President Lincoln’s call for volunteers to put down the “southern rebellion.” Slightly more than thirty days later, on May 30, 1861, the state of New York contracted with Remington to alter these rifles to accept bayonets. Due to an inability to secure enough saber bayonets from Collins & Company, Remington could initially only alter 2,500 of the rifles. Eventually they altered 768 more rifles for a total of 3,268 Remington M1841 rifles modified to accept saber bayonets. Remington subsequently contracted with the firm of Frederick Grosz to alter additional M1841 Rifles to accept socket bayonets. Although the state of New York only authorized 1,600 rifles to be altered to accept socket bayonets due to the shortage of saber bayonets, it appears Grosz altered the balance of 1,732 rifles and possibly more, as the New York Adjutant General’s report for 1862 listed 2,180 M1841 Rifles altered to socket bayonet as having been issued to the state’s troops. As such, at least half of the Remington M1841 Rifle production was altered to accept a bayonet for the state of New York during 1861 and possibly as many as 5,448.
Due to Secretary of War John B Floyd’s order to send M1841 rifles to various southern arsenals during 1860, a total of 4,000 Remington contract M1841 Rifles were sent south. These guns are often referred to as “Remington Rifles” or “Herkimer Rifles” in period Confederate documents, referencing the Remington markings on the locks of the guns. It appears that most of the Remington M1841s were delivered to the US arsenals in Charleston, SC and Fayetteville, NC. In Charleston, some of those rifles were subsequently altered to accept saber bayonets by JH Happoldt. Receipts exist showing that Happoldt altered at least 338 M1841 Rifles to accept saber bayonets. Based upon extant examples it appears most of those alterations were performed on Remington produced rifles. Due to the fact that nearly all of the Remington M1841 Rifles that remained in the north were altered to accept bayonets, as were some of the southern guns, it is relatively safe to assume that unaltered specimens of Remington contract M1841 rifles were part of the 4,000 “Herkimer Rifles” that were shipped south in 1860.
This particular US M1841 Rifle is in about VERY FINE and untouched condition. The rifle was produced by the Remington Arms Company of Herkimer, NY and remains unaltered and in its original .54 caliber contract configuration without any bayonet modifications. The rifle is marked on the lock in three small horizontal lines, forward of the hammer and reads:
The lock is additionally marked in two vertical lines behind the hammer: U.S. / 1849. The lock markings are deeply and clearly stamped but can be difficult to read due to some mottled oxidation on the lock. The lock retains some mottled traces of its color case hardened finish, which has faded and oxidized to a variety of brown and gray colors with some scattered patches of the darker surface oxidation and minor pinpricking. The lock is crisp, fully functional and mechanically excellent, with many of the internal parts retaining some of their bright fire blued finish. The barrel tang is crisply marked with the matching date 1849 as well. This was no doubt one of the very first rifles that Remington delivered in 1850. The barrel is marked at the breech with the US proof and inspector marks: US / A.D.K. / P. The left flat of the breech is also stamped STEEL and is marked with the sub-inspector initial M. The initials on the breech are that of civilian sub-inspector Andrew D. King, who only inspected Remington barrels circa 1849, although he inspected a wide variety of contract arms during his service circa 1849-1865. The barrel retains about 80%+ of its original lacquered brown finish overall, which is thinning and fading and mixing with an evenly oxidized brown patina that makes the barrel appear to retain most of its browned finish. About 50%+ of the thinned and oxidized brown is present on the exterior of the barrel and about 90%+ present under the barrel where it has been protected by the stock. The barrel is primarily smooth with some lightly freckled surface oxidation here and there on the barrel and shot through the remaining exposed brown finish. Some of this minor surface roughness. The largest amount of oxidized wear is present near the muzzle area, which shows moderate pitting on the face of the muzzle. There is also some moderate pinpricking and light pitting in the breech area. The brown in this area is mostly worn away, leaving a grayish patina mixed with the traces of brown at the breech. The bore of the rifle is in about VERY GOOD to NEAR FINE condition. The bore remains in the original, unaltered .54 caliber and has fine 7-groove, round ball rifling. The bore is partly bright, with some light scattered pitting visible along the length of the barrel and some small patches of more moderate oxidation and pitting present as well. A good scrubbing might improve the bore and bring up to fine overall. A pair of inspector’s cartouches are present on the stock flat, opposite the lock. The forward cartouche is the clear script SK of Armory Sub Inspector Samuel Knous. Knous inspected Remington contract M1841 Rifles during 1850. The rear cartouche is an equally clear script WAT in an oval, the mark for US Ordnance Department Captain William Anderson Thornton. An alphanumeric rack or inventory number F / 82 is deeply stamped in the counterpane between the two inspection cartouches. A tiny K sub-inspection mark is present at the tail of the counterpane and on the tang of the buttplate. A similarly sized C is present on the reverser of the hammer nose as an inspection mark as well. The brass buttplate is marked on the top with a small US to the rear of the buttplate screw. The brass furniture has a mellow golden patina that is quite attractive. All of the wood and hardware mounting screws retain some of their blue, ranging between traces to as much as about 50% of their original blued finish, which has faded, thinned and dulled. The screw heads are mostly crisp, with only some minor slot wear noted on a couple of the screws. The trigger retains some of its original blue as well. The rifle retains its original fixed rear sight which retains some nice original blue, and its original brass blade front sight. The gun retains both of its original sling swivels as well. The correct, original production brass tipped ramrod is in place in the channel under the barrel. The rod is full-length and retains excellent threads on the end. The stock is in about VERY FINE condition. The stock is full-length and has no breaks, cracks or repairs noted. The stock is extremely crisp with sharp throughout, showing no indications of having been sanded at any point in time. The wood even retains some traces of feathery texture. All of the edges remain very sharp and well defined and all of the markings remain excellent. The wood to metal fit of the rifle is very good throughout as well. The stock does show some scattered bumps, dings, and mars from handling and use during the period of issue but shows no abuse. There are some larger dings in the butt area, likely storage dings from a shipping case, with a couple of larger impact marks along the upper edges of the comb and two small dings around the obverse buttplate looking more like tiny chips than the impact marks they really are.
Overall this is simply an extremely nice example of the always desirable and attractive US M1841 Mississippi Rifle as produced on contract by Remington. With at least half of the Remington production of M1841 Rifles being altered for bayonet in the north and some of the 4,000 guns sent south being altered as well, finding an unaltered example of a Remington M1841 rifle can be quite difficult. Finding an unaltered Remington M1841 in this outstanding level of preservation is extremely difficult. For any collector of 19th century American martial long arms, the US Model 1841 Mississippi Rifle is an essential part of the collection. They were the first official US military percussion long arms and earned a reputation for reliability and accuracy during the Mexican War. The guns saw even more service during the Civil War and fought on both sides. This is simply a wonderful condition rifle that is absolutely righteous, from a rare maker and I am quite confident that you will be very proud to add to your collection and to display.