Rare First Pattern Spencer Rifle Socket Bayonet by Bay State Tool Company
- Product Code: EWB-2509
- Availability: In Stock
This is a FINE condition example of the scarce 1st Pattern Spencer Rifle Socket Bayonet. These rare bayonets have a very distinctive squared off shoulder at the joint between the rear of the bayonet blade and the neck of the bayonet. During the Civil War era, only four patterns of socket bayonets bore this unique shape, and they can all be traced back to the earliest pattern, the Spanish Modelo 1857 Socket Bayonet. These socket bayonets were utilized on the Spanish M1857 “Enfield” pattern rifles and rifle muskets. These Spanish guns were based upon the British Pattern 1853 rifle musket and Pattern 1856 rifle. Many of the Spanish guns were manufactured in Birmingham under contract to the Spanish government, and the bayonets for those contract guns were produced in the Birmingham region as well. It is the English production of these Spanish bayonets that explains why this unique shoulder shape is found on the Spanish bayonets, as well as the 1stPattern Spencer Rifle socket bayonet, the bayonets used on the A.J. Drake altered M1841 Mississippi Rifles and the Confederate Fayetteville rifles.
The common link is the English firm of Greenwood & Batley. This firm manufactured the machinery used to produce various small arms and ordnance. It appears that the Bay State Tool Company of Northampton, Massachusetts purchased their bayonet making machinery from Greenwood and Batley, and Confederate records indicate that Greenwood & Batley provided the bayonet making machinery for the Fayetteville Arsenal as well. This common source for the manufacturing machinery is why these four patterns of bayonet share the same distinctive profile. Bay State Tool Company was responsible for the manufacture of both the first Spencer Rifle socket bayonets and the bayonets utilized by AJ Drake in the alteration of US M1841 Mississippi Rifles, which were subsequently issued to the 46th& 51stMassachusetts Infantry. The primary difference between the bayonets lies in the lengths of their blades (Spanish & Spencer bayonets have 18 ½” blades, while the Fayetteville & Drake bayonets have 20” blades) and the diameter of their sockets. The Spanish bayonet has a nominal .800” muzzle diameter, the Spencer a nominal .817” muzzle diameter, the Fayetteville a nominal .889” muzzle diameter and the Drake bayonet has a nominal muzzle diameter of .918”. Other subtler differences exist as well. These include the length of the face flute, the height of the bridge, the style of the tension ring screw head and the location and style of the locking ring stop stud on the socket.
The first pattern Spencer rifle bayonets were a point of contention in November of 1862, when the first 1,200 Spencer Rifles were delivered for service to the 5thMichigan cavalry (these would be the ONLY Spencers at the battle of Gettysburg, as part of Custer’s Michigan Brigade). These rifles were delivered with bayonets with 18 ½” long blades, of the Spanish M1857 pattern, manufactured by the Bay State Tool Company. Immediately it was apparent that these bayonets did not fit well in the standard Pattern 1857 bayonet scabbard then in use throughout the US Army. The bayonet stuck out of the scabbard by at least ½” and immediately drew the ire of Ordnance Department Major Peter Hagner. In fact, on November 10, 1862 he penned a letter complaining about the fact that the bayonets were a ½” too long and demanded that the contractors be required to immediately stop delivering them, and to instead deliver a bayonet with the standard M1855 pattern 18” blade that would fit the scabbard. A letter from Hagner dated November 26, 1862 noted that Spencer did not produce the bayonets, but that they were being manufactured by a contractor in Northampton. It is not clear how many of these early production Bay State Tool Company Spencer bayonets were produced, but it appears that at least the first 1,200 Spencer rifles were delivered with them. It also appears that at least a few of these bayonets also ended up seeing service with early Sharps rifles (Spencer and Sharps bayonets are known to be interchangeable sometimes). Realistically, it appears that less than 2,000 of these early production bayonets were manufactured. Period photographic evidence shows these bayonets ended up in service with both patterns of rifles. It appears that by early 1863, the production of Spencer rifle bayonets with the M1855 pattern blade were in production, and the early Spencer bayonets became a footnote in the history of American Civil War socket bayonets.
The socket bayonet offered here is a FINE example of the scarce 1st Pattern Spencer Rifle Socket Bayonet. The bayonet precisely corresponds to the known dimensions of these scarce bayonets. It is 21 ½” in overall length with an 18 ½” blade that has a 17 ¼” face flute. The socket is 3” in length with a muzzle diameter of .815”, well within the range of an acceptable muzzle diameter. The bridge of the socket is 1.11” tall, and the nominal measurement for the bridge height is generally 1.12” +/-. The bayonet has a been lightly cleaned to bright and has been lightly buffed. The metal is now nearly all bright. The blade is smooth with only some scattered flecks of very minor surface oxidation present. The socket has been cleaned to the same appearance as well. The original locking ring is in place on the socket and moves smoothly. The original tension screw is in place as well. On exceptional examples of these bayonets a small inspection letter is sometimes visible forward of the socket or on the shank. This one appears to have had a sideways L sub-inspection on the neck, which is barely legible due to the buffing.
Overall this is a fantastic example of a rather scarce US socket bayonet that would be a perfect addition to your early “Gettysburg Range” Spencer, that may have seen service with the 5thMichigan. The bayonet has a nice uncleaned and untouched look to it and displays nicely. The bayonet would be absolutely appropriate for display with any low numbered, early Spencer rifle, under about 2,500. It might also fit your early delivery M1859 Sharps rifle, and we know from period images that at least a few of these bayonets saw use on the early Sharps as well. These scarce bayonets rarely appear on the market for sale, and this would be a great addition to any advanced Spencer collection, or a Gettysburg, 5thMichigan cavalry display.