Scarce Rifled Pomeroy Contract US M1835/40 Percussion Alteration Musket
- Product Code: FLA-3582
- Availability: Out Of Stock
This is a really fine condition example of a scare alteration to a contractor produced US M1835/40 flintlock musket. The model was officially designated the Model 1840 by the US Ordnance Department, but since the initial design was accepted in 1835, collectors have long used the designation of M1835 or M1835/40. I have chosen to use the M1835/40 designation, as it indicates the initial adoption of the new pattern musket as well as the first year in which it was produced.
The M1835/40 was the last flintlock musket to be adopted by the US military. It was a .69 caliber smoothbore musket and in many ways was nearly identical (except for the lock and ignition system) to the subsequent US M1842 percussion musket, which replaced it so quickly after the Model 1835/40 was adopted. The M1835/40 was produced from 1840 to 1844 at the Springfield Armory in Massachusetts, with a total of 30,421 musket produced there. This musket model never went into production at Harpers Ferry, where the last variant of the M1816 Musket (the M1822/28) remained in production until the adoption of the M1842. While the Ordnance Department had relied heavily on numerous contractors to produce muskets during the 1820s and 1830s, it only contracted with two outside vendors to produce the new pattern of musket. The Daniel Nippes Company of Mill Creek, PA delivered 5,100 of the muskets from 1842-1848 and Lemuel Pomeroy of Pittsfield, MA delivered another 7,000 from 1840 to 1846. With the adoption of the percussion ignition system in 1842, the US Ordnance Department moved to quickly alter all the newest and best condition flintlock musket in store around the country to the percussion ignition system. This meant that the M1835/40 muskets were all almost immediately altered to percussion, with few ever seeing service in the field as flintlocks. The large majority of the muskets were altered by the Belgian System better known as the Cone-in-Barrel system. Very few of the M1835/40 muskets had been issued, and most were sitting in various armories in pristine condition, having never been used. The Ordnance Department had long used a delivery system that required contractors to deliver their work to the nearest Federal Arsenal, to keep the cost of shipping to a minimum. This meant that Pomeroy contract arms were typically delivered to the Watervliet Arsenal in New York, and Nippes contract arms were usually delivered to the Frankford Arsenal in Philadelphia, PA. It was at these locations that the M1835/40 muskets delivered by the contractors were altered to percussion. The Pomeroy contract arms were altered between 1850 and 1851, using machinery that was installed at Watervliet in 1849. The Nippes contract M1835/40 muskets were altered in 1852 and 1853, after Frankford received the percussion alteration machinery that had previously been in use at the Watertown Arsenal.
With the adoption of the conical, hollow base Burton Ball (based upon the French Minié ball) in 1855, the Ordnance Department decided to experiment with additional alterations and upgrades to older percussion conversion muskets in store. The “upgraded” altered muskets were rifled with three wide, shallow grooves and most had long base, long-range M1855 pattern rear sights added to them. Additionally, the original brass front sight blades were removed, and new, taller iron front sight blades were added to the front strap of the upper barrel band. The upgrades began in 1856 at the Harpers Ferry Arsenal, when 2,000 percussion altered flintlock muskets (believed to be mostly M1816/22/28 muskets) were rifled and had long range rear sights mounted on them. Harpers Ferry would upgrade 9,126 in the same way in 1857, 1,433 in 1858 and 200 in 1859, for a total of 12,760 upgraded muskets. Approximately 1,500 of these guns were specifically noted as being “browned” and having been altered for the US Navy. The browned guns were definitely US M-1816/22/28 muskets. Most the other muskets upgraded at Harpers Ferry were likely to have been M1816 series muskets as well, as the upgrades were most likely applied to arms already in storage there. Harpers Ferry had not produced the M1835/40 musket, nor were any of the contract arms delivered there. As such, it is unlikely that many M1835/40s were altered at Harpers Ferry, other than a special group of muskets that were upgraded in 1860 for the state of Virginia. Frankford Arsenal upgraded 120 altered flintlocks with rifled bores and rear sights in 1857 and another 299 in 1858. They also rifled but did not add rear sightsto 680 previously altered muskets in 1858. It appears that most of the time and effort at Frankford Arsenal was spent performing the Remington Maynard alteration to M1816/22 muskets. The Saint Louis Arsenal also performed the rifling and sighting upgrades to altered flintlock muskets. They upgraded 1,381 in 1857, 4,250 in 1858 and 2,180 in 1859, for a total of 7,811 upgraded muskets. As with Harpers Ferry, it is likely that the large majority of arms upgraded at Frankford Arsenal and Saint Louis Arsenal were of the M-1816/22/28 pattern and were predominately guns already in storage at that facility. Unfortunately, the Ordnance Department soon determined that the increased breech pressure created by using the conical, expanding base projectiles in these upgraded muskets resulted in unsafe pressures building up at the breech. The increased pressure could lead to the catastrophic failure of the musket and cause significant harm or death to the soldier! Thus, the rifling and sighting of cone-in-barrel altered muskets was abandoned at the Federal level in 1859, and subsequently only those guns that were adapted with a patent breech were rifled and sighted. Some of the older cone-in-barrel guns that had been rifled and sighted received new patent breeches as well, to make them safer and more serviceable. Even though the rifled and sighted cone-in-barrel alterations were considered unsafe for service and use, many of the guns in store at the beginning of the Civil War were still issued to troops, due to the lack of available arms for service. Most of these percussion-altered, rifled and sighted arms saw service with Western Theater Federal troops, and many were issued to Illinois regiments such as the 91stwhich listed their initial issue of arms as “old, altered rifled muskets, caliber .69”. The 87th, 88th, 103rd, 122nd& 129th Illinois also listed “US Rifled Muskets, .69 - altered to percussion”in their inventories at some point during their service. Due to safety concerns, the Ordnance Department apparently attempted to replace these muskets as quickly as possible and most seem to have been removed from service by the fall of 1863.
In late 1859, the state of Virginia requested a number of cone-in-barrel, percussion-altered rifled and sighted muskets be delivered to them under the Militia Act of 1808. Due to the poor success encountered with most of the other upgraded percussion altered arms, it believed that this order was filled with US M1835/40 muskets, which had thicker barrels than the earlier model muskets and were considered marginally safer than the rifled M1816/22/28 muskets. Following the logic that then arms would be altered at and delivered from the closest arsenal, the work was almost certainly done at Harpers Ferry in 1860 and the arms were delivered to the state of Virginia in Richmond during that year. I have not been able to find the specific number of US M1835/40 altered, rifled and sighted muskets that were delivered to Virginia during 1859-60, but the fact that they were altered and delivered is well documented, as is the fact that by the end of 1860, Virginia had drawn their allotment of arms for 1861 and part of their allotment for 1862, in an effort to be prepared for the coming war.
Offered here is a FINE condition example of a scarce US M1835/40 Rifled Musket. This is almost certainly one of the 680 muskets that was rifled at the Frankford Arsenal in 1858, using muskets that had been previously altered to percussion.It is a contract musket by Pomeroy that was altered to percussion by the Belgian system at the Watervliet Arsenal in 1850 or 1851. This can be determined by the presence of Watervliet Arsenal alphanumeric mating marks on the comb of the stock, forward of the buttplate, and on the bottom of the barrel. The stock comb is marked U 14 and the barrel is marked L 4. The reason the mating marks do not currently match is that when the barrels were removed from the stocks for rifling at Frankford Arsenal, they were replaced without any concern about mating the original barrels with the original stocks. As the M1835/40 was technically an “interchangeable parts” gun, there was no reason to waste time finding the original stock the barrel came from. The bore is rifled with the standard US system of the time, consisting of three wide grooves, with lands of equal width. This is one of the rarely encountered guns that was not equipped with a long range rear sight or a new front sight.
The gun is clearly marked on the lock plate with a (Spread-Winged Eagle) / L. POMEROY forward of the hammer and vertically behind the lock with 1839 / US. The tang of the barrel is marked with the date 1844. The three-line breech marking of a US / JAG / (Circle) P are extremely crisp and clear. The initials JAG were those of Springfield Armory sub-inspector John A. Gamber, who inspected contract arms during the 1840s. In 1844, he spent two days during October inspecting barrels produced by Lemuel Pomeroy in Pittsfield, MA. He would have been unlikely to prove more than one hundred barrels (if that many) in that short period of time, thus his mark on this barrel is extremely rare. A small H sub-inspection is present on the left barrel flat, likely the mark of Joseph Hannis as well.
The buttplate tang is crisply marked with the small Pomeroy style U.S. The left flat of the stock shows a single crisp and clear inspection cartouches; the script JH of armory sub-inspector Joseph Hannis. Hannis inspected a total of 1,000 US M1835/40 muskets at the Pomeroy facility, 300 on April 13, 1843, 300 on June 5, 1844 and 400 on January 9, 1846. The final acceptance stamp of Ordnance Officer Mann Page Lomax, a script MPL, is located on top of the stock comb, forward of the buttplate tang. This is the location that Lomax struck his cartouche for all of the contract long arms that he accepted. A small block LH over the number 5 is also stamped into the toe of the stock, behind the triggerguard tang.
The musket remains in 100% complete and original condition and remains in about FINE overall condition. The musket retains both of its original sling swivels, as well its original ramrod. The rod is the correct trumpet shaped rammer that has had the head dished for use with conical projectiles. The rod is full-length and retains good threads at the end. The original brass blade front sight is in place on the upper barrel band, which is correct for guns that were only rifled and not sighted. The lock of the musket functions crisply and correctly in every way and is mechanically excellent. The metal of the musket is mostly smooth and bright and was probably lightly cleaned at some point in time. Most of the iron furniture is starting to mellow slightly, developing a more muted, silvery pewter tone. Some lightly freckled patches of minor age discoloration and light oxidation are starting to develop over the barrel and iron mountings. There are some extremely light flecks of speckled pinpricking present on the metal, with some very light pitting in the breech area, around the cone seat, as would be expected. The only real pitting of note is some on the buttplate, primarily on the tang. The bore of the musket rates about FINE. It remains mostly bright with very crisp rifling. The bore shows some pinpricking very light pitting along most its length, but no serious pitting at all. The bore shows some scattered surface oxidation as well, which might clean out with some effort. The stock of the musket is in about FINE condition as well. As noted, the stock retains two fine cartouches, one on the flat opposite the lock, and the other on the stock comb. The gun also shows a clear Watervliet Arsenal mating mark on the comb, U 14. The stock is solid, full-length and free of any breaks or repairs. The stock remains very crisp and sharp throughout, with strong lines and edges and no indication of being sanded. The stock does show some minor to moderate handling marks, bumps and dings, as would be expected.
Overall this is an extremely nice, very crisp and solid example of a rather scare rifled percussion alteration of a Pomeroy M1835/40 Musket. Only 7,000 of the Pomeroy M1835/40 contract muskets were produced, and while nearly all were altered to percussion, only a very small percentage were upgraded by rifling the bores without the addition of a rear sight. Of these guns, very few examples appear to have survived the war to make their way into collections today. This is great example of the Ordnance Department’s attempt to make older weapons more serviceable and useful during a period where they had become outclassed and been made obsolete by smaller caliber percussion rifle muskets. This will be a nice addition to any significant collection of percussion altered Civil War long arms, particularly one that focuses on the additional upgrades made to obsolete guns, prior to the Civil War.