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US Model 1816 Springfield Flintlock Musket with Militia Plaque

US Model 1816 Springfield Flintlock Musket with Militia Plaque

  • Product Code: FLA-3710-SOLD
  • Availability: Out Of Stock
  • $1.00

In 1812, the US military began the process of improving and upgrading the design of the “Charleville Pattern” muskets then in use by the army, which were being produced at Springfield, Harpers Ferry and by various contractors. The project would take some three years, would involve the production of a number of model and sample guns, and would involve ideas gleaned from Eli Whitney’s state contract arms from the first decade of the 1800s. Additionally, innovations from all levels of the US government, from the director of procurements (predecessor to the chief of the ordnance department) to input from arms inspectors and workmen at the national armories were taken into consideration as the new model of arm was developed. 


The resulting Standard Model of 1815 would be the first truly “American” designed military musket to be put into widespread production. As the name of the pattern implied, one of the primary motivations in the adoption of the new design was to standardize production. Up until this point, the arms of “Charleville Pattern” (US Model 1795 muskets) manufactured at Springfield and Harpers Ferry were different enough that for a very long time, collectors thought they were actually two different patterns of musket! No level of standardization existed in the arms delivered by contractors either. The contract arms were produced by copying a pattern arm supplied by one of the armories, and thus the contractors working from a Harpers Ferry pattern musket produced a gun different from those working from a Springfield pattern. The goal of the Standard Model of 1815 was to rectify this, improve upon known deficiencies in the “Charleville Pattern” arms, and to take the first baby steps towards the interchangeability of parts. 


The pattern went into production in 1815 and like most US arms of the era, immediately went through a number of small changes (noted as Type I-Type IV by collectors), over the next three years, with the “Standard Model” being produced from 1815 through 1818. These are the muskets that have long been misidentified as the Model of 1812, based primarily upon the fact that the design process that resulted in these muskets had started in that year. The evolution of the Standard Model of 1815 soon resulted in the identification of areas of design that should be addressed and improved. Most notably the stock design, which had been radically altered from the “Charleville Pattern.” The biggest changes involved making it more robust and adopting a lower comb and thicker wrist. The stock design was further altered by lowering the comb even more and extending the rail of the butt. A multi-year debate about band retention spring placement and the type of springs was finally resolved, and a new, rounded lock plate was adopted. Even though the new stock profile would begin to appear on muskets produced in 1816, the newly adopted US Model 1816 would not really go into full production with all newly made parts, not using any of the older pattern parts on hand, until January of 1818. At that time, it was noted that the guns being produced at Springfield were “All of the new model.”


The US Model 1816 Musket would remain in production through about 1840 at the Springfield Arsenal and 1844 at Harpers Ferry and more than 800,000 of the muskets would be produced during that period between the two national armories, as well as the various contractors who provided the arms as well. Over the years, collectors have divided the Model 1816 into three types, Type I, II and III. More recent scholarship has indicated that the more appropriate terminology is probably Model 1816 (Type I), Model 1822 (Type II) and Model 1822/28 (Type III). However, the primary changes between the three variants are extremely minor and focus on a changes in the attachment of the lower sling swivel (Type I on a stud, Type II on the triggerguard bow), a change in finish (Type IIs “National Armory Brown”, while most Type Is and Type IIIs are “National Armory Bright”) and a push to make the dimensions of the musket consistent enough that major components (locks, stocks and barrels) would be able to interchange. It is interesting that the push towards a greater level of interchangeability was a driving force behind the adoption of the Model 1822/28 (1816 Type III), as this very lack of standardization and inconsistency in parts production had been the  primary motivation in the design of the Standard Model of 1815 more than a decade earlier. 


While some authors suggest the technology of the period placed inherent limitations on the potential to manufacture arms with interchangeable parts, the process had been applied successfully to firearms by the beginning of the 1820s by John Hall, Simeon North, and to some extent Eli Whitney. In the case of the National Armories, I think it was the slowness of the bureaucracy that kept the armories from improving machinery and production techniques that prevented them from achieving this goal. In fact, John Hall would establish the rifle works at Harpers Ferry and produce fully interchangeable Hall Rifles there some two decades before Harpers Ferry would be able manufacture its first muskets with interchangeable parts, the US Model 1842. 


During the early part of US M1816 production it was determined that the guns were to be serial numbered, a process that had never been in place at Springfield before, but had previously been used at Harpers Ferry during the much of the production of the “Charleville Pattern” musket, as well as for pistols and rifles. The system was adopted in 1820 and abandoned in 1832 and used an alphanumeric marking to serialize the guns in lots of 2,500. The system had the ability to number some 60,000 arms before repeating itself. It utilized a capital letter to indicate the series, for example “A”. The guns in the “A” series would then be numbered from “0” to “99” for a total of 100 “A” guns. An additional lowercase letter would be added next, so the next series of 100 guns would be marked A/a 0-99. This would be repeated with A/b, A/c, etc. until the lowercase letter options were exhausted, with the exception of the letters “j” or “v”, which were not used. With a single uppercase letter without a secondary lowercase letter and then 24 additional lower-case letter options for each 0-99 guns, this allowed a single uppercase letter to be used for 2,500 total muskets. When all of the “A” combinations were exhausted, the uppercase letter advanced to “B” until all 2,500 combinations had been used for that letter, then advanced to “C”, and so on. It is important to note that these serial numbers were not applied as soon as the arms were completed, but rather after some period of time in storage, usually prior to being shipped to another arsenal or being issued. In fact, once the period of National Armory Brown finish was entered, it was standard practice for the arms to remain in racks for some five years and allowed to cure with air circulating around them prior to being packed into cases. The cases were organized by date of manufacture, with the oldest guns on hand always being slated to be issued prior to newer arms.


No matter the variation of US Model 1816 Musket, the common features were that it was a single shot, muzzleloading smoothbore flintlock musket that was nominally .69 caliber. It had a 42” round barrel, that was secured to the American black walnut stock by three flat, spring retained barrel bands and a single screw through the breech plug tang. With the exception of the National Armory Brown period, the metal parts of the musket were left “in the white” and polished bright. The locks were case hardened and were typically polished to bright, but examination of high condition early production M1816s as well as guns from the National Armory Brown period indicate that the locks were sometimes left with their original mottled colors from the casehardening process visible. 


When the US Ordnance Department officially adopted the percussion ignition system for all long arms with Model 1841 rifle and Model 1842 musket, a process of analyzing and evaluating the now obsolete flintlock muskets in store was undertaken during the years of 1842 through 1845. Those guns manufactured after 1831 that were in good repair were considered 1st Class and were to be retained in storage and only issued upon special orders. Eventually almost all of these guns would be altered to percussion. Those muskets manufactured between 1822 and 1831 that were in good repair were classified as 2nd Class and would be issued as needed in their current flintlock state, marked with inspectors’ initials and a “2”, and most would eventually be altered to percussion after the newer muskets rated as 1st Class had been so altered. Those muskets manufactured between 1812 and 1820 were considered 3rd Class arms and were not considered suitable for use as flintlocks and were not considered satisfactory to be altered to percussion. However, these muskets were to be retained in storage should some exigency require that they be altered and issued. These guns were marked with inspector initials and a “3”. Finally, those muskets produced prior to 1812 were considered unserviceable and were to be culled from inventory and sold as surplus. 


As a result of the active percussion alteration program that took place during the first half of the 1850s at the various US arsenals, as well as those alterations performed by contractors, original flintlock US Model 1816 muskets are rather scarce. When encountered they are typically early guns (usually “Type I” muskets) but are still often marked with the classification cartouche and “3”. While it was generally assumed that the US military went to war with Mexico in 1846 carrying the newly adopted US M1842 percussion musket, more recent scholarship has revealed that the Ordnance Department was concerned that insufficient quantities of the new musket were available for issue to all troops, and as such a combination of flint and percussion muskets would have to be used. This would create an ammunition supply issue, as the paper cartridge for the M1816 contained extra gun powder for priming the pan, powder that was not required for the percussion M1842. The Ordnance Department was concerned that with a mix of guns and ammunition in the field, the flintlock cartridges might be issued to men with percussion muskets, resulting in overcharged (and potentially hazardous) loads. More concerning, if the percussion cartridges were issued to men with flintlocks there would not be a sufficient powder charge for the load once the pan was primed. As a result, it was decided that only the flintlock muskets would be issued to the troops embarking for Mexico. This made the US Model 1816 musket the mainstay infantry arm for the US forces during that war.


Offered here is an attractive and fairly crisp example of a US Model 1816 (Type I) in its original flintlock configuration. The gun was produced by the Springfield Armory in Springfield, MA in 1819, the second year of production for the model. Springfield produced 11,698 of the muskets during that calendar year. The gun was issued to one of the states under the Militia Act of 1808 at some point in time and was utilized by a state or local “guard” organization that identified their arms by placing scroll shaped German silver plaques on the obverse buttstock that were engraved with the name and unit of the soldier who carried the gun. The wrists of the muskets were also checkered, typical of militia muskets used in New England during the second quarter of the 19th century. The scroll shaped plaque measures 3 7/16” in length and is 1 3/16” wide at the widest point. The plaque is engraved in script as follows:


H.G. McRae

4th Co N. G.


State militia used and marked Model 1816 muskets in their original flintlock configuration are not common. When they are encountered, they tend to be earlier production guns like this one. They are also usually marked to north eastern states. Arms from the first quarter of the 19th century can be found from time to time marked to the states of Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey. Much less often encountered are those arms marked to southern states like North and South Carolina. When the southern guns are found the are almost inevitably altered to percussion for use during the American Civil War. 


The US Model 1816 (Type I) Flintlock Musket offered here is in about VERY GOOD condition. As noted, the musket is dated 1819 on the lock and on the breech plug tang. The lock of the musket is clearly marked under the brass pan with a {Spread-Winged Eagle} over US. The lock is marked vertically in three lines behind the cock SPRING / FIELD / 1819and the breech plug tang has the same date, 1819. The left upper quadrant of the breech is marked with the standard Springfield view and proof marks including a raised P in a depressed oval, followed by an {Eagle Head}  and then a V. The top of the breech is marked with the serial number B/n 20.


As noted, the musket is in about VERY GOOD condition and remains in its original flintlock configuration. The gun has a moderately oxidized freckled pewter gray and brown patina with flecks of oxidation and surface roughness scattered over the barrel and iron furniture. There is some scattered pinprick pitting here and there as well as  few patches of light to moderate pitting. These are primarily around the breech and on the upper band and barrel from that band to the muzzle. The metal is about half smooth, with the balance showing a mixture of minor oxidized surface roughness and the aforementioned pinpricking and light pitting. The lock has a mottled pewter gray and darker grayish black oxidized appearance, with all markings remaining crisp and clear. The lock has the same matching mating mark of a small V, resembling a Roman numeral “5” on nearly all of the parts both internal and external. This mark is found on most of the screw heads, the small internal parts, etc. and appears to only be missing where oxidation or wear had removed the mark or made it illegible. The lock is mechanically excellent and functions perfectly on all positions. The springs all remain stiff and tight and the hammer and frizzen both function crisply. The brass pan shows some moderate to heavy oxidation and discoloration, primarily in its recesses. The touchhole is original and appears unmolested, though it does show moderate erosion and wear around its exterior. The hole is well centered in the pan and retains the correct tapered entrance to the chamber of the barrel. The only tiny condition issue worth mentioning for the lock is that the top jaw screw is bent, making adjusting the top jaw difficult. The bore of the musket is in about GOOD condition. It is moderately oxidized and is dark along its length, although is remains fairly smooth along most of its length. There is some scattered pitting and surface roughness along its length, with a few small areas of more moderate pitting here and there. A good scrubbing would probably improve the condition of the bore. The musket retains both of its sling swivels, but these appear to be very old replacements rather than the original swivels that were on the gun when it left Springfield. The original button head ramrod is in place and it is full-length with good threads at the end. The stock of the musket remains in NEAR VERY GOOD condition as well and matches the condition of the metal very well. The stock is solid and full-length with no breaks or repairs noted. The stock shows a substantial number of bumps, dings mars and wear marks, including some bruises and scrapes along its length. This is probably the classic example of a military musket that was carried a lot for drill but saw a limited amount of actual combat. There is an area of more moderate dings and wear on the butt in the upper rear section of the stock, this is apparent on both sides and may be the result of the musket being taken out of and returned to a rack in a New England arsenal many times over the years, regularly dinging the guns on either side of it. There are a couple of minor surface chips missing from the stock, a tiny one at the junction of the breech plug tang and breech and a couple of small ones at the rear lock mounting screw. There is also a tiny surface grain crack about 1 ½” long running along the upper edge of the stock on the reverse at the barrel channel. Despite the scattered wear, the stock remains solid and complete and matches the musket well.

Overall, this is a nice example of US Model 1816 Musket used by a probably north eastern militia group during the mid-19th century. The gun remains in its original flintlock configuration and is complete and correct throughout with only the sling swivels being apparent replacements. It retains excellent markings in the metal and a legible cartouche on the stock. Some in depth research might reveal exactly what group the “4th Co N. G.” was, and who H.G. McRae was, the man who carried the musket.


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Tags: US, Model, 1816, Springfield, Flintlock, Musket, with, Militia, Plaque