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Austrian M1854 Lorenz - ID'd to a Galvanized Yankee

Austrian M1854 Lorenz - ID'd to a Galvanized Yankee

  • Product Code: FLA-3390-SOLD
  • Availability: Out Of Stock
  • $1.00

This is a really attractive, 100% complete and correct Confederate Used & Identified Austrian M1854 Lorenz Rifle Musket, in untouched, attic condition. The Lorenz was the third most used rifle musket during the American Civil War, with US purchases in excess of 250,000 and documented CS purchases of at least 100,000. While it has long been assumed that the block sighted Lorenz rifles without cheek rests were CS imports, and the long-ranged sighted guns with cheek rests were US imports, the reality is that neither the presence or absence of a cheek rest or the style of sight is any indication which side may have purchased the gun. One indicator that does apply to US and CS purchases is that in general the US purchased most of their Lorenz rifles in 1861 and 1862, receiving the oldest guns in the Austrian military inventory. Many of these guns underwent modification or repairs in Belgium on their way to the US. Often, they were also supposed to be re-bored to the standard US .58 caliber during the refurbishment process, but this had mixed results and the guns often varied considerably from that standard. Most of the CS Lorenz purchases were made from early-1862 through the end of the war. Due to the large debts that the Confederate government built up in England during the first part of the war, the numbers of English suppliers that were willing to extend additional credit to the Confederacy became limited by the end of 1863. However, Austrian suppliers were still willing to keep selling the guns, even to a client that might default on the credit extended to them. It is interesting to note researchers have recently discovered that the very first large purchase of Lorenz Rifle Muskets that Caleb Huse made was in early 1862, and from the S. Isaac’s & Campbell Company in England, rather than directly from the Austrians. These purchases have never been included in the 100,000 CS purchases that most researchers refer to, so it appears that CS purchases of the Lorenz were significantly higher than previously believed, in reality at least double!

The importance of the .54 caliber Austrian M1854 Lorenz to the Confederacy might best be illustrated by the huge number of Austrian Rifle Cartridges that were imported by the Confederacy from both Austria and England. The McRae Papers contain several invoices from the famous English ammunition manufacturer Eley Brothers that include “Austrian Ammunition”. One such invoice is dated July 18, 1863, some two weeks after the Battle of Gettysburg and the fall of Vicksburg, MS. The invoice is for a total of 700,000 paper cartridges. The order included “600,000 Austrian Rifle Cartridges “ Marked A” and “100,000 Ball & Buck Short Musket Cartridges “ Marked M”. While the caliber of the Austrian cartridges is not specified, it seems clear that the order would be for Austrian pattern ammunition appropriate for the unaltered .547” (13.9mm) bore of the Austrian Lorenz rifle musket. This order also implies that the Confederate Ordnance Department laboratories were capable of supplying a sufficient number of .577 / .58 caliber cartridges for the guns in the field, but needed assistance in providing enough ammunition for Lorenz rifles and smoothbore muskets. This invoice also helps to dispel the myth about the issuance of .54 “Mississippi” rifle ammunition for use in the Lorenz. While this ammunition could be used in extreme circumstances, it would in fact be undersized in the Lorenz bore and would not expand sufficiently to correctly take the rifling. I believe that many of the period reports that describe the Lorenz rifle musket as “inaccurate” are the result of using inappropriately sized “Mississippi Rifle” ammunition.

One feature that almost assures that a Lorenz was purchased and imported by the North or the South is the absence of a cheek rest on the stock. All Austrian military purchased Lorenz rifle muskets were equipped with a cheek rest. Arms made for commercial or export sale often had this feature omitted, likely as a way to save time and cost. The Lorenz saw very limited use outside of Austria, so commercial arms were almost always assembled for export to the two American Civil War combatants. These commercial guns often utilized older, obsolete Austrian military locks that were refurbished for use on the Lorenz. It is not uncommon to find locks from earlier M1838 and M1842 muskets that have been reengineered for use in Lorenz; ground down to the smaller, sleeker Lorenz profile with the Augustin Consol lock parts removed and the associated holes plugged. These locks are usually identifiable by those plugged holes in the lock, and production dates that are earlier than 1854, the year that the Lorenz rifle musket first went into production. Of course, the presence of a cheek rest on a Lorenz does not rule out Civil War use, nor does the presence of Austrian military markings. While practically no British military marked and inspected Enfield rifle muskets were imported for Civil War use, some older (mostly pre-1860 dated) Lorenz rifle muskets were sold as surplus to both sides.

This Lorenz is complete and original in every way and is in UNTOUCHED ATTIC FINE condition. This Lorenz variant is a surplus Austrian KK Army military rifle, and would be considered a “Type II” by collectors today as it has a cheek rest and a long-range rear sight. The lock is very clearly marked with the (Double-Headed Austrian Eagle) to the rear of the hammer and 859 to the front, indicating that it was produced in 1859. The Austrian Eagle mark is deeply struck and is very clear, as is the date mark. The top of the breech is marked with the manufacturer’s name CARL HEISER. Heiser was a Viennese gunmaker who not only did commercial work, but also provided contract arms for the Austrian military. The breech is also marked with the Austrian military acceptance proof mark of an (Austrian Eagle) / W. As usual, there are matching assembly numbers on nearly all of the major metal components. In this case, the primary assembly number is 25 and appears nearly everywhere. All the lock components have matching lock assembly numbers as well, in this case they are also 25. Often the lock would have different internal mating numbers for the lock parts and then the lock itself was marked to the balance of the gun. The fact that the same number appears throughout the lock and the gun suggests that Heiser’s company made the entire gun, including the lock. The only component that appears to be misnumbered is the side plate, which is marked 20. The fit of the piece suggests a numbering error, rather than a replacement part, as the fit is perfect. The most interesting part of the gun is the name carved into the cheek rest on the reverse. The name is carved upside down in a somewhat crude period hand, with the initials J S C carved as capital letters with some artfulness, and the balance of the last name oker carved in less neat, lower case letters. Underneath the carved name is the additional legend War of 1861, a common period name for the American Civil War. A large M is also carved on the reverse of the buttstock, suggesting a company letter. A review of Confederate records revealed several potential soldiers whose initial were l “J S’ and who had the last name “Coker”. However, only one served in a Company “M”, and it seems almost certain that this was the man who carried the gun.

John Silas Coker was born on January 15, 1843 in Madison County, Florida, about 60 miles due East of Tallahassee. On August 20, 1861, he was mustered into Company M of the 2nd Florida Infantry, the “Howell Guards”, by Captain George Parkhill. The 2nd Florida was one of the rare examples of a Civil War regiment that had twelve companies, rather than the usual ten companies, lettered A through M, with no Company J, as “I” and “J” were so similar in appearance. The 2nd Florida was sent to the Virginia theater of operations, where it would serve initially with the Army of the Peninsula, and eventually would be made a part of the Army of Northern Virginia, where the regiment would spend the majority of their service. Initially the were part of D.H. Hill’s Division, but were then placed in Longstreet’s Division, and they would remain under his command through the Chancellorsville campaign as part of Anderson’s Division, but as a part of Longstreet’s Corps. After the reorganization of the Army of Northern Virginia following the death of Stonewall Jackson, Anderson’s Division was moved from Longstreet’s 1st Corp to the newly created 3rd Corps of A.P. Hill. The 2nd Florida would spend the rest of the war as part of the 3rd Corps.

The first major action seen by the 2nd Florida was during the Peninsula Campaign of 1862, where the regiment was involved at the Siege of Yorktown, the battles of Williamsburg and Seven Pines, the Seven Days, Beaver Dam Creek, Gaines’ Mill, and Frayser’s Farm (Glendale). The regiment then moved to counter John Pope’s army and fought at 2nd Bull Run, and saw action again that fall at Antietam and that winter at Fredericksburg. During 1863 the regiment fought at Chancellorsville, Gettysburg (including participating in Pickett’s Charge), the Bristoe Campaign and the Mine Run Campaign. 1864 saw the regiment engaged in the major battles to stop the advance of the Union army, including the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, North Anna, Cold Harbor, and into the trenches of Petersburg. During the Petersburg siege the 2nd FL saw combat at the Weldon Railroad, Ream’s Station, Globe Tavern, Belfield, Hatcher’s Run and Farmville. The regiment was involved it the retreat from Petersburg and was part of the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, 1865.

Although the 2nd Florida saw action in nearly every major engagement the Army of Northern Virginia saw from the Peninsula Campaign through Appomattox, Private John S. Coker did not. Coker’s service records indicate that he was present with his regiment from the time of enlistment through October 9, 1862, when he was admitted to the Receiving and Wayside Hospital (General Hospital Number 9) in Richmond. The following day was admitted to General Hospital Number 8 (St. Charles Hospital) in Richmond for a “wound in side”. While family lore notes that Coker was wounded at Beaver Dam Creek on June 27, 1862, no reference to that wound is noted in his service records. However, the October 9, 1862 admission date suggests that Coker was wounded during the retreat after the disastrous Maryland Campaign that culminated in the Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg) on September 17, 1862. It is even possible that Coker was wounded at Antietam but was unable to get to the hospital in Richmond until nearly a month later, after having been treated at a field hospital following the battle, and likely returning to his regiment until he could get to better medical treatment. The 2nd Florida listed 14 killed, 29 wounded, 18 POWs and 1 missing at Antietam. According to the notes in Coker’s service records he was sent home to Madison County, Florida to recuperate from his wound after being admitted to Hospital Number 8. He is listed as being on furlough for his wounds through the end of 1862. However, Coker did not return to service and his service records note “Deserted at Madison Co., Flor. January 1, 1863”. By the middle of 1863 his service records note “Published as a deserter.” It is here that the story of John S. Coker gets particularly interesting. Family lore notes that he did not return to service in the Confederate army. However, his service records indicate that he was paid $17 for service with the 2nd FL infantry during the period of February 1 and 30 April 1864, suggesting at least a brief return to the Army of Northern Virginia. Even more interesting, John S. Coker of Madison County Florida became a Galvanized Yankee later that year by enlisting as a private in Company D of the 2nd Florida Cavalry US on August 6, 1864 at Cedar Key, FL. His US service records note that he was a “Refugee from the Confederacy”. Coker gladly took the $100 enlistment bounty, but it appears that his heart was really not with the Union. In fact, he deserted from that unit as well on November 9, 1864. His service records include the following notations, which are some of the funniest words I have ever seen when describing a Civil War soldier:

"Worthless Drone". The notes in his service record continue by saying: “Took with him his gun + accouterments, complete besides a plentiful supply of ammunition.”

Coker voluntarily rejoined the unit on July 18, 1865; some three months after the war was over! Coker’s lack of enthusiasm for the Union cause is further commented on in his service records which read: “Belonged to Co D at time of desertion. This solider being considered (not legible) of disloyalty & luke warmness to the cause is again upon the rolls by order of Brig. Gen. Newton.” His records further indicate that upon his return to duty he was due to pay back the $100 bounty and was also being charged $22.19 for the stolen ordnance. Coker was mustered out of Federal service on November 29, 1865 in Tallahassee, FL, the same city in which he had enlisted in the 2nd Florida Infantry CS slightly more than four years earlier. During the course of the war, John S. Coker had managed to enlist on both sides, and desert from both sides; an accomplishment likely to be credited to many Civil War soldiers. To add insult to injury, Coker applied for a Union Army Invalid Pension on September 8, 1890 for his service in the 2nd Florida Cavalry (US)! After the war Coker married Julia Ann Clayton and they had ten children. He lived a long life for the period, dying in 1911 just five days shy of his 68th birthday.

As previously noted, John S. Coker’s stolen Model 1854 Lorenz Rifle Musket is in about ATTIC FINE condition. The gun has a thick, untouched, oxidized brown patina over all of the metal surfaces. The metal is mostly smooth, but areas of minor surface roughness and pinpricking are present and some light pitting is present around the breech and bolster area, as well as on the lock near the bolster. All of the markings remain fairly crisp and clear, with the breech markings being the weakest due to flash pitting. The action works very well on all positions and remains very crisp, rating mechanically excellent. The gun has a dark, evenly seasoned bore that rates about VERY GOOD, with strong 4-groove rifling in the original Austrian 13.9mm, or .547 caliber. The bore shows lightly scattered oxidation and pitting along its length with some areas of more moderate pitting here and there. The original long-range rear sight is in place as is the front sight/bayonet lug. As is often the case on a Lorenz, the off-set oval base of the sight has been slightly filed at the rear to allow the bayonet to fit the gun, suggesting that the original bayonet the gun was issued with was lost and a replacement had to be made to fit. The gun retains both the original sling swivels and the original ramrod, which is full-length with threads at the end. Interestingly the rear barrel band is on the gun backwards, something that I have noted on a number of Civil War used Lorenz rifle muskets over the years. The stock is in ATTIC FINE condition as well. It is solid and full-length, and free of any breaks, repairs or significant damage. The beech stock has taken on a dark, evenly aged patina that has more of the dark brown color of walnut than the usual lighter honey color of beech. The stock shows numerous bumps, dings, mars, scrapes and scratches, as well as a couple of chips; most notably behind the rear barrel band. Amazingly, there is very little of the typical wood loss due to splintering in the very tight ramrod channel. The Austrian beech stocks are notorious for drying and cracking along the grain and only a handful of the more than one hundred Lorenz rifle muskets that I have owned and handled have escaped this fate. This stock exhibits few of these typical drying cracks.

Overall this is a wonderful, untouched and unmolested Austrian M1854 Lorenz Rifle Musket with one of the best stories I have ever seen associated with a gun. When I first started to research the name on the stock I was sure it was a good example of a Confederate used Lorenz, but little did I know I would find a period document indicating that John S. Coker stole his gun when he deserted from the Union army! As collectors, we have all uttered the immortal words “if this gun could talk?”, well this time I really would love it if this gun could, because I want to know more about John Silas Coker, the “worthless drone” who fought on both sides during the American Civil War. A binder of research including Coker’s service records for both sides is included with the rifle.


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Tags: Austrian, M1854, Lorenz, IDd, to, a, Galvanized, Yankee