This is a fabulous example of a Turner Rifle, produced by the Cincinnati, OH gunsmith Henry L. Siebert . The Turnverein (or simply Turners in America) were nationalistic German-American gymnastics (athletic) clubs. Many were recent immigrants to the US, arriving in the late 1840’s and early 1850’s. When war broke out in their newly adopted land, many Turners rushed to enlist, and often sought out units comprised of their own members. The most famous Turner regiments were the 9th OH volunteer infantry (raised in the Cincinnati area) and the 17th MO volunteer infantry, known as the Western Turner Rifles raised in the St. Louis area. Although both of these units were raised in specific areas, they drew Turner’s from all over the US, including cities like Baltimore and Philadelphia, as well as those in the mid-west and west. Many of these men arrived in camp with their own personal weapons. Usually they arrived with civilian style percussion target rifles, both half stock and full stock, in calibers that were typically between .42 and .45. While the styles and variations of the rifles were quite wide ranging, the two features that were typical of these guns were the addition of sling swivels (uncommon on civilian rifles) and a large lug to accept a saber bayonet (almost never encountered on civilian guns). The saber bayonets were typically very large, often featuring Yatagan or Bowie style blades, in the range of 18”-24" and with cast brass hilts. Henry L. Siebert who was born in Germany produced this rifle. He produced the rifle circa 1856-1858. Siebert appears as a gunsmith in the Cincinnati directories in 1850 and is listed as 23 years old. From 1856 to 1858 Siebert owned & operated The Buckeye Gun Store at 230 Main Street in Cincinnati. By 1861 Siebert is listed as a salesman in the directories and in 1866 he appears in Columbus, OH. The interior of the lock is marked T. Gibbons. Thomas Gibbons worked as a gunsmith in Covington, KY (just across the river from Cincinnati) in the 1850’s and by 1859 has moved to St. Louis. This rifle is from the collection of author Thomas B. Rentschler, author of RIFLES & BLADES of the GERMAN-AMERICAN MILITIA & the CIVIL WAR. The rifle is pictured and described on page 76 of that book, as figure 20.
The rifle is in VERY FINE condition overall and is clearly marked on the top barrel flat in three lines: H L SIEBERT / 230 MAIN ST / CIN. O. The rifle is 46 ““ in overall length with a heavy octagon barrel that is 30” in length and .45 caliber. The rifle has a false breech and a back action lock with double set triggers. The action of the rifle works well and the set triggers operate as they should. The lock and hammer retain traces of their original case colored finish. The rifle retains about 60% of the original browned finish on the barrel, and shows some light wear and finish loss as well as some small patches of minor light peppering and pinpricking. The original Turner style bayonet lug remains on the right side of the barrel near the muzzle, and the Cincinnati made, Hug marked Turner bayonet offered in the bayonet section of our web site fits the rifle like it was made for it. The muzzle of the octagon barrel is turned round for a bullet starter. The rifle is mounted with iron throughout with German silver escutcheons for the barrel wedges. The ramrod is an old wooden rod that is probably a period replacement and is about 2” short of the correct length. The original upper sling swivel is present on the rifle, but the rear swivel appears to be an old replacement. The rear site has been modified (probably in the 1940’s or 50’s with the addition of a Smith Carbine flip up site. According to Rentschler’s research, the rifle was being shot in muzzle loading target competitions prior to his acquiring it. Rentschler also surmises that the dovetailed front site may be a replacement from the same era, but I think it may be original and was simply re-blued to make it stand out more against the barrel and the targets. The stock is in VERY FINE condition as well. The stock is full length and is capped with a metal forend cap near the muzzle. The stock shows only the normal bumps and dings from use, no abuse, cracks, repairs or serious damage.
Overall this is simply a wonderful example of a rarely encountered Turner rifle by a Cincinnati gunsmith who worked for a limited amount of time during the antebellum era. The gun almost certainly was owned by a member of the 9th OH Volunteer Infantry and likely saw at least some early Civil War use. The 9th kept at least some of their Turner rifles longer than most Turner regiments. Diary accounts from the 9th OH talk about the 9th routing the Confederates during the 1862 Kentucky campaign with a bayonet charge that included their massive Turner bayonets. Even into the fall and winter of 1862 the 9th kept at least one company armed with these rifles to act as skirmishers. In fact about 30 years ago a relic hunter dug a Turner bayonet from a 9th OH location at the battle of Stones River (fought December 1862-January 1863) in Murfreesboro, TN. That means at least one 9th OH soldier was still carrying his “BAHN-FRIE” bayonet (and likely his rifle as well) as late as January of 1863. Rarely does a collector have an opportunity to purchase a scarce pattern of rifle with a strong, specific regimental association. On top of that the rifle is a well documented, published gun and every serious antique arms collector needs at least one published gun in their collection to serve and a centerpiece.SOLD