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Confederate Captured Cape Gun from the Chalmette Regiment at the Fall of New Orleans

Confederate Captured Cape Gun from the Chalmette Regiment at the Fall of New Orleans

  • Product Code: FLA-3186-SOLD
  • Availability: Out Of Stock
  • $1.00

Rarely does a military artifact provide a concrete identification to where and when it was used during the course of a conflict, and a direct tie to the regiment that used it. Even more rarely can history of an item be traced in minute detail from the time that it was accepted for military service until the time that it was no longer in use in the field. This wonderful regimentally identified Confederate Used & Altered Cape Gun is just such a unique item, that has a very clear history that can be established through a combination of period documents and a wonderful period capture plaque that is set into the stock of the gun.

When the Civil War broke out, the new southern Confederacy found itself woefully unprepared in terms of having available the necessary military equipment and supplies to put an army into the field. One of the greatest issues was a lack of small arms, or the ability to manufacture them with any expediency and or in large quantities. The most commonly encountered firearms in the south during this era were percussion ignition muzzle loading shotguns and rifles, arms that the common man owned and used in his everyday life to put food on the table and to defend his family and property from unruly intruders, whether four legged or two legged! As a result, an industry dedicated to the militarization of such civilian arms arose overnight, and gunsmiths, cutlers, blacksmiths and mechanical artisans of all types went to work to turn the common civilian arms of the south into something resembling military arms. Country rifles were re-bored to a quasi-standard of .54 caliber and often the octagonal barrels were turned down at the muzzle to accept socket bayonets, either old US surplus ones or newly made local blades. Shotguns were altered depending upon their intended use. Those destined for the cavalry often had their barrels shortened, were equipped with larger “musket sized” cones (nipples) and often had some sort of slinging system attached; either swivels or sling bars or rings. Numerous receipts exist from southern gunmakers engaged in the modification of civilian shotguns for cavalry use. As an example, receipts exist in the Confederate Citizen Files (Record Group) from the Memphis firm of Schneider & Glassick that show that firm repaired hundreds of double barreled shotguns for military use, and in at least a couple of instances, specifically mentions shortening the barrels and adding sling rings. One receipt, dated September 19, 1861 lists: “16 shotguns cut off, new tubes; rings & locks repaired @ $3.00 - $48.00”. That same invoice lists on the next line: “29 guns, new tubes & rings @ 1.25 - $36.25”. I think the term “new tubes’ does not refer to barrels as we use the word today in reference to shotguns, but probably to new percussion cones (nipples). The prices charged would bear out that it is not a reference to barrels, as barrels would have been much more expensive and if the “new barrels’ were being installed the first set of shotguns would not have been “cut off”. The mention of “rings’ clearly suggests the installation of sling rings for cavalry use. Another Schneider & Glassick invoice from 10 days earlier also lists “30 shotguns, cut off and rep. @ $3.00 - $90.00”. These shortened guns were obviously for the use of the cavalry, but shotguns were altered in the south differently for use by the infantry. These guns were often modified to accept some form of bayonet, typically a large brass handled saber style blade. In New Orleans, the firm of Cook & Brother had undertaken to manufacture “short Enfield rifles’ based upon the British Pattern 1856 rifle, complete with saber bayonets. So it was no surprise that the forces looked to Cook & Brother to manufacture saber bayonets for use on other weapons as well. The firm developed a large two-pronged brass lug that could be brazed onto the barrels of shotguns, and manufactured a brass handled saber bayonet to engage this lug. Again, receipt reveal hundreds of saber bayonets being produced by Cook & Brother, and in some cases refer to the alteration of shotguns to accept saber bayonets. One such invoice from the spring of 1862 lists the following:

"April 5 “ For bayonets attached to 12 double ble guns $9.00 - $108.00”.

An additional receipt goes along with this invoice that reads as follows:

Received New Orleans April 5th, 1862 from Cook & Brothers. The written inventories (“) and twelve double barrelled (sic) guns with Saber Bayonets & sheaths & frogs.
J.C. Rousseau
Orderly Sergt.
of Company H Chalmette

An earlier receipt, from March 24, 1862 refers to these twelve guns being delivered to Cook & Brother for alteration and bayonets and reads in part: “Received new Orleans March 24th 1862 from Co. H Chalmette Regt twelve double barreled guns for to fit on Bayonets”, and is signed “Cook & Bro”. While there were certainly other guns that were so altered by Cook & Brother and receipts that have survived indicates that they produced at least a couple of thousand saber bayonets (typically at $8.00 each with scabbard & frog), this small trail of period paperwork proves that at least a dozen “double barreled guns’ were altered by Cook & Brother for use by the Chalmette Regiment, had bayonet adapters installed and were supplied with bayonets & scabbards for $9.00 each. It appears obvious, based on the other receipts, that the bayonet lugs and their installation on the guns were billed at $1.00 each. The Chalmette Regiment of Louisiana Volunteer State Troops was mustered into service on March 1, 1862 for 90 days and was officially mustered out in May of 1862. The regiment would be briefly recalled for service a year later, in May of 1863. The regiment’s 90 days of initial service was ignominious at best. The regiment had been raised to help with the defenses of New Orleans, as it became more and more apparent that a major Federal incursion into that region was going to take place. Under the command of Colonel Ignatius Szymanski, the regiment of slightly more than 300 men was ordered to Quarantine Station, six miles upriver from Fort St. Philip, where it took positions between the city and the fort. They were to provide protection for the river fort should it be assaulted from its rear, and were also a final line of defense against any landing forces that might try to circumvent the fort and attack New Orleans directly. Two forts, Jackson and St. Philip were placed along the Mississippi to protect New Orleans from attacks via water that originated from an attacking force coming from the Gulf of Mexico. Fort Jackson was on the western side of the river, down river from St. Philip, which was on the eastern side. On April 24 three divisions of Federal gunboats under Admiral Farragut ran the gauntlet of these two forts, and once past St. Philip were clear to proceed to New Orleans with minimal resistance. The leading division of nice ships to assault the river forts was commanded by Captain Theodore Bailey and his flag gunboat was the USS Cayuga. The Cayuga lead the squadron past the torturous fire of both forts, and as a result of the heroism of the her crew, two sailors on the Cayuga were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for their stalwart service that day. William Parker (captain of the afterguard) and Edward Wright (quartermaster) were both singled out for their meritorious conduct on that day and were awarded our nation’s highest military honor. The Congressional Medal of Honor citations for both men read in part that each man “conscientiously performed his duties throughout the action”. Both citations also note that “Eleven gunboats were successfully engaged and the enemy garrison forced to surrender during this battle in which Cayuga sustained 46 hits.” One of the primary components of that enemy garrison force was the Chalmette Regiment, armed in part with the “twelve double barrelled (sic) guns with Saber Bayonets & sheaths & frogs” that Sergeant Rousseau had so dutifully signed for on April 5 of that same month, just 19 days before he and the majority of his regiment were captured during the fall of New Orleans to Federal Forces. The majority of the men of the Chalmette Regiment were paroled on the spot, and only those unwilling to “take the oath” were made official prisoners of war, who were eventually paroled at Vicksburg some months later.

Offered here is one of the twelve Cook & Brother altered “Double Guns’ from the Chalmette Regiment, complete with a Cook & Brother Shotgun Saber Bayonet. The gun has a wonderful brass capture plaque inlaid and mounted on the obverse buttstock that reads in four lines:

Mississippi River Battle.
Trophy of the Rebel Chalmette Regiment
of Infantry. Captured by U.S.S. Cayuga
April 24th, 1862

The gun, is not a double-barreled shotgun as would be expected, and which it looks like at first glance. It is rather a Cape Rifle, which is a double barreled side-by-side combination rifle/shotgun. The gun is Belgian made and bears Li’ge proofs on the bottom of its barrels. The right hand barrel is the rifle barrel and is marked 10 underneath for 10mm, or approximately .40 caliber, and measurement with my calipers reveals a .404” bore. The left barrel is the shotgun barrel and is marked 17.4 underneath, which is 17.4mm or approximately .685” caliber and again, the calipers bear this out. This measurement is very close to the English 14-bore (gauge), which is about the same as a fully choked 12-gauge shotgun today. The rifle barrel is rifled with 6 very narrow, shallow grooves with a rather slow rate of twist, suggesting it was meant for conical ammunition with a long bearing surface and not round ball. As is appropriate to a rifle, a set of sights are included: a semi-buckhorn fixed notch rear sight and a long, low, German silver blade, both affixed to the barrel rib. Both sights appear to be original to the gun. The top of the barrel rib is engraved LONDON TWIST. The barrels are 32 ““ in length and the gun has an overall length of 48 “. The barrels are secured to the stock with a single wedge and with the traditional hooked breech. A pair of back action locks provide ignition for both barrels. The gun weighs in at a hefty and somewhat unbalanced 11 pounds. The gun is iron mounted throughout with an iron buttplate, entry pipe, ramrod pipes and triggerguard, which terminates in a pronounced loop. Simple, light floral scrolls are engraved on the locks, on the triggerguard, and around the barrel breeches as inexpensive enhancements. A large brass “two prong” Cook & Brother “shotgun” bayonet lug has been brazed onto the right side of the right barrel. The base of the lug is 4 ““ long, with the rear most mounting prong measuring 2” to the rear of its mount and the front prong measuring only 1”. At least 1” of the front mounting prong was broken off during the period of use, a not uncommon occurrence with this particular bayonet lug design when used with the long, heavy Cook & Brother saber bayonets. The gun is in about VERY GOOD condition overall and shows wear commensurate with a gun that probably served its owner as a civilian arm for some years prior to being altered for military service and then subsequently captured as a trophy of war. Both of the locks are mechanically excellent and function crisply and correctly on all positions. Both hammers are original (a rarity on 19th century doubles of all types) and show no repairs. Both original cones (nipples) are present as well and are in good, solid condition. The gun retains no original finish, but has a pleasing brownish patina that appears to be a combination of age and oxidation and the application of some brownish lacquer of varnish a long time ago as a preservative. Traces of this varnish or lacquer are still visible on the brass bayonet lug, and around the brass capture plaque, which has had this varnish cleaned off of it long ago. The barrels retain traces of their faux twist pattern on their exteriors, but underneath where the stock has protected the metal the wavy lines are still quite visible. The protected portions of the barrels are a pleasing pewter gray color, and did not receive the protective varnish coating. The metal of the barrels is mostly smooth, with some lightly scattered pitting around the breech and bolster area, and some light pinpricking and minor surface oxidation scattered along their lengths. Both bores rate GOOD+ to NEAR VERY GOOD and would probably clean up to be better. Both bores are dark and dirty with accumulated dirt and fouling from the years. The shotgun bore appears to be mostly smooth with only light to moderate pitting scattered along its length, most of which might really be debris that could clean out. The rifled bore has visible rifling along its entire length, although it is deeper and clearer at the breech than the muzzle. This might be because it was rifled with progressive depth grooves, or it might be from wear. It appears to have light to moderate pitting along its entire length as well, but again a good scrubbing might improve it. The buttplate and triggerguard both have a deep, chocolate patina with light to moderate surface oxidation and some scattered moderate roughness on the buttplate. The stock rates about VERY GOOD as well, and shows the expected bumps, dings, mars and scars of a gun that did civilian service, military service, was a war trophy and still survived 150 years! The stock is solid with no breaks, cracks or repairs. There are a couple of chips of wood missing, one small chip from the toe of the obverse stock at the buttplate and one on the reverse, under the lock. The stock shows the same old brownish varnish oar lacquer that was apparently applied to the gun a long time ago as a protectant. The reverse buttstock is stamped with the number 330, vertically over the number 0 which is horizontal. These are individual number stamps and are typically encountered on shotguns that were altered for bayonet by Cook & Brother. The stock numbers appear on both the obverse and reverse stocks and are never matching, nor do they seem to relate to the bayonet lug or bayonet number. It is probably safe to assume that one set of the numbers found on these shotguns was used by Cook & Brother for accounting purposes, indicating how many guns were repaired or altered and the other set may have been company or regimental issue marks. In the case of this shotgun, the presentation plaque covers any numbers that would have been on the obverse of the stock. It is interesting to note that a double-barreled shotgun exists in the collection of the Greensboro Historical Society (from the collection of the late Dr. John M. Murphy), which has an identical brass capture plaque on it. The gun is pictured on pages 306 & 307 of Confederate Carbines & Musketoons by Murphy & Madaus, and described on pages 309 & 310, and the plaque is of the exact same shape, design and bears the identical inspection in the same hand. It is further interesting to note that the gun is not altered for bayonet, has no lug and is simply a regular shotgun with no modifications.

This gun is accompanied by an original Cook & Brother Shotgun Bayonet that remains in very good condition. The bayonet is numbered 635 on the obverse ricasso, a number that would have mated with the number on the lug of the shotgun. As mentioned earlier, as the upper prong of this lug is missing, the number for the lug of this gun is unknown. This is an original Cook & Brother bayonet appropriate to display with the gun but it is not the one originally mated to this gun. The bayonet has an overall length of 23 ““ and has a tapered spear point blade that measures 18 7/8”. The blade appears to have been slightly shortened at some point in its life and is probably 1”-2” short of full length. The bayonet blade has been lightly cleaned and has a medium pewter patina with scattered patches of darker age oxidation, discoloration and lightly scattered pitting. The grooved brass hilt has a deep, dark, untouched umber patina. What appears to be the original locking spring is in place in the top groove of the hilt. It is heavily oxidized and no longer retains any “spring” tension. The bayonet fits the cape gun well, but since the gun has a damaged lug, it will not lock securely onto it.

Overall this is an incredibly historic and scarce Confederate altered Cape Gun that was present at the Battle of New Orleans. Cook & Brother altered this gun to accept a bayonet, and we have the receipts to document the features present on the gun. The gun was one of twelve picked up by Sergeant Rousseau, who made sure it was delivered to the Chalmette Regiment, and this gun was there when New Orleans fell and the crew of the USS Cayuga captured the regiment of Louisiana volunteers. The gun then became a war trophy for one of the men on board that gunboat, a gunboat that also earned the Congressional Medal of Honor for two of its crewmembers that day. Rarely can you find a Civil War weapon with so much history and documentable provenance. This is really better than a “one of a kind” item, because another identical capture plaque exists on a shotgun that resides in one of the finest public collections of Confederate Longarms. This makes the gun the only example that I am aware of that you can actually purchase and add to your collection. This gun represents one of those “once in a lifetime opportunities’ to own a wonderfully documented Confederate gun that was captured by the Federal Navy during the fall of New Orleans. Whether you specialize in identified items, captured items, Confederate items, New Orleans items, or whatever, this gun has something for you and deserves to be the centerpiece of a very advanced Civil War collection. A detailed binder of information about the battle, the Chalmette regiment and copies of the Cook & Brothers receipts are included with this fine gun & bayonet.

Due to weight and value, extra shipping will apply


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Tags: Confederate, Captured, Cape, Gun, from, the, Chalmette, Regiment, at, the, Fall, of, New, Orleans