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Confederate Cook & Brother Rifle - About Fine

Confederate Cook & Brother Rifle - About Fine

  • Product Code: FLA-3231-SOLD
  • Availability: Out Of Stock
  • $1.00

The Confederate long arms produced by the firm of Cook & Brother are some of the best made and most sought after guns produced in the south during the American Civil War. Thanks to the research done by the late Dr. John Murphy & Howard Michael Madaus that is presented in their two volume set Confederate Rifles & Muskets and Confederate Carbines & Musketoons, we know quite a bit about the company and its contracts, and have a reasonable estimate regarding their total production of long arms. Ferdinand W.C. Cook was born on July 23, 1823 Harry Cook and Ann Bradwin Wright Cook. He was baptized William Charles Ferdinand Cook in St. Mary’s Church, Islington, London. At the age of 9, Ferdinand emigrated to America with his father and older brothers Henry (18) and Theodore (16), on board the ship Ontario. The ship arrived in New York City on April 17, 1833, about 3-months shy of Ferdinand’s tenth birthday. Murphy & Madaus note that Ferdinand Cook was 16 when he reached America, but this is not correct, and it is possible that they used the census records for brother Theodore to establish that age. In 1834, the rest of the family, including Ferdinand’s mother Ann and brothers Arthur (15), Francis (13) and Frederick (5) immigrated to America as well and joined the Cook family in New York. It was in New York that Ferdinand, Francis and Frederick received their training in metal work and engineering, as all three worked for the "Novelty Iron Works" (formerly Stillman & Co), which was a large and well-established engineering and industrial manufacturing company in the city. Along with their education, this on-the-job training gave all of them real knowledge and skill regarding the engineering and manufacturing of heavy industrial equipment, foundry work, castings, and military armaments. The training could not have come from a better company, as the Novelty Iron Works was known top-quality workmanship in New York and throughout the growing United States. While he was employed at Novelty Iron Works, Ferdinand visited New Orleans in the early part of the 1840s. There he functioned as a sales agent for the customers of the company in that region. These were mostly businesses in the sugar and cotton industry. The allure of New Orleans must have been great, as Ferdinand moved there in 1845 and in 1849 married a local woman, Mary Jane Wilcox. In 1852 Ferdinand’s younger brother Frederick joined him in New Orleans and by 1855 his brother Francis had as well. The threesome established the Belleville Iron Works in Algiers, LA where they concentrated on manufacturing large-scale industrial machinery and agricultural equipment. This type of industrial engineering and manufacturing was practically unknown in the south, which had relied for decades upon northern manufactures for their machinery. The Cooks even dabbled in the manufacture of small arms and artillery, and as early as May of 1856 they had corresponded with US Secretary of War Jefferson Davis about the possibility of establishing a national foundry for the manufacture of canon and arms in New Orleans. While he was making his own business successful, Ferdinand remained a sales agent for the Novelty Iron Works, but by 1861 he had resigned from that position. Brothers Ferdinand and Francis also spun off their small arms portion of the Bellville Works sometime in late 1860 or early 1861, establishing the Nashua Iron Company for the production of arms. This company was established on Canal Street in New Orleans proper, across the Mississippi River from their Algiers factory. According to the Cooks, the firm was established to prove “that rifles could be made here as well as in Yankee land or in Europe.” Not very long after establishing this new manufactory, the name was changed to Cook & Brother and would remain so through the rest of the war. Initially the firm concentrated on the manufacture of Enfield pattern “short rifles’ based upon the English Patten 1856 rifle, with saber bayonets. Early orders included rifles and bayonets for the “Sunflower Guards’ (Company I, 21st Mississippi Volunteer Infantry) and for the state of Alabama, which ordered 1,000 Cook rifles with bayonets. While the company clearly focused on producing “Enfield pattern” rifles and bayonets, it also manufactured more than 2,000 additional saber bayonets and a small number of carbines and musketoons (also based on “Enfield” patterns) before the Federal capture of New Orleans forced the Cook brothers to relocated further south. It is believed that the firm produced about 2,200 long arms in New Orleans, most of which were rifles, with a much smaller number of carbines and musketoons produced as well, prior to their forced evacuation in April of 1862. The Cooks took as much machinery, finished parts and raw materials as they could and escaped by river to Vicksburg, MS and then traveled via wagon to Selma, AL. From Selma the Cooks moved on to Athens, GA and established their new factory there. With the many previously finished parts on hand they were able to assemble completed arms prior to the factory really being up and running. As a result, the original Alabama state contract for rifles was completed by mid-August 1862 and at about the same time the Confederate Ordnance Department entered into an agreement with Cook & Brother to deliver “50,000 stand of arms” (rifle & bayonet, complete) at the rate of $25 each. The new manufactory was up and running by early 1863, but in addition to making rifles and bayonets there was new emphasis on producing carbines and musketoons. The musketoon had a 24” barrel and was based upon the English Enfield Pattern 1853 Artillery Carbine and the carbine had a 21” barrel and was based upon the English Enfield Pattern 1856 Cavalry Carbine. It is generally believed that the Cook & Brother carbines and musketoons produced in New Orleans were numbered in a separate serial number range from the rifles. However, it appears that once the operation was moved to Athens, all of the long arms were serial numbered in the same range, and somewhat randomly, with rifle, carbine and musketoon numbers mixed together. The new factory was apparently quite impressive and according to Confederate Chief of Ordnance Josiah Gorgas, "the establishment of the works reflects much credit upon their senior partner, and he has exhibited a much better appreciation of the requirements of an Armory than any other person who has attempted a like enterprise in the Confederacy." Further kudos were provided by Confederate Colonel James H. Burton, who was initially the superintendent of the Richmond Armory but was soon made the overall supervisor of all CS armories. During an 1864 inspection of the premises, Burton noted that the Cook & Brother Armory was "the best fitted up and regulated private armory I have yet inspected in the C. States." Ferdinand Cook was clearly somewhat leery that the company might be forced to move again due to Yankee thrusts into the south and to that end he established a local militia company comprised of some of his workers and other Athens locals to serve as a defense force. The group was officially designated the 23rd Georgia Local Defense Battalion, and Ferdinand Cook served as its major. The battalion was engaged during the defense of Griswoldville, GA in November of 1864 and during the fighting around Hardeeville, SC the following month. Major Ferdinand Cook was killed in action by a Federal sharpshooter on December 11, 1864. As is well known, the surrender at Appomattox signed the death knell for the Confederate south, both militarily and financially. In March of 1867 US Federal Marshalls seized the defunct Cook & Brother factory to sell it as former enemy property. Francis L. Cook managed to stave off the confiscation through a series of legal battles, but after managing to retain title to his property he was forced to sell the manufactory at a sheriff’s sale to pay his debts. The buyer, Athens Manufacturing Company, subsequently used the factory as a cotton mill.

As previously noted the Cook & Brother Rifle was based upon the British made Enfield Pattern 1856 “Short Rifle”. The Cook rifle followed the general profile of the British made guns, and were similar in size, barrel length and caliber. Both had 33” barrels and nominal overall lengths around 48”. The British rifle was .577 caliber (25 bore) and the Cook rifle was nominally .58 caliber. Like the British made rifles, the Cook was rifled with three lands and grooves. The barrels of the Cook & Brother carbines were made from iron bars that were heated and twisted around a steel mandrel, unlike British barrels that were either hammer forged iron or eventually made of cast steel. This twisting process produced a distinct grain pattern, similar to the “Damascus’ steel pattern of fine 19th century shotguns, but without the striking appearance and designs. Some Cook barrels were browned, and those were probably quite attractive with the twisted pattern, while those left in the bright were much less attractive, but still typically show the distinctive twisted grain in the metal. Like the British rifle, the Cook variant used a jag-head ramrod, threaded at the end for implements to be used in cleaning and extracting unfired bullets. While the English Pattern 1856 rifle was iron mounted, the Cook rifle utilized cheaper and easier to manufacture brass furniture for the buttplate, triggerguard and nosecap. The Cook rifle even used brass for the barrel bands and sling swivels, unlike the British guns whose barrel bands were iron. The side nail cups (lock screw escutcheons) were iron on the British P-1856 rifle, but were brass on the Cook variant. Another primary difference between the rifles was that the Cook utilized a fixed rear sight on most of their guns rather than the adjustable leaf sight found on the British made guns. The Cook rifles were originally designed to accept a saber bayonet like their English counterparts, and initially mounted a keyed lug on the barrel, near the muzzle of the purposes of affixing the saber bayonet. These lugs only appear on the early production Cook rifles and were eventually supplanted by a removable bayonet adapter ring, which the mounting lug was mounted upon. The Cook produced rifles underwent some minor evolutionary changes from their initial production in New Orleans, through the end of their production in Athens. The afore mentioned evolution of the bayonet lug is a good example of one of those changes. While these changes are more plentiful and apparent in the Cook produced carbines, there were some changes in the rifles. Most obviously, the New Orleans made rifles have different lock and barrel markings than that later Athens production guns, with a different style of flag stamped to the rear of the hammer and New Orleans rather than Athens as their production location. The prototypical Athens produced rifle is quite similar to the New Orleans produced guns, with a new lock marking that read: COOK & BROTHER ATHENS GA (Serial Number) over the date 1863 or 1864. The Confederate First National Flag stamped at the rear of the lock plate is slightly different on the Athens made guns as well, showing a distinct “wrinkle” in it, as though it were waving in the wind. The barrels were typically marked in three lines COOK & BROTHER / ATHENS GA (Date) / (Serial Number). The serial numbers appeared on the majority of the components of the rifle, such as the nose cap, the triggerguard, on the rear surface of the barrel bands, and on the heads of the lock and tang screws. The guns produced in New Orleans had a two-piece triggerguard that was similar to US made arms of the era and different from the Enfield pattern guns. The Athens made guns typically had a one-piece triggerguard much more closely patterned after the English ones. The bottoms of the barrels and the breech plugs were both stamped with matching alphanumeric or simply numeric mating marks. Early Athens rifles also had alphanumeric mating marks inside the locks, although these generally had no relationship to those found under the barrel or the serial numbers. Some Cook long arms bear the “FWC” cartouche of Ferdinand Cook, but these are quite rare and the mark is rarely visible either due to wear of not having been stamped in the first place.

This fairly late production Cook & Brother Rifle is in about FINE condition for a Confederate used and produced arm. The gun has a truly wonderful Cook & Brother lock with very clear markings and a smooth brownish-gray patina. The lock is marked in a long line, forward of the hammer: COOK & BROTHER ATHENS GA 6188 over the date 1864. This serial number places the gun in the final stages of Cook & Brother production, as the highest known Cook & Brother long arm is serial number 7755. The barrel shows the usual Athens era Cook & Brother markings and reads in three lines: COOK & BROTHER / ATHENS GA 1864 / 6188. The markings are somewhat light due to an old institutional cleaning of the rifle. The barrel is also marked with the usual Cook & Brother PROVED mark at the left breech. The rifle is typical of later production Cook work, in that not everything is as carefully marked and matched as with the earlier production guns, and some parts appear to have been reused from either damaged guns or from parts on hand not previously utilized. The matching serial number 6188 appears on the bottom of the brass nose cap, but the face of the nose cap is also marked 15. The two lock mounting screws and the barrel tang screw appear to have the remnants of the matching number 6188, but the numbers are weak due to the light cleaning and are not fully legible. The rear of the Athens production, one-piece brass triggerguard is numbered 27. The triggerguard is clearly an original Cook parts used in the assembly of this gun, but is simply not numbered to it. The triggerguard also bears an additional, larger number, which does not appear to be Cook applied, that is 34. This might be a rack or issue number or even an old institutional collection number. The rear sling swivel is numbered 61, but without the “88”, but I would still consider this a “matching” number. The upper barrel band is not numbered, which is not uncommon on late production Cook arms. The bottom of the barrel has the mating mark 92 and the same mark is present on the bottom of the breech plug tang, an additional assembly mark, 45 is present under the barrel as well. There is no alpha mark associated with either of these mating marks. There are no mating or assembly marks present inside the lock, and this is not uncommon on later production Cook long arms, as Murphy & Madaus note example #6401 without interior lock marks, and from my own examination neither #7655 or #7735 have them either. The rifle does not have a bayonet lug adapter ring and may never have had one. On January 14 of 1864 the Confederate Adjutant & Inspector General’s Office issued General Order #6, which discontinued the manufacture of saber bayonets within the Confederacy. As this rifle was certainly manufactured after that order was issued, the saber bayonet mounting system was likely dispensed with. This rifle has a rifle-musket style front sight that is configured to serve as a socket bayonet lug as well. Earlier Cook rifles have a front sight more reminiscent of the US M-1855 Rifle front sight, and that sight is not configured to serve as a socket bayonet lug. As noted the rifle is in about FINE condition, especially for a last ditch Confederate made and used rifle that likely saw at least some real world use at the end of the war. The barrel is mostly smooth with the signature distinctive twist of the iron Cook & Brother barrel being plainly visible and somewhat dramatic. The gun was previously in the Yale University collection and was apparently lightly cleaned and conserved there during the early part of the 20th century. The barrel has a dull brownish gray patina and appears to have been browned originally, with traces of that browned finish present around the base of the rear sight and in the recesses of the bolster. The barrel is mostly smooth forward of the barrel marking, but shows some very light pitting from the breech area to the barrel marking. The bolster also shows some very light pitting, all of which is typical of the wear caused by the caustic flash of mercuric percussion caps. The bore of the rifle is in about VERY GOOD+ condition and shows very sharp and strong visible 3-groove rifling for its entire length. The bore also shows light pitting along its entire length with some small areas of more significant wear and pitting present in scattered patches. The bore is somewhat dirty and a good scrubbing might improve the bore significantly as some of the oxidized roughness noted might simply be old dirt and debris. The extremely well marked lock has a mostly smooth dull gray patina and shows only some minor pinpricking and light flecks of surface oxidation and discoloration. The lock is mechanically excellent and functions crisply and correctly on all positions. The mainspring is particularly strong and even though the internal lock parts show the rough finishing of late war production, they still function quite crisply. The correct, original, late production, Enfield rifle musket style, iron front sight is in place on the top of the barrel near the muzzle, and the correct original fixed rear sight is in place forward of the breech. The brass furniture has a lovely, medium mustard and umber patina, and shows streaks of reddish coloration typical of high copper content Confederate made brass. The brass in these rifles was derived locally, often from the melting of church bells and other items of bronze or brass. All of the brass furniture shows the rough finishing of sandcast parts; particularly on the unfinished reverse sides of the buttplate and triggerguard. The one-piece triggerguard has a mismatched number, but this is not uncommon for late production Cook arms, and many later Cooks have unnumbered triggerguards. The nosecap, as previously noted is correctly numbered 6188. The brass buttplate is unmarked and has a lovely patina matching the balance of the rifle. The original ramrod is present and is full-length and complete with good threads at the end. The stock of the carbine is in about VERY GOOD+ to NEAR FINE condition, and would easily rate “fine” if not for a couple of minor repairs. The stock is solid and complete, full-length and without any breaks or major repairs. The stock, like the metal components, appears to have undergone an institutional cleaning during the early 20th century. This included a light cleaning and while it is possible the stock was lightly sanded at the time, the edges remain very crisp and sharp and all lines remain in good order without rounding or softening. Two minor repairs are noted in the stock. The largest is a roughly trapezoidal piece of wood about 4” long, let into the right side of the stock at the rammer channel, between the upper and lower barrel bands. This appears to have repaired a large chip or flaw. The work is well done, relatively seamless and not visually obvious, so that it does not affect the display of this fine rifle. A good photo of the repair is below. The other repair is a minor repair to the toe of the stock where it chipped and the original wood was put back in place, so well that it is almost invisible and looks more like a hairline crack. There are a couple of minor points of damage to note as well. A tiny chip of wood is missing at the rear of the breech plug tang and another small chip is missing at the edge of the rammer channel on the reverse, forward of the upper barrel band. The stock also shows a handful of minor bumps and dings from handling and use. None of this really detracts from the overall appearance, and the stock remains very sharp and attractive with a medium brown color with slightly orange tones. The stock shows good overall workmanship and finishing on the outside, but rougher work in the barrel channel and under the buttplate, where the quality is concealed. The barrel channel has the workman’s mark XXIII chisel cut into it at the breech.

Overall this is really a very nice, complete and original example of a scarce and desirable Cook & Brother Rifle. The research by Murphy & Madaus places the overall production of Cook & Brother long arms around 7,000 (maybe as many as 8,000 based on serial extant numbers), the majority of which were rifles and the unknown balance of which were the cavalry carbines and artillery musketoons. While more rifles were produced overall, their production quantities were reduced as the war continued, with an increasing emphasis placed on carbine production for the cavalry. As such, high serial number, late production rifles are fairly scarce. These guns do not appear on the market very often, particularly in such crisp and well-marked condition, and as a result they are usually highly-prized possessions in Civil War long arms collections, especially in Confederate oriented collections. This rifle was produced during the waning days of Cook & Brother production in 1864, and deserves a special place in an advanced collection of Civil War arms.

Provenance: Yale University Collection (Jack Malloy), Ben Michel Collection of Confederate Arms, advanced private collection of fine Confederate long arms (collection name to be shared with buyer only).


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Tags: Confederate, Cook, Brother, Rifle, About, Fine