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Confederate Fayetteville Rifle

Confederate Fayetteville Rifle

  • Product Code: FLA-1918-SOLD
  • Availability: Out Of Stock
  • $1.00

This is a wonderful example of one of the most iconic long arms produced in the Confederate States of America, during the American Civil War. The Fayetteville Rifle was produced in significant numbers when compared to most Confederate manufactured long guns, but constant supply problems prevented the arsenal from reaching the level of production that it was capable of attaining. The Fayetteville Arsenal was initially established by the US government in April of 1838 as the North Carolina Arsenal (located in Fayetteville, NC). The arsenal was intended as a repository for arms and accoutrements, as well as a location to perform the necessary repairs and maintenance to keep the arms functional. An August 16, 1848 report regarding the inventory of flintlock muskets in store at Federal Arsenals in the United States at the close of the Mexican War noted that the North Carolina Arsenal had 318 muskets in store, which had been “Turned in by disbanded regiments volunteers, Inspected & Classed”. During the 1850’s the armory also altered US flintlock muskets, rifles and pistols to percussion via the Belgian or cone in barrel system, using machinery that was produced at Harpers Ferry. The machinery was manufactured in 1849 and delivered to the arsenal and subsequently set up during the last part of that year and the beginning of the following year. During 1850 the arsenal altered 5,146 muskets percussion. In 1851, the arsenal altered an additional 15,538 arms, including not only muskets but also rifles and pistols. Unlike many of the national armories that transferred their machinery to alter arms to percussion to other locations, the arsenal at Fayetteville retained their machinery after they were done altering arms in 1851. This became very important with the coming of the Civil War, as it provided a location for the Confederate Ordnance Department to perform the same tasks. With the coming of the Civil War, the North Carolina state militia took control of the arsenal in Fayetteville on April 27, 1861.The arsenal immediately started the project of altering and repairing arms for North Carolina troops, and subsequently for the Confederate Ordnance Department. With the capture of the National Armory at Harpers Ferry by Virginia state troops on April 18, 1861, the Confederacy obtained vitally important machinery for the production of arms, as well as a large supply of finished and partially finished parts for assembling arms, and a large cache of raw materials. The entire supply was initially sent to Richmond, and the bulk of the machinery allowed the establishment of the Richmond Armory. It was decided to send the machinery from the Harpers Ferry Rifle Works to Fayetteville to establish a rifle manufactory at that location. Unfortunately, Fayetteville only received that machinery which was specific to rifle making. Those machines that were useful for the production of both rifles and rifle muskets were retained in Richmond. This meant that Fayetteville was initially reliant on Richmond for a supply of locks, as they did not receive lock-making machinery. When the machinery arrived at Fayetteville and was set up near the end of 1861, the arsenal began the production of rifles based upon the US M-1855 rifle but without the Maynard Tape priming system. However, the arsenal had only 39 partially finished rifle locks, which had been captured at Harpers Ferry, with which to work. These locks were the basis for the rarest of the Fayetteville rifles, the Type I or “High Hump” Fayetteville. In 1862, with the handful of locks exhausted, the Fayetteville Arsenal began the production of Type II rifles, with a lower humpback lock, similar to the Type II Richmond lock. At this time the classic Fayetteville “S’ shaped hammer also made its appearance, which would be used through the rest of the Fayetteville production run. The reliance upon Richmond for the necessary parts to produce rifle locks kept Fayetteville from maximizing their production efforts, and it appears that by late summer or early fall of 1862, the armory was finally able to produce their own locks. These were conventionally shaped locks without the humpback profile. With the introduction of these locks, the production of the Type III Fayetteville rifle began. The ability to produce their own locks allowed the production output of Fayetteville to jump from around 100 rifles per month to about 300 rifles per month, although a maximum output of about 500 rifles per month was desired. This resulted in another problem “ a lack of barrels. Up until this point Fayetteville had relied upon a combination of barrels (both finished & unfinished) that were captured at Harpers Ferry, and additional barrels that were rolled at Richmond and sent to Fayetteville in rough form for finishing. As the supply of barrels on hand was used up, and Richmond proved unable to regularly supply rough barrels to Fayetteville, the arsenal became unable to deliver completed rifles by the fall of 1863. By January of 1864, Richmond was again capable of delivering rolled rough barrels to Fayetteville, and production resumed during that month. 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. This resulted in the final change to the Fayetteville Rifle. The first three types of rifles had been built with a lug on the barrel to accept a saber bayonet, which was the traditional bayonet used on rifle length arms. With the new general order in place, the Fayetteville rifles were adapted to accept socket bayonets. Again, supply problems plagued Fayetteville, and it appears that due to a lack of available steel, socket bayonet production did not begin at Fayetteville until February or March of 1864. The arsenal continued to produce the Type IV rifle until General Sherman’s troops captured the arsenal in early March of 1865. During the time the arsenal was producing rifles, somewhere between 8,600 and 8,900 of the guns of all four patterns were produced, of which at least half appear to have been the Type IV rifle. Like most Confederate arsenals, changes in patterns and features were usually forced by lack of raw materials or to save time and money. As such, transitional and non-standard variants are encountered from time to time, as supplies of older parts were used up or cannibalized parts were reused. It appears clear that if Fayetteville had been well supplied during the time that it was in operation, its output would have been between 50% and 100% greater than it actually was.

The Fayetteville Rifle offered here is in NEAR VERY GOOD condition, and is for all practical purposes a Type IV, although in reality it is a Type III-IV transitional example. The gun has all of the typical Type IV features, except for one. The rifle is brass mounted with a 33” barrel that is rifled with three lands and grooves. It has the usual square based US M-1858 style 3-leaf rear sight, graduated at 100, 300 and 500 yards. However, the gun has the front sight that is typically associated with the earlier pattern Type I-Type III guns, and not the smaller combination front sight and bayonet lug used on most Type IV rifles. The gun’s barrel was never cut for a saber bayonet lug, and it appears that this was a transitional gun, using one of the 500 barrels delivered to Fayetteville in January of 1864. The barrel was finished in Fayetteville, but did not have the saber bayonet lug attached as these were eliminated in mid-January. As the arsenal was not yet producing socket bayonets, the standard front sight then in use was utilized, and the rifle left the arsenal with no ability to fix a bayonet. The gun has the usual Fayetteville produced lock, as found on the Type III and Type IV rifles. The lock is marked with the date 1864 vertically to the rear of the hammer, and with a Harpers Ferry style Eagle over C.S.A. forward of the hammer. The forward edge of the lock is also marked FAYETTEVILLE. The lock retains some light faded traces of the original mottled case hardened finish, mixed with a dark brown patina and some grayish mottling. The lock is mostly smooth, with a couple of patches of light pitting between the hammer and bolster and on the leading edge of the lock plate. The lock has the typical Fayetteville “S’ shaped hammer. The lock functions crisply on all positions and is mechanically excellent. The barrel of the rifle retains strong traces of its original lacquer brown finish, which had blended with a thick brown patina that is completely untouched. The barrel is mostly smooth forward of the rear sight, but the breech area to the rear of the sight shows light to moderate pitting from use. The left barrel flat is marked with the expected V / P / (EAGLE HEAD) proof marks. The top of the breech flat is dated 1864, matching the lock date, but it is difficult to read due to the pitting in that area. The condition of the rifle’s bore rates about GOOD. It is dark brown, dirty and shows moderate pitting along its entire length. The bore retains visible 3-groove rifling, and is in a condition that matches the exterior of the rifle perfectly. The brass barrel bands have a deep, untouched ochre patina and have the usual “U” marks, indicating “up”. The bands show a number of impact marks and dings. The brass nose cap, triggerguard and buttplate all have the same deep, untouched patina found on the barrel bands. The upper tang of the buttplate is clearly stamped C S A. The rifle retains both of its original sling swivels, as well as what appears to be its original thin shank iron ramrod. The rod is full length and retains its threads on the end. The stock of the rifle rates NEAR VERY GOOD as well. It is full length and solid and free of any breaks. There is a tiny, expertly executed splice at the very tip of the stock, about 2” long. The splice is so well done that it is practically invisible from the outside of the rifle and is only noticeable from the interior. Based upon the quality of the work, I believe that this might be an arsenal splice to enable the armory to use an otherwise damaged stock that would not have been usable. The splice in no way detracts or affects the display of the rifle and is mentioned for exactness. The left flat of the stock, opposite the lock bears a semi-legible script PB cartouche, the mark of Fayetteville master armorer Philip Burkhart. There is also a Confederate battle flag lightly scratched into the reverse of the buttstock. The stock shows the usual bumps, dings and scars from use on the battlefield, and the wear is commensurate with the wear found on the metal, especially in the breech and bolster area.

Overall this is a very nice example of the classic Confederate Fayetteville Rifle. The gun displays wonderfully and has a great, untouched look to it. Even though the gun clearly saw significant service, it was never abused and remains a crisp example that is well marked throughout. For any collector of Confederate long arms, the Fayetteville rifle is simply a must have for the collection, and this is one that I am sure you will be very proud to display.


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Tags: Confederate, Fayetteville, Rifle