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Confederate Marked British P-1856 Cavalry Carbine

Confederate Marked British P-1856 Cavalry Carbine

  • Product Code: FLA-3150-SOLD
  • Availability: Out Of Stock
  • $1.00

The P-1856 Cavalry Carbine is a rarely encountered Civil War era long arm, and even those carbines without Confederate import marks bring significant prices due to their low production and importation numbers. The US Government only purchased about 250 of the carbines, and the Confederacy (by most researchers accounts) purchased only about 10,000 of the guns. The majority of the Confederate purchased carbines appear to have been acquired and delivered during the last half of the war. In fact the Payne Ledger, which details the late war Confederate imports through Wilmington, NC notes that some 4,700 English cavalry carbines were landed there between July of 1863 and November of 1864. These guns were marked with the (ANCHOR) / S mark on the comb of the stock, forward of the buttplate tang, and have lock dates of 1863 or 1864, unless they are London made guns that bear the maker’s name on the lock and no date. At least some of the earlier guns, acquired before the fall of the 1862, were struck with the JS / (ANCHOR) inspection mark in the same location. Purchasing documents located in the McRae papers indicate that Caleb Huse purchased 120 Pattern 1856 cavalry carbines from S. Isaac, Campbell & Company on August 1, 1862. He paid 65 schillings each for these guns, and they were shipped to the Confederacy aboard the blockade-runner Gladiator. Huse purchased one additional case of 20 carbines from the same source on August 6, 1862 for the same price. These guns crossed the ocean in the hold of the blockade-runner Harriett Pinckney. These two orders only account for 140 of the carbines, and may be an indication of why the JS / (ANCHOR marked guns are so incredibly scarce and are rarely encountered for sale. To date, the Confederate marked P-1856 carbines that are known have had locks marked TOWER (Birmingham contractor produced guns), BARNETT, or in extremely rare instances EP BOND and Parker, Field & Sons. While 10,000 cavalry carbines may seem like a significant number to have been imported, it is quite low when compared to the fact that most researchers put the total of all “Enfield” pattern English arms imported by the Confederacy at somewhere between 300,000 and 500,000. Even by the most lenient standards, that puts the importation of P-1856 cavalry carbines at between 3%-4% of all Enfield pattern arms obtained by the Confederacy. Their absolute paucity on the collectors market underscores the fact that these guns saw hard use during the war and were used up in the field. Extant examples of Confederate marked P-1856 carbines tend to appear in two conditions; heavily used & well-worn, or nearly mint guns from captured Confederate Blockade Runners. In either case, the guns are very scarce and are rarely found available for sale. One reason for their lack of survival comes from the Report of William H. H. Terrell, Adjutant General for the State of Indiana. The report dated December 1865 concerning the Seventh Indiana Cavalry states in part "On the 21st of December (1864) the Seventh Cavalry moved from Memphis with a cavalry expedition under General Grierson. On the 28th Forrest's dismounted camp at Vernon, Mississippi, was surprised and captured, and a large quantity of rebel stores destroyed, including sixteen railroad cars, loaded with pontoons for Hood's army, and four thousand new English carbines." This clearly indicates one clear reason for the scarcity of these guns. When the Federal troops captured them, they destroyed them. Since nearly all US cavalry regiments were armed with some form of breech loading carbine, a muzzle-loading carbine was of no real value. However, US troops regularly used captured CS imported Enfield rifle muskets, as they were of use to the infantry. While the later war P-1856 carbines that were imported by the Confederacy circa 1863-1864 with the (ANCHOR) / S inspection mark are hardly common, it must be stressed that I have had at least 3 or 4 of those guns for every JS / (ANCHOR) marked P-1856 Cavalry carbine that I have had the opportunity to offer, and this is only the 3rd JS / (ANCHOR) marked P-1856 Cavalry carbine that I have had the chance to offer for sale in the last 10 years!

This particular example of a Confederate Imported British P-1856 Cavalry Carbine was produced by the firm of J.E. Barnett & Sons of London, and the gun is clearly marked with the early war Confederate viewer’s mark of a JS / (ANCHOR) on the comb of the stock, forward of the buttplate tang. There is no English gun maker who could more appropriately be called the “Gun Maker to the Confederacy” than the London firm of John Edward Barnett & Sons. During the course of the American Civil War, Barnett delivered thousands of P-1853 “Enfield” rifle muskets, as well as P-1853 Artillery and P-1856 Cavalry carbines to the Confederacy. Barnett also delivered large numbers of obsolete arms like Brunswick rifles and P-1851 Mini” Rifles to Confederate buyers. Barnett not only filled Confederate central government contracts, but also filled orders for the Confederates states of Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. The Barnett family traced their gunmaking heritage to Thomas Barnett who operated in London as early as 1796. In 1811 the firm became Thomas Barnett & Sons, and John Edward Barnett subsequently succeeded to the business in 1833. In 1842 the firm was renamed JE Barnett & Sons and operated under that name until 1901 when they became JE Barnett & Sons LTD, going out of business in 1908. During the Civil War years, the Barnetts operated at both their 134 Minories address, which had been established in 1833, and at Brewhouse Lane, Wapping, where they operated from 1860-1874. In the typical fashion of the old time gunmakers in England, Barnett relied heavily on a variety of contractors to produce piecework parts, which were subsequently assembled into complete arms in the Barnett shop. While Barnett could clearly manufacture entire guns in house (and often did), it was often more expedient and cost effective to sub-contract for major components when large contracts were received and had to be filled quickly. Many of the orders received from the Confederacy during the course of the American Civil War were just these types of orders, which had to be completed as quickly as possible. The gun is in about FAIR+ to NEAR GOOD overall condition, and has seen hard use and is missing a number of its parts. The gun, however, is so scarce in that it is an early purchase, JS / (ANCHOR) marked carbine, that it is certainly worthy of some basic restoration by replacing some of the missing parts with original parts to improve its overall displayability. As previously mentioned, Confederate cavalry carbines tended to see hard use in the field, and this gun is no exception. The gun does retain crisp and sharp markings in the metal, with marks in the wood being fairly sharp as well, despite hard use. The most important mark is a very crisp and legible JS / (ANCHOR) stamped into the comb of the stock, forward of the buttplate tang. The exterior of the lock is marked forward of the hammer in two lines: BARNETT / LONDON. There is no crown on the lock plate to the rear of the hammer, but the lock does have the often-encountered dual line boarder engraving around the edge of the lock, typical of locks made in Birmingham rather than London. The interior of the lock is simply marked BARNETT over the mainspring, and with the initials W L, most likely that of the setter up, along with the number 4. The interior of the lock is also marked BRIDGEWATER in an arc over the mainspring boss, indicating that the lock was produced by one of the series of Bridgewater generations that worked in Birmingham from the 1820s through the 1860s as gun lock makers, as well as gun, rifle & pistol makers. While the locks of these guns often exhibit a set of file slash assembly marks on the top or bottom edge of the lock plate, this one has the Arabic number 4 inside the lock that serves the purpose of the mating mark. This “4” mates with the Roman numeral style file slash mark \ \/ that appears on the bottom of the barrel and in the ramrod channel of the stock. While it is not common to find a combination of file slash and Arabic numeral mating codes in English arms, I have noted it on a handful of London made, Confederate marked arms. I believe that these mixed code styles may be indicative that parts used had originally been fit to other guns or stocks, and were scavenged in haste to complete a time sensitive contract. The barrel is marked externally at the breech with the expected London commercial proof and view marks, without a visible gauge mark. The bottom of the carbine barrel is clearly marked BARNETT, as well as with a 25 gauge mark, indicating the carbine is .577 caliber. The bottom of the barrel is further marked with a 3 and with the initials W L, which is most likely the mark of the “setter up”, who did the actual assembling of the gun for Barnett. The rammer channel is also stamped with the file slash mating mark \ \/. The lock retains underlying traces of the original mottled case coloring on the exterior, mixed with a deeply oxidized and mottled brownish patina. The lock remains very crisp and is mechanically excellent, functioning flawlessly on all positions. The hammer screw appears to be a modern replacement and is not original to the gun. Additionally the rear lock mounting screw is a modern replacement as well. The barrel has a similar mottled plum brown and gray patina, over its entire surface. The majority of the barrel is fairly smooth, with some scattered patches of light peppering and pinpricking present, along with some patches of surface oxidation. There is some heavier, more moderate pitting present around the breech and bolster area and forward to the place where the rear sight was originally mounted. This is typical of a percussion arm that saw significant service. The original percussion cone (nipple) is in place in the snail (bolster) but is somewhat deformed and heavily battered. The bore of the carbine is in about GOOD+ to NEAR VERY GOOD condition. It retains strong, visible, 3-groove rifling, and shows scattered light to moderate pitting along its entire length. The bore could probably be improved with a good scrubbing. The rear barrel band has an attractive plum brown patina that matches the barrel perfectly. The band is clearly marked C (CROWN) G, indicating that it was made by the Birmingham firm of Cooper & Goodman. While Cooper & Goodman was a large maker of arms, they also provided large quantities of “small work” (small gun parts and gun furniture) to the Birmingham and London gun trades, and small parts with their marks are regularly encountered on guns by many different makers. The lower band retains its mushroom shaped screw keeper, a part that is often missing. The upper barrel band is missing from the gun and is a part that it would be worth locating in order to replace. The original multi-leaf rear sight is in missing from the carbine, as is the original sling bar and saddle ring from the stock flat, opposite the lock. The swivel ramrod is also missing from the carbine. These carbines, especially Confederate used ones, are often found with the swivel ramrod missing. These somewhat delicate and very cumbersome rammers were often “lost” in the field during use, although it is difficult to know if the losses were accidental or intentional. We do know that Confederate Cavalry commander J.E.B. Stuart specifically requested P-1856 Artillery carbines for his troops, as those guns did not have the awkward captive rammer, and in a letter to General Robert E. Lee, Stuart specifically complained about these awkward, permanently attached rammers. The brass furniture has a very deep, untouched ocher patina with strong hints of verdigris green that looks wonderful, and compliments the dark patina on the iron parts of the gun. The stock of the gun rates about GOOD as well. Unfortunately, the forend has been crudely cut under the rear barrel band. This may be one of the classic “Bannerman” cuts, allowing a disassembled gun to be shipped in a much smaller box at a lower price. The forend is original to the gun and is not a replaced piece of wood. The mating mark in the rammer channel matches that mark under the barrel perfectly and the untouched patina of the forend cap matches the untouched buttplate perfectly. Were it not for this cut, the stock would rate about “very good”. The forend is currently secured to the gun only by the pressure exerted by the rear barrel band. For this reason, finding a replacement upper band is strongly advised, and it would probably be worth having the stock glued or spliced back together to avoid damage to the forend in the future. The balance of the stock is solid, but shows the significant number of bumps, dings and wear marks that are normally associated with a cavalry carbine that saw real, hard use in the field. The stock still retains good edges, with the majority of the softening of any edges being attributed to normal wear.

Overall this is a relatively very nice looking gun that shows hard Confederate use, and has a great “untouched” look. These JS / (ANCHOR) marked P-1856 cavalry carbines are very rarely encountered, and a nice complete example will sell anywhere in the $6,000 to $10,000 range, depending upon condition. For that reason, it is certainly worth buying this carbine and spending a few hundred dollars to find the original missing parts, in order to restore the appearance of the gun, and have a really great Confederate inspected English cavalry carbine at between half and two-thirds of what you would normally pat to obtain one. For any collector of Confederate cavalry arms, a P-1856 is a must have item. It is also an essential addition to any collection of English imported arms used by the Confederacy. I’m lucky to see one JS / (ANCHOR) marked P-1856 cavalry carbine for sale in a year, and the gun is usually in very rough condition like this one. This gun clearly fought and saw service, but was cared for well that with the addition of the few parts that are missing it will allow the restored gun to display wonderfully. I am quite sure that you will be very pleased adding this scarce Confederate marked carbine to your collection, even if it is initially a “project piece”. In the long-run you will agree that it was well worth the time and investment to restore it to its original Confederate glory.


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Tags: Confederate, Marked, British, P, 1856, Cavalry, Carbine