Confederate Repaired M-1855 from the Richmond Armory
- Product Code: FLA-3157-SOLD
- Availability: Out Of Stock
On April 18th 1861 the United States Armory at Harper’s Ferry, VA was captured by two elements of Virginia state troops, the Jefferson Battalion and Captain Turner Ashby’s Fauquier Cavalry. The capture of the armory not only provided completed small arms that were sorely needed by the newly formed Confederacy, but also provided the machinery, an array of finished (but yet unassembled) parts, many unfinished gun parts and a large stock of raw materials; all of which could be used to manufacture additional small arms. The equipment and supplies were quickly removed to Winchester, VA via rail, from there transported by wagon via the Valley Turnpike to Strasburg and from thence to Richmond, VA. Once in Richmond much of the machinery was delivered to the old Virginia State Armory, with the rifle making machinery being forwarded to the old US arsenal at Fayetteville and the stock making equipment eventually being sent to Macon, GA where a stock making facility would be established in mid-1862. The old Virginia State Armory, formerly the source of the Virginia Manufactory arms from the first quarter of the 19th century, had been abandoned nearly 40 years before when the manufactory was discontinued. However, the advent of the John Brown raid at Harper’s Ferry had motivated the state of Virginia to start the process of refurbishing and renovating the facility in order to begin the production of small arms again. The capture of the machinery, parts and supplies from Harper’s Ferry sped this process up significantly, and under the watchful eyes of Virginia’s master armorer Salmon Adams and Virginia Lt. Colonel of Ordnance James Burton, the Confederate States Armory, Richmond came into being. By October of 1861 the arsenal was beginning to produce completed arms, with some 700 rifle muskets produced that month and delivered to the military storekeeper. These guns were mostly produced from completed parts that had been obtained at Harper’s Ferry, along with unfinished parts that were finished at the Richmond Armory. The guns were essentially a simplified version of the US M-1855 Rifle Musket that had been in production at Harper’s Ferry when the arsenal was captured. The primary difference between the US M-1855 and the “Richmond” rifle musket was the elimination of the Maynard tape priming system from the locks and the patchbox from the stocks. As the supply of finished and unfinished parts from Harper’s Ferry was used up, certain minor features changed over the next few months, as newly made parts were manufactured at the arsenal. In the stocks, the cut for the Maynard primer’s feed finger was eliminated, resulting in the distinctive “mule’s foot” appearance of the uncut wood within the lock mortise. Additionally, the cut out for the patchbox in the obverse of the butt was eliminated. By January of 1862, newly made “Richmond” stocks without the above-mentioned recesses were in used in Richmond. The Richmond lock was modified as well, with the elimination of the tape priming system; the unfinished 1855 locks were assembled without the cutout primer cavity or any primer components, but retained their “high hump” appearance. Over time, as Harper’s Ferry parts were used up and the lock making dies wore out, a “low hump” version of the lock was adopted. Initially the Richmond muskets used Harper’s Ferry produced furniture, but again as supplies ran out, newly made parts that were slightly different were used. The “US’ marked iron buttplate became a Richmond made, unmarked iron buttplate, and eventually became a brass buttplate. Based upon research in the payroll records of the armory, it appears that the unmarked iron buttplates were made from the time that the supply of Harper’s Ferry buttplates ran out, through March of 1862, when brass buttplates supplied by contractors were adopted. The stock tip which had been either a riveted brass tip or a screwed on iron tip at Harper’s Ferry became a brass tip that was initially riveted but later screwed onto the stock. The barrel bands produced at Harper’s Ferry retained the “U” mark for “up” as used on the US made muskets, but as the bands were hand stamped rather than marked in a mechanical fixture for that purpose, the location of the “U” varies and is rarely centered with the spring and on the leading edge of the band as it was on US made guns. The swelled shank iron ramrod was also simplified to a straight shank iron rod, although the head retained the same basic tulip profile. Other subtle changes occurred at the arsenal as well, but these are the changes that are most germane to the rifle musket discussed below. In all, based upon existing records, and estimates of production from December of 1863 through July of 1864 (a period for which no production records exist) some 31,014 Richmond rifle muskets were produced between October of 1861 and January of 1865. This figure comes from Paul Davies’ seminal work C.S. Armory Richmond, which is the most exhaustive study of all the extant period documents that pertain to that arsenal. In Confederate Rifles & Muskets by Murphy & Madaus, the estimated total production of rifle muskets at the arsenal is given at between 32,500 and 39,200. Realistically about 32,000 .58 rifle muskets were probably produced and that number is most likely a fairly accurate figure. During that same time frame, about 21,000 .58 rifle muskets were repaired and refurbished at the Richmond Armory. When collectors encounter these arms today they are not always readily identifiable as such, but sometimes certain characteristics can allow the gun to be classified as one that was definitely rebuilt at the Richmond Armory. Obviously the use of Richmond produced parts can suggest that the gun was repaired at that facility, but the presence of Richmond’s unique “Star” proof mark, referred to as the “3rd reinspection mark” by Murphy & Madaus typically seals the deal, proving the gun was a Richmond refurbished arm. This mark appears on the angled left flat of the barrel, where the usual “V” view and “P” proof marks appear, but further up along the flat, further from the breech. The mark is believed to be a reinspection of a previously proved barrel, often a barrel being reused on a different or refurbished gun. The mark is known to appear in conjunction with original Federal “V”, “P” and “Eaglehead” marks, in conjunction with original Confederate “V” and “P” marks, in conjunction with cryptic marks and no other proofs and completely by itself with no other proofs or marks at all. In this latter case, the barrel is generally a US barrel that had been recovered from an arm that was a battlefield pick up, and had been refurbished for use by the armory. Specifics about the refurbished guns are not often given in original documents, and often the terms are very generic like “gun” or “rifle musket”. However, there are a couple of times that specific models that were repaired are referred to. During November of 1862 some 331 “old muskets “ model 1855” were repaired at the Richmond Armory and delivered to the military storekeeper. It can be assumed that many of those guns were arms collected around Richmond after the Seven Days battles during the summer of 1862. Another mention of 1855 muskets being repaired is in August of 1863, when 560 “old muskets “ model 1855” were delivered to the military storekeeper.
Offered here is a US M-1855 Rifle Musket rebuilt for Confederate service at the Confederate States Armory, Richmond. It is in fact a Richmond Armory Old Musket “ Model 1855The gun exhibits a number of Confederate made parts, as well as a barrel with the Richmond Armory “3rd reinspection mark”, and could well be one of the 891 US M-1855 rifle muskets that were rebuilt in Richmond in November of 1862 and August of 1863. The gun contains several components that are of Richmond origin. The barrel is a US M-1855 rifle musket barrel that was refurbished at the Richmond Armory. The barrel is clearly stamped with the Richmond Armory “3rd reinspection mark”, a five pointed star near the forward end of the left angled barrel flat. No date or proof marks remain visible on the barrel, as they were apparently polished off during the refurbishing of the barrel. The bottom of the barrel shows a significant number of rough machining or milling marks, suggesting the barrel may have come from a battlefield pick up M-1855 and needed major cleaning in order to be serviceable again. It is interesting that Richmond wasted no time in polishing the underside of the barrel, and reserved that time consuming work for the exposed surfaces of the barrel only. The buttplate is an unmarked, forged iron buttplate of Richmond Armory production, one of the 425 iron buttplates that were manufactured there between late 1861 and March of 1862. The barrel bands all appear to have been manufactured at the Richmond Armory as well. The lower and middle bands both show “U” marks that are poorly placed. The mark on the lower band is quite crisp and clear and the mark on the middle band is more worn. The stamped marks are further from the leading edge than is typical of US made musket bands and the “U” marks are also considerably higher than those found on US musket bands. The upper band “U” is quite faint and only a portion can be seen, but it appears to be similarly ill placed as well. All three bands show significantly rougher machining and finishing than is normally found on US made bands, and the middle band’s sling swivel shows much rougher riveting than would be acceptable on a US made musket. The full-length iron ramrod appears to be or Richmond production as well, with a relatively thin iron shank that has no swell, and the usual Richmond profile recessed tulip head. The end of the rammer remains threaded for the use of cleaning implements. After careful examination, the rear sight appears to be a product of the Richmond Armory as well. It is quite possible that some of the other small parts and furniture, particularly some of the wood screws are of Richmond origin as well. The single most important piece of Richmond production on the gun is the stock. The stock is worthy of detailed discussion, as stock availability (or lack there of) would become a significant problem for the Richmond Arsenal after the summer of 1862.
As originally established in the summer of 1861, the stocking machinery from Harper’s Ferry was set up at the Richmond Armory. However, in May of 1862, as McClellan’s Peninsular Campaign approached the outskirts of Richmond, the Confederate Secretary of War ordered the removal of the stocking equipment from the Richmond Armory. The machinery was packed up and in June of 1862 it was shipped south. The machinery was initially sent to Atlanta, GA, where it was felt it would safe from Federal troops. However, the increase in property values in Atlanta delayed the selection of a site for the new stocking factory, and after some delay a site for the new factory was selected in Macon, GA, where property was more affordable and a suitable building could be secured. In July of 1862 the property was acquired and the machinery was forwarded for set up. Colonel Burton set up the machinery in August and shipments of rough stocks to Macon began that same month. However it would be the following month before the new stocking factory began to turn out finished rifle musket stocks, and October before any of these stocks reached Richmond for use. In order to try to keep the Richmond Armory producing rifle muskets during the six-month period between the initial packing of the machinery and the arrival of the first stocks from Macon, a program of hand finishing stocks was undertaken at the armory. However the process was slow and the results and quality were certainly uneven. Only 160 stocks were completed in May of 1862, with another 930 finished the following month, but it is quite possible that this was the final finishing of left over machine made stocks. The July receipts show that 139 hand made stocks were completed that month and 197 the following month. Only 20 stocks were completed in September of 1862 and none were completed in October. This stock shortage coincides with the first time that the records show the Richmond Armory repairing “old guns” in addition manufacturing new ones. In June of 1862 the newly appointed superintendent of the Richmond Armory, William S. Downer, noted that the hand stockers at the arsenal would run out of stocks in about three weeks (by early July 1862), and in July of 1862 the armory delivered only 471 newly made rifle muskets, 167 M-1842 pattern muskets. However, in July the Richmond Armory did assemble 916 “old arms”, almost double the amount of newly made guns. This began the Richmond Armory program of refurbishing and rebuilding captured and recovered arms, damaged arms and the regular scavenging of parts to keep the armory producing anything that would shoot. In August of 1862 only 397 newly made rifle muskets were delivered, along with 332 newly made muskets, but 957 “rifle muskets “ old” were delivered to the military storekeeper, along with an additional 1,209 “old arms/guns”. This same time frame notes for the first time in the payment receipts of the workers: “repair gun stocks”. This line item first appears in July of 1862, when 490 stocks were repaired. The following month 1,562 stocks were repaired, and in September another 662 stocks were repaired. Even thought the stockers had insufficient supplies of stocks to complete new ones, they were engaged in repairing old stocks for use on the rebuilt guns. The stock on this particular Richmond rebuilt M-1855 was originally manufactured at the Richmond Armory and is almost certainly one of the hand completed stocks. The stock has the classic “mule’s foot” projection in the mortise cut and is certainly a Richmond made stock. However, the band spring mortise for the lower barrel band was improperly positioned when it was cut, and the mortise then had to be filled and recut in the correct position. The incorrect cut was about ““ further back than it was supposed to be, and the filled area is clearly visible to the rear of the lower barrel band. The stock also shows a period repair on its reverse between the upper barrel band and the nose cap. The wood has splintered in this area, as it was probably cut too thin to begin with when the stock was hand finished. The repair was to try to secure the small splintered area of wood along the upper edge where the stock and barrel meet. This repair was made with four tiny hand made finishing nails, all of which remain in the stock, although some of the splintered wood is lost to the ages. There is no doubt in my mind that a Richmond stocker who was repairing old stocks performed this repair.
This Richmond Repaired M-1855 Rifle Musket is in about VERY GOOD overall condition and for a Confederate rebuilt and used rifle musket really rates closer to NEAR FINE. The gun is a great example of the work done at the Richmond Armory during the majority of the time it was in operation. There is realistically no way to know for sure when this musket was rebuilt, but based upon the available records, I would argue it was probably one of the 331 M-1855 rifle muskets rebuilt during November of 1862. I base this upon the following facts: 1) the buttplate is a Richmond iron buttplate of the type only produced from about December of 1861 through March of 1862 very few (if any) of which would have been floating around the arsenal in 1863, 2) the stock was repaired in two places, suggesting the stock shortage of the summer and fall of 1862 made it essential to keep this piece of “Richmond” wood in use, and 3) a huge number of US rifle muskets were recovered from Richmond battlefields in the summer of 1862 after the Seven Days campaign, and in mid-1862 M-1855 rifle muskets would have been commonly encountered on the field, probably more commonly than M-1861 rifle muskets that had been in production for less than one year at the time McClellan’s troops left Washington. As noted above, the gun has a Richmond made and repaired stock, a Richmond buttplate and ramrod, likely Richmond barrel bands and a Richmond reinspection marked barrel. The lock is an original US M-1855 lock from the Springfield Armory and is marked U.S. / SPRINGFIELD in two lines forward of the tape priming door and is dated 1858 horizontally behind the hammer. The lock markings are somewhat weak, as is the eagle on the primer door. Only the 1858 date remains crisp and clear. The weak markings are probably the result of the cleaning the gun underwent during refurbishment in Richmond. The lock has a mottled gray appearance with a dull pewter base color to the metal and darker splotches of surface oxidation and pinpricking and light pitting evenly scattered over all of the surfaces. The lock is mechanically EXCELLENT and functions perfectly on all positions, but as would be expected all of the internal Maynard tape primer parts were removed in Richmond during the refurbishment of the gun. The gun retains its original hammer with tape primer cutting edge, and the remaining internal parts are US arsenal made and do not appear to be Richmond parts. The barrel, as previously mentioned, is unmarked, with the exception of the Richmond (STAR) on the left angled breech. The barrel was cleaned and polished in Richmond, but the machining marks under the barrel were not polished out. The surface of the barrel has the same mottled gray patina as the lock and matches it perfectly. There is some light pitting and pinpricking around the breech area, with less noticeable pitting and evenly scattered pinpricking from the rear sight forward to the muzzle. The original cone (nipple) is in place in the bolster. It shows significant wear and moderate pitting but remains serviceable. The original clean out screw is also present in the bolster, and it shows significant slot wear, as if someone tried to force it out of the bolster at some point in time. The bore of the rifle muskets remains in about GOOD condition. It is somewhat dirty and needs a good cleaning, but retains strong, well-defined 3-groove rifling the length of the barrel. The bore does show moderate pitting along its entire length, as well as some smaller patches of more severe pitting, much of which is closer to the muzzle. The rear sight is an original Richmond Arsenal made copy of the US made M-1858 rear sight. Originally I had thought that this was probably a US made 1858 pattern sight, but upon closer inspection of the serifs visible on the "5" they much more closely match the Richmond made sight leaves pictured in Davis' book, rather than the markings on the US made sights. The 1858 pattern sight is the correct rear sight for the M-1855 rifle musket from mid-1858 through the end of production, and is the sight that was copied at Richmond, using the Harpers Ferry machinery. The sight is complete with all leaves present and functions correctly. The sight retains some traces of original blued finish and also retains the correct "steady pin" in the bottom of the base, visible only when the sight is removed. The barrel bands appear to be of Richmond origin, as discussed above. They show some scattered pitting and again, their patina matches that of the balance of the musket perfectly. The unmarked, Richmond made iron buttplate shows rough machining on the underside and does not show the level of fit and finish typical of US made buttplates. As is typical the wood to metal fit of the buttplate and the mortise cut in the stock are not as tight as a US made gun and some minor gapping exists around the edges of the plate. The buttplate has the same pewter patina and scattered pinpricking found on the rest of the iron parts of the musket. The wood screw that retains the buttplate tang appears to be slightly undersized and may well be Richmond made as well. The gun retains both sling swivels and the original M-1855 front sight/bayonet lug on the top of the barrel near the muzzle. The stock of the musket is unmarked and bears no Richmond cartouche. Again this is typical of rebuilt guns and even new guns of Richmond production are rarely encountered with the Salmon Adams cartouche. The stock shows the two period repairs that were discussed in detail above, the filled spring hole that was incorrectly cut below the lower barrel band, and the nailed repair at the upper reverse of the stock. The balance of the stock remains in about GOOD+ to NEAR VERY GOOD condition. The stock is solid and full length and shows no modern repairs. The stock does show an old crack diagonally from the rear of the lower band into the middle of the stock on the obverse. This is a tight, non-structural crack that is a couple of inches long that appears quite stable and may be related to the repair to the band spring mortise cut in the same general location. It in no way detracts from the appearance of the musket. The stock also shows a number of minor chips and some scattered gouges and serious dings, all of which are typical of a Confederate used musket that saw field service. The usual assortment of scattered light handling marks are present as well. As mentioned previously the wood to metal fit is less than sterling and some minor gapping appears around some of the furniture and the stock as well as around the breech area. This is really very minor and almost not noticeable, but is additional proof of the Confederate origin of this rebuilt musket, as Federal arms do not show even this minor level of inconsistent wood to metal fit. The stock shows no signs of having been sanded and retains good lines and edges throughout, with any rounding or softening of the edges being the result of period use, and not modern abuse. The rack style number 1 / L / 731 is stamped on the reverse butt in three lines, the meaning of which is unknown to me. This could be some sort of Richmond military storekeeper inventory number of simply a method of tracking some of the repaired arms.
Overall this is a really great example of a very important Confederate long arm that is every bit as Richmond as a Richmond Rifle Musket that has a Richmond marked lock in it. In reality this is much rarer gun, as only about 2/5 of the arsenal’s output was rebuilt rifle muskets, with the majority being newly made arms. If you collect Confederate long arms, this is a very important example to add to your collection, and is a gun that is rarely found for sale. For a collection that centers on the Richmond Arsenal, the gun is even more important, as it represents a very important type of weapon that was produced there. Rarely does a Richmond rebuilt arm appear with so many concretely Richmond characteristics and in such crisp, complete and correct condition. This is an important and underappreciated class of Richmond long arms that is often not recognized for what it is. You will have to search a long time to find another Richmond rebuilt US rifle musket that is this complete and correct and that shows no signs of any sort of modern tampering or parts replacing. I am positive you will be very proud to add this scarce Confederate long arm to your collection.SOLD