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Confederate South Carolina Marked Enfield

Confederate South Carolina Marked Enfield

  • Product Code: FLA-3062-SOLD
  • Availability: Out Of Stock
  • $1.00

For collectors of Confederate marked & imported Enfield rifle muskets, the examples marked for specific Confederate state purchases are the among the most sought after and highly prized examples. They are also some of the most difficult examples to acquire. The Georgia “G”, South Carolina “SC”, Louisiana “Star-L” and North Carolina “NC” marked weapons demand high premiums and are often the centerpieces of advanced Enfield collections. It has long been argued that the state markings of these guns were applied in the south, and were the result of disagreements between Confederate state governments and the Confederate central government as to the disposition of state arms upon their arrival. Both of these theories are provably false. The state letter markings applied to the obverse buttstocks of both Georgia and South Carolina purchased Enfields were applied in England, likely as part of the inspection process when the gun were viewed, marked and numbered. This is verified by the fact that the die sizes and fonts for two variants of the “SC” and “G” marks match, indicating the dies were from the same source, and the marks likely applied at the same location. Additionally, the first Georgia (and Louisiana) purchased arms to arrive in the south were those aboard the Fingal, which arrived in Savannah’s harbor on November 13, 1861. These 1,100 Georgia guns were initially a point of contention between Georgia’s Governor Brown and the Confederate War Department, which wanted to dictate to whom the arms would be issued. Although the Official Records (and Wiley Swords’ Firepower From Abroad suggest that these arms were finally all issued to Georgia regiments, an extant example of at least one Fingal Georgia “G” Enfield (which remains in the original family of the Tennessean who carried it during the war today) suggests that the guns that arrived during the early days of the war were not issued quite so carefully.

As the clouds of war gathered during 1860 and early 1861, the various Confederate states took it upon themselves to obtain arms from whatever sources were available, to ensure for their own defense once hostilities broke out. Many southern states sent representatives to England, in order to enquire about and potentially arrange the purchase of English military pattern arms. South Carolina was particularly well suited to obtain arms from England, as the state had a long standing trade relationship based upon cotton exports and finished goods imports, mainly through the port in Charleston, SC. The Charleston based firm of John Fraser & Company, along with their Liverpool based branch Fraser, Trenholm & Company and the New York offices of Trenholm Brothers would establish one of the most important trade and financial support groups for the Confederacy during the course of the war. Their pre-war business connections and vast experience with import-export allowed them to build a fleet of blockade-runners and supply the Confederacy with many essential items, for a substantial profit. However, arms purchases were not only made once the war began. During 1860, one Charleston area militia unit, the Georgetown Rifle Guards, were armed and equipped with English Enfields and a six-pound Blakely Rifle by their benefactor, Plowden C.J. Weston. Weston was a wealthy plantation owner in Georgetown, located about 60 up the coast from Charleston. Records indicate that the English arms were purchased through a Charleston based gun dealer. The “Georgetown Rifle Guards’ would become Company A of the 10th South Carolina when the local militias were mustered into state, and later Confederate service. Other pre-war purchases include at least 40 Enfields offered for sale by Gravely & Pringle a month before the war broke out. Their add in the Charleston Mercury on March 19, 1861 noted that “forty celebrated Enfield rifles with bayonets” were available for sale. In May of 1861, less than a month after the opening of hostilities, General Wade Hampton of the Hampton Legion ordered 400 Enfield rifles and rifled cannon from England as well. While it is probable that most of the early importation of Enfields for the state of South Carolina were coordinated by Fraser, Trenholm & Company, state purchasing agents were also dispatched to England. Benjamin Franklin Evans of Charleston was sent to England on behalf of the state of South Carolina in March of 1862, and was authorized to spend up to $60,000 for arms and materiel. While not all of the South Carolina contracts or purchasers have been identified, what appears clear is that at least two different contracts were entered into by the state to obtain Pattern 1853 Enfield Rifle Muskets in England. The first contract appears to have been for 2,000 Enfields, and was probably entered into about the same time as the 2nd Sinclair, Hamilton & Company contract for Enfields with the Confederate central government, during the fall of 1861. These guns are inspected with the Confederate viewer’s mark of a JS / (ANCHOR) and have an engraved inventory number on their buttplate tangs. They are additionally marked with the letters S.C on the obverse buttstock. At least four sizes of this “SC” mark are known, with most of these engraved number guns having a .55” SC, sometimes accompanied by an additional “small SC” that is about .3” tall and usually appears on the top of the buttstock comb, although can sometimes be found on the obverse stock as well. The other contract was apparently for 1,000 P-1853 Enfields, and was with the firm of J.E. Barnett and Sons of London. Like the state of Georgia purchased Barnett Enfields, these guns have their inventory numbers stamped into the toe of the buttplate, and bear the inspection mark of viewer’s Curtis & Hughes, a CH / 1 within a circle on the top of the stock comb, forward of the buttplate tang. The “SC” mark on the obverse stock is larger than the mark found on the guns with engraved numbers, being about .70” tall, and of the same size and font as the “G” found on Barnett Georgia contract Enfields. Survival of state marked Confederate P-1853s is quite low, with less than 40 of the South Carolina marked guns known to exist out of at least 3,000 that were purchased. This gives a survival rate of slightly more than 1%. To date less than a dozen of the “Big SC” Barnett guns are known, making them among the rarest of Confederate Enfields, along with the extremely scarce North Carolina and Louisiana marked P-1853s.

The Barnett “Big SC” South Carolina Enfield Rifle Musket offered here is in NEAR VERY GOOD Attic condition, and can honestly said to be “in the black”. This is because at some point in time the barrel was painted black, and strong traces of that black paint remains today. Painting guns as a method of protecting them and preserving them is quite an old tradition, and short of a paint analysis, it would be difficult to know if the gun was painted during the last 50 years or 150 years ago. Arms issued to naval units and coastal troops were often painted during the 18th & 19th centuries to protect them from the caustic salt atmosphere, so it is possible that the paint is from the period of use. The barrel was painted on the exposed metal only, with the paint on the bottom of the barrel coming from drips and running paint, not intentional painting. This suggests the application was to protect the exposed metal. The gun bears the “large” S.C mark on the obverse stock, and is stamp numbered 414 in the toe of the brass buttplate. It also has the expected CH / 1 inspection mark on the comb of the stock. The lock plate of the musket is clearly marked forward of the hammer BARNETT / LONDON. The firm of John Edward Barnett & Sons was one of the oldest and most prominent of the London gunmaking companies. They could trace their history to 1628, and in 1637 King Charles I appointed a Barnett the first president of the gunmakers guild. The company continued in business until just before World War I. While it is impossible to know for sure, surviving documents seem to indicate that all of Barnett’s production of Enfield pattern arms during the first 2-3 years of the war (that were not contracted for by the British Government) went to fill Confederate arms contracts from S. Isaac Campbell & CO, and the various Confederate States. There is no crown mark to the rear of the hammer, and the lock plate shows the double line engraving typical of one produced on contract in Birmingham or The Regions. The interior of the lock is marked simply BARNETT over the mainspring and with an illegible set of initials around the mainspring boss. Due to surface oxidation around the edge of the lock, no mating marks are visible. The breech of the barrel is marked with the standard London commercial proof and view marks, without a gauge mark. Under the barrel, the gauge mark 25 is struck twice, indicating .577 caliber. The initials WW are also struck twice, along with a weakly struck BARNETT. The numbers 35 / 3 are also present. The mating mark / / / / is cut with a file into the bottom of the barrel as well. The comb of the stock, forward of the buttplate tang, is marked with the Confederate view mark of Curtis & Hughes, a CH / 1 in a circle. Curtis & Hughes were English arms inspectors hired to view Confederate purchased arms. They appear to have primarily worked inspecting arms provided by Barnett, as their mark is most often found on Barnett produced Enfields, as well as surplus arms sold the Confederacy by Barnett like P-1851 Mini” Rifles and Brunswick Rifles. The obverse buttstock is clearly stamped with the large S.C South Carolina state ownership mark, and a crude letter A is also carved in the obverse of the butt. The ramrod channel is stamped KEEN & SON, for the London gunstock firm of that name. The firm was founded by Job Keen in 1813, who worked as a “Gunstock Maker and Walnut Dealer”. By 1841 the firm was also producing guns. The firm passed to his son, Job Keen Jr. in 1850 and in 1860 became Keen & Son. During the Civil War the company was located at Commercial Street E, and remained in business through 1866. The ramrod is marked with the initials T&CG for Thomas & Charles Gilbert of Birmingham. A “small work” maker who produced many ramrods and small gun parts for Birmingham and London makers from the 1850’s until they went out of business sometime between the last part of 1862 and the beginning of 1863. To date no known example of a Confederate marked and numbered Barnett Enfield has appeared with a numbered ramrod. While the guns with engraved numbers on the buttplates also had the inventory number engraved on their ramrods, there is no indication that any such marking took place on the Barnett guns with stamped numbers. Interestingly, many of the Confederate marked Barnett guns that I have handled have been found with T&CG marked ramrods, suggesting they may have been a large supplier to Barnett during the first year of the war.

The gun has a mostly smooth, heavily oxidized, dark brown patina in the areas where the applied black paint is no longer present. The majority of the barrel metal is smooth, with moderate pitting present at the breech and some scattered light pitting present in small patches along the barrel. The barrel bands all have the same, deep chocolate patina as the barrel, and do not appear to have been painted. The bottom two barrel bands retain their original “doughnut” protectors that secure the tension screw, preventing its loss. The upper barrel band does not and the screw, and possibly the band may be very old replacements as their fit is not quite perfect. The patina, however, matches so well that the band has clearly been with the musket for a very long time, probably since the period of use. The bore of the musket rates about GOOD+ to NEAR VERY GOOD. The bore is dark with a heavily seasoned appearance, but retaining good rifling along its length. There is even light pitting along the entire length of the bore, and a few patches of more significant roughness and erosion. The lock functions perfectly on all positions and remains very crisp and tight. The lock plate retains traces of original finish, mixed with a darker brown patina, and scattered flecks of oxidized surface roughness over its entire surface. The nose of the hammer is chipped, due to heavy use, which is indicated by the flash pitting in the bolster area. Both original sling swivels are missing, but an improvised replacement is present on the trigger guard bow. The rear sight is missing as well, and if the age and patina are any indication, the sight has been gone for a very long time, possibly as far back as the period of use. As previously noted, the original maker marked ramrod is present in the channel under the barrel. It is nearly full-length, being about ““ short and with no threads on the end of the rod. The brass furniture has a medium greenish-mustard (almost “woodsy”) patina and is quite attractive. The inventory number 414 is stamped into the bottom toe of the butt plate. The stock is in about VERY GOOD+ condition overall and is solid, complete and free of breaks or major repairs. The stock shows a number of bumps, dings, nicks and even some tiny minor gouges “ all indications of significant use in the field, but no indication of any abuse. The stock has a dark and slightly dry look to it, indicating it was probably stored in a dry climate for a very long time. The stock retains strong edges and lines throughout, with very good wood to metal fit. There are a couple of minor stock issues to note. There is a hairline grain crack running form the rear lock mounting screw to the barrel channel. This is a fairly common occurrence on Civil War era arms, as tightening the lock screw too much results in the cracking as the stock dries over time. There is also a small, replaced piece of wood between the hammer and the barrel tang. This area was probably burned out due to heavy firing, as indicated by the pitting in the breech area of the barrel. The replacement is well done and barely noticeable, but is mentioned for exactness, and pictured in detail below. Otherwise the stock remains solid and unmolested with a look that matches the battle worn appearance of the balance of the gun.

All in all this is simply a great looking example of a very scarce and very desirable Confederate purchased, South Carolina marked Enfield rifle musket that clearly saw significant use. The gun is complete and correct (with the few minor exceptions as noted above), and has nice, legible markings throughout. Any state marked, Confederate purchased Enfield is a scarce item, and that scarcity, their overall desirability and the infrequency of their appearance on the market has driven prices to almost absurd levels over the last few years. In 2005 an SC marked P-1853 in about the same condition sold at auction for well over $8,000, and in 2007 a superb example sold at auction for more than $25,000! While no one would ever call this a superb condition gun, it has the look of an old warrior that saw lots of service in defense of the south. With less than a dozen of the “Large SC” Barnett produced South Carolina P-1853s known to exist, it could be a very long time before another one of these hits the market. This gun could well be the centerpiece of your Confederate Enfield collection, and it is unlikely that a more fairly priced example will appear for sale anytime soon.

Provenance: Ex R.A. Pritchard Jr. collection, Author of The English Connection.


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Tags: Confederate, South, Carolina, Marked, Enfield