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Confederate Altered P1853 Enfield Rifle Musket to Short Rifle

Confederate Altered P1853 Enfield Rifle Musket to Short Rifle

  • Product Code: FLA-3522
  • Availability: Out Of Stock
  • $2,750.00

The fact that the Richmond Arsenal system regularly repaired long arms is well documented, with Confederate ledgers showing 12,212 Rifles, Muskets & Carbines repaired between October 1861 and November 1863. A specific reference to the repair to Enfield arms appears in a letter from Confederate Lt. J.W. Brown at the Richmond Arsenal, to his superior Lt. Colonel W.L. Broun noted on June 1, 1863: “The .577 Rifle Muskets examined were of the Enfield pattern, marked Tower, Windsor, Bond, Carr, Barnett & Greener that had been repaired at the Artillery Workshop in Richmond and were ready for issue.”. While this letter specifically refers to “rifle muskets” and not “rifles”, it is a clear indication that Enfield pattern arms were being worked on in Richmond and being put back into service, although it does not note if some of the arms were shortened during the repair process. While the Richmond Armory did not always note the pattern of rifles and muskets that they repaired, in February of 1865, the arsenal did note that among the ordnance delivered to the military store keeper were 3 Enfield Rifles – Repaired.

Over the years, a handful of shortened P1853 Enfield rifle muskets with Confederate provenance have been identified that were altered to “rifle” configuration during the course of the war. These guns are found with barrels that are approximately 33” in length, with the barrels varying as much as 1” or so, +/-. They have all been shortened to “2-band” Enfield short rifle configuration, with the forward portion of the stock slimmed sufficiently to allow the use of the original upper barrel band and the lower band retained in its original position. The brass nose cap has been reattached with a pair of somewhat crude, Confederate made “red brass” rivets, and a saber bayonet lug has been added to the right side of the barrel. A new front sight was added, but in all cases the original 900-yard rifle musket sight has been retained in its original location; approximately halfway between the breech and rear band. As produced, the English Enfield “short rifle” had either an 1,100 or 1,200 yard sight (depending upon pattern) that was located further forward than a rifle musket sight, close to the rear barrel band. The location of the rear sight and its 900-yard musket graduation is one of the key identifying features of these Confederate arsenal altered P1853 rifle muskets that were converted to P1856 style rifles. Additionally, the guns are usually found with a second set of assembly mating marks, or in this case “reassembly” marks, in addition to their original British assembly part mating marks. While some of the handful of extant examples are marked with Confederate inspection markings, such as those of Sinclair, Hamilton & Company, some do not have these marks. This suggests that captured US purchased Enfields that had been scavenged from battlefields were also subject to this kind of alteration, if the damage warranted shortening the gun.

It is still not exactly clear where in the Confederate south that these rifle muskets were altered to rifle configuration. While Richmond was certainly the largest of the repair centers, other Confederate arsenals were well known for repairing and altering arms. The shortening of US M1842 pattern muskets into musketoons by the Macon Arsenal is one of the better know and well documented example of such work. In the case of these guns, some hints as to where the alterations were performed may be taken from the work itself. First, the shortened rifle musket barrels were not nearly as thick as those of actual Enfield rifles, so their muzzle diameters, which tended to be a nominal .780”, were too small to accept a Pattern 1856 Enfield saber bayonet. The two primary variations of P1856 saber bayonets had nominal muzzle diameters of .811” and .822”, both much too large for a .780” muzzle. This suggests that these altered rifles were mounted with Confederate made brass handled saber bayonets with muzzle ring diameters in the neighborhood of .785”. The source of these bayonets is unknown, but could have been Boyle & Gamble in Richmond, Cook & Brother in Louisiana (later Georgia) or possibly Leech & Rigdon in Memphis (whose operations were later moved to Mississippi and then Georgia as well). These firms were the largest makers of saber bayonets for the Confederacy, other than Fayetteville, which was producing saber bayonets for use on the rifles that they manufactured. Discovering what bayonet fits these rifles would likely provide a clue as to where the alterations took place. Based upon the locations of the firms the most likely locations were in Northern Virginia or somewhere in Georgia. The second clue as to where the alterations took place is the fact that some of the extant examples bear no Confederate inspection marks, suggesting that some of the guns were Union used guns salvaged from the battlefield. As the Confederate armies in the western theater rarely found themselves in command of the field after a battle, those armies could rarely scavenge the field for arms and equipment. During the first part of the war the situation in the Eastern Theater was very different and arms left on the battlefields after Union losses provided a fine resource for Confederate ordnance department. This fact suggests that the alterations were more likely to have been the work of the Richmond Arsenal system or one of the Virginia contractors, rather than a deep south arsenal or contractor.

Offered here is a text book example of Confederate Altered P1853 Enfield Rifle Musket to Rifle Configuration. The “rifle” remains in about VERY GOOD to VERY GOOD+ condition with clear markings throughout and an attractive, untouched patina on the both the iron and brass. The gun is one of the examples that bears no obvious Confederate inspection marks and may have been a damaged US used Enfield that was recovered from a battlefield. The gun has had its barrel shortened to 34”, the stock shortened to 45”, and the gun has an overall length of 50”. The barrel extends beyond the nose cap of the stock by 5”. By comparison a standard British made P1856 Enfield “short rifle” was 49” in overall length, with a 33” barrel that extended 5 3/8” beyond the stock, which was nominally 43 5/8” in length, including the nose cap. From these measurements it is clear that the altered gun started life as a rifle musket, as the stock and barrel are both at least 1” longer than those found on the short rifle. As with the other extant examples that I have examined, the nose cap has been reattached to the shortened stock with two red brass rivets that measure nominally .2” on the exterior and roughly twice that on the interior of the stock. The rifle had a saber bayonet lug added to the right side of the barrel during the alteration process. The lug itself is no longer present, but the dovetail cut for the lug remains fully visible. It is located 3 3/8” from the muzzle and in 5/8” in length. A new, musket style front sight has been added to the barrel 1 ¼” from the muzzle. The blade has been worn away, but the base remains present and appears capable of doubling as a socket bayonet lug. The sight/lug location is correct for a P1853 Enfield pattern socket bayonet and the nominal barrel diameter is .780” at the muzzle, which would be appropriate for the nominal muzzle diameter of a P1853 style bayonet at .787”. By the same token, this would be appropriate for a Richmond made “Three Square” socket bayonet. This begs the question, is the saber lug actually missing or did they decide not to add it, and instead went with the simpler and cheaper socket bayonet? The gun is assembly marked throughout with the original English mating marks \ | /. However, an additional set of mating marks has been added to the gun, the Arabic number 20, which is stamped under the barrel and is written in the barrel channel of the stock in period pencil. Like the red brass nosecap rivets, this secondary set of assembly mating marks is indicative of Confederate alteration of these rifle muskets to rifles.

As noted, the gun remains well marked throughout. The toe of the stock is marked by the contractor that manufactured the gun, in this case PRYSE & REDMAN. The firm of Pryse & Redman was one of the larger Birmingham based English arms makers, who were also prominent shareholders in the Birmingham Small Arms Trade (BSAT) consortium. The firm was located at 84 Aston Street and was a partnership between Charles Pryse and Richard Redman. In addition to the large number of sporting and military pattern arms the firm produced between 1842 and 1873, they also manufactured Deane-Harding pattern revolvers under license from Harding and Beaumont Adams Revolvers on contract for the London Armoury Company. Pryse & Redman marked P1853 Enfield Rifle muskets are known to exist both with JS/Anchor Confederate inspections and engraved number buttplates, and with US provenance. Like most of the Birmingham makers, their arms appear to have found use with both sides during the war. In addition to the Pryse & Redman mark there are two additional marks behind the triggerguard that are deeply stamped, thus not particularly legible. One appears to be a BSAT mark and the other may be a Pryse & Redman trademark. A name was apparently stamped on the counterpane of the gun, which appears to have been intentionally defaced. The lock plate is clearly marked TOWER / 1862 forward of the hammer and has the English Crown to the rear. As would be expected for a commercial gun, not acquired by the British military, there is no “VR” under the crown. The interior of the lock bears only the initials JL, which are probably the mark of the “setter up” who assembled the gun originally in Birmingham, as the same initials are under the barrel as well. The top edge of the lock bears the English assembly mating mark \ | /, which is found under the barrel, on the rear edge of both barrel bands, and on the necks of the lock mounting screws and the tang screw. The upper left quadrant of the barrel’s breech has the usual Birmingham commercial proof and view marks, as well as a pair of 25 gauge marks, indicating .577 caliber. Under the barrel is the mark of the barrel maker, W. MILLWARD, along with his initials WM and the initials of the “setter up”, JL. The barrel and breech plug are mating marked to each other with the number 421, and the initials TH and the number 8 are also found under the barrel. As noted earlier, the secondary mating mark 20 is stamped in the barrel and written in pencil in the barrel channel of the stock. The obverse butt of the stock is clearly stamped with a circular Birmingham Small Arms Trade cartouche that is clearly and deeply struck.

As noted, the gun remains in about VERY GOOD+ condition. The barrel is mostly smooth, particularly forward of the rear sight, with some slightly scattered pinpricking here and there on the metal. There is some light pitting present around the breech and bolster area, extending to the base of the rear sight. The exterior surface of the barrel has a nice, relatively even plum brown patina with some splotchy areas of darker surface oxidation and discoloration. The bore of the rifle retains the original and correct pattern 3-groove rifling, and rates about GOOD+. The rifling remains visible and fairly distinct, but the bore is somewhat dirty and shows even light pitting along its entire length, with a couple of patches of more serious pitting here and there. As noted, the gun retains its original 900-yard rifle musket rear sight. The front sight, as previously noted, is the base of the rifle musket type sight that was added during the alteration. The saber bayonet lug, if it was installed in the dovetail, is no longer present. The original sling swivels are in place on the triggerguard of the rifle and on the upper barrel band. The upper band also retains its original screw protecting doughnut on the end of the band tension screw, which allows us to know that the swivel is original as well. The lower band is missing this screw protector. The brass furniture has a thick, uncleaned patina that has a very dark appearance with a greenish undertone. The brass is very attractive and has a wonderful, untouched appearance. The original ramrod remains in place in the channel under the stock as well. It is clear that this is the shortened rifle musket ramrod, as it measures 33 7/8” in overall length, absolutely correct for the unusual 34” barrel. The rod retains the modified, period cut threads on its end, to allow the use of cleaning implements. The majority of an original English “snap cap” (better known as a cone or “nipple” protector”) remains attached to the lower sling swivel. The snap cap retains the original iron split ring, the six teardrop shaped folded brass chain links and the iron base. The leather pad, as is so often the case, is missing from the iron base. The stock of the rifle rates about VERY GOOD as well. The stock is full-length, as shortened from the rifle musket stock, with no breaks or repairs. The stock does show a significant number of bumps, dings and impact marks from actual use and service in the field. Considering that the gun arrived in America circa 1862, and clearly fought long enough to be arsenal refurbished, the stock is in amazingly good condition. There are a couple of small slivers missing from the ramrod channel and a tiny grain crack at the rear lock screw, but there is no indication of sanding, abuse or any wear that was in any way caused by anything by use during the period.

Overall, this is a really fascinating example of a rather scarce Confederate Altered P1853 Enfield Rifle Musket to Rifle Configuration. While all Confederate weapons have a great story and interesting history behind them, this one is simply about as cool as it gets. This is absolutely one of those fantastic pieces of Civil War history that we wish could talk and tell its story. The gun has all of the expected features for one of these southern arsenal altered rifles, based upon the handful of extant examples. This is a wonderful way to add a very cool CS gun to your collection for a very reasonable price.


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