Extremely Rare Rifled & Sighted US M-1847 Cavalry Carbine
- Product Code: FLA-2993-SOLD
- Availability: Out Of Stock
In early 1847 the US Board of Ordnance met to evaluate three new patterns of “musketoons’ that had been produced at the Springfield Arsenal during 1846. The designs had been on the drawing board since at least 1844, but the model guns were not prepared until late in 1846, probably because of other more important manufacturing going on at the Springfield Arsenal. These three pattern guns would be adopted and approved by the Ordnance Department as the US M-1847 Sappers & Miners (Engineers) Musketoon, the US M-1847 Artillery Musketoon and the US M-1847 Cavalry Carbine. All three patterns were quite similar, with minor differences in their furniture and features that adapted them to the needs of the service branch they were to be issued to. Both the Sappers & Miners Musketoon and the Artillery Musketoon had iron furniture, were equipped with sling swivels for carry by men on foot, and were capable of mounting a bayonet. The Cavalry Carbine was designed to be slung from a sling and ring system for a mounted man, and this by the definitions of the time made it a “carbine” and not a “musketoon”. The cavalry carbine alone had brass furniture and had no provision for a bayonet. In all major features the guns were nearly identical, being single shot percussion muzzleloaders with an overall length of 41 1/16”. The guns had a nominally 26” long, round, smoothbore barrel of .69 caliber, secured to the stock with a pair of barrel bands, with the upper band being double strapped. The locks were all identical, being smaller versions of the US M-1842 percussion lock then in use on the US M-1842 infantry musket. The primary differences lay in the furniture, carrying systems, rammer systems and type of bayonet mounting systems (if any) that were used on the guns. Additionally, the barrel of the cavalry musketoon was actually 1/16” longer than the two musketoons, being 26 1/16” in length instead of 26”. While the family of US M-1847 “musketoons’ originally contained only three models, within a decade no less than 10 different variants existed, due to modifications, design improvements, and refitting of some guns for other service. The family of arms went into production in 1847, with the first guns being completed and accepted into stores during that calendar year being a pair of M-1847 Cavalry Carbines and 200 US M-1847 Sappers & Miners Musketoons. The family of arms remained in production for nearly a decade at Springfield, with the final guns produced being 33 Sappers & Miners Musketoons, delivered in 1856. During the production run a total of 10,033 M-1847 carbines and musketoons were manufactured, with 1,030 being Sappers & Miners Musketoons, 3,210 being Artillery Musketoons and 5,802 being Cavalry Carbines. The large majority of cavalry carbines had been altered in some way by the end of the 1850s, most eventually to artillery carbines (or “cadet musketoons”), and many of the sappers musketoons were similarly converted to a new purpose.
The design for what would become US M-1847 Cavalry Carbine was actually approved in 1844 by the Secretary of War in 1844, as was referred to as a “dragoon carbine”, with the specification calling for it to be “similar to the Artillery Musketoon”, and equipped with a “swivel ramrod” and “swivel bar to sling the arm on horseback”. The carbine was intended to replace the breech loading Hall carbines (mostly M-1842s and M-1843s) then in use by the 1st, 2nd & 3rd US Dragoons. From a technological standpoint, it would appear that this was a huge step backwards, moving from a breechloading weapon to a muzzle loading weapon, and it probably was. Realistically it was probably more indicative of the very traditional attitude of the Ordnance Department that was biased against most breechloading arms as being wasteful of ammunition and, and probably preferred the simpler and less expensive muzzle loading carbine for its fiscal frugality. The first M-1847 Cavalry Carbines were authorized to be issued to the 1st & 2nd US Dragoons in April of 1849, to start replacing the Hall carbines in service at that time. However, the first major shipment of cavalry carbines would not occur until March of 1851, when 500 of the carbines were shipped to New Mexico to supply the US Dragoons. As originally manufactured and issued the gun was a single shot, .69 caliber smoothbore, percussion ignition muzzle loading carbine with captive ramrod that operated on a swivel mechanism. The guns were brass mounted with a brass buttplate, triggerguard, side plate and pair of brass barrel bands. The upper band was double strapped, similar to that of the US M-1841 Mississippi Rifle, but the forend of the carbine extended beyond the barrel band and came to a rounded end 2 ““ from the muzzle. The band was secured by a steel band spring. The lower band was secured through a threaded lug that attached to the 9 ““ steel sling ring bar on the reverse of the carbine, that terminated at the side plate and rear lock mounting screw. A steel sling ring was suspended from the sling bar, to which the trooper could attach the snap hook of his carbine sling. A 3/8” stud was brazed under the barrel, ““ from the muzzle, from which the two curved, pivoting arms that secured the captive ramrod were slung. The lock was of the traditional design with only a half cock and a full cock notch, and no “safety” notch. Almost immediately after being issued, complaints began to come in from the field from the men who had received this new carbine. The deficiencies in design were myriad, and while some were thing that could easily be fixed, the reality was that this gun was obsolete before it was issued and replaced a much more practical carbine. From a military standpoint, the biggest complaints were the light weight of the gun resulted in heavy recoil and the short, smoothbore barrel was quite inaccurate. From a practical standpoint, the gun tended to unload itself when carried muzzle down from the sling on horseback, as the round ball was simply jostled out of the barrel by the movement of the horse. This same problem occurred with the ramrod, which had no retention system in the stock, so it would vibrate loose and come out of the rammer channel, resulting in damaged and lost ramrods simply from riding the horse! On top of that the percussion caps often bounced off the cone (nipple) and were lost due to vibration from the horse. The only way to carry the carbine with a cap on it was to lower the hammer onto the cap, a good way to end up with an accidental discharge if the hammer were snagged and then released. If the gun was carried at half cock, there was more than enough room between the hammer and the cone for the cap to bounce off. In 1851 the Ordnance Department announced modifications to resolve the cap and ramrod problems. The initial fix for the ramrod was to retrofit a “spoon” or friction retainer spring in the stock, as was done for the artillery and engineering musketoons. It was subsequently suggested that the problem could be resolved by increasing the length of the ramrod about “. Over the next couple of years, many of the existing cavalry carbines were modified by the addition of the spoon, or the new longer ramrod, or both. However, some were never modified with either. The solution for the percussion cap problem was to add a third “safety” notch to the tumbler. This new notch, forward of the half cock notch, allowed the sear to engage the tumbler at a point where the hammer was barely above the cone, high enough not to touch the percussion cap, but low enough to make sure the cap did not fall off the cone. To my knowledge, this is the only US arsenal produced percussion arm to incorporate three notches in the tumbler. As with the ramrod improvement, not all the guns were modified, and today they are found with and without the 3rd tumbler notch. Even with the improvements performed during 1851 and 1852 on many of the previously produced carbines, and supposedly incorporated into those yet to be produced, the carbines continued to perform poorly in the field, and were universally despised by the men who carried them, and their officers. Probably the most damning commentary came from Major William Anderson Thornton, whose “WAT” cartouche is well known on US martial arms. Thornton would eventually serve as the head of the Ordnance Department for the Department of New Mexico and would be the Chief of Ordnance at the New York Arsenal at Governor’s Island from just before the Civil War until his death in 1866. However, during 1855 and 1856 he was serving in the field in Texas, and from there he wrote a scathing condemnation of the M-1847 Cavalry Carbine on February 16, 1856, which read in part:
“It is very severe in recoil and wants range and accuracy of fire. It cannot be carried loaded, because the charge is shaken out by the movement of the horse. It is loaded with much difficulty when mounted, and becomes quickly unserviceable by the breaking of the swivel, and loss of the ramrod and tumbler screw, and by the battering of the muzzle when carried in the bucket. The men have no confidence in the arm.“ (emphasis added).By the time of Anderson’s letter, the M-1847 Cavalry Carbine was already being replaced in many US Dragoon companies with new Sharps breech loading carbines, and their accompanying US M-1842 pistols were being replaced with Colt Dragoon percussion revolvers. Many of the cavalry carbines were returned to various arsenals around the country as they were replaced in the field with more modern breechloaders. As the guns were considered obsolete, other uses for the carbines were found. During 1858 and 1859 some 630 of the cavalry musketoons were altered to “artillery” musketoons by removing the sling bar and swivel rammer system, adding a conventional ramrod and sling swivels and a stud to accept the current US M-1835 pattern .69 socket bayonet. These newly minted “artillery” carbines were then sent to the various states as “cadet musketoons”, due to the fact that there were no more US M-1841 or US M-1851 Cadet Muskets in inventory. In the Ordnance Department’s typical parsimonious way, they kept looking for ways to utilize the unpopular carbine, and during fiscal year 1859 two M-1847 Cavalry Carbines were modified at the Springfield Arsenal by rifling them for use with elongated ball (Mini”) ammunition and adding US M-1858 3-leaf rear sights. The unpopular swivel rammers were also removed and replaced by a rammer secured by a chain with a sliding ring on the rammer's shaft, that had a tulip shaped head, cupped for the elongated ammunition. The guns were further modified by drilling a hole under the buttplate and adding an 8 ounce lead weight in the butt to help minimize felt recoil and to improve the overall feel and balance of the carbine. Reports from Springfield claimed that the newly modified carbines performed “satisfactorily” at 400 and 500 yards. As a result some 344 of the carbines were so modified during 1859 at Frankford Arsenal, using sights manufactured at Springfield. Of those 344 altered carbines, 100 were subsequently sent to the firm of Merrill, Latrobe & Thomas, where they were further modified and altered to breechloaders by the Merrill system. That left only 246 (including the two Springfield Arsenal sample carbines) rifled and sighted US M-1847 Cavalry Carbines in their original muzzle loading configuration. Despite their herculean efforts to make lemonade out of lemons, the Ordnance Department started the process of disposing of the cavalry carbines during 1860. Documents indicate that the M-1847 carbines at the Saint Louis Arsenal were sold to A. Hitchcock of New York, who was an arms dealer. At least 30 other M-1847 cavalry carbines were sold to Delaware Kemper of Alexandria, VA. Kemper would organize the Alexandria Light Artillery in March of 1861 and serve as their Captain at the First Battle of Bull Run, this unit would later be merged into the 18th Battalion of Virginia Heavy Artillery, with Kemper promoted to Major. Even though there was an active attempt to rid the US military of the M-1847 Cavalry Musketoon, by the end of the 1862, there were approximately 1,000 in service in the field, as the December 31, 1862 returns show 947 of the gun in the hands of active regiments. The two regiments that showed the most M-1847 Cavalry Carbines on their returns were the 1st Texas Cavalry (US) with 410 and the 1st New Mexico Cavalry (US) with 301. The guns were also in the field with the 5th Kansas (27), 5th Missouri State Militia Cavalry (51), 12th Missouri State Militia Cavalry (138), and the 13th Missouri State Militia Cavalry (20). Other carbines were in storage at that time as well, as a May 17, 1862 request for artillery carbines from Fort Delaware was responded to by the General James Ripley (Chief of Ordnance), that no artillery musketoons were available, but that cavalry carbines (either rifled or smoothbore) were available, but that they could not accept bayonets. In all, a total of 5,802 US M-1847 Cavalry Carbines were produced at Springfield between 1847 and 1854. Most of these guns received at least one alteration or upgrade during their time in service and many had a second life as “artillery” or “cadet” musketoons. The rifled and sighted variations are extremely rare, as on 346 were so altered, and then 100 of those were further converted to breechloaders by the Merrill system. Today, the Merrill alterations easily command 5-figure prices and are exceptionally rate with only a handful known to exist. Nearly as rare are 100% complete and corrected rifled and sighted examples with their original chain retained ramrods. Very few of these guns appear to have survived and today, the guns are among the most sought after of the rare cavalry carbines for advanced US martial carbine collectors.
Offered here is one of those extremely rare, 100% complete and correct examples of the US M-1847 Rifled & Sighted Cavalry Carbine. The gun is in VERY FINE+ condition and retains its original and extremely scarce chain secured ramrod, complete with the original chain and mounting system. The lock of the gun is clearly and crisply marked in three vertical lines to the rear of the hammer SPRING / FIELD / 1848 and with a spread-winged American eagle with a shield in its breast, surmounting the letters U S, forward of the hammer. The tang of the breech plug is marked with the matching date 1848. The date is slightly weak, notably the “48”, but still quite legible. The left upper barrel breech is clearly marked with the usual V / P / (EAGLE HEAD) view, proof and acceptance marks of Springfield Arsenal. The stock flat opposite the lock is marked with the script JS cartouche of Colonel John Symington of Springfield Arsenal. The cartouche is slightly weak, but still legible. The tang of the brass buttplate is correctly marked U.S.. The carbine was manufactured in 1848 and is unique in that according to research by George Moller (see American Military Shoulder Arms, Volume III) only two US M-1847 Cavalry Carbines were produced in 1848. This makes this gun the 3rd or 4th M-1847 Cavalry Carbine ever produced, as only two were produced in 1847! The lock of the carbine has the 1851-52 modification of a third “safety” notch in the tumbler, suggesting that the gun remained in store at Springfield three to four years after it was manufactured, and was probably never issued to the Dragoons serving out west. The stock has not been altered for a ramrod spoon, so it was not modified for the friction rammer, which became standard during 1851. This means the stock pre-dates this modification order, and was one made in 1847 (2), 1848 (2) or 1850 (1800). The stocks for all other musketoons (artillery and engineers) were equipped with the friction retaining rammer spoon. The carbine is a textbook example of the 1859 rifling and sighting modifications performed at Frankford Arsenal, and retains all of the original alteration components from that upgrade. The carbine retains its original US M-1858 pattern 3-leaf musket sight, with the correct pattern leaves, which still move smoothly and function correctly. The sight leaves retain about 70% of their original blue, while the sight base retains about 40% original blue, with the entire sight showing most of the loss due to fading and age. The bore is beautifully rifled with three crisp lands and grooves with a slow 1:72” right hand rate of twist. The bore is in about EXCELLENT condition and is nearly immaculate and quite bright with extremely crisp rifling. Only the most minor frosting in the grooves is present, along with some very lightly scattered pinpricking. The original Frankford Arsenal installed chain secured ramrod is in place and is 100% complete and correct. The ramrod was produced with an enlarged reverse end, cut with female threads to accept cleaning implements. This enlarged end also helped retain the rod in the ramrod channel, which had to be slightly widened at Frankford to accept it. The other end of the rod has the correct tulip shaped head, cupped for use with elongated ball ammunition, and threaded onto the rammer. It was necessary to be able to unscrew the rammer head in order to install it or remove it from the steel doughnut shaped retainer at the end of the brass chain. The retainer is secured to the chain with a round brass link, and the chain is of the correct brass, double-teardrop link pattern. The three links join the sliding doughnut to the swinging link that was riveted into the original swivel rammer rod’s mounting stud, under the muzzle of the carbine. The original 8-ounce lead disc is in place in the butt of the carbine, under the brass buttplate. The disc is heavily oxidized with the usual flaky white residue expected on very old lead. As is the case with every one of these rifled & sighted carbines that I am aware of, the expansion and contraction of the lead disc due to temperature fluctuations over time has resulted in grain cracks on both sides of the buttstock, emanating form the disc and continuing about 2 ““ on the obverse and 3 ““ on the reverse. These do not detract and are in fact proof that the carbine stock configuration is original and correct.
The overall condition of the carbine is VERY FINE+, as previously noted. The lock is smooth, clean and crisp and fine markings. There is a small amount of dark brown discoloration on the bottom portion of the hammer body, which appears to be old, dried oil. This could probably be cleaned off easily. The lock is mechanically excellent and functions crisply and correctly on all three of the tumbler positions. The internal lock parts retain about 85%+ brilliant fire blue and the interior of the lock plate is marked with the sub-inspection initial R. The interior of the lock mortise is inspected with the initials HJ, stamped crisply in the wood. The barrel has been lightly cleaned to its original National Armory Bright appearance, and shows only a handful of tiny pits that are most noticeable due to oxidized age discoloration in their recesses. These are a very minor and most of this minor age and wear is located in the last 3 inches, closest to the muzzle and forward of the rear portion of the barrel band. There is also some very minor pinpricking and minor oxidized discoloration around the breech and bolster area. As noted, the bore is excellent and the original alteration rammer is in place. The rammer functions smoothly and is complete and original. The original rear sight is in place and is complete as well. The original sling bar is in place and retains what appears to be the original steel sling ring. The original cone (nipple) is in the bolster and is extremely crisp, retaining about 90% of its original blued finish. The brass furniture has a lovely mellow, golden honey appearance. The brass is all compete and original, and is very attractive. The stock is in VERY FINE condition as well. It is solid, complete, and full length with no breaks or repairs. There are the two grain cracks in the buttstock that were previously described, which are the result of the lead weight expanding and contracting over the years. The stock retains crisp lines and edges and while it was likely lightly cleaned many years ago it shows no signs of ever having been sanded or in any way altered or abused. The stock does show some scattered minor bumps and dings from handling and storage, but no abuse of any kind.
Overall this is simply an outstanding example of an extremely rare US military cavalry carbine. Of the 5,802 US M-1847 Cavalry Carbines produced, only 336 (including the 2 Springfield samples) were ever rifled and sighted. Of those guns, 100 were subsequently converted to the Merrill breechloading system. With only 226 muzzle loading examples from the period, they are now extremely rare and difficult to find in ANY condition. This one is simply fabulous. Due to the fantastic state of preservation and the fact that this is one of only two of these guns produced in 1848, I am tempted to believe that this may have been one of the two sample carbines converted by Springfield in 1859 for testing and then to provide the pattern for alteration to Frankford Arsenal. This is simply the finest example of this scarce carbine that I have ever seen and it retains the nearly always missing and extremely rare chain retained ramrod. For an advance US cavalry or carbine collector, this is one of those guns that almost never comes along for sale, and is of a condition worthy of being a centerpiece in an advanced collection. I have never had the opportunity to offer one of these very scarce US M-1847 Rifled & Sighted Cavalry Carbines for sale, and I don’t know that I will ever get the chance again. Chances are if I do, it will not be of this quality, condition, completeness and originality.SOLD