Fine US Springfield Model 1861 Rifle Musket Dated 1862
- Product Code: FLA-3559
- Availability: In Stock
By the spring of 1860, the shortcomings of the Maynard patent automated priming system had been discovered by the troops in the field. The system had been incorporated into the US Model 1855 series of long arms, but constant problems with the primer tapes had made the guns unreliable. As a result, many field commanders were utilizing conventional percussion caps to avoid the problems associated with the primer tapes. In May of 1860, the US Ordnance Board was convened to assess the problems with the Maynard system and to explore potential solutions. The findings recommended that all future US arms dispense with the Maynard system and revert to the simpler conventional percussion ignition lock, which was very reliable and much cheaper to produce. The Secretary of War officially approved the recommendations from the Board of Ordnance on February 20, 1861. This was fortuitous, as in just a few weeks, the United States would be plunged into the American Civil War, and the Union would need every rifle musket that could be produced; as quickly as possible. The newly authorized and improved version of the US M1855 Rifle Musket was officially adopted as the US Model 1861 Rifle Musket. The gun not only eliminated the Maynard priming system, but also made some minor improvements to the hammer and mainspring and reduced the diameter of the ramrod head slightly, to make it easier to ram a cartridge in a fouled barrel. The changes in the lock necessitated changes in the mortise that was cut in the stock, and these were adopted as well. As initially accepted, the new M1861 was to include a circular iron patchbox in the buttstock at the recommendation of Springfield’s Master Armorer Erskine S. Allin. However, the patchbox was eliminated as a means of speeding production once the war broke out and was probably never included in more than a few sample or model guns. The final change for the M1861 Rifle Musket was a new, improved rear sight that was developed by Elisha K. Root, the driving force behind many of Colt’s designs of the period. Root had approached Allin in June of 1861 with some design ideas for the rifle musket that Colt wanted to produce for the US government. The gun was a sort of hybrid of Springfield and Enfield design features, and together Allin and Root supervised the manufacture of the first US Model 1861 “Special Model” Rifle Musket at Springfield, which would become the model used by the Colt production team. Root’s improvements to the Model 1858 rear sight that had been used on late production M1855 rifles and rifle muskets appear to be minor and cosmetic but improved the functionality and stability of the sight. First, Root designed the sight base walls to be higher, which protected the 100 & 300-yard sight blades when they were lying flat. He also recessed the head of the screw that that the sight blades pivoted on, which protected the screw from damage. Finally, he squared off the tops of the sight leaves and deepened the notches. This made the sight leaves easier to move and adjust with a fingernail and made the sight picture clearer. Allin was sufficiently impressed with these improvements that the M1861 rear sight was officially adopted in July of 1861 and replaced the M1858 rear sight on the M1861 Rifle Musket. In all other ways, the M1861 was essentially identical to the previous M1855, with a .58 caliber, 40” round barrel, iron mountings, spring retained barrel bands and walnut stock.
After all of the changes were implemented and new tooling was put in place, production of the new US Model 1861 Rifle Musket began at the Springfield Arsenal in July of 1861. Because the Harper’s Ferry Arsenal was captured by Virginia state troops in April of 1861, and the machinery removed to Richmond and Fayetteville, no M1861 muskets were ever produced at that facility. Springfield produced some 11,102 M1861s during the 3rdquarter of 1861 and doubled that output to 22,470 during the 4thquarter of the year. Pre-war production of rifle muskets at Springfield had averaged about 800 per month, but by the end of 1861 output had increased 10 fold to nearly 7,500 per month. By the end of 1862, production had nearly doubled to more than 14,000 muskets per month, and production of rifle muskets at Springfield would peak at around 25,000 per month during 1863-64. A total of 265,129 US M1861 Rifle Muskets would be produced at Springfield over 24 months, from July of 1861 through June of 1863, when production of the new Model 1863 rifle musket (based upon the M1861 “Special Model” produced by Colt) superseded the previous model. Union military needs far exceeded the production capability of the Springfield Arsenal, and by the summer of 1861 contracts were being let to numerous suppliers to produce the M1861 rifle musket. Due to delays in acquiring and setting up machinery, most of the contractors did not begin significant deliveries of the guns until sometime in 1863. During the course of the war some 448,314 US M1861 Rifle Muskets would be delivered to the US Ordnance Department by various contractors, in addition to those produced at Springfield. This number does not include the “Special Model” muskets produced by Colt, LG&Y and Amoskeag (which represent another 177,026 muskets) or the M1863/64 pattern guns produced at Springfield which total an additional 273,065. All together a total of 1,163,534 .58 US “Springfield Pattern” arms of all models were delivered during the Civil War for the use of Union forces, of which the Springfield produced US M1861 model represents only 22%.
The need for the .58 Springfield long arms cannot be overstated, especially during the first 18 months of the Civil War. An October 10, 1860 inventory of the US arsenals showed that only 22,649 of the approximately 70,000 US M1855 Rifle Muskets that had been produced were actually in Federal arsenals. The balance of the guns were either in the field with troops or in various state arsenals. With the start of the war, and the rapid expansion of the US army to just under 600,000 men by the summer of 1861, the need for muskets cannot be understated. The production of M1861s at Springfield was increased as much as possible, and all completed arms were shipped almost immediately for the use of the US army near Washington. On August 22, 1861, Chief of Ordnance James Ripley wrote:
“Circumstances have rendered it necessary to send all the rifle muskets from Springfield as fast as they are made to this place (Washington), for arming flank companies of General McClellan’s command.”
Ripley further wrote in September of 1861;
“I regret to state there are few, if any, Springfield made arms here of the latest pattern (M-1861). The entire product of the armory being consumed in supplying arms for the flank companies of the Regiments in the field.”
It would not be until mid-1863, when supplies of contractor produced US M1861 rifle muskets began to arrive in significant numbers, that the supply of arms would be sufficient to relieve the pressure on Springfield. Until that time, literally every musket produced was rushed to the troops in the field as quickly as possible.
Offered here is a simply wonderful condition example of a very desirable US Model 1861 Rifle Musket produced by the Springfield Arsenal. The gun is dated 1862 on both the lock and barrel and has the correct Springfield inspection marks on the stock opposite the lock. The lock is clearly dated 1862 in a horizontal line to the rear of the hammer and is stamped with the spread-winged American eagle forward of the hammer, and U.S. / SPRINGFIELD in two horizontal lines below the bolster. The top of the breech is clearly and crisply dated 1862 as well, and the left angled barrel flat bears the usual Springfield V / P / (EAGLE HEAD) inspection stamps as well. The counterpane of the stock, opposite the lock, bears a pair of crisp and clear script cartouches. The upper one reads WPT in a flat sided “finish inspectors” cartouche with rounded ends. This is the mark of Springfield Armory finished arms inspector William P. Taylor. The lower cartouche is that of Springfield Arsenal’s Master Armorer, Erskine S. Allin, a clear ESA in an oval final acceptance cartouche. A tiny sub-inspection mark, which is a capital I is present in the belly of the stock, to the rear of the triggerguard and a small P is present in front of the buttplate tang. The gun is in VERY FINE condition, and is 100% complete, correct and original. The metal has been lightly cleaned to bright, with a thinly oxidized brown patina starting to develop and some lightly scattered pinpricking and some freckling of oxidized discoloration present. The buttplate has a thicker brown patina, more mottled patina, with some lightly scattered pitting as well. The gun is mechanically excellent and the lock functions crisply and correctly on all positions. The original cone (nipple) is in the bolster, and it retains some of its original blued finish, which has dulled and faded, but remains quite crisp. The original M1861 rear sight is in place on the barrel and it retains about 30%+ of its original blued finish, which has faded and dulled significantly. The sight is complete and fully functional. The gun also retains its original front sight / bayonet lug, and both original sling swivels. The original swelled shank, tulip shaped ramrod is in the channel under the barrel and it is full-length and retains excellent threads. The bore of the gun is in VERY GOOD to NEAR FINE condition and remains mostly bright and crisp with fine rifling. The bore shows some scattered oxidation and darkening, with some frosting in the grooves and only some lightly scattered pitting, mostly in the last few inches nearest the muzzle. All of the metal remains crisp and sharp with clear markings and perfect wood to metal fit. The stock rates NEAR EXCELLENT and were it not for some very tiny chipping in front of the trigger plate, and some storage and handling dings and mars, it would rate excellent. The stock is solid and full length with no breaks, cracks or repairs. The edges are as very crisp and sharp, nearly as sharp as the day the gun left Springfield, and the lines of the stock are simply wonderful. This stock has never been sanded or cleaned. The stock retains some nice openness to the grain with a slightly feathery feel. As would be expected, there are some scattered bumps and dings in the stock from handling, use and storage over the last 150 years, but nothing significant, other than the tiny area of chipping mentioned above. The stock is really in marvelous condition and is as crisp as one could hope to find and has a really gorgeous reddish hue to the wood.
Overall this is really a really sharp and well preserved example of an 1862 dated Model 1861 Springfield Rifle Musket. Considering the speed that these guns were produced at and how quickly they ended up in the field, it is really amazing that this gun has survived in such wonderfully crisp condition. If a collector were to have only one “Model 1861” musket in their Civil War collection, then a Springfield is the one to have. With less than ¼ of all the Springfield pattern arms actually being produced by Springfield, they can be hard to find, and since most of the guns produced in 1861 and 1862 saw such hard use, it is very difficult to find a nice one, let alone one that rates “fine”. This is a gun that any collector would be very proud to display and would certainly be glad to add to their collection. I rarely have the opportunity to offer such great condition Springfield made Model 1861s, and when I do, they usually sell very fast. Don’t miss your chance to get a really fantastic 1862 dated M-1861 Springfield that you will certainly treasure in the coming years.