Offered here is a really nice example of the Pattern 1853 Enfield Rifle Musket as produced by the prolific gun trade in Liège, Belgium. The Liège Trade had a long history of producing arms of already established patterns to supplement the arms making capabilities of other nations. By the mid-19th century, Liège makers had been producing gun parts for the use of the Birmingham & London gun trades for well over 100 years. They would often produce complete arms that were unmarked (except internally), allowing the purchaser to mark them as if they were their own product. During the Crimean War, the British Government ordered thousands of Pattern 1853 Enfields from the Liège trade in order to more quickly arm their military with the cutting-edge weapon of that time. After the abrupt end of the Crimean War, many of the Liege makers were still tooled up to produce Enfield pattern weapons and with the start of the American Civil War, the Liège makers found a ready market for what was the most popular rifle musket design currently in production, as well as a place to sell lesser quality arms as well.
In general, US Ordnance Reports do not differentiate between British made Enfields and those produced by Continental makers from Belgium, France, or Prussia. However, an analysis of the prices paid to the various importers for “Long Enfields” can provide some interesting insight into the quality of the arms delivered and some of these resellers. “Long Enfield Rifles” were sold to the US government with a fairly wide disparity of prices ranging from less than $13.00 a gun to as high as nearly $34.00 a gun paid. The large majority of the guns purchased were certainly of English origin. However, based upon the fact that the large majority of Enfield Rifle Musket deliveries also cost between $15.00 and $25.00 per gun, it can be reasonably inferred that those arms priced under $15 (and possibly some above that price point) were likely foreign made copies of the gun from Belgian, French or German makers. Some of the delivers of Enfield Rifle Muskets at relatively low prices are listed below. This is far from a complete list, but certainly provides some good reference regarding the wide range of prices.
The firm of Buckley & Company delivered some 1,160 “Long Enfield Rifles,” between December 1862 and May of 1863, at prices that ranged from as low at $12.6475 to as high as $33.32.
Samuel Buckley & Company delivered 820 “Long Enfield Rifles,” between November 1861 and June of 1862, at prices that ranged from as low at $15.00 to as high as $22.50.
Herman Boker & Company delivered 1,380 “Long Enfield Rifles,” between October 1862 and July of 1863, at prices that ranged from as low at $13.00 to as high as $19.6475.
E. Curnard delivered 9,199 “Long Enfield Rifles,” between August 1862 and January of 1863, at prices that ranged from as low at $13.975 to as high as $23.44.
E.W. Canning delivered 100 “Long Enfield Rifles,” during May 1863, at prices that ranged from as low at $13.00 to as high as $15.00.
Durrie & Rusher delivered 3,790 “Long Enfield Rifles,” between October 1861 and August of 1862, at prices that ranged from as low at $13.4675 to as high as $22.00.
Howland & Aspinwall delivered 35,920 “Long Enfield Rifles,” between September 1861 and May of 1863, at prices that ranged from as low at $12.6475 to as high as $25.0775.
Looking at the above prices from low to high suggests that all of the firms listed, with eh possible exception of Samuel Buckley & Company, probably delivered at least some foreign made Enfield copies that were not of British origin. Marcellus Hartley purchased 110,424 Enfield Rifle Muskets at $12.21. Only the average price of each pattern of gun was listed, rather than a range of high to low prices. As Hartley’s other purchases were all Continental Arms, it seems likely that at least some of the “Enfields” were of Continental origin as well. His other purchases included 19,688 French Muskets @ $8.47 each, 1,740 Dresden Muskets @ $11.85 each, 15,000 Belgian muskets @ $7.01 each, 28,860 Austrian Muskets @ $9.99 each and 30,000 Prussian Muskets @ $6.80. By comparison the 3,120 Long Enfield Rifles delivered by the Colt Patent Firearms Company between September of 1861 and May of 1863 were billed for at prices that ranged from $22.50 to $25.00 each. It is well known that Colt had a long-standing relationship with Potts & Hunt and it is likely that most of the Enfields that his firm delivered were from that maker, and all the guns were most certainly of English origin. Another example of typical prices are the 3,072 Long Enfield Rifles that were delivered by P.S. Justice at prices ranging from $18.00 to $28.2. These guns were delivered between July of 1861 and February of 1862. Numerous other examples of the more typical prices of $15.00 to $25.00 per gun are available.
It is also worth noting that due to the close cooperation between the Liège gun trade and the firearms industries in Birmingham and London, many English made guns were delivered with Belgian made barrels and bayonets, and more than a few were probably entirely Belgian made and slipped into shipments to complete orders that were on a tight schedule. It is also probable that at least some Continental made Enfields were acquired by Confederate buyers, but almost certainly as speculative, rather than Central Government purchases.
The Belgian made Pattern 1853 Enfield Rifle Musket offered here is in about ATTIC FINE condition. The gun remains very crisp throughout, with sharp wood and mostly clear marks where they are present. As with so many Belgian made arms the gun shows very few markings to determine who made it. The lock is essentially blank with only a small (CROWN)/M below the bolster. The barrel forward of the bolster shows a Liège Perron proof, as well as a small script C under a crown. The Crown/C mark appears in numerous places on the gun, both in script and a serif-font. This mark appears on the obverse butt, on the wrist, on the top of the buttplate tang, and along the triggerguard tang. The lock mounting screws are stamped with a small circle-M mark, similar to the “M” on the lock. The breech bears the usual E/LG/* Liège proof in an oval and a script Liège controller’s mark. The gun is mating marked with files slashes, with the mating mark | | |appearing in numerous places throughout the gun. It is not clear who the “C” mark refers to, but I think the “M” on the lock probably references the Liège firm of E. Munseur. I have previously owned Belgian-made Enfields that bore the Munseur mark inside the lock plate, with no clear indication of maker on the exterior. In this case, I would assume the Belgian maker of this gun had a last name that began with “C”.
Other than the presence of Belgian proofs and the lack of any English markings, to any passing observer, this would simply be a standard Enfield. It conforms in design details to a standard Type III Pattern 1853 with a .577” caliber bore, a 39” barrel retained by three clamping barrel bands, with brass furniture. The gun is untouched and has a thickly oxidized brown patina with scattered surface roughness and some scattered light to moderate pitting, most obvious around the breech and bolster area. The lock has a similarly oxidized patina but does show some mottling suggesting the original color casehardened finish. The lock remains mechanically functional and is still quite crisp. The bore is heavily oxidized and moderately pitted, but still retains visible rifling. The original 900-yard musket rear sight is in place and the original front sight/bayonet lug is present as well. The musket retains both original sling swivels as well. The upper two barrel bands retain their original doughnut shaped screw keepers, but the bottom band is missing this small piece. The ramrod appears original to the gun. It is full-length, retains threads at the end and has a thick patina that matches the musket. The brass furniture has a deep, untouched ocher patina that boarders on brown. The stock is about FINE overall with very crisp lines and edges and retains some feathery texture to the grain. The stock is dry and dirty and has not been cleaned. It is solid, full-length and free of any breaks or repairs. The stock does show numerous scattered small bumps, dings and minor handling marks, but nothing indicative of abuse; only handling and use.
Overall, this is a very crisp, untouched example of a Belgian contract Pattern 1853 Enfield Rifle Musket. These guns were used in at least some quantity during the American Civil War, but do not regularly appear on the market for sale. This lovely attic condition piece would be a nice addition to any collection of Civil War era rifle muskets, particularly a collection that concentrates on the import arms of the American Civil War.