23rd Mass Marked Pattern 1853 Enfield Rifle Musket with CS Inspection Mark
- Product Code: FLA-3693
- Availability: Out Of Stock
Although the Union purchased more than 500,000 British Pattern 1853 Enfield Rifle Muskets during the course of the American Civil War, finding one on the collector market that is actually marked in such a way as to confirm US use is quite difficult. The Confederacy set up a somewhat complex system of inspection in Great Britain, that in some cases included contract markings as well as inspection markings being applied to many of the Enfields that were officially purchased by Confederate central governments as well as several of the Confederate states. No such system was in place for Union purchased guns. The Ordnance Department had no mechanism to inspect arms purchased on the “open market”, only to inspect arms that were directly contracted for from various US makers, where the Ordnance Department would send inspectors to the factories to inspect the arms that were being delivered. As a result, US marked guns were typically marked by their states, or in some cases the regiment that used the guns. The block OHIO stamp found on many 2nd, 3rdand 4th class long arms from the Civil War period, both imported and domestically made, are a well-known example of these northern state markings. Additionally, states like New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts were known to mark at least some of the arms that they acquired. Massachusetts in particular took care to mark many of their long arms during the early part of the Civil War. These guns typically were marked to the Massachusetts infantry regiment and also received a company letter marking, along with a company inventory number that initially corresponded to the company number of the soldier that the gun was issued to.
In April of 1861, Governor John Andrew appointed Francis Crowninshield to travel to England to procure some 25,000 stands of arms and related equipment for the state. Crowninshield arrived in England on May 6, 1861 and during his visit managed to arrange the purchase of approximately 19,000 Enfield rifle muskets and about 10,000 sets of accoutrements. Crowninshield was competing with other US state and Federal agents, as well as Confederate state and central government arms purchasers, not to mention the arms speculators on both sides that were trying to buy all the arms that they could in order to re-sell them to whoever was willing to pay the highest price. In the end, Crowninshield managed to procure or contract for about 15,000 Pattern 1853 Enfield Rifle Muskets directly from various Birmingham arms makers, and purchased an additional 1,000 from the state of New York. Crowninshield managed to place an additional order for nearly 6,000 Enfields the following year. Efforts within the state to acquire arms for Massachusetts troops also led the state to purchase arms and accoutrements that had been captured from Confederate blockade runners by the Atlantic Blockading Squadron. These captures supplies were offered for sale at Prize Court auctions, often resulting in competitive bidding between the various Union states and the US government.
The Enfields that were acquired were issued to the 2nd, 7th, 10th, 12th, 13th, 16th, 19th, 20th, 21st, 22nd, 23rd, 25th, 27th & 28th Massachusetts Infantry Regiments. The state directed that the arms were to be marked by the regiment with the regimental number, company letter and soldier number. Most examples appear with the markings on the buttplate, although some of the regimental markings appear in the buttstock, typically on the reverse. In the case of the guns marked in the wood, it is typically the regimental mark that is in the wood, with the company letter and soldier number on the buttplate.
Offered here is a Massachusetts Marked Pattern 1853 Enfield Rifle Musket that is marked on the buttplate to the 23rdMassachusetts Infantry, Company F. The gun has two different soldier numbers, 39 and 48, suggesting that it was issued twice, likely because the first soldier to receive the gun no longer needed it; for whatever reason. The buttplate is marked 23D MASS with a gang stamp that runs from the top buttplate screw back towards the butt. The company letter F is stamped with a single stamp above the regimental mark and the number 48 is stamped below the regimental mark. This style of marking is typical of many Massachusetts marked guns and suggests that the gun was initially issued to solider #48. The additional number 39 is stamped at the end of the regimental mark, in a non-standard location, suggesting that man #39 was the second one to receive the gun. When the regiment was originally formed, the men were placed in the company descriptive book in alphabetical order. Later, as replacements were added to the regiment they were added to the book as they were mustered into the regiment. Thus, it might be difficult to assess exactly who the gun was issued to without a copy of the descriptive book page. An analysis of the alphabetical roster of Company F, 23rd Mass Infantry, eliminating the men who were not part of the original regimental formation, suggests that man #48 was Willian H. Janes who enlisted with the balance of the regiment on December 4, 1861 and was discharged for disability in New Berne, NC on November 12, 1863. Using the same system of eliminating the men who were not part of the original muster roll on December 4, 1861, then man #39 was likely Albert G. Gardner, who mustered into company F with William Janes and was discharged on June 25, 1865 in New Berne, NC as well.
The 23rd Mass Infantry was organized on September 28, 1861 and spent much of their service in North Carolina area, serving there as part of Burnside’s Expedition to Hatteras Inlet and Roanoke Island. After seeing active service in that area, the 23rd moved back to the Richmond, VA area in mid-1864 and took part in the battle of Cold Harbor and proceeded to be involved with the Petersburg Campaign through the summer of 1864. At that point they returned to their earlier service station in coastal North Carolina, where the regiment was mustered out on June 25, 1865.
According to the information in the Historical Data Systems database, William H. Janes was born in 1839 in Topsfield, MA. He was a 22 year old farmer when he enlisted in the Massachusetts volunteer infantry on October 12, 1861 as a private. On December 4, 1861 he was officially mustered into Company F of the 23rd Mass Volunteer Infantry and was subsequently discharged for disability on November 12, 1863. Interestingly, he re-enlisted in the 3rd Veteran Reserve Corps on October 31, 1864 and was mustered into Company D. He was again discharged for disability, on July 31, 1865 in Albany, NY. After the war Janes was a member of G.A.R. Post #75 (J.P. Gould) in Stoneham, MA.
Albert G. Gardner was only 15 years old when he enlisted with the Massachusetts Volunteers on October 19, 1861, and like Janes his profession was listed as a “Farmer.” He was mustered into Company F of the 23rd Mass Infantry on December 4, 1861 as a Musician. He re-enlisted in the regiment on January 2, 1864 and on September 28, 1864 he was promoted to principle musician. While musicians did not regularly fight in combat and often functioned as stretcher bears during a fight, it would be equally appropriate for a musician to serve guard duty and other military duties that would require him to have a long arm. About the time that Janes was discharged for disability, Gardner would be approaching 18 years old, and it would have been appropriate to issue a weapon to someone who had been an underage, non-combat musician.
This 23rd Mass Marked Pattern 1853 Enfield Rifle Musket is in about GOOD condition and although it is well worn it is fresh to the market. The gun was produced by the Birmingham gunmaker Joseph Bourne and is weakly marked JOSEPH BOURNE along the toe line of the stock. The lock is clearly marked 1861 / TOWER forward of the hammer with the typical English crown, without a “VR” beneath it, at the tail of the lock. The expected series of Birmingham commercial View, Definitive View and Proof marks are present on the upper left quarter of the breech, with a pair of 25gauge marks which indicate .577 caliber. The bottom of the barrel is marked with the name JOHN CLIVE, a prominent Birmingham barrel maker as well as with a capital B, likely for Bourne. The most interesting mark on the gun is a block SL inspection on the top of the stock comb, in front of the buttplate tang. This is generally believed to be a Confederate inspection mark, and a number of variations of the SL mark exist, including both block and script “SL” marks, either plain or inside a circle. This would suggest that the gun was one of the guns acquired by Massachusetts via a Prize Court auction.
As noted, the gun is well used and worn and remains in about GOOD condition. The gun appears to have been cleaned of much of its oxidation long ago, leaving a dull grayish patina on most of the metal with scattered surface oxidation and discoloration, with a slightly mottled brown over gray appearance. The metal is mostly smooth forward of the rear sight, with scattered pinpricking and some light pitting on the forward portion of the barrel. The breech area and the region of the barrel behind the rear sight is more moderately pitted as a result of erosion from percussion cap flash. The lockplate remains smooth with only some scattered light surface oxidation over a dull gray color and retains crisp markings. The lock remains fully functional and operates as it should. The gun retains the original long-range rear sight and the combination musket pattern front sight and socket bayonet lug. Both of the sling swivels are missing, as is the ramrod. The bore of the gun is atrocious and may rate worse than poor. There is no visible rifling and the bore is heavily oxidized, with surface rust and lots of dirt and debris. It is possible that a vigorous cleaning might reveal some weak rifling hiding below all of the crust and rust, but I would not count on it. The brass furniture has a rich, dark golden patina that is uncleaned. The stock is in about GOOD condition as well, and shows moderate wear. The stock shows some rounding to the edges and sharp lines, which appears to be primarily from use over many years. The stock has a rich orange tone, typical of many Enfields that were imported during the Civil War. The stocks varied in color tone from a light honey colored yellow to nearly a dark brown that was nearly black, and everything in between. There is some wood loss behind the bolster due to burn out, loss that is quite appropriate considering the amount of cap flash erosion present at the breech. The stock shows numerous bumps, dings, marks and mars from many years of handling and use. The heavily worn bore suggests the gun may have spent a couple of decades in use as a farm gun, dispatching varmints and unwanted critters. The most serious stock issue is that it has been cut under the middle band. The forend and stock are original to the gun, they have simply been straight-cut under that band. This was often done during the days of companies like Francis Bannerman & Sons sending surplus muskets to buyers via railroad freight. The guns were disassembled and the longest part, the stock, as often cut to allow the gun to fit in a shorter box that was cheaper to ship. Thankfully the cut is not visible unless the middle band is removed and all of the wood is original, just cut. The initials J.A.L. are carved in the reverse of the buttstock with additional small letters added after the last initial, that might make the last name read “Lindsey”, but are not clear enough to know for sure. I could not find a name in the roster of Company F of the 23rd Mass that seemed to immediately line up with these initials and the apparent last name, but further research could prove fruitful. Of course, this name could be that of the man who used the gun in the post war period.
Overall this is a solid, if well used example of a rare Massachusetts marked British Pattern 1853 Enfield Rifle Musket. While Confederate marked Enfields are quite rare, finding a US marked gun is much harder. Most of the Union used Enfields were simply commercial P1853s that were not marked in any way to allow today’s collector to know if they saw Civil War use or not. This gun is quite interesting as it has an apparent Confederate inspection and import mark with the SL on the stock comb and then has the 23D Mass mark on the buttplate. Even more intriguing is that the gun shows issue to two different men in Company F of the 23rd Mass. While only finding the company descriptive book for this company can confirm (or refute) my thoughts about who man #48 and man #39 actually was. The men I think they are certainly fit the story that the butt markings appear to tell. While not a beauty queen, this gun represents a lot of history wrapped up in a single package that still displays well and is very fairly priced for a gun that is both CS and US marked and potentially double identified!