The concept of the “replacement bayonet” is well known to students of Civil War era long arms, as the US M-1816 “Replacement” Bayonet is a regularly encountered relic of that conflict. The bayonet utilized the US M-1855 pattern 18” blade, mated with the earlier M-1816/22/27 pattern socket. This allowed older muskets that had lost or damaged bayonets to be fit with newly made bayonets that had blades of the current pattern, which meant they could use the current pattern accouterments and makers only had to make a special socket and could forge the same blades for both older and current pattern muskets. The use of replacement bayonets during earlier periods in US history is less well documented and the bayonets themselves do not appear in collections or offered for sale nearly as often. The problem of the lost bayonet was obviously foremost in the minds of the newly established US Ordnance Department, as the initial production of US M-1795 muskets incorporated bayonets that were permanently attached to the barrel of the muskets. While this certainly cut down on loss, and meant that no bayonet scabbard was required, the idea had numerous drawbacks. The primary issues were the difficulty in handling and loading the musket while the bayonet was permanently attached, but more importantly, a damaged bayonet could not easily be replaced and required the services of an armorer to fix. As such the concept was dropped, and conventional socket bayonets became the norm in the US military for the next century. However, the problem of damaged and lost bayonets did not go away, as noted in the following excerpt from an 1823 committee of military affairs report:
“Bayonets are more likely to get lost of broken than any other parts of the muskets, and hence much difficulty had been experienced. This is proved by the result of repairing arms damaged in the last war. Last year I had at this post, Rome (NY), and Vergennes (VT), six thousand stands of repaired arms, in every other way complete but wanted bayonets and ramrods, and only about three thousand wanted the rod, and only about one sixtieth the other parts altogether. This deficiency of bayonets was made up getting six thousand made at Springfield, and sent to the repairing shops. In this great difficulty was experienced, on account of the sizes of the sockets required. Twelve different sizes of patterns were sent to the forgers, and then each class of size had to be altered individually at the repairing shops, to fit the barrels.”
This missive clearly indicates the issue with replacing bayonets for older pattern arms, as numerous old patterns were still in service (some likely from the period of the Revolutionary War), and the lack of interchangeable parts production meant that even guns of the same pattern were different enough in bore size and muzzle-to-stud distance that fitting was still required. This original document clearly indicates the issues associated with the replacement of missing or damaged bayonets from earlier patterns arms. Thousands of US muskets had been repaired and refurbished during fiscal years 1813-1815, a result of the pressing need for arms during the War of 1812. Springfield Armory alone repaired some 37,725 muskets during this period of time. There is no doubt that many of those guns were older pattern British, French and possibly even “Hessian” (Low Country) pattern arms.
Offered here is what certainly appears to be one of these US replacement bayonets produced circa 1816 for use on an earlier pattern musket. The bayonet has a classic US M-1816/22 type blade with that measures a nominal 16” (15 15/16” in length) with the classic “prow-point” (sometimes called a “slash point”) tip and a neatly machined 7 ““ face flute. The socket measures 3” in length, but rather than being bridged and cut with a standard T-mortise like other M-1816/22/27 bayonets, this one is unbridged and has an earlier pattern Z-shaped mortise with only a rudimentary “T” cut at the rear. The most telling difference between this bayonet and a usual M-1816 is the muzzle diameter of the socket. While a standard M-1816 bayonet typically had a muzzle diameter that is nominally .830”, this bayonet has a muzzle diameter of .898”. Additionally, the muzzle-to-stud distance of the typical 1816 bayonet is nominally 1.17”, but in this case the bayonet has a much shorter .898” muzzle-to-stud distance. These differences suggest that this bayonet was intended to fit a fairly early production US M-1795 musket, or possibly a reconditioned French pattern musket. The muzzle diameter is not large enough to fit a .75 caliber British musket. The blade is clearly marked US / NS at the ricasso, indicating the bayonet was delivered by Nathan Starr on contract to Springfield Arsenal. Starr delivered about 6,600 socket bayonets to Springfield during the 1818-1819 period. It has been suggested that since so many replacement bayonets were needed during this period to refurbish arms from the War of 1812, that many were delivered with the sockets unfinished, so that they bayonet could be made to fit whatever pattern of musket it might be needed for.
This Nathan Starr Contract M-1795 Replacement Bayonet is in about FINE condition overall. The bayonet is well made, but still shows a significant forging flaw on the bottom of the blade, near the neck. The ricasso is very deeply stamped with the previously mentioned US / NS mark. The bayonet has a mostly smooth plum brown patina over most of its blade and may have originally been browned. The patina becomes more mottled at the neck and on the socket. The metal is mostly smooth with only some lightly pinpricking here and there and some scattered flecks of minor surface oxidation. The socket shows numerous file slash marks on the rear edge, likely a combination of workman marks and possibly a mating mark to match the bayonet to the musket it had been fit to. The socket shows some scattered bumps and dings and the rear of the socket, which is unbridged, is very slightly out of round as is typical of bayonets with unbridged sockets. The socket shows some moderate oxidation and some surface rust on its interior and might need a good cleaning before it fits your musket properly. Otherwise, the bayonet is in really very nice condition.
Overall this is a really crisp example of a scarce US socket bayonet variant intended to keep older pattern muskets in the field some two decades after they were originally produced. This would be a nice addition to an early US M-1795 or a US surcharged French musket and would be an equally nice addition to any significant collection of early American socket bayonets. This is a really interesting US socket that is worthy of additional investigation and research.SOLD