This is a scarce variant of the US M1816 pattern socket bayonet, one that includes an added locking ring that was never part of the original 1816, friction fit socket design. The bayonet retains the original “T-shaped” mortise, but has had a locking ring added, as well as a small shoulder on the socket to support the ring. This bayonet variant is pictured as figure B62 in Robert Reilly’s seminal book American Socket Bayonets and Scabbards, with the line drawing on page 50 and the relevant text on page 45. Reilly surmises that B62 might be a bayonet altered or modified by P.S. Justice, however, in his description of another 1816 style bayonet that was altered with the addition of a locking ring (Figure B63), he discusses correspondence from Lancaster, PA gunmaker Henry Leman to the Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton. In the correspondence Leman discusses the altering of flintlock muskets and rifles to percussion and also talks about modifying M1816 style socket bayonets. He includes drawings in his letter that depict bayonets altered in the manner of the bayonet offered here. The purpose of the modifications are not clear, as the Ordnance Department was producing US M1816 “Replacement Bayonets’ during this period, using the current pattern M1855 blade and the older M1816 pattern socket. These newly produced bayonets were of the original friction-fit design, and did not include a locking ring. Why Leman had been asked to add one, or why he felt it was necessary is not clear. While these bayonets were likely intended for use with the various M1816 pattern muskets that Leman was altering to percussion, they may have also been intended for use with some of the M1841 “Mississippi” Rifles that Leman modified.
During the Civil War, Leman modified some 2,352 M1841 “Mississippi” Rifles for the state of Pennsylvania. These guns were re-bored to .58 caliber and re-rifled with three lands and grooves. The barrels were also turned down for slightly less than 3” at the muzzle. This was to allow the fitting of a socket bayonet to the rifles. The most commonly encountered version had a lug added under the barrel for the attachment of a standard US M1835 or M1835 Replacement bayonet. George Moller notes that at least 1,012 of the rifles were altered to accept these socket bayonets. Many rifles were also left without the provision to accept a socket bayonet. However, at least a handful of the Leman altered rifles appear with a lug on the top of the barrel, and these appear to have been modified to accept a US M1816 socket bayonet. These Leman altered rifles were serial numbered on their buttplate tangs, and it is generally believed that the bayonets were marked with matching serial (mating) numbers.
The bayonet offered here is a classic example of a Leman Altered US M1816 Bayonet. As noted, the bayonet is also illustrated as figure B62 in Robert Reilly’s book. The bayonet has the usual US mark on the face of the blade at the ricasso, and is additionally marked with Leman’s serial number 26, which would have mated it to the rifle the bayonet was intended to fit. The shank of the bayonet is also marked with old Ordnance Department alphanumeric mating mark A / u / 69. This mark was applied when the bayonet was mated to a musket at the arsenal during its original period of use.
The bayonet is in about GOOD+ to VERY GOOD condition. The bayonet has a lightly cleaned, pewter-gray patina with scattered oxidized freckles of surface discoloration. The bayonet shows evenly distributed surface roughness with areas of moderate pinpricking and light pitting over most of the bayonet. The original, Leman altered locking ring and tension screw remain in place and function smoothly. The bayonet remains full-length and the socket remains round without any significant damage, only wear and use.
This rare bayonet would be a fine addition to any bayonet collection and would be a wonderful accompaniment for a Leman altered Mississippi rifle with a top lug, or a similarly altered M1817 Common Rifle by Leman. Over the years I have only ever seen a couple of these scarce bayonets for sale, so this is good opportunity to add one to your collection.SOLD