This is really nice example of a rather scarce US socket bayonet. The US M1851 Cadet Musket Socket Bayonet was produced between 1851 and 1853 in rather limited quantities, with only about 4,000 being produced. As with the muskets, the bayonets were issued with, the initial 300 or so were sent to the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) and the balance were retained at the US Arsenal at Springfield, MA. Eventually a number of the bayonets were issued with the rifled and sighted M1851 Cadet muskets that were sent to the US Military Academy at West Point and the balance of the bayonets eventually saw use at other military schools, with roughly half of the guns and bayonets going to military academies south of the Mason-Dixon Line and the rest going to those above the north-south dividing line.
This pattern of socket bayonet is illustrated and discussed in Robert Reilly’s seminal work American Socket Bayonets & Scabbards as Figure B88. The bayonet is unique in many ways, when compared to other US socket bayonets of the period. The overall size of the bayonet is reduced when compared to the standard US M1835 .69 bayonet of the period, as well as the M1855 .58 socket bayonet, which it closely resembles. The bayonet has the M1855 style blade with tapered shoulders, rather than the sharp shoulders associated with US produced socket bayonet from 1795 through the end of the smoothbore musket era. However, this diminutive blade is only 14 9/16” in length, rather the usual 18” of full-sized musket bayonets and the blade is only ¾” wide, unlike the 1855 bayonet with its 11/16” wide blade. The M1851 Cadet Bayonet has a .720” bore diameter and 2 11/16” long socket. One of the truly unique features of the bayonet is the locking ring, which is slotted and has the stop pin contained within it, instead of the use of an eccentric ring that has a shoulder that presses against the stop pin. The other unique feature regarding the locking ring is that it is retained by two opposing shoulders instead of the usual system of a shoulder on one site and the stop pin on the other side. The bayonet is clearly marked US on the face of the blade at the ricasso but does not bear any other marks or rack numbers. The die that struck the “US” was clearly damaged as the middle of the “S” is missing, but there is no indication that it was ever there at all. The bayonet is in about NEAR FINE condition overall. The bayonet is complete, full-length and the original locking ring and tension screw are present, and they function exactly as they should. The bayonet has a pewter gray patina over all of the metal surfaces, with some evenly distributed discoloration from old, dried oil that could probably be easily cleaned off. There are also some very small patches of scattered light surface oxidation. The bayonet has a really attractive look and has great displayability. Overall this is one of the rarer US socket bayonets of the American Civil War era. This one is in very nice condition and would be a great addition to your bayonet collection or as a compliment to your M1851 Cadet Musket. I rarely see more than a couple of these available for sale during any given year, so don’t let this one get away.