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Windsor Enfield - Very Scarce & Fine

Windsor Enfield - Very Scarce & Fine

  • Product Code: FLA-3067-SOLD
  • Availability: Out Of Stock
  • $1.00

This is one of the least common of all the variations of the Pattern 1853 Enfield Rifle Musket, known simply to collectors as the Windsor Enfield. This musket was built in the United States, under contract for the British Government, by the firm of Robbins & Lawrence of Windsor, Vermont. This pattern of gun is what collectors and researchers refer to as a Type II P-1853 rifle musket. The primary features that separate it from the much more common Type III P-1853 (which was the version primarily used during the American Civil War), are solid barrel bands that are retained by band springs (instead of screw fastened, Palmer patent, clamping bands) and a rammer that is retained in the stock by a swell near the tip, similar to the US M-1855 & 1861 rammers. Type III Enfields have their ramrods retained by a spring-loaded “spoon” in the stock. This gun is one of only about 16,000 produced by the Robbins & Lawrence company, and their temporary successor, The Vermont Arms Company. In fact, the production of these guns brought the company to bankruptcy. During the Crimean War, the British government could not produce arms quickly enough to arm their troops, as would be the case less than a decade later in the US during the American Civil War. As a result, they looked to outside sources to build the standard issue arm at the time, the Pattern 1853 rifle musket. They let contracts to makers in Belgium, France and in the United States to have the desperately needed arms produced. They selected the firm of Robbins & Lawrence due to the ability of the company to produce guns with interchangeable parts. In fact much of the machinery and tooling that the British Government had bought for the production of “Enfield” pattern arms at the Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield Lock had been purchased from Robbins & Lawrence, and the American firm had helped set up the British production. Thus they were a natural choice to build excess arms when the British needed them. Expecting orders of between 30,000 and 60,000 arms, Robbins & Lawrence spent huge sums of money tooling up for production and expanding their manufacturing capabilities by adding a second factory in Hartford, CT. Unfortunately, production delays were encountered due to the fact that the sample guns sent to Robbins & Lawrence from England were all handmade, non-interchangeable parts guns that were too dissimilar to allow the manufacture of accurate production gauges. This delayed the initial deliveries that were scheduled for June of 1855 to December of that year. Then, in February of 1856, the Crimean War ended more quickly than anticipated, and the remaining portion of the initial British contract was cancelled, as were any future contracts. The end result was a production run of approximately 10,400 guns that were manufactured prior to the bankruptcy of Robbins & Lawrence, of which an unknown number were actually delivered to the British government. The balance of the 16,000 guns produced (5,600) were to be completed by the newly established Vermont Arms Company, which was established by the creditors of Robbins & Lawrence to assemble guns from left over parts on hand, and newly fabricated ones as needed. One of Robbins & Lawrence’s creditors, the New York firm of Fox, Henderson & Company agreed to accept these 5,600 guns to be assembled by Vermont Arms as payment for their credit interest in the now bankrupt company. In 1858 The Vermont Arms Company also failed, and the remaining inventory and assets were sold at auction. The Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Company purchased the Hartford Factory and the Windsor, VT factory was acquired by E.G. Lamson and Able Goodnow. Lamson and Goodnow would later go on to produce US M-1861 Special Model Muskets at this facility under the name of Lamson, Goodnow & Yale (LG&Y) during the Civil War. At the same time the factories were sold, the machinery and many parts for as yet un-built guns were sold at auction. Many of these parts ended up in the possession of the Whitney Arms Company and were used in the production of his very rare and odd “good and serviceable” arms. It is noted that Whitney acquired enough parts to fabricate some 4,000 arms at the auction, and also acquired a rifling machine. There is some indication that a small number of the completed guns received by Fox, Henderson & Company were sold to Mexican Nationalist who were revolting against the rule of Emperor Maximillian I in Mexico. New York merchants like Fox, Henderson & Company also sold many of the completed arms to southern states during 1860 and early 1861. The states had purchased the arms in preparation for the Civil War that they were sure was about to happen. Researchers have also determined that at least some “Windsor Enfields” were purchased by the State of South Carolina, with the possibility that as many as 710 were acquired by that state. On January 21, 1861 38 cases of rifled muskets that were being shipped from New York City to Alabama and Georgia were impounded by the New York Police Department. These guns were packed 20 to a case, with 28 of the cases destined for Alabama and 10 headed for Georgia. Period documents note that the 28 cases of guns headed to Alabama were “Robbins & Lawrence Enfields”. The description of the Georgia guns is not so accurate, but does note that the some of the arms were marked with (CROWN) / A over a number on the breech and other parts. These were the marks of the British Board of Ordnance sub-inspectors who were inspecting completed parts at the Robbins & Lawrence factory. While it is not known how many Georgia regiments received the Robbins & Lawrence guns, period documents and images indicate that the Rome Light Guards (Company A of the 8th GA Infantry) were armed with at least some of the “Windsor Enfields”. Additional indications of Southern use appeared in a March of 1861 advertisement from a company in Petersburg, VA listing 100 “Windsor Enfields” for sale. A letter from Confederate Lt. J. Wilcox Brown, dated June 1, 1863, lists “Windsor” among the makers noted on the locks of Enfield arms being repaired at the Richmond Artillery Workshop. He also noted Enfields marked “Tower, Bond, Carr, Barnett & Greener”. All of these period accounts make it clear that a significant number of “Windsor” Enfields ended up in southern hands during the American Civil War. This seems to explain the overall scarcity of the “Windsor” Enfields these days, as many of the later production, non-British military arms, ended up seeing hard service with Confederate soldiers. Those guns that were delivered to the British were quickly deemed 2nd Class as they were of an obsolete pattern (Type II instead of Type III) and most were likely sent to arm colonial and empire forces from Canada to India and everywhere in between.

This particular example of the Robbins & Lawrence Windsor Enfield is in about VERY FINE overall condition, especially for a rifle musket that almost certainly saw Confederate service. The gun shows some light real world use, but no abuse. The gun is clearly marked on the lock with a Crown behind the hammer, and is marked 1855 over WINDSOR forward of the hammer. The lock shows no external British military inspection marks, so it was never inspected as an assembled lock by an Ordnance inspector. The inside of the lock is unmarked as well, indicating that a British ordnance viewer never inspected it. If they had, a Crown over “A” over a number would be present on the inside. The A was the mark required by the British to indicate the location of manufacture; in this case, America. Likewise on other arms a B indicated Birmingham, E the RSAF at Enfield Lock and L for Liege in Belgium. These marks do not always mean the gun saw British military service, it simply means the component parts were inspected by a Board of Ordnance sub-inspector prior to assembly. The presence of some Board of Ordnance inspected parts on Confederate used Windsor Enfields is common, and is simply indicative of old parts that were subsequently incorporated into a complete gun by Vermont Arms after the fact. On this example a (CROWN) / A / 4 sub-inspector mark is visible on the reverse of the upper barrel band, and small (CROWN) “ (ARROW) marks are present on the two other barrel bands. The barrel is proofed with a (CROWN) / TP / (BROAD ARROW) and a (CROWN) / A / 2. There is a second proof mark in between these two marks that has been over-stamped and rendered illegible. On some Windsor Enfields, a crude spread winged eagle has been encountered. It is not clear if the eagle stamp was done at the factory or by the state that received the guns. This stamp mostly obliterates the sub-inspector mark, or is sometimes the only mark present. The top of the breech does not show a British military inspection, and the fact that neither the lock nor breech are marked, and that there is no Board of Ordnance storekeeper’s mark in the stock all indicate that this gun was never delivered to the British. As previously noted, it is quite common to find a mix of British sub-inspected and un-inspected parts mixed on these post-bankruptcy assembled muskets.

Overall the gun has a very crisp, smoky gray patina with traces of blue present around the breech and scattered along the barrel. The barrel is entirely smooth with no notable pitting and only the tiniest scattered traces of minute pinpricking here and there. There are some areas of lightly scattered oxidized surface discoloration on the barrel, as well as a couple of thumbnail sized patches of minor surface roughness. The .577 caliber bore of the musket is in about VERY FINE to NEAR EXCELLENT condition and retains strong three groove rifling that does not appear to be progressive depth. The rifling is incredibly sharp and crisp. The bore is mostly bright with scattered areas of light oxidation, and shows some scattered light pitting along its length. A good scrubbing would probably improve the overall bore condition, but it looks as if it is perfectly serviceable in its current condition and would probably be a tack driver. The barrel bands have a slightly darker, smoky gray pewter patina that combines traces of their original blued finish and oxidized age discoloration. The solid bands show some scattered areas of very light pitting and minor surface roughness. The barrel band springs have a similar patina, showing a mix of trace original blue and age discoloration. The lock is in mechanically EXCELLENT condition and functions very crisply and correctly on all positions. The lock plate has the same smoky pewter patina as the balance of the gun, with some darker areas that hint at the original case coloring. The original cone (nipple) is in place in the bolster and shows minimal wear, remaining as crisp the balance of the gun. The gun retains its original long-range rear sight, as well as the original front sight/bayonet lug. The original full-length, swelled shank, jag-head ramrod is present in the channel under the barrel as well, and it retains good threads at the opposite end. The original upper sling swivel is in place, riveted to the lug on the upper barrel band. The rear swivel is an original Enfield swivel, but is not original to the gun, as it is trapezoidal in shape, and rear sling swivels of interchangeable parts Enfields (like those from The Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield - RSAF, and the London Armoury Company) were oval shaped. The patina of the swivel matches the gun perfectly and it could a period of use replacement. The brass furniture has a lovely medium butterscotch patina that is very attractive. The musket’s stock is extremely crisp and sharp, and in NEAR EXCELLENT condition. As would be expected, the stock shows a handful of minor bumps, dings and some light service wear of a 150-year-old military musket. The stock retains extremely sharp edges and crisp lines and has certainly never been sanded or even lightly cleaned. The stock has a unique, mottled appearance, similar to the orange and black mottled grips found on early Merwin, Hulbert & Company revolver grips. The walnut has a pretty reddish tinge to it, but is shot through with patches and swirls of dark sapwood that is almost black. This is certainly a stock that the British military would have never accepted, but the grain configuration makes the wood very striking.

Overall this is probably the best example of a Robbins & Lawrence Windsor Enfield that I have had the opportunity to offer for sale, and may be the best example I have seen in at least a decade. Each year I am lucky to see one or two of these rare guns available for sale, and rarely do I have the chance to offer them to my customers. It is actually amazing to me that I have had two very nice examples in the last 6 months, something that really never happens. Even Norm Flayderman comments that the Windsor Enfields are “rarely encountered”, and show up far less often than their production figures would indicate that they should. The apparent rarity is likely a result of the fact that these guns all saw combat of some sort. Those that were accepted by the British Government nearly all went to war in the Crimea and were subsequently sent to various British colonies where they had a very hard service life, usually with colonial troops. The balance of the guns that were sold off went to Mexican revolutionaries and state militia companies on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line, and those southern guns were certainly saw use from day one of the American Civil War. When these guns are encountered today they are usually in very rough condition “ an indication of their hard service life, either in British service or during American Civil War service. This rare example of the Windsor Civil War Enfield is a really great example of scare “Windsor” Enfield that almost certainly went south before (or at the very beginning of) the war. Don’t miss your chance to obtain a truly scare Windsor Enfield, a gun that you may not see for sale again anywhere for a year or two, in really pristine condition.


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Tags: Windsor, Enfield, Very, Scarce, Fine