Original British P-1853 Enfield Rifle Musket Produced in Belgium - Dated 1857
Original Item: Only One Available. Offered here is a very nice example of the Pattern 1853 Enfield Rifle Musket as produced by the prolific gun trade in Liège, Belgium. The Liège gun trade had a long history of producing arms of previously established patterns to supplement the arms making capabilities of other nations. By the mid-19th century, the Liège arms trade had been producing gun parts to support the Birmingham & London gun trades for well over 100 years.
The Belgian makers were also the traditional source for additional British military arms during periods of need greater than could be accommodated by the London and Birmingham makers. With the advent of the Crimean War, the British Government turned to the Liège trade to supplement the manufacturing capabilities of their domestic gunmakers. The first Belgian contract for P-1853 Enfield Rifle Muskets was for 20,000 stands of arms. The contract commenced on October 31, 1854 and the arms were to be delivered by May 31 of the following year. With the ending of the war in February of 1856, the critical need for arms was temporarily alleviated, but the British War Department still let an additional contract for 5,000 more P-1853s from Liège in June of 1859. By the time the American Civil War erupted in April of 1861, the Belgian trade had several years of experience in the production of the most advanced and widely used muzzle loading military rifle musket in the world, and were tooled up to produce the pattern in quantity.
The Liège makers found a lucrative market for P-1853s with the American combatants. Many of the brokers who purchased thousands of continental arms for the US government, like Herman Boker & Co and James Hoey purchased Belgian made Enfields, along with arms from Austria, Prussia and France. While it is unclear how many Belgian made P-1853 rifle muskets were purchased by the combatants during the conflict, it is quite clear that many were. It is also quite clear that the British gun trade had long relied upon Belgian makers to supplement their output, and it is quite likely that a large number of the Enfields delivered on British contracts to the North and South included at least some Belgian made arms, and even more arms with Belgian made components. The makers of the Liège trade would often produce complete arms that were almost completely unmarked externally, allowing the purchaser to mark them as if they were their own product. This proclivity sometimes makes the recognition of Belgian produced arms somewhat difficult.
This Belgian made P-1853 Enfield Rifle Musket is a nice example of one of those Liège made weapons. The gun is in an very nice state of preservation and fully operational. The lock shows the typical double boarder line engraving found on most Birmingham and some London contractor produced Enfields, and is nicely marked with a CROWN over V.R. indicating it was from the 2nd contract to the British government. It is nicely dated 1857 on the lock plate.
The hammer is engraved with the typical feathers that one expects to find on Birmingham and some London made Enfields as well. The left side of the breech bears the typical Belgian Perron inspection mark, used to proof breeches from 1853 onward. The left side of the breech bears a typical 19th century Belgian definitive muzzle loading proof mark, the letters L in a large oval.
The barrel retains about 85%+ of its original blued finish, with some loss along high edges and the muzzle crown, and some tiny areas that show very minor fading. The bore of the musket is in equally very good condition, and is bright and shiny with excellent rifling. The lock and hammer both retain about 70%+ of their original case hardened coloring, but some minor fading to the vivid colors due to age.
The lock is crisp and is mechanically excellent, functioning perfectly on all positions. The gun is 100% complete, correct and original throughout. It retains its original long-range rear sight, the front site/bayonet lug and both of its sling swivels. The ramrod appears to be the original, period Enfield pattern rod that came with the gun. It is full length and retains threads on the reverse end. The bands are all matching and all retain their original screw keeper at the end of the tension screw, which prevents the screw from being completely removed from the barrel bands.
The stock of the gun is in nice condition as the metal, and the wood to metal fit is outstanding throughout. The stock has never been sanded and retains edges and lines. The stock shows only a very few minor bumps and dings from handling and storage. The stock is complete, solid and free of any breaks, cracks or repairs. There is a clear cartouche with British broad arrow and 1858 date, again certifying this was from the second contract ordered by the British government. The butt plate has markings that read:
These markings are very interesting. There were several Confederate buyers with whom the British government would not sell to having already settled contracts with the Union side. One active company buying for the Confederate States was SINCLAIR HAMILTON & COMPANY who employed an English "Viewer/Inspector" to check weapons before purchase on their behalf. This inspector’s name was ISAAC CURTIS. The "I.C. 594 is curious as 594 is too great a number to be a rack number and I.C. does not translate to a known British regiment so perhaps it is the mark of "ISAAC CURTIS" who executed weapon inspections on behalf of the Confederate arms suppliers "SINCLAIR HAMILTON & COMPANY? We may never know, but worth of further research.
Overall this is a wonderful as issued condition example of a commercial Belgian manufactured P-1853 Enfield Rifle Musket, destined for use by the British military. Possibly later this gun was sold to fill a northern or southern Civil War contract but it is impossible to know.
Every collection of P-1853 Enfields needs to have at least one Belgian contract made musket in it. This gun is a fine example, and will be a real centerpiece in an advanced collection of high condition Civil War era long arms.
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