Original U.S. Civil War 5th Model 1864 Burnside Cavalry Carbine with Label - Found at Petersburg Battlefield - Serial 14547

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. This Burnside Cavalry Carbine in .54 caliber is offered in very good condition, and is definitely one of the most interesting examples that we have had! It is marked on the frame, breech block, and under the barrel with matching serial number 14547, which is about a third of the way through of wartime production. Springfield Research records indicate serial numbers in this range were being delivered in 1863 and 1864, however there are no blocks of serial numbers we can find that would indicate which unit it was sent to.

There is however what looks to be an old museum label or tag on the left side of the butt stock, which states:

U.S. Cavalry Carbine
Burnside Model 1864
Found on the Battlefield
of Petersburgh
Petersburgh, Virginia

The label is definitely VERY old, and has been on the carbine for a long period of time. It has gradually darkened and become somewhat hard to read. We unfortunately have no further information regarding this, but it definitely could have some interesting research potential. With a known battle, the muster rolls and quartermaster records could be consulted, and the carbine possibly linked to a specific unit, or even a specific cavalry trooper!

This example, known as the "Fifth Model" or model of 1864, is in very good used condition, with very nice wood stocks and an intact saddle ring. The Burnside was one of several "capping breech loader" designs utilized by the Union Army during the war. The top of the frame is correctly marked:


The marking on the lock plate is still clear as well:


The CAST-STEEL 1864 marking in front of the sight is present but slightly mis-struck as they usually were, so the marking is only partially legible. The metalwork shows an overall peppered gray patina, caused by light surface oxidation and subsequent cleaning. There is no sigh of any major rust on the exterior.

The stocks look to have been varnished and cleaned over the years, though it is possible that there was also damage from service, especially if it was left on the battlefield, which probably led to damage. The wood is now dark, showing some filled in damage and gouges. The bore is in very good condition, with a mostly bright finish that shows the 5 groove rifling well. There is just a bit of wear and oxidation, and this is definitely one of the better bores that we have seen on a Burnside.

The action cycles correctly, with a functional lock and tight mechanics. The small "guide screw" on the right side of the frame that allows the breech block more easily stay in place for reloading is still present on this example as well. The saddle bar and ring are in good shape, with no bents or cracks visible.

A very good example of a Firth Model Burnside Carbine with some great research potential! Ready to display!


Year of Manufacture: c.1864
Caliber: .54"
Cartridge Type: Copper Casing or Tapered Foil Cartridge with Cap
Barrel Length: 21 Inches
Overall Length: 39 Inches
Action type: Side Action Lock
Feed System: Breech Loading Falling Hinged Block

History of the Burnside Carbine

The Burnside, one of the best carbines of the Civil War, was designed by one of its worst generals. Actually, Maj. Gen. Ambrose Everett Burnside had sold the interest in his breechloader well before the war started, so he was unencumbered with the need to further its development or, sadly, to reap the proceeds that would have resulted from its success as the conflict’s third most widely produced Federal carbine, after the Sharps and Spencer.

Burnside’s invention employed a rotating block, released by a loading lever that was activated by a hinged, clamping catch. It chambered a unique .54-cal. cone-shaped brass cartridge with a thick, rounded belt (there were also some earlier, coiled cases, sans belt) at its mouth and a small hole in the base that allowed ignition from a separate percussion cap. The round was loaded, base down, into the chamber. Next, the lever was closed and the block locked in place with the belt halfway between the chamber and barrel, providing an excellent seal.

After the carbine was fired, the lever was again lowered and the spent case easily removed from the block with one’s fingers. If extraction became difficult, it was possible to pull it out with the base of the next cartridge. After the soldier got the hang of it, a Burnside could easily be fired in excess of a dozen rounds a minute.

The Burnside Carbine (there were rifles, too) went through a considerable evolutionary process and provides a fertile area for the collector. About 300 First Models were produced by the Bristol Firearm Co. in Bristol, R.I., a manufacturer founded by Burnside himself. It was a .54 caliber with an overall length of 40 inches. First Models had no fore-stock and incorporated a unique side lever, which operated a tape primer and also locked the breech block in the open position. The carbine’s frame was case-hardened, and the barrel was blued.

Second Models did away with the side lever and tape primer, though they still had no fore-stock. Premier Second Models were made by the Bristol Firearm Co., though later ones were produced by the reorganized Burnside Rifle Co., in Providence, R.I. The Third Model, fitted with a fore-stock, was introduced in 1861 at the request of the U.S. Ordnance Dept.

A Fourth, and final, variant appeared toward the end of the Civil War. It had a double pivoting breech block to make the gun easier to open and close. Later on, a second type of Fourth Model (sometimes called “Fifth Model”) appeared with a screw in the right side of the action to prevent the block from dropping out of the action, thus speeding up loading. These guns will be seen with both blued and case-hardened frames. Markings on most Fourth Models are, “BURNSIDE’S PATENT/MODEL OF 1864,” though there are some examples with the earlier 1856 date. Also, deliveries of this model started in 1863, even though they had the 1864 markings.

Because they were made in large quantities and appeared toward the end of the Civil War, Fourth/Fifth Model Burnside Carbines are the least valuable of the various versions. Not too steep a price for one of the most important cavalry arms of one of America’s most important conflicts.

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