Original U.S. Civil War Model 1861 Rifled-Musket by Bridesburg Converted to Needham Breechloader
Original Item: Only One Available. This is a U.S. Springfield Model 1861 rifled-musket, which was later fitted with a Needham Breech-loading conversion system, in nice original condition. Before its alteration from cap and ball to a .58 caliber breech-loading centerfire system in 1869, this long arm was produced at Springfield Armory in Springfield, Mass..
This is a very nice U.S. Springfield Model 1861 Bridesburg Contract rifle-musket, which was later fitted with a Needham Breech-loading conversion system, in nice original condition. This type of alternation was designed by two brothers, Joseph and George Henry Needham of London, England. Before its alteration from cap and ball to a .58 caliber breech-loading centerfire system in 1869, this long arm was a product of the Philadelphia firm of Alfred Jenks & Son, owners and operators of the Bridesburg Machine Works in Pennsylvania.
This Needham-altered, single-shot long arm is one of an unknown small quantity that were modified and retains a very pleasing appearance. Barrel exhibits light pinprick pitting over its surface. In complete condition, this musket retains its original stock, "S"-shaped beveled hammer, straight-shank ramrod, all barrel bands and sling swivels. Mechanics are strong and crisp, with the lock holding correctly at half-cock. The bore still shows clear rifling, but there is oxidation towards the muzzle. Black walnut stock is in very good condition overall with just normal dings and nicks from use and storage, though there is a crack at the lock plate tail.
The tail of the lockplate stamped with a clear 1862 stamp behind the modified hammer. Lower right area of the plate in front of the hammer was cut to accommodate the unique Needham swing-out door for the side-loading breech. The stamping of BRIDESBURG is visible under the door, and traces of the U.S. Eagle proof mark is visible on the lock plate near the hammer. Receiver area retains much of its factory bluing.
The side action breech opens well, and still has the internal ejector. Unfortunately the firing pin and breech latch were removed at some point.
Needham conversion long arms were involved with an interesting history involving an Irish-American secret society. Immediately after the Civil War, the Fenian Brotherhood plotted to invade Canada to pressure England to grant independence to Ireland.
Bridesburg Needham conversions and the Fenian invasions of Canada
The Fenians were an Irish-American group who wanted to put pressure on Great Britain to free Ireland. They conspired to mount an invasion of Canada and occupy some territory in order to force concessions. The Fenians purchased surplus Bridesburg rifle-muskets and sent 600 armed men across the Canadian border from New York in June 1866. The small force briefly captured Fort Erie, but was readily overcome, and the men were sent back to the U.S. Surprisingly, the Fenians were sufficiently well connected politically that they were able to recover their guns along with their freedom to try again.
However, by the time the Fenians were considering a second foray across the border in 1867, the British troops in Canada were equipped with Snider conversions of the P1853 Enfield rifle, and the Fenians knew they would be seriously outmatched with their original muzzle-loading Bridesburg muskets. Reportedly, supporters of the Fenians rented space in a Trenton, New Jersey shop, where hired English gunsmiths performed the Needham conversions on about 5,000 rifle-muskets. The Fenians launched a second invasion in May of 1870 across the Vermont border. The Canadians were forewarned and the Fenians soundly defeated. This time, the guns used in the attack were confiscated by the U.S. Army, along with additional guns that had been stored in Trenton. The army subsequently auctioned off the guns, a large number of which were purchased by the surplus dealer Schuyler, Hartley & Graham. These guns account for the majority of the Needham conversion rifles which occasionally show up for sale.
Years of Manufacture: 1862 - converted c.1865
Ammunition Type: Centerfire Cartridge
Barrel Length: 37 inches
Overall Length: 56 inches
Action: Side Action Conversion
Feed System: Single Shot
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