Original U.S. Civil War Springfield Model 1861 Rifled Musket by Parker Snow & Co. of Meriden, Conn. - Dated 1863

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. The Springfield Model 1861 was a Minié-type rifled musket shoulder-arm used by the United States Army and Marine Corps during the American Civil War. Commonly referred to as the "Springfield" (after its original place of production, Springfield, Massachusetts), it was the most widely used U.S. Army weapon during the Civil War, favored for its range, accuracy, and reliability.

The barrel was 40 inches long, firing a .58 caliber Minié ball, and the total weight was approximately 9 pounds. The Springfield had an effective range of 200 to 300 yards, and used percussion caps to fire (rather than the flintlocks of the 18th century, the last U.S. flintlock musket was the Model 1840). Trained troops were able to fire at a rate of three aimed shots per minute while maintaining accuracy up to 500 yards, though firing distances in the war were often much shorter. The most notable difference between the Model 1861 and the earlier Model 1855 was the elimination of the Maynard tape primer for the Model 1861 (the Maynard primer, a self-feeding primer system, was unreliable in damp weather, and the priming mechanism was expensive and time-consuming to produce). Further, unlike the Model 1855, the Model 1861 was never produced in a two-banded "short rifle" configuration.

The Springfield was aimed using flip-up leaf sights. The sight had two leaves, one for 300 yards and the other for 500 yards, and with both leaves down, the sight was set for a range of 100 yards. By contrast, the British Pattern 1853 Enfield, favored by the Confederates, utilized a ladder-sight system with 100 yard increments, using steps from 100 to 400 yards and a flip up ladder for ranges beyond 500 yards. While the Enfield's sights did allow finer range settings, the Springfield's simple leaves were more rugged and were less expensive to produce. The Enfield's sights extended to 900 yards (and further, on later models), compared to the 500 yard maximum range of the Springfield's sights. Realistically, though, hitting anything beyond 600 yards with either weapon was mostly a matter of luck. While the sight designs were very different, the two weapons were otherwise very similar, and had very similar effective ranges.

The Springfield Rifle cost $20 each at the Springfield Armory, where they were officially made. Overwhelmed by the demand, the armory opened its weapons patterns up to twenty private contractors, including Parkers' Snow & Co. of Meriden Connecticut.

Prior to the war, Charles Parker and Snow had merged their operations to become the Meriden Machine Company. The company had both a machine shop and a foundry where they produced train wheels, steam engines, printing presses, and piano stools. During the early part of the Civil War, Parker Snow & Company had functioned in the role of supplier for various components, such as trigger guards and locks, for the Model 1861 which it sold to other contractors. As the war progressed, their foothold on the Model 1861 expanded and so did their confidence. On Sept 28, 1863 Parker Snow took things a step further and acquired its own government contract for 15,000 muskets. Having an excellent machine shop, skilled workmen, and prior experience manufacturing components for the Model 1861, there is little doubt these factors helped the company fulfill 100% of its contract with all 15,000 units delivered to the US government by November, 1864. See The Rifled Musket by Claud E. Fuller, pages 194-95.

The Model 1861 was relatively scarce in the early years of the Civil War (many troops were still using Model 1842 smoothbored muskets and Model 1816/1822 muskets converted to percussion cap primers, both in .69 caliber). It is unlikely that any of these were available for use in the First Battle of Bull Run. However, over time, more and more regiments began receiving Model 1861 rifled muskets, though this upgrade appeared somewhat quicker in the Eastern Theater of Operations. Over 1,000,000 Model 1861 rifles were produced, with the Springfield Armory increasing its production during the war by contracting out to twenty other firms in the Union. The number of Model 1861 muskets produced by the Springfield Armory was 265,129 between January 1, 1861 and December 31, 1863. According to United States Muskets, Rifles and Carbines by Arcadi Gluckman Colonel Infantry, United States Army, published 1949.

After the war ended, many model 1861 and 1863 rifled muskets were modified to a breech loading actions with new metallic cartridges. With these modifications, the basic 1861 evolved into the Springfield Model 1873 which served the US until being replaced in the 1890s by modern breech loading rifles chambered for new smokeless powder rounds that were far superior to the Model 1873.

This very nice example however was not converted, and is still in the original configuration. It looks to have seen a good amount of service during the war, and then was cleaned a bit before probably being hung on a wall, and polished periodically for over a century. This has given it a fantastic patina over all. It is dated 1863 on the lock plate tail, and also has a Federal Eagle stamped into the lock over U.S., and to the right of that PARKERS ' SNOW & CO. / MERIDEN, CONN.. The markings on the lock plate are somewhat faint due to past rust peppering. Information regarding these rifles indicate that 1863 dated locks were part of a James Mulholland contract for 5,502. The nocks form has traces of the proof marks V / P / Eagle's Head, but they are quite faint due to powder burn and cleaning.

The one piece walnut stock has a beautiful red brown color that only old and aged oiled walnut achieves. It does show wear from cleaning over the years, which has opened up the grain pores a bit, and also has removed the inspection cartouches. There is some cracking near the rear lock screw, but we do not see any other cracks or repairs, just wear from service and cleaning. The metalwork overall shows a lovely plum brown patina from past oxidation, but it has been lightly cleaned to put it in its best light.

The bore still shows the original three groove rifling, with just a bit of overall fouling and strong lands visible. There is powder burn around the cap nipple, which may be a war time replacement. The cap bolster cleanout screw still has a fairly good slot, and can actually be removed! The lock functions, holding correctly at half cock and firing at full. The rear sight is present, with all three leaves intact and functional. The upper and lower bands still have their U markings, with a U.S. on the butt plate tang. The ramrod is the correct and original tulip type with an enlarged shank. Both sling swivels are still present.

This is a great chance to pick up a nice Civil War Contract Rifled musket by a rare maker with a lovely patina. Ready to display!


Year of Manufacture: 1863
Caliber: .58"
Cartridge Type: Minié Ball and Powder
Barrel Length: 40 Inches

Overall Length: 56 Inches
Action type: Side Action Lock
Feed System: Muzzle Loaded

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