Original U.S. Civil War Springfield "Special" Model 1861 Rifled Musket by Lamson, Goodnow & Yale - dated 1864

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 Lamson, Goodnow, and Yale of Windsor, Vermont. The firm produced some 50,020 weapons for the army during the Civil War. However, they produced the "Special Model 1861", and were one of only three contractors to do so, the others being Amoskeag and most importantly Colt, who originated the improved design.

Samuel Colt had acquired machinery that had been used to build Pattern 1853 Enfield rifles from the defunct Robbins & Lawrence Machine Shop & Armory, and as a result was able to make a rifled musket that had the "best" of the British and American designs. These changes included redesigned convex screw retained barrel bands, a new hammer, and a redesigned bolster, all derived from the Enfield tooling he had purchased. Several of these changes were eventually adopted by the Ordnance Department and incorporated into the Model 1863 rifled musket. Lamson, Goodnow, and Yale were the successors to Robbins & Lawrence, which was also based in Windsor Vermont, and had access to the same designs Colt did, which were the result of British contracts that Robbins & Lawrence had.

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 example however was not converted, and is still in the original configuration. It is dated 1864 on the lock plate tail, and U.S. / L. G. -& Y. / WINDSOR VT. The lock plate is in very good condition, showing little wear and having a lovely lightly stained patina. These "special" models did not have an eagle marked on the lock plate. The Federal Eagle on the cap nipple cone bolster is still present with much of the detail still present. The nocks form shows the correct V over P proofs, though they are very faint.

The one piece walnut stock is in very good condition, showing the expected light denting and other wear due to service and age. It has a very nice walnut red brown color, and really looks like it has "been there". There are no major structural issues or repairs, and there is no wood removed around the cap bolster either. Really a lovely stock on this example. The metalwork has mostly faded to a brown patina on the barrel and hardware, except where there is a bit more advanced light pitting near the bolster due to powder burn.

The lock functions correctly, holding at half cock and firing at full. The cap nipple cone is in very good condition, and may be a period replacement. We checked the bore, and it is clear with the three groove rifling clearly visible. However there is powder fouling and light oxidation over the entire interior, which could probably still use a bit of a cleaning. The three leaf rear sight is still fully intact and functional. All three barrel bands still have their U markings, with a U.S. on the butt plate tang. The "tulip" shaped ramrod is in very good shape, with intact threads on the end. Both sling swivels are present and move easily.

This is a great chance to pick up a hard to find "Special" Model 1861 rifled musket from the Civil War. Fully cleaned and ready to display!


Year of Manufacture: 1864
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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