Original U.S. Model 1816 Percussion Converted Contract Musket by Marine T. Wickham of Philadelphia

Item Description

Original item: One Only. The U.S. Model 1816 Musket was a .69 caliber smoothbore flintlock, with a 42-inch barrel and an overall length of 58 inches. It replaced the previous model 1812 musket, and often is viewed as a further development of that design. Like the Model 1812, the Model 1816 borrowed heavily from the design of the French Charleville model 1777 musket, but had a longer lock plate, a shorter trigger guard, and a longer bayonet than the Model 1812. The Model 1816 also had a more straight lined stock.

The Model 1816 was produced by the Springfield Armory, Harpers Ferry Armory, and numerous other contractors, such as M.T. Wickham. It was eventually replaced by the Springfield Model 1822, which is also considered by many to be a continuation of the Model 1816. These were sometimes referred to as "Whitney Flintlocks" due to the large number made in New Haven, Connecticut by Eli Whitney.

The outbreak of the Civil War in the United States created a large need for percussion muskets, as the number of modern firearms currently on hand was far short of what was needed. To fill this need, updating older design firearms was both faster and more cost effective, so many Model 1816 family muskets still in service were updated to percussion rifles.

This example is one such musket, and is a "Drum Conversion" version, where the touch hole was drilled out and a drum-shaped cap bolster installed. Other conversions would simply fill the touch hole, and install a cap nipple cone directly into the barrel. The bolster and cone definitely show far less wear than the surrounding areas, so it does not look to have seen much service since the conversion. The lock has had the frizzen and frizzen spring removed, and the brass pan ground down, with the remnants still visible at the top of the lock.

This example was contractor produced, as indicated by the markings on the lock plate under the pan:


Marine T. Wickham was probably the most notable armorer to work at the national armory before 1816. Equally adept at forging, filing, stocking, and engraving firearms, Wickham possessed great talent as a gunsmith. More importantly, he exhibited a rare ability to manage men effectively while at the same time retaining their admiration and respect. These qualities did not go unnoticed, for in 1808 the secretary of war selected Wickham to succeed Perkin's long-time associate, Charles Williams, as master armorer at the national armory. However, after three years, he left to go out on his own, and made many guns under contract to the U.S. Goverment. His FIRST Contract on July 19th 1822 for 5,000 Muskets to be delivered over 30 months at a cost of TWELVE U.S. DOLLARS each, and this is from that production run. It has the standard all iron mounts with a cleaning rod.

He produced three variations of the musket in total, including the Naval issue Musket. The first contract bore "M.T. WICKHAM" on the lock plate over "PHILA" and the later production muskets were marked "U.S." over "M.T. WICKHAM" with "PHILA" and a date across the tail of the lock plate.

Full business history of the WICKHAM FLINTLOCK MUSKET SERIES can be found in the excellent book UNITED STATES MARTIAL FLINTLOCKS by Robert M. Reilly, published 1986, currently in print from ANDREW MOWBRAY INC, Publishers. The Wickham Musket is featured on pages 105 and 106. A great book of reference. More information on Marine T. Wickham can be found in the book Harpers Ferry Armory and the New Technology: The Challenge of Change By Merritt Roe Smith, published by the Cornell University Press. Interestingly, it indicates Wickham was master armorer at Harpers Ferry, while other sources list him as having been at Springfield. Either way, he was definitely a very important figure in early U.S. Government firearms development and production.

Overall this is a very nice example of a Model 1816 Long Musket converted to percussion. The stock is in good shape, with a great color, and the expected wear from long service. We do not see any major cracks or repairs, just some cracking around the lock plate, which is typical. The barrel is marked F / P / U.S. over the chamber, and there look to be the remnants of an "eagle's head" as well. There are not any major issues that we can see. The metalwork overall has a lovely gray peppered patina, with evidence of past pitting from powder burn around the breech.

The lock still functions correctly, holding at full cock and firing at full, and the cleaning rod is present as well. The sling swivels have both been removed, however the bolsters are still present, so they could be replaced if desired.

A very nice example of an early American Musket, most likely reissued for use in the Civil War. It has plenty of research potential and is ready to display!


Year of Manufacture: circa 1816-1822
Caliber: .69"
Cartridge Type: Ball and Powder
Barrel Length: 42 Inches
Overall Length: 58 Inches
Action type: Side Action Percussion Lock
Feed System: Muzzle Loading

History of the Model 1816 Musket:

The War of 1812 had revealed many weaknesses in American muskets. The Model 1812 Musket was created in an attempt to improve both the design and manufacture of the musket. The Model 1816 made further improvements, and replaced the Model 1812. The Model 1812 had borrowed heavily from the design of the French Charleville model 1777 musket, and this design was retained for the Model 1816. The Model 1816 had a 42 inch long .69 caliber smoothbore barrel, similar to the Model 1812, but had a longer lock plate, a shorter trigger guard, and a longer bayonet than the Model 1812. The Model 1816 also had a more straight lined stock. The overall length of the weapon was 58 inches.

The Model 1816 musket was originally produced at the Harpers Ferry and Springfield Arsenals between 1816 and 1844. Around 675,000 were made, more than any other flintlock in U.S. history.

The Model 1816 was originally produced as a flintlock musket. Like many flintlock muskets, many of these were later converted to percussion cap, as the percussion cap system was much more reliable and weather resistant.

This model of Springfield musket was used by Texans during the Texas Revolution and by the US Army and militia during the Mexican-American War. During this conflict, the flintlock version of the Model 1816 was preferred by U.S. regular forces, due to percussion cap supply concerns. It was also used during the early years of the American Civil War until around 1862.

Many improvements to the Model 1816 were made, producing the Model 1822, Model 1835, Model 1840, and Model 1842. U.S. Ordnance Department referred to these as different models, but in other U.S. government documents they are referred to as a continuation of the Model 1816. Modern histories are similarly inconsistent in the nomenclature of these weapons.

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