Original U.S. Springfield Model 1816 Flintlock Reconverted Musket with Brass "Sea Fencibles" Butt Plate - dated 1817

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 was one such example, but the history is a bit different than most.

The brass butt plate on this example is what really makes it interesting. It is not just a drop in replacement, and required significant alteration of the stock to fit correctly. These brass butt plates are only found on what were known for a long time as "Sea Fencible" or "Coastal Artillery" muskets, and this is a very nice example of one. However that designation is incorrect, and currently the actual purpose of the brass butt plate is not known. All that is known is that around 300 of these were made from flintlock Percussion muskets in 1851, most of which were made by Whitney, who is believe to have done the conversions.

After this conversion however, the musket was then REconverted back to flintlock, possibly for use in an area where percussion caps would go bad due to a warm / wet climate. The reconversion utilized an angular iron flash pan, that is definitely not correct for a Springfield Model 1816. The ring necked cock is also a Springfield Model 1795 flat type, not the contoured type used after 1812, so we think the parts used may be from a French Charleville musket. Definitely an interesting modification worth of further research.

This example was not contractor made, and was manufactured at the United States Armory and Arsenal at Springfield in 1817, as indicated by markings on the tail of the lock plate:


There is also a EAGLE over U.S. marking on the lock plate in front of the hammer, which is crisp on the very good condition lock plate. It also is dated 1817 on the barrel tang, and the P / Eagle's Head / V proof marks on the left breech are still fully visible. It is additionally marked with MS, for issue to the State of Massachusetts, and has a 69 / 69 / K marking that we do not know the meaning of. There are additional proof and inspector markings on various parts of the gun, and a 46 on the brass butt plate, which is probably a ship rack number.

There are not any major issues that we can see, and the lock functions correctly, holding at half cock and firing at full. The metalwork overall has a lovely gray peppered patina, with evidence of very light past pitting. The stock looks great, with no evidence of past repairs. The sling swivels are both still present, as well as the original ramrod.

This musket has plenty of research potential and is ready to display! It would be great as part of any U.S. Naval collection!


Year of Manufacture: 1817 - converted c.1851 - reconverted later
Caliber: .69"
Cartridge Type: Ball and Powder
Barrel Length: 42 Inches
Overall Length: 58 Inches
Action type: Side Action Flintlock
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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