Confederate Bayonet Adapted M1841 "Mississippi" Rifle
Prior to the onset of the Civil War some 9,304 Model 1841 Rifles had been issued to states that would secede from the Union. The majority of these rifles had been produced by the private armories of Eli Whitney Jr. and Robbins and Lawrence, with just over 1,400 of the total having been produced at Harpers Ferry. An additional 10,000 M1841 Rifles were stored in various Federal Arsenals. These rifles had been sent South by Secretary of War John B. Floyd after John Brown's raid on the Harpers Ferry Arsenal.
By and large the M1841 Rifles in the South at the onset of the Civil War were still in their original .54 caliber configuration without alterations to their sights or bayonet mounting adaptations. While many Confederate used "Mississippi" rifles were issued in their original configurations some thousands were adapted to mount bayonets, generally of the saber variety. The most famous of these bayonet adaptations are those attributed to South Carolina gunsmith J.H. Happoldt, but the majority of Confederate bayonet adapted M1841 rifles remain unidentified. These alterations are generally referred to as "Virginia" alterations based on their most common theater of usage, although the alterations themselves may have been performed in other States, quite probably North Carolina.
The bayonet adaptations found on "Virginia" altered M1841 rifles are quite straight forward. An iron lug was brazed to the right size of the barrel 3 to 4 inches from the muzzle. Usually the lugs are simple rectangular affairs, but some examples also utilize a key guide forward of the lug. The bayonets are generally copies of the US Model 1855 Saber Bayonet.
The installation of the bayonet lug posed a problem for disassembly of the rifle as the front barrel band would not clear over the lug. The Harpers Ferry Arsenal had surmounted this issue by manufacturing new short upper bands that allowed for the band to be rotated to clear the lug. However, manufacturing entirely new parts for rifles in such urgent need would not do, so Southern gunsmiths improvised by removing some or all of the forward portion of the barrel band. While J.H. Happoldt's alterations removed the lower lip of the upper barrel band the "Virginia" style alterations were accomplished by removing the entire forward strap of the upper band.
This Robbins and Lawrence produced Model 1841 "Mississippi" Rifle is a classic example of the Confederate "Virginia" style bayonet adaptation. The rifle retains its original .54 caliber bore with its original 7 groove rifling and original block type rear sight. A simple block type bayonet lug measuring .525 inches long by .56 inches wide has been brazed to the left side of the barrel 3.42 inches from the muzzle. The bayonet lug has a rounded off profile that I believe to be the result of some later modification. The entire front strap of the barrel band has been cut off, and the forearm of the stock shortened to match. Otherwise the rifle is in its original configuration.
The 1851 dated lock functions properly, and the tumbler holds at both positions. The barrel, which appears to be also be Robbins and Lawrence production is undated and shows heavily worn proofs at the breech. The rifle retains its original brass headed ramrod which is complete with implement threads. The front sling swivel and rear sight are missing, and the rear sight notch has been filled with lead.
The stock is solid, with no breaks or cracks. It appears to have been sanded at some point, and the whole gun has been coated with a lacquer finish at some point in what I assume to be the fairly distant past. The stock shows typical handling marks that one would expect to see on a hard used Confederate rifle, as well as a fair amount of burnout behind the lock.
Overall this is a nice and attractive example of a genuine Confederate bayonet adapted M1841 "Mississippi" Rifle. These rifles were some of the best arms available in 1861, and as such saw very heavy usage. This example, despite a few condition issues, is quite attractive and displays very well.