Confederate ID'd Harpers Ferry M1855 type 2 Rifle-Musket
In the 1840s the US Ordnance Department had began experimenting with various self-priming mechanisms for use on longarms. These systems were intended to reduce the number of steps and simplify and speed up the loading process for muzzleloading arms. Of the systems tried in the 1840s the most successful was the tape priming system developed by Dr. Edward Maynard.
The development of expanding base ammunition system during the same time period also enabled the Ordnance Department to begin looking at making rifled arms standard issue for all troops as opposed to the traditional practice of arming specific "rifle" regiments and the flank companies of line infantry with rifled arms.
While experimenting with various rifling systems the decision to reduce bore size of new arms was also made. In late 1854 and early 1855 a number of trial muskets, as well as carbines, rifles, and pistols, were fabricated at the Springfield Armory. By May of 1855 the trials had been completed, and the Ordnance Board settled on .58 caliber arms with three groove rifling making 1 turn in 72 inches. This decision, in addition to the adoption of Maynard's patent self-priming mechanism, would come to fruition in the Model 1855 series of arms which were officially authorized on July 5, 1855.
Production of the Model 1855 Rifle-Musket was slow to commence and did not begin at the Springfield Armory until 1857, and was not started at Harpers Ferry until 1858. Production would conclude at both armories in 1861, during which a total of 70,254 rifle muskets were fabricated.
During that time several relatively minor changes took place in the design of the M1855 rifle muskets. These different features generally divide the muskets into two distinct types.
The musket offered here is a Harpers Ferry Armory produced Model 1855 type 2 Rifle-Musket. Initially the M1855 was produced with a flip-up long range rear sight of a similar design as found on the British P1853 Rifle-Musket. Early, type 1, muskets were also produced with brass nose caps.
On July 28, 1858 a new simplified rear sight was authorized, however, the change was not implemented at Harpers Ferry until March of 1859. On April 21 of that year the Ordnance Department also directed rifles made thereafter to be produced with a "grease or patch box", which had formerly only been installed on rifles, as well as the use of an iron nose cap.
The Model 1855 Rifle-Musket offered here is a nice representative example of a "Type 2" Musket as produced at Harpers Ferry. The musket has unfortunately had its lock replaced with an earlier 1857 dated Harpers Ferry marked lock, but other than that the musket is totally correct for a type 2 rifle-musket. As is proper the stock is equipped with a patch box that is not drilled for a spare cone as well as an iron nose cap.
I feel confidant that the stock is of Harpers Ferry manufacture as the inside of the patch box is stamped with two sets of inspectors initials which are not known to have been applied to any Springfield produced muskets.
The stock of the musket is in overall good condition and has a faint inspector cartouche on the stock flat opposite the lock. There is also a small R stamped at the rear of the trigger guard as well as a 10, which I believe to be a rack number, stamped in front of the butt plate tang. The stock has the handling marks you would expect on a rifle of this age that saw service during the Civil War. There is also a small piece of wood missing from the left side of the barrel tang, and a larger piece missing to the right side of the tang that may be the result of powder burnout.
The balance of the metal parts have a bright finish and have been cleaned fairly recently. The "U" marks on each barrel band are visible, although the front band's stamp is pretty worn. The butt plate has a clearly visible U.S., and the barrel has visible V (over) P (over) eagle head proofs. Unfortunately the barrel date is not visible. This musket is complete with its sling swivels as well as a swelled ramrod. The ramrod swell shows some roughness and may be a straight rod that has had a swell added to it in more modern times. It is, in any event, full length with implement threads.
Most of the metal shows scatted pitting that is more severe around the breech. The lock, which is a replacement, is in better condition that the barrel, but it does lack its primer components. The lock still functions perfectly. The barrel is equipped with the correct three leaf Model 1858 rear sight. The 500 yard leaf has been broken off, but the others are present and function very well. The musket's bore is dark and rough, but still has some rifling left and would probably improve with a good scrubbing.
There are two carvings on the stock worth noting. The first is a "L" and "S" carved into the belly of the stock near the toe. The second is a faint D.A. Gillies on the center of the left side of the butt.
A quick search on the National Civil War Soldier and Sailors Database reveals only three D.A. Gillies; two Confederate names and one Federal. Since the Federal soldier is listed as a member of the 2nd Wisconsin Cavalry it can be assumed that the owner of this musket was David Arch Gillies of the 7th Louisiana Infantry.
According to Gillies complied service records it appears he spent much of the war detailed from his regiment working on the staff of various officers and served as the clerk of the 2nd Army Corps' Judge Advocate's office until he was promoted to Captain of the Judge Advocate's Court in late 1863. Gillies was captured in March of 1865 and signed an oath of allegiance and was released in June. Additional detailed information on Gillies' service will be added as soon as possible. Copies of Gillies records and a more detailed write-up of his service, and that of the 7th Louisiana Infantry will be included with the musket.
Overall this is a quite nice example of a Confederate carried Model 1855 Rifle-Musket. I feel that its displayability would be greatly increased with the inclusion of an appropriately dated lock plate, but I will leave that determination to the buyer.