Oldenburg Model 1849 "Cyclops" Rifle
The commencement of hostilities in 1861 left both sides scrambling for arms for the tens of thousands of unarmed recruits. Stocks of existing domestic arms and imported weapons of the Revolutionary War and early Federal period, some already over 50 years old, were hurriedly pressed into service alongside the most modern of rifles and rifle muskets. With existing stocks of arms exhausted both sides turned an eye to the arsenals of Europe as sources of weaponry.
European governments were only too happy to oblige their new American clientele as purchasing agents scoured their arsenals for almost anything that could shoot. Although both Federal and Confederate purchasing agents showed a distinct preference to the then current military pattern arms, such as the British Pattern 1853 Rifle Musket and the Austrian Muster 1854 Rifle Musket, such was the demand for arms that both sides bought large numbers of older second, third, and fourth class arms. The variety of types, calibers, and inevitably the quality of these arms would prove to be a nightmare for the Federal and Confederate Ordnance Departments.
The arsenals of the various German States (excluding Prussia and Austria) would provide relatively few arms to the belligerents, although the arms imported from those states and principalities would go on to become some of the more unusual and rarely encountered of all imported arms.
The rifle offered here is one of those obscure Germanic imports, and is very likely the rarest of the American Civil War imported arms; an Oldenburg Model 1849 Rifle. Very little information is available on these unique rifles. According to "Firearms from Europe: Second Edition", the rifles come in two varieties; a long (39 inch barrel) and a short (33 inch barrel). Our example is of the latter, 33 inch barrel length variety. These arms were the product of Carl Phillip Crause of Herzberg, and bare his markings of Crause in Herzberg (the "s" appearing in archaic "f" form) on the top of the long wrist tang. According to "Firearms from Europe: Second Edition", these rifles were manufactured for several states of the Hanseatic League including Oldenburg, Bremen, Hamburg, and Lubeck. The arms are very similar in appearance to the more commonly encountered Hanseatic League Model 1840 Rifled Musket. The barrel is secured to the stock by two iron keys. The holes in the stock that accommodate the keys are covered with small brass plates. The nominally .70 caliber barrel is complete with an undermounted bayonet lug. The front sight is composed of an iron block base and an inverted "T" shaped brass leaf soldered onto it. The balance of the rifle's furniture is brass, with the exception of the trigger guard plate and sling swivels. The rifle's iron ramrod is secured by two brass ramrod pipes. The front pipe has the forward sling swivel attached to it.
The chief feature of these rifles, is their lock, which is center slung from the middle of the wrist. The inner lock mechanism also lacks a half cock. The breech of the barrel terminates with an in-line bolster and percussion and cone. The interesting hammer, from which the rifle derives it's nick-name, "The Cyclops", has a centrally located hole that passes through the striker. This hole provides the shooter with his rear sight, while a notch in the face of the hammer doubles as a long range rear sight (similar to the hammer of a Colt's revolver).
It has been postulated that these rare rifles may have been mixed into shipments of arms purchased by George I. Schuyler, but as noted in "Firearms from Europe", no inspection or shipping records for these arms are known to exist, so that theory is based simply on their existence in the United States. Whatever the case may be, these rifles are exceedingly rare and are usually missing from even the most advanced of Civil War arms collections. It is believed that fewer than 100 of these interesting rifles were imported, and less than 10 are known to survive today.
The Oldenburg Model 1849 Rifle offered here is in good condition. The iron components have been cleaned at some point which removed all active rust, but has left a heavy pinpricking of pitting over all of the iron parts. The brass components have a very nice mellow patina that displays lovely. Other than handling marks and a smattering of bumps and bruises the stock is in about very good condition, and is free from and splits, cracks, or decay. The left side of the buttstock is complete with a small raised cheekrest.
Mechanically the rifle functions perfectly with a strong mainspring. As noted, these rifles lack a half cock. The percussion cone is complete and undamaged. The rifle is complete with its original iron ramrod, which is still full length and complete with implement threads. Both sling swivels are present as well. The bore, which measures about .68 caliber, is dark and has some pitting, but would probably clean up well. There is a small plastic museum inventory number attached to the left breech flat.
All in all, this is a very nice example of the rarest of Civil War imported longarms. It will fill an important spot in your collection and I'm sure that it will be a long time before we see another example come available for sale.