Model 1847 Cavalry Carbine altered to Musketoon
In 1847 the US Ordnance Department adopted three new "musketoons" for issue to mounted and specialty troops. All three patterns were all very similar in that they were designed as .69 caliber smoothbore arms with nominally 21 inch barrels and are all 46 and 1/16 inches in overall length. While the Artillery Musketoon and Sappers and Miners Musketoon were both iron mounted and equipped for bayonets the Cavalry Carbine was fitted out with brass furniture and featured a captive swivel ramrod as well as an iron sling bar on the left side of the carbine.
Design of the Model 1847 Cavalry Carbine had been approved in 1844 as a replacement for the Model 1842 and Model 1842 Hall's Carbines then in use by the US Dragoon Regiments. Technologically this seems a rather backward step moving from a breechloading arm to a muzzleloader, but it was more likely the reaction of the traditionally conservative Ordnance Board's general dislike for breechloading arms and the expected cost savings of producing muzzleloading arms and supplying them with ammunition.
Production of the M1847 Cavalry Carbine began in 1847 although the first guns were not completed until 1848. The guns were produced exclusively at the Springfield Armory until 1854 during which a total of 5,802 carbines were produced. Additionally Springfield also produced 1,030 Sappers and Miners Musketoons and 3,210 Artillery Musketoons through 1856.
The first shipment of arms to see service were not delivered until March of 1851. Soon after the Ordnance Department received a number of complaints about the carbines generally focused on their fragile captive ramrods. Other complaints about the Model 1847 Cavalry Carbine described the round ball ammunition they were loading with rolling out of the barrels while troopers rode with the carbines on their slings.
As a result the Ordnance Department directed in 1851 that the carbines be fitted with a ramrod spoon as found on the Model 1842 Musket, as well as a longer ramrod retained by a chain. Additionally a third notch on the tumbler was added to allow the arms to be carried more conveniently with a percussion cap on the cone.
By 1851 however, the Dragoons began being issued new Sharps carbines as well as Colt Walker revolvers; both of which soon relegated the M1847 carbines and M1842 pistols they had been issued obsolete. Further complaints from troops in the field listed the unmanageable recoil and as detailed in a letter from future Chief of Ordnance William Anderson Thornton in 1856,
“It is very severe in recoil and wants range and accuracy of fire. It cannot be carried loaded, because the charge is shaken out by the movement of the horse. It is loaded with much difficulty when mounted, and becomes quickly unserviceable by the breaking of the swivel, and loss of the ramrod and tumbler screw, and by the battering of the muzzle when carried in the bucket. The men have no confidence in the arm.”
By the mid-1850s the carbines were effectively obsolete and many had been returned to ordnance stores. Several other attempts were undertaken in the late 1850s to update the carbines via rifling, or alteration to Merrill's breechloading system.
In a near last ditch attempt to find something to do with the unwanted carbines the Ordnance Department began altering them into "artillery" musketoons by removing the sling bar and swivel/chain rammer and adding a conventional ramrod, sling swivels, and an under mounted bayonet lug to accept the current Model 1835 socket bayonet. These new artillery musketoons were then issued to states as cadet musketoons as there were no more Model 1841 or Model 1851 Cadet Muskets available. Only about 630 of these musketoons were altered between 1858 and 1859, although there has been some speculation that additional numbers may have been adapted by Confederate Arsenals.
The musketoon offered here is a good representative example of an "artillery musketoon" altered Model 1847 Cavalry Carbine. Our musketoon shows matching 1851 production dates on both the lock and barrel and is in very nice condition overall with an attractive gray and mottled brown patina on the iron parts, and with a really lovely ocher patina to the brass components. The wood is in good shape as well, with a dark chocolate color. The edges are relatively sharp and the stock flat shows a nicely legible cartouche. The musketoon shows both of the 1851-1852 modifications, which include a three position tumbler as well as a ramrod spoon. The ramrod appears to be the original swivel-type ramrod. Both sling swivels, added when the alteration to musketoon was done, are intact. The stock shows typical handling marks and bruises, but no major issues. The undermounted bayonet lug is missing, but other than that this gun is quite nice.
Given that only 630 M1847 Carbines are known to have been altered in this manner means that these arms are quite scarce today. This would look especially nice in a collection of mounted service or cadet arms.