Percussion Altered 1798 Contract Musket - likely Confederate
Here is one of the more uncommonly encountered US martial longarms; a 1798 Contract musket. 1798 Contract muskets were produced by some 27 manufacturers with a total contracted amount of approximately 40,000 muskets. However, due to delays in deliveries and poor quality of the products contracts were suspended in 1801 with the exception of Eli Whitney's contract for 10,000 arms. Deliveries to that point totaled just over 14,000 muskets excluding Whitney's.
The 1798 Contract muskets were based on the French M1763/66 muskets that had served as the models for the first muskets produced at the National Armories of Springfield and Harpers Ferry. The muskets are nominally .69 caliber, with barrel lengths approximately 44 inches. There are a number of variation in small details, particularly the pan and frizzen. Although some contractors marked their work, it appears the vast majority of surviving examples are unmarked.
Due to the poor workmanship of these muskets they were held in reserve rather than being issued, and about 1810 were recommended for sale by the Ordnance Department. It would appear that the vast majority were sold out of government inventories sometime immediately prior to, or just after, the War of 1812. It is very probable that they were sold to speculators who in turn sold them in South America and the Caribbean, as surviving examples in the United States are generally scarce.
This example survived the government sales, but was altered to percussion later on. The musket is approximately .70 caliber with a 44 and 1/16 inch barrel. The remnants of the detachable faceted iron pan are still intact. The barrel is marked with the eagle head and raised P proof, which according to George Moller's "American Military Shoulder Arms, Volume 2" is an indication of Pennsylvania or Maryland origin. The lock is unmarked save for a US stamped on its tail. The only other marking on the gun is a Roman Numeral XII on the front barrel band.
The percussion alteration is an interesting one. The drum style alteration is fairly crude, with an non-symmetrical bolster, but the new made hammer is of a distinctly military shape, and of a high quality. The hammer has a long curved spur about 1.5 inches long with a knurled thumb. Visually it is not too dissimilar from the hammers used on percussion alterations preformed by J.P. Murray of Columbus, Georgia, although I do not suspect this alteration is his product. The lock functions, albeit stiffly, and I think the tumbler may have been replaced at one point. Unfortunately the cone has been damaged from firing, or likely dry firing at some point. The whole of the gun has been cleaned, and the stock may have received a light sanding and has definitely been oiled at some point. Neither of which detract much from the overall look of the gun. The ramrod is roughly 43.75 inches long and lacks threads for cleaning implements. The ramrod channel was apparently drilled excessively deep as the ramrod, when pushed in to the maximum, is several inches short of the muzzle. The stock shows a grain crack under forearm extended from the rear of the bottom barrel band towards the lock. The stock, however, is tight, and the crack is superficial. There is also some minor wood loss to the bottom edge of the lock mortise as shown.
In any event, this is a nice example of a very uncommonly encountered US musket, with what is very likely a Confederate alteration. Should research determine an definite origin to this alteration you could expect the price to double.